Our dog, Jane, was afraid of the water. Against her will, I made her sit on the pool steps. I wanted her to be able to enjoy the cool refreshing water on a hot day. I hoped that she would realize she was safe on the steps. Eventually, the fast pace of her little puppy heart slowed, and she decided the water wasn’t so bad after all. And then, she just started swimming, all the way to the deep end. Suddenly I was the one with the racing heart.
Jane would not stay on the steps, once she knew she could swim. For the remainder of the afternoon, she swam so much, I worried. “What if she is in the middle of the deep end and gets tired and can’t make it to the side? What have I done?” I said. I regretted my decision. I never expected her to go swimming all around the pool for hours. I thought she would stay on the steps.
My brother assured me, “We’re right here. Nothing is going to happen to her.”
When it comes to God’s Sovereignty and the free will of humanity, I haven’t been able to find a satisfactory place to plant my flag. Not because of doubting God’s Sovereignty, but because of doubts about the nature of so-called free will. But when it comes to God’s Omniscience and the free will of humanity, that flag was planted a long time ago and hasn’t budged an inch. One of the regular blog readers and commenters (Mary) suggested in a comment on the blog post, What the Noah Movie Says about God, that God’s knowledge of the future (or lack thereof) might not be a prerequisite for His omniscience. I’ve been thinking a lot about the subject since writing the three blog posts about the Noah movie. And since I’ve learned a thing or two over the years about making idols out of planted flags, I’m letting the concept simmer for a while.
With Jane, I regretted my decision to make her sit on the pool steps. In the Genesis story, Creator B (the Genesis writers’ version of God) regretted creating human beings.
With Jane, the cause for my regret was that she chose to leave the safety of the steps to go swimming in the deep end. With humanity, the cause for Creator B’s regret was that people chose to be violent and corrupt.
With me, I did not know the choice Jane would make. With Creator B, it seems He did not know the choices humanity would make.
If Jane were about to cause any of the three kids swimming in the pool to drown, or if she were to begin to drown herself, I would intervene. When humanity made choices that resulted in pain or death for themselves or others, Creator B intervened.
The outcome of my intervention would be that no one would drown. The outcome of Creator B’s intervention was that everyone (except eight) died by drowning.
My intervention would have been to remove Jane from the pool so that the pool would be a safe and happy place for the kids to swim. Creator B’s intervention was to remove people from the world so the world could be a safe and happy place for people to live.
The reason I know that removing Jane from the pool would resolve the problem is that Jane is a puppy who is inherently prone to stupidity and recklessness, whereas the kids who were swimming were responsible and smart. Could Creator B not have examined the hearts of Noah and his family and seen that they were as prone to violence and corruption as those who died outside of the ark?
Let’s just suppose that God can be omniscient without knowing the future. For argument’s sake, I’ll entertain that thought.
If the first few generations of the descendants of Noah were violent and corrupt, there is no mention of it in Genesis. In contrast, they were united. They had rational discussions and cooperated with one another. It seemed like Creator A’s plan was working. The world appeared to be a safe and happy place for people to live in community:
And the whole earth was of one language and of one accent and mode of expression. And as they journeyed eastward, they found a plain (valley) in the land of Shinar, and they settled and dwelt there. And they said one to another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” So they had brick for stone, and slime (bitumen) for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build us a city and a tower whose top reaches into the sky, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered over the whole earth.”
But then Creator B does something that is in complete opposition to the purpose of the flood in Genesis:
And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do, and now nothing they have imagined they can do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confound (mix up, confuse) their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from that place upon the face of the whole earth, and they gave up building the city.
Creator B, in confounding their speech, essentially created an environment that is more conducive to corruption and violence, a world of cultural differences, a world of the “in-group” and the “out-group,” a world of territorial “selves” and “others.”
There is absolutely nothing in the text to indicate that Creator B was exercising any kind of righteous punishment against a particular sin. Once again, we have the opportunity to examine the text as it is presented and allow the Sword of the Spirit to penetrate our own thoughts and motives in how we choose to interpret it.
The Tower of Babel story marked the end of universal monotheism in the Old Testament. Creator B eliminated the “threat” of cooperation and ushered in the age of idolatry in which Creator B regularly pours out his wrath in various violent ways on the “others.”
I’m still examining the possibility (however improbable) that God’s knowledge of the future (or lack thereof) might not be a prerequisite for His omniscience, if, for example, God created a universe of multiple possibilities in which He remains Sovereign and accomplishes His purposes regardless of which possibilities come to fruition. There is so much we don’t know for certain about God.
Sometimes it’s easier to discover Who God is and what God does by identifying Who God isn’t and what God doesn’t do. The drastic difference between what Creator B does in the flood story and what Creator B does in the Babel story, to me, demonstrates that Creator B’s knowledge of the future (or lack thereof) is irrelevant. Creator B drowns millions of people and animals to rid the world of violence and corruption, and then once the world is repopulated with people who have learned from their mistakes and changed their ways, Creator B stomps a divine foot in the cosmic ant pile. Creator B is omnisomething other than God.