Editing, Writing

Word Wednesday: Omniscience

This is one word that has been on my mind a lot this past week – ever since Easter Sunday evening. The dictionary definition states that omniscience is “the state of being omniscient – of having infinite knowledge, awareness, understanding, and insight”.

Let’s look at that word “infinite” for a moment. What, exactly, does that mean? A Merriam-Webster definition of that word includes, in part:

1. extending indefinitely : endless <infinite space>
2. immeasurably or inconceivably great or extensive :inexhaustible <infinite patience>
3. subject to no limitation or external determination
Whose knowledge is immeasurable and without limitation? Well, that definition only applies to the knowledge of one being that I know of, and that being is God. There is no beginning to what He knows, and there is no end to it either. There is nothing that God doesn’t know. Or is there?
My pastor shared an interesting little bit of information with us Sunday night. It was something he heard at some point in the 1980s, I think he said, so it’s been circulating for a while. It’s a sermon called “The Five Things God Doesn’t Know”. The very idea that God doesn’t know something just blows my mind, although I don’t really think this sermon was arguing against the omniscience of God. It’s a mere illustration more than an actual, literal truth.
Here are the five things that God doesn’t know, according to my pastor (backed by scripture):
1. God doesn’t know a sin that He likes. (Isaiah 59:1-2; Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23)
2. God doesn’t know a sinner that He doesn’t love. (John 3:16; Romans 5:8)
3. God doesn’t know a sinner that He won’t save. (Romans 10:11, 13; 1 Timothy 1:15)
4. God doesn’t know any way for anyone to be saved but through Jesus. (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9-10)
5. God doesn’t know any other time to be saved but today (right now). (Psalm 95:7-8; Isaiah 1:18; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 3:7-8)
All right. So how does all this relate to writing? Well, in a sense, the writer is God of the story world which he or she creates. The author knows everything that happens within the story world, and sometimes he/she lets his/her readers in on it too. The way this is accomplished is by writing in the omniscient point of view.
Omniscient POV is a third person point of view that is dictated by an all-knowing narrator.
Here’s one example of how this works:
“I’d like to go out to that new sushi place with you tonight,” Susan said, thinking that she’d rather die than have to eat raw fish one more time, especially if it had to be with him.
“Great,” Chuck replied. He was sure to get her to take him back to her place following the meal for a little after dinner entertainment.
Do you see how this works? Neither character know what the other is thinking. The author knows what both of them are thinking, and the reader (because of the omniscient point of view) also know what both the characters are thinking.
Omniscient point of view is very difficult to write, and many people think it is difficult to read. But it’s been in use for a very, very long time and continues to be popular with some writers. I’ve never really used it myself (at least not well). So I’m curious: How many of you have ever used the omniscient POV in your writing – either novels or short stories? How many of you think you might do so in the future?


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