A couple of nights ago, I was working on my laptop when a bug innocently wandered across the keyboard. I grabbed a tissue and smooshed it. Then I started thinking about what it meant about my character that I would so glibly snuff out a small life simply because it inconvenienced me. And then I wondered whether God was aware of the bug’s experience.
This rather random train of thought led me to contemplate the idea that God is continually conscious of all living things, that not a sparrow falls without his attention. Presumably this divine awareness includes the entirety of my own experience. And I’m not sure how I feel about that notion. The idea that God is always watching us can certainly be comforting, both in that someone is always there, and in that we are intimately known. But it can also be somewhat unnerving to think that–like the Police–every breath we take, every move we make, God is watching us. If an earthly parent set up an elaborate system to monitor their child’s every act and thought, we would probably see it as excessive, and likely detrimental to the child.
One might propose that God needs to be this vigilant so that he can catch every single sin, every single problematic thought, to note on his giant tally sheet. Or, somewhat more positively, that he can’t fairly judge us or offer effective help without a 100 percent knowledge of every detail of our lives. But would his ability to understand our character and intent, the desires of our hearts, our situation and our needs, really be seriously compromised if this knowledge dropped to a mere 99 percent?
So here is my question. What if once in a while we want some privacy, a chance to truly be alone with our thoughts? Would God stop observing us–at the very least, stop monitoring our thinking–if we asked him to? The idea might sound preposterous. Yet it is common to assert that God limits his omnipotence out of respect for human agency. Is there any possibility that he might also be persuaded to occasionally limit his omniscience?