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I don’t know who won the Super Bowl

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Super Bowl XLVII ad leading up to the game, featuring the Harbaugh brothers, Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis, Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore and the Vince Lombardi tropy (Credit: marsmet481 via Flickr)

What do more than 100 million viewers and billions of people around the world know today that I don’t?  I know that the 47th Super Bowl was played on Sunday in the New Orleans Mercedez-Benz Super Dome.  I know that fans who bought tickets on the secondary market paid an average of $3,195.14 per seat.  I know that the San Francisco 49ers were favored by 3.5 points over the Baltimore Ravens.

But I don’t know who won the game.  That’s because I’m writing this essay before the Super Bowl is played, since I’ll be out of town and without Internet access.

As you read this morning’s essay, you know much about the world that I didn’t when I wrote it.  You know whether the stock market has continued to climb and whether January’s jobs report was as positive as predicted.  You know the latest on the gun control debate.  I will know none of these facts until I return home.

However, before such “knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1), consider this question: did your knowledge of these facts influence them?  You likely watched the Super Bowl as it was played, but did you affect its outcome?  You have paid attention to the stock market and gun control debate, but has your observation of these realities changed them?  I’m no different—if I knew what you know, my knowledge wouldn’t change the world any more than yours has.

Francis Bacon observed in 1597 that “knowledge is power.”  Not necessarily.  Observing and deciding are not always the same thing.  If I could have watched you read this essay, my observation would not have forced you to do so.

This principle helps me reconcile divine sovereignty with human freedom.  God is not bound by time, so “tomorrow” is “today” with him.  He can “see” what I will do tomorrow while it is still today for me.  But the fact that God knows what I will choose for breakfast tomorrow does not mean that he made that choice for me.  In this way he can know the future while I can still be free.

My purpose in addressing this subject isn’t to resolve the very complex sovereignty-freedom debate.  Rather, it is to offer this thought: while observing isn’t always choosing, knowing that we are being observed can influence our choices.  God “sees everything under the heavens” (Job 28:24).  As a result, “nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

God sees our sins and rewards our faithfulness.  How will these facts change your life today?