Knowledge of the Father and the Son

By: Steve H - January 21, 2005

Alma 7 seems to me to make a differnece between the omniscience of the father through the spirit and a special kind of knowledge that the son has through the atonement:

12And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

13 Now the Spirit aknoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

I have been entertaining the idea, alluded to in the posts on theogeny that Christ knows things about us that the father does not know. This is why, I believe that it isn’t a problem that we do not know everythign now, but that we could gain exaltation in the second sense talked about in that post. God knows all things in that he knows truth, what really is, what really was, and what really will be. And yet, perhaps even God the father cannot access our being, that which is most private (an idea I take from Levinas, and which, since it is not scriptural I find quite interesting but that I do not feel an obligation to believe), the way we actually experience the world. Perhaps this is one reason the atonement was necessary, so that a judge could be found that was both perfect and yet had experienced each of our imperfections. Therefore he was not tainted sin, but we could not say that he did not “understand”. I think it is significant that Jesus, not the father, will be our judge. Is this position simply part of the fact that he is the God of this world and needs this for his own exaltation and continued progression and glory or is it of necessity? I want to stress that while I feel this reconciles for me both my take on theogeny and on exaltation as well as kelping me to decide that ethical theory is worth considering, it is for these reasons I would like to hear what others think. I know this was, as I said, mentioned in the other post comments, but I wanted to give it it’s own post.


  1. I need to ruminate on this for a bit, but I have one quick question. Does Christ have factual knowledge of the universe (past, present, and future) other than by the spirit?

    How one accounts for foreknowledge determines in part the answer. That said, I would be interested in Clark’s response as it pertains to the idea of Linde multiverses.

    Comment by J. Stapley — 1/21/2005 @ 3:51 pm

  2. I don’t think we can make claims about how God knows. The very idea that there is information flow between universes is very speculative. To ask how the information flow can be usefully used isn’t really something one could speak about.

    Comment by Clark Goble — 1/22/2005 @ 10:15 am

  3. J., I’m not seeing anything in the scriptures you mention that implies the Son learned anything that the Father hasn’t already learned (or according to the KFD, experienced). Certainly God the Son could know more than God the Spirit — particularly after going through the atonement — but what gives you the impression that the Son knows something the Father doesn’t?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — 1/22/2005 @ 4:24 pm

  4. Geoff: This is actually a post by Steve, but I will venture a reply. He is positing that there are two types of knowledge: factual and experiential. This is consistent with other ideas that have been floating around (notably Jim. F’s post on petitionary prayer). Steve is saying that while the Father has complete factual knowledge of the universe, there are aspects of our being that are only accessible through the atonement. Consequently, this provides a justification for the most popular ideas of Mormon theogony, by allowing for a being that has not completed an atonement (like us) to be God the Father.

    It seems that those who view the foreknowledge of God as limited would have to conclude that Christ really didn’t gain insight into us individually. I don’t know what he would have experienced, but I guess it would be a generalized “infirmity”. There are obviously some contradictions floating around this. I am still very torn on the concept of foreknowledge, though I tend to favor actual foreknowledge over libertarian free will (I just don’t know how free we are “in the flesh”).

    Comment by J. Stapley — 1/22/2005 @ 6:53 pm

  5. Oops. Sorry Steve. And thanks for taking a stab at it for him, J.

    Doesn’t it seem like we have to strain to come up with explanations why what appear to be to very clear statements by Joseph are not what they appear to be? To me it seems he is pretty clear on the steps that our Exemplar took to receive “a fullness”. Joseph not only makes such references in the KFD, but on other occasions in ’43-44 as well, if memory serves me right.

    I am about 50 pages into Blake’s book now and find myself leaning more and more to a limited foreknowledge model (though I have found a few other things to object to… I’ll post them at Clark’s book club page). I think you are right about the concept of His paying the price for the entire gamut of infirmities and sins, rather than paying a la carte for specific future and past sins.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — 1/23/2005 @ 9:35 pm

  6. J:
    Thanks for taking a stb at it. I tend to be away over the weekend with family time. Your explanation is pretty much where I am going with things.

    That is to say, I’m not opposed to the idea that God the father may have been a savior, and that he may have paid for sins, but I think that scriptures are clear that he did not pay for our sins. That was crist’s job. Though we gain exaltation from the father, we do not do it through his atonements, but the son’s. I’m not really in favor of the “general infirmity” theory. The scripture I quoted claims he took upon him “their,” that is his people’s infirmities, that he took upon him “the sins of his people.”

    thus I probably don’t have any idea that Christ will take a higher degree of exaltation and that God also will take a higher degree. But really I don’t see what that could mean at a certain point except that the father will be glorified not only by those saved in his worlds but by the fact that his efforts to bring about the immorality and eternal life of man operate in a wider sphere as they have brought about those who will also work for the immortality and eternal life of man. Thus, it would seem that with each successive generation his glory grows exponentially. I say this beacuse, to me, if immortality and eternal life are really the work of god, then I can’t see how anything but extending his ability to bring that immortality and eterntal life to others could constitue more glory. With limited time I won’t go farther on this because I don’t have time to write the highy researched response it deserves.

    Also, J, I don’t think that foreknowledge and free will need to be mutually exclusive. I also am reading Blake’s book and his previous statements on other blogs. In line with Geoff’s commenton how we have to stretch things, there are few thigns more repetitive in the scriptures as these two statements, that god knows the end from the beginning and that man is free to choose liberty or captivity, good or evil.

    I think the key is in the feact that whatever god’s foreknowledge, we do not have that foreknowledge. The future which God knows is entirely the result of our free choices. I think we always assume that the vail is necessary because otherwise we would be too afraid of God to make mistakes. And yet satan didn’t stay in line just because God was around. I think that part of the purposei s to afford us agency. By agency, I mean that within time as we know it there is a radical way in which our choices are free, not determined by social, or even eternal determinants. (I think that thinking of our actions as determined because foreknown as Blake seems to present sorto f begs the question here. It seems to simply assume that because God knows we don’t get to decide, when I see this as the central question. The scriptures seem to say both things are true.) We are not simply a product of how we are made, what has happened to us (even before this life), or what we will be. this is not a sort of divine social determinism. I think that is the probelmatic thing with thinking of it, as Clark mentions elsewhere, as God simply knowing us so well that he knows what we will do. That, to me, seems deterministic. To the contrary, he has taken away all reasons for us to doubt that our will is not efficacious. We don’t see whaty will happen. Neither is it a sort of classical notion of destiny, ala Oedipus. God always gives us the chance to change. He never says to us this is what you will do without giving us the chance to change (Perhaps a few exceptions–Peter?), and then perhaps when the outcome is so immanent and perhaps determined by our past choices that it doesn’t matter so much (that thou doest, do quickly). Instead, he says, destruction will come upon you if you don’t repent, or such things, always conditionals.

    That said, perhaps the only thing that could change the future is the will of God. My own take is that perhaps God sees all the possiblities for the future, but knows which future will come about because he is the one that determines it, but not based on determinism, his whim played out in the eternities. God is, as D&C 82:10 tells us, is bound in certain ways. His work is to bring about the immorality and eternal life of man. If he can see all possible futures, then he wouldbe obligated to choose that future which allowed each individual one of his children the chance for their greatest progression, thus narrowing the possible futures, given our choices, to but one. He cannot force those choices as satan wished to do, so he is limited in what he can do to bring us back, but within the limits allowed by agency, he does all that is possible, having foreknowledge of the effects of his actions. If not, what is to say he wouldn’t end up at the end and say, “darn, if I’d only sat down and had another talk with that Gadianton guy?”

    More later. Specifically, I don’t want to ignore Geoff on the KFD, though I really need to sit down with it again. Got to go lunch and teach and such things.

    Comment by Stephen Hancock — 1/24/2005 @ 12:55 pm

  7. His work is to bring about the immorality and eternal life of man.

    First, I must say Steve — this is the most amusing typo of the week…

    Second, my point in bringing up the KFD was only as evidence that the Father knows exactly what Christ went through in the atonement, so that probably doesn’t require more response on my behalf.

    The point you bring up about there being a difference in the experience the Father had previously and the one Christ went through for us in a new idea to me. I initially would have to assume that there is some point of “universal” payment that both reached so the experience was the same for both (again as opposed to paying a la carte for each individual sin). Of course “universal” might need to be qualified to mean totally sufficient for the world.

    Third, I think there are ways to defend Blake’s idea of foreknowledge being actually just unexplainably good predictive knowledge. It seem no stretch to believe God has such a “super-computer” of intelligence to be able to predict with near exactness the entire course of this planet. Think of the database he has to work with (Moses 1):

    33 And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.
    34 And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many.
    35 But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.

    When you couple this database of endless previous similar worlds with that Heisenberg principle that says something like “you can predict the behavior of the group wit exactness but you can never predict the behavior of the individual” then it seems very possible to “know the beginning from the end” as a whole and still not have real foreknowledge in the “fixed future” sense. (Somebody please correct me on this Heisenberg think if I am wrong. I am going by memory from something I read in a Nibley essay.) Plus it still allows for real agency or Libertarian Free Will.

    I think I am beginning to see way all of the scriptural prophesies could be completely accurate without God actually seeing the future. Not that I am sure this is accurate, but I can see ways to explain why Blake’s proposal is correct.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — 1/24/2005 @ 4:07 pm

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