I decided while waiting for an appointment that I’ll get a discussion going on God’s foreknowledge based on this passage from C.S. Lewis from his book The Problem of Pain reflecting on why God put Abraham’s faith to the test by commanding him to offer his only son Issac:

If God then is omniscient, he must have known what Abraham would do, without any experiment. Why then this needless torture?” But as St. Augustine points out, whatever God knew, Abraham at any rate did not know that his obedience would endure such a command until the event taught him: and the obedience which he did not know that he would choose, he cannot be said to have chosen. The reality of Abraham’s obedience was the act itself; and what God knew in knowing that Abraham “would obey” was Abraham’s actual obedience on that mountain top a that moment. To say that God “need not have tried the experiment” is to say that because God knows, the thing known by God need not to exist, (pg. 101)

Your thoughts?

HT: Desiring God

5 comments
  1. Well… seems to me, when you evaluate a test, first thing you have to ask is what is the purpose of the test.

    Since God is all knowing, it can’t be to see what would happen.

    We know God is big on teaching by story and example– so, who was being taught? Abraham? The Jewish People? All of His followers?

    Maybe one of the purposes was to show “no matter how strange the thing I ask, trust in Me.”

    God seems to be big on giving people the chance to screw things up– sure, he knows what will happen, but the choice is important. (see also, a nice garden and a couple of clueless kids….)
    .-= Foxfier´s last blog ..I’m Really Late To The Party Here- =-.

    1. @Foxfier

      And another:
      http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/theanchoress/2009/12/22/let-your-light-so-shine-before-men/

      When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger realized he was about to be elevated to the Chair of St. Peter, he is reported to have put his head in his hands and prayed, “Lord, don’t do this to me…” He had planned for a quiet retirement; a little house in Bavaria with ten thousand books, a cat, a piano and a word-processor. And then – “ba-boom!” – he was sent, like Peter, to where he would rather not go.

      To not obey would have blocked God’s love.

      Obedience, for all it is decried, is in fact, the Royal Highway by which His Majesty speeds along his love, and his glory. It is the Autobahn of the Spirit. But we don’t find it half as amusing as the German one with the fast cars.
      .-= Foxfier´s last blog ..I’m Really Late To The Party Here- =-.

  2. All well said. I would only add that far more important than God’s knowing in this specific example is the knowing of Abraham.

    There is a knowing that can only be had through action: being and doing. You can know that a house fire is scary, but you can’t know the terror of a house fire until, God forbid, you are in one.

    Abraham knew God and knew what it was to obey God. But he didn’t know ultimate obedience until he had traveled a distance with the thought of sacrificing his son eating away at him. He didn’t KNOW obedience until he had bound his son.

    An ever better point of discussion lies before us. God knows what Abraham does not. God knows what it is to sacrifice a son. Jesus knows what Isaac does not – what it is to be mercilessly sacrificed by a father.

    What does God know and how does he know it? It is a baiting and loaded question. I like it!

    Could God know what it is to be human without being human? Could God know what it is like to be tempted without being tempted?

    I don’t know. What I do know, is that God decided to know. He decided to be human and be tempted and be beaten and to be killed. Because of the incarnation, there is nothing we know that God doesn’t know even in the being and doing of humanity.

    A cool Christmas thought: Because he is born unto us – I know that he knows everything I have known and that I won’t know what he does know in being forsaken on the cross. Know what I mean?
    .-= Luke Timm´s last blog ..In Mike Tindall we Trust. Christmas part 3… =-.

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