That’s a question that I have put to youth groups and my congregations over the years. “Is there anything God doesn’t know?” The answer seems obvious. The general consensus among Christians is that God is:
Omnipresent – He is everywhere at all times.
Omnipotent – He is all powerful.
Omniscient – He is all knowing.
So, there is no place where he isn’t, nothing He cannot do, and isn’t anything He does not know. Well, maybe.
I would like to suggest that there are some things that God does not know. “Well, how can He be God if there’s something — anything — He does not know?”
Good question. For people of conscience and/or faith, the concept of sin, especially our own, is troubling. We confess our sins, repent, seek forgiveness and, yet, there are some things in our lives that remain with us. Such as memories of what we have said, thought, or done. As one ancient confession says, “The remembrance of them is grievous unto us.”
Some have said that, when that happens, we need to learn to forgive ourselves. Perhaps. But even if we do that, if such a thing is possible, we often feel that God remains angry, or at least disappointed, in us.
Certainly other people remember our wrongdoings. More than a decade after high school graduation, I bumped into a lady I dated way back when. We talked for a bit and then she said, “So what are you doing now?”
I replied, “I’m a pastor in Georgia.”
She laughed and said, “You always were so funny! What are you really doing?”
There are always people who remember what we wish they wouldn’t.
But what about the memory of God? The Psalmist wrote, “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12.
Well, that sounds like a long way. The shortest route from the East Coast of the United States to the West Coast is 2,092 miles. If one drives, it’s more miles than that. But if one extends the distance far enough in both directions, east meets west on the other side of the planet.
So, let’s think, not globally, but in galactic terms: If one goes in opposite directions in space, then theoretically, the distance is immeasurable. That’s a great distance but, even there God is present, powerful, and knowing.
In the New Testament, 1 John 1:9, we read, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Well, that’s good news. We are not merely forgiven but, like a dirty sock, we are cleansed — cleansed to the point that there is no residue of the stain. But we remember that it was stained. Surely, God does too.
But here’s the thing: “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”Isaiah 43:25. The Aramaic Bible in Plain English translates Hebrews 8:12 this way, ““And I shall purge them of their evils, and I shall not remember their sins again.”
But in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, we find the unthinkable. God says that He will forget and not remember.
We may try to forget and not remember, but we very often find this impossible. Others are always there to remind us of our failings. And the enemy of our souls, the “accuser of the brethren,” seems to have a perfect recollection of our sins.
Is God trying to trick us? Deceive us? Is He lying to us? Here’s my explanation – God is God. If He is omnipotent, He can do anything. He can even choose to forget. I mean really and truly forget.
I cannot forget some things. I wish I could. Maybe I remember them so that I will not return there. If I, who do not have a perfect memory, remember things I would rather forget, then how does God say he forgets and does not remember?
Again, because He is God. He can do anything — even choose to forget and not remember.
Once I was writing a column for the newspaper. It was a stream of consciousness thing and I was on a roll. In fact, it was quite possibly the best article I had ever written. But something happened … a wrong key hit, a power surge, I don’t know. But the article disappeared into the ether.
I didn’t know how to get it back. I didn’t even remember much of what I had written. It was a creation of my own mind, my own thoughts, but it was lost forever, never to be seen again.
I think God does something like that when I offer to him my sins and failures. One moment it’s there. The next it is gone. Gone and forgotten, to be remembered no more.
So, I don’t spend too much time agonizing over the past. It is dead and gone. I really don’t work on trying to forgive myself. If God has forgotten, then why do I feel the necessity to dredge stuff up out of the muck of the past? I can’t help that other people may remember but that’s more their issue than mine.
So, is there anything that God doesn’t know? I believe there is and for that I am most grateful. That doesn’t make him any less omniscient, but it does seem to make him even more omnipotent. There are some things in our lives that only God could forget.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctk.life). He is the bishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Diocese of the Mid-South which consists of Georgia and Tennessee. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]