Can God ever be surprised?

In the book of Jeremiah, we hear of God’s righteous indignation with the crimes of the people of Jerusalem, particularly the horrific child sacrifices made to Baal and other idols.

The verse in particular I was puzzled by is this: Jeremiah 19:5

‘They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal–something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind.’

A friend commented that he believed that God was genuinely shocked by the behaviour of the people; because He is total goodness, my friend thought it would have been impossible for Him to imagine such a crime, since it goes against everything God is; a loving, personal creator of mankind.

It opened up a much wider question, and made me wonder; if God cannot logically do evil, are there some atrocities that could surprise God? Does His omniscience not extend into ‘knowing’ evil acts in violation of love and goodness?

I think we have to remain aware that are there limitations posed to us, as finite beings; this would extend not only to wisdom and intellect but the ability for our human devices, such as use of language, to sufficiently encompass God’s omnipotence. In other times in scripture, human emotions are attributed to God as literary devices to aid in our understanding of His overall plan. So while in this particular passage, Jeremiah intends to express the heightened level of disgust that God views this egregious sin, it doesn’t necessarily follow that God is subject to human passions. But we certainly can understand, by the verbiage, that God is exceptionally displeased with the offense, which is the point the human author intends to convey.

I am no expert so take this with a grain of salt.

Now, God is omniscient. If He did not know evil then He is not omniscient. So, He must know evil in knowledge or understanding. However, that does not mean one is actually evil. Just as how a child may recognize evil from his/her conscience, it does not necessarily mean the child is evil.

Knowing something does not determine how the person is. I know of cookies, but that doesn’t make me a cookie or have qualities of cookies as a part of myself. As for scripture, understand they are written by man (inerrant and guided by the Holy Spirit of course), and takes a literary form that may attribute human qualities (like being surprised) to God for greater understanding.

Also, most would think that God works outside of time. After all, God in His perfection is unchanging. If anything, the way it’s presented in scripture (and life in general) presents God within time for our understanding. Just like in the Garden of Eden, God called out and asked for Adam and Eve. In His omniscience, God would already have known what Adam and Eve had done, where they were, and everything about them even before their creation. However, God chooses to present Himself that is understandable to us.

This in my mind raises another question: If knowledge of good and evil is not evil, then why was the fruit forbidden to Adam and Eve? We take original sin to be a bad thing, and yet it brings with it that specific knowledge of good and evil.

God’s omniscience means that there is nothing that can possibly be known that God does not know; in a word, God has knowledge of everything, He is all-knowing and this from all eternity.

So, I think the words from Jeremiah “nor did it enter my mind,” should be understood as a previous poster remarked of the displeasure or disgust of God from such a crime. For this heinous crime does not come from God’s nature but from human natures. God knew from all eternity, however, that this would take place in His creation and He permitted it owing to the fact that he created human beings with free will.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is so called not because it had the power to cause knowledge but because what would result from eating of its fruit against God’s command, namely, Adam and Eve after eating the forbidden fruit, had first hand knowledge and experience of sin and the evil of disobedience and the good of obedience to God. This kind of knowledge, i.e., knowledge of sin is not the kind of knowledge God wishes us to have.

:thumbsup: Nicely worded. The proposed knowledge boasts to show a life lived without God thus severing Godly wisdom from the intellect. Lots of that still going on today. Well, I guess I’ve had my foot stuck in that rabbit hole some days, too.

QUOTE: We take original sin to be a bad thing, and yet it brings with it that specific knowledge of good and evil.

Paschal Vigil Mass Exsultet: O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem, “O happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer.”

That term “Felix Culpa (O happy fault)” comes from St. Augustine from his treatise on original sin and many other Fathers refer to it. How much more profoundly can our faith deepen as a result of trial; the bad of the moment can sometimes enrich us in great ways. That poem about the footsteps in the sand goes partway, in my opinion, but stops short in exploring the growth of our faith after the trial.

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