Overcoming Misunderstandings of my Creation Theory
My new theory of initial creation denies that God creates out of nothing. It says God always and lovingly creates out of that which God previously created. God is ever Creator. But I recognize that my alternative view is open to misunderstandings. So I want to address the most common.
Upon first hearing my view (here’s a link), some people will jump to wrong conclusions about what it means. That’s understandable. We typically make sense of new ideas in relation to old ones. We naturally make assumptions – right or wrong – about what new ideas imply.
Below I list four common misunderstandings people have when first hearing of my view…
My theory does not say or imply that the universe is eternal.
My view that God always creates out of what God previously created implies that God never exists alone. God always creates and relates with creaturely others, whether complex or simple. This could sound to some like our universe is eternal.
My theory does not, however, require one to think our universe or any other universe exists eternally. In fact, I don’t believe any universe exists eternally. Instead, my theory simply says that whatever new God creates is done in relation to the old God previously created. Creatures and universes come and go. They are temporary.
In my view, only God exists everlastingly. Neither our universe nor any other is co-eternal with God. A succession of entities, creatures, and universes has always been, but no particular entity, creature, or universe has always been.
On this point, it’s important to remember that all created things have beginnings. I affirm this. Most if not all of them come to an end. Remembering this can help us avoid the misunderstanding that my theory requires an eternal universe.
While God always creates and relates to creatures, no universe exists eternally.
My theory affirms that God is free.
My alternative theory of initial creation says God must create, because creating is a necessary aspect of God’s nature. God would not be God if not Creator. Just as God does not voluntarily choose to exist but simply does so, God does not voluntarily choose whether to create. God cannot choose not to create, to use the double negative. God is not free, in this sense.
But my theory says God is free in choosing how to create, given creaturely conditions and God’s love. God chooses in relation to an open and not predetermined future. God freely creates in relation to creation and a host of possibilities. God is free when creating, in this important sense.
Let me illustrate what I mean.
We are each human, and we are not free to be something else. We cannot breathe exactly like fish, for instance, nor can we fly exactly like eagles. But we are free as humans to act in various humanly ways. Our human freedom is real. Because of our humanness and the conditions of our world, however, our freedom is limited. We are not free to be nonhuman. We must be human.
Similarly, God is not free to be something else. God must be God, which includes having particular attributes and eternal character. The Bible tells us that God cannot lie, for instance. The apostle Paul says God “cannot deny himself.” In fact, the Bible lists several things God is not free to do. In short, God is not free to be nondivine, because God must be divine.
God is free, however, to create in relation to creatures and creation. God’s freedom is real in determining how God chooses to create. God’s freedom is limited by God’s own self-giving, others-empowering love, which creates while giving and then respecting the freedom and integrity of creation. But this leaves open a wide range of options for God freely to create in love.
My theory does not imply that creation pre-exists God.
When God began creating our universe at the big bang, God created in relation to or “out of” what God created previously. What God created before the big bang must have been incredibly diffuse and chaotic. This realm of “stuff” must have been highly disorganized and simple, the chaotic elements of a dying universe that had come before.
The very simple elements out of which God created our universe were also created by God. In other words, God created something new at the big bang from that which God created before the big bang.
God always creates in each moment out of that which God created in previous moments. Consequently, no universe, world, creature, or thing pre-exists or pre-dates God, because God acts first in each moment when creating each creature.
My theory agrees with the common Christian concern that an adequate theory of creation not say God creates from stuff “laying around” that God didn’t first create. In my view, God didn’t “stumble upon” some stuff that God had not first created. In each moment – the present moment, at the Big Bang, and before – God acts first to create in relation to what God previously created. Nothing pre-exists God.
My theory says that for God to exist, God does not need creation.
Some Christians embrace creation from nothing as a way to say God exists essentially independent of creatures. My theory affirms that God is independent of creation in several respects. But it also says God depends upon creation in other respects.
Like most believers, I think God exists necessarily. God does not need or depend upon creation in order for God to exist. Ancient people use the word “aseity” to describe the idea that God exists “in Godself.” This means that to exist, God does not require anything beyond the divine being. I affirm this understanding of aseity.
Unfortunately, some ancient people and Christians today think aseity means God must be independent of creatures in all ways. God’s self-existence, they say, implies that God is independent from others in all respects.
But aseity does not require this belief. It can simply mean God necessarily exists: God relies upon Godself to exist, and nothing could prevent God from existing. I accept this positive respect of divine independence and aseity.
My view says God does depend upon creation in other respects, however. The most important of the ways God depends upon creatures pertains to love. While I think God loves necessarily, I also believe love is inherently relational. Relational love takes at least two, because love is never solitary.
As I see it, God’s nature of love includes always loving creaturely others. In fact, God essentially loves and relates with all God creates. Consequently, God depends upon creation to exist as the recipients of relational love. And because my theory says God necessarily creates out of that which God previously created, it overcomes any doubt that creatures will exist whom God will relate with and love.
Because God’s love has both receptive and creative dimensions, God also depends upon creatures in the creating process. This dependence is not about whether God will create. God’s creative motivation comes from within; it derives from God’s nature of love. But God does depend upon creatures in choosing how to create.
The “materials” God uses when creating come from outside God. God does not create from Godself. God depends upon creatures to exist and join in, to whatever extent possible, the creative process. Creatures are created co-creators. Consequently, God is always motived internally to create out of creaturely others who are external and whom God created previously.
I suspect there other misunderstandings emerge in those who first encounter my theory. It takes time to think through the view that God always and lovingly creates out of what God previously created.
In the book I’m currently writing I plan to address other misunderstandings. And I’ll argue in greater depth for the cogency of a view that says love comes first in God, including in God’s creating.
If for some reason this is the first of my essays you’ve read on an alternative to creation from nothing, I invited you to read through previous posts on the issue in the Science and Theology tab of my webpage.