Omniscience the third essential or natural attribute of God, is that perfection by which he knows all things. This is:
1. Infinite (Ps 147:5);
2. Eternal (Isa 46:10; Ac 2:23;. 15:18; Eph 1:4);
3. Universal, extending to all persons, times, places, and things (Ps 1; Ps 10-13; Heb 4:13);
4. Perfect, relating to what is past, present, and to come. He knows all independently, distinctly, infallibly, and perpetually (Jer 10:6-7; Ro 11:33).
5. This knowledge is peculiar to himself, and not communicable to any creature (Job 36:4; Mr 13:32).
6. This attribute is incomprehensible to us, how God knows all things, yet it is evident that he dies; for to suppose otherwise is to suppose him an imperfect Being, and at variance with the revelation he has given of himself (Job 21:22; Job 28:24; Ps 139:6; 1Jo 3:20).
This attribute of God is constantly connected in Scripture with his omnipresence, and forms a part of almost every description of that attribute; for as God is a spirit, and therefore intelligent, if he is everywhere, if nothing can exclude him, not even the most solid bodies, nor the minds of intelligent beings, then, indeed, as Paul avers, are "all things naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do." Where he acts, he is; and where he is, he perceives. He understands and considers -things absolutely, and as they are in their own natures, forms, properties, differences, together with all the circumstances belonging to them, "Known unto him are all his works from the beginning. of the world," rather from all eternity, known before they were made, and known now they are made, in their actual existence. It is also properly associated with his omnipotence; so that God is universal in his perfections.
Two theological, or rather metaphysical, questions have been raised on this subject.
1. Whether this knowledge is all equally present to the divine consciousness, or only brought up as occasion requires. That the latter position cannot be true may be argued from the consideration that it would imply an imperfection or limitation in God's knowledge itself, inasmuch as it would thus become partial and fragmentary. The "occasion" implied in the supposition must be either in the divine mind, or else outside of it. If ab intra, it must be either voluntary or involuntary. The former involves the absurdity of supposing a volition respecting a subject not consciously present at the time to the mind of the wilier, and the latter leaves the matter subject to some secret law of variable and therefore contingent action. If, on the other hand, the supposed occasion be ab extra, then still more palpably must the knowledge be fluctuating, and even uncertain altogether. In short, we cannot predicate of the divine mind any such laws of mental association as those which call up stores of information in human thoughts: these belong only to finite and imperfect beings. Knowledge is not latent in God's consciousness; his nature precludes such a supposition. Even with ourselves positive knowledge or absolute certainty springs only from consciousness; all else is merely belief, probability, reasoning, etc. Memory itself is but the reflex action of consciousness. With God, as there is no need of information or inference, so knowledge must be simple intuition, or what is in human language consciousness of all truth, possible as well as actual, throughout that infinity of time and space which his presence permeates.
2. The other and more important question mooted relates to God's foreknowledge of the future. This, Calvinistic theologians generally affirm, depends upon his predetermination of all things. Of course, a Being of infinite power must know that his will cannot be frustrated, and may therefore predict with certainty whatever he ordains. But this is not really knowledge at all; it is simply reasoning, a rapid conclusion from certain data. If the foregoing views are correct, God does not properly foreknow or remember anything. He simply knows everything — past, present, and future — by virtue of that absolute and infinite intuition which takes in the entire range of fact and, possibility in one everlasting survey. In the lofty language of Holy Writ, he "inhabiteth eternity." Of course, however, he knows events in their true relation and sequence as to time, and he also knows that they might have been, might now or hereafter be, otherwise, i.e.he contemplates at the same time with the certain the contingent also, and even the imaginary. For mere mortals, within their finite sphere of the past and present, may do this. The essential difference — aside from the enlarged field of view — is, that God looks upon the future just as we do upon the past, but by a peculiar faculty inherent in Deity alone. Any other view reduces God to but a man of larger proportions. See the literature referred to in Malcom, Theol. Index, s.v.; and comp. SEE PRESCIENCE.