An Omniscient God is Sinful

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 158, 2014 September)

Can god be omniscient and yet free from sin? In my opinion a contradiction exists between the belief that the biblical god is perfect (free from sin) and the additional assumption that this being is omniscient - a claim that the bible makes as shown below.

Qualities unique to God:
The definition of Omniscient is as follows:
1:  having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight

2: possessed of universal or complete knowledge (2)
If god possesses complete knowledge then god must not only know what is sinful, but experience sin as well. Consider the Seven Deadly Sins:
1.    Pride is an excessive belief in one's own abilities.
2.    Envy is wanting what others have, be it status, abilities, or possessions.
3.    Gluttony is the desire to eat or consume more than you require.
4.    Lust is a powerful craving for such as sex, power and money.
5.    Anger is the loss of rational self-control and the desire to harm others.
6.    Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain.
7.    Sloth is laziness and the avoidance of work. (3)
It is not enough for god, for example, to know what lust is; god must also experience the emotion of lust, for if god does not experience the emotion of lust then god can have no real knowledge of lust. Therefore, if only humans experience the emotions of the Seven Deadly Sins, then humans know something that god does not. Ergo – god is not omniscient.

However, if god knows lust, then how can god be considered free from sin, and if god is not free from sin then god is not perfect.







(Investigator 159, 2014 November)


Mr Straughen says that an "omniscient" (all-knowing) God cannot "be free from Sin":
If God possesses complete knowledge then God must not only know what is sinful, but experience sin as well… if God does not experience the emotion of lust then God can have no real knowledge of lust. (#158)
The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy (2005) under "Knowledge" says: "The two statements A knows that p and B knows that not-p cannot be true together, for the first implies that p and the second implies that not-p. People can know different things, but they cannot know incompatible things." 

Consider a gambler named Steve. For God to lack knowledge of Steve's gambling, the following two statements have to be incompatible:
  1. Steve gambles and knows that he gambles.
  2. God knows everything about Steve's gambling — every bet, every temptation, every loss, every win, every predisposition, and whatever else can be known.
Are these two statements contradictory so that Steve and God are said to know "incompatible things"?

No. God knows more than Steve knows, but none of what God knows contradicts what Steve knows.

Consider also a murder trial with the accused found guilty beyond "reasonable doubt", even "beyond any doubt". The jury therefore have "full knowledge", as full as it gets, of the murder. Is the verdict wrong because to have full knowledge the jury must also commit murder?


Gambling and murder are physical actions but Straughen is concerned with mental sins such as "lust". To have "full knowledge" about someone's lust
must God "experience" lust?

To "experience" something can mean (1) doing it, (2) feeling it, or (3) being a victim of it.

Straughen seems to accept "2" so that having "full knowledge" of another's emotion involves experiencing the other person's emotion by feeling it ourselves.

However, once we feel something it is our feeling, not the other person's feeling — which leaves us without "full knowledge" by Straughen's definition. It seems, therefore, Straughen's definition leads to a contradiction and may require a philosopher to sort out.

Common sense tells us that people can "experience" or feel another's feeling by empathy, imagination, and analogy. None of these are necessarily "sinful".

An "omniscient" God would also have "full knowledge" of biochemical and electrical events that generate feelings. Future brain scanning technology might do that too — i.e. describe the biochemical equivalents of feelings. Would that make the technician, who reads the printout, guilty of the thought-sins it reveals? No.


A simpler response to Straughen is that the word "omniscient" is not in the Bible but is a concept philosophers debate about.

The Bible states that God sees every bird and every star; everyone's thoughts, deeds and words; embryos and how they grow; every hair on every head; and is able to restore every dead person to life:
Much of this is within sight of future human technology, but none of it implies that the human technician has to commit other peoples' mental sins.


The Bible teaches:
a)    God knows the words, deeds and thoughts of every person;
b)    God is "Good", "upright", and without "sin".

Statements "a" and "b" are compatible i.e. without contradiction.


Omniscient but Sinless – a Reply to Anonymous

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 161, 2015 January)

Anonymous, in his reply to my article (Inv 159, page 48), seems to be suggesting that God can have full knowledge of sin without being sinful. At the moment I'm not sure his argument succeeds, for having knowledge of something indirectly (God's knowledge of sin through awareness of the biochemistry of emotions, as Anonymous suggests) is not to have full knowledge of that thing.

Consider the following thought experiment: Let us suppose that intelligent life exists on Mars and that these beings experience an emotion they call tamaz - an emotion that we cannot experience due to physiological and psychological differences between humans and Martians.

Now, we can know something of tamaz, for a Martian can tell us when it is experiencing this emotion and we can record its physiological reactions using positron emission tomography (PET) scans, electroencephalography and so on, and based on this data know what biological reactions occur when Martians are experiencing tamaz. However, knowing what tamaz looks like in terms of Martian biochemistry and neural activity is not the same thing as knowing what it is like to experience the emotion of tamaz.

Similarly, if God does not know what it is like to experience lust — knowledge that can only be gained (as with tamaz) through direct experience of the emotion, then God does not know what it is like to experience lust. Therefore, humans have knowledge of something that God does not.

Anonymous seems to suggest that God can have knowledge of lust through empathy. But the reason we can empathise with others and know how they feel without a direct experience of their emotions is because we have ourselves experienced the emotions that they are experiencing at some point in time. If God can empathise then God must have experienced these emotions.

If God exists and is omniscient then God knows all things, and this would include the sinful emotion of lust. However, if God is not omniscient then there are some things that God does not know and the sinful emotion of lust may be one of them.


(Investigator 161, 2015 March

Mr Straughen's further attempt to deny that "God can have full knowledge of sin without being sinful" (#160 p. 46) was answered in #159 p. 49 in the paragraph beginning "However…"

If Straughen is still unsatisfied, there is a "Simpler Response" on the same page. The simpler response avoids the word "omniscient"; avoids trying to define "full knowledge"; and avoids the problem of how one person's feeling can be another person's feeling.