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Creatio Ex Nihilo: The Problem

I believe God created the heavens, the earth, and every living thing. But I think Christians should reject the idea that God created the universe from absolutely nothing.

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Jan

19

Creatio Ex Nihilo: The Problem

I believe God created the heavens, the earth, and every living thing. But I think Christians should reject the idea that God created the universe from absolutely nothing.

Theologians typically use the Latin label, "creatio ex nihilo," to identify the idea that God created the universe from absolutely nothing. While a few have said that the nothing of "nihilo" refers to chaos, the vast majority of theologians have insisted on the literal meaning of nothing. God began with absolutely nothing when creating our universe.

I find few Christians who seriously consider the assets and liabilities of creatio ex nihilo.  Few study the biblical, historical, theological, and scientific dimensions of the doctrine. This is in many ways understandable. Until we have some reason to question traditional assumptions, we tend to accept what we're told.  

I first became suspicious of creatio ex nihilo in the mid 1990s. At first, my worry was what the doctrine implied about God's power and the problem of evil. If God had the power to create something from absolutely nothing, God would have the power to prevent genuine evil unilaterally. Genuine evils exist that a loving God would want to prevent. So I began to entertain the idea that creatio ex nihilo may not be worth affirming.

Over the years, I've realized that the doctrine has many other significant problems. I list nine below. For most of the nine, I add a brief sentence giving support or justification.

Because the Bible plays such a central role in my theology, I list last the biblical problem with creatio ex nihilo. And I supplement it with a few quotes from biblical scholars.

Problems with Creatio Ex Nihilo

  1. 1. Theoretical problem: absolute nothingness cannot be conceived.

  2. 2. Historical problem: Creatio ex nihilo was first proposed by Gnostics – Basilides and Valentinus – who assumed that creation was inherently evil and that God does not act in history.  It was adopted by early Christian theologians to affirm the kind of absolute divine power that many Christians – especially Wesleyans – now reject.

  3. 3. Empirical problem: We have no evidence that our universe originally came into being from absolutely nothing.

  4. 4. Creation at an instant problem:  We have no evidence in the history of the universe after the big bang that entities can emerge instantaneously from absolute nothingness.  Out of nothing comes nothing (ex nihil, nihil fit).

  5. 5. Solitary power problem: Creatio ex nihilo assumes that a powerful God once acted alone.  But power is a social concept only meaningful in relation to others.

  6. 6. Errant revelation problem: The God with the capacity to create something from absolutely nothing would apparently have the power to guarantee an unambiguous and inerrant message of salvation (e.g, inerrant Bible).  An unambiguously clear and inerrant divine revelation does not exist.

  7. 7. Evil problem: If God once had the power to create from absolutely nothing, God essentially retains that power.  But a God of love with this capacity is culpable for failing to use it periodically to prevent genuine evil.

  8. 8. Empire Problem: The kind of divine power implied in creatio ex nihilo supports a theology of empire, which is based upon unilateral force and control of others.

  9. 9. Biblical problem: Scripture – in Genesis, 2 Peter, and elsewhere – suggests creation from something (water, deep, chaos, invisible things, etc.), not creation from absolutely nothing.

Genesis 1 and other biblical passages do not claim that God created the world from absolutely nothing. Here is what biblical scholars say:

Jon Levenson: “Properly understood," Genesis 1:1—2:3 “cannot be invoked in support of the developed Jewish, Christian, and Muslim doctrine of creatio ex nihilo.”

Claus Westermann: creatio ex nihilo “is foreign to both the language and thought of P (the unknown author of Genesis 1); it is clear that there can be here no question of a creatio ex nihilo; our query about the origin of matter is not answered; the idea of an initial chaos goes back to mythical and premythical thinking.”

Terrence Fretheim: “God’s creating in Genesis 1…includes ordering that which already exists…. God works creatively with already existing reality to bring about newness.”

Rolf P. Knierim: “it can be said that Yahweh is the creator of the world because he is its liberator from chaos, just as he is the creator of Israel because he is its liberator from oppression.”

Catherine Keller summarizes recent biblical scholarship: “Among biblical scholars there has existed on this matter a near, if nervous, consensus for decades. The Bible knows only of the divine formation of the world out of a chaotic something.”

The only significant thing creatio ex nihilo has going for it is that so many Christians through the ages have supported it.  The earliest Christians, however, embraced the idea God created the world out of something.

For instance, Philo postulated a pre-existent matter alongside God. Justin, Athenagoras, Hermogenes, and Clement of Alexandria spoke about the creation of the world. Origen of Alexandria and, later, John Scotus Erigena argued that God is essentially creative.

Historian Gerhard May, when noting the early Christian theologian who did not affirm creatio ex nihilo, says they “could hold that acceptance of an unformed matter was entirely reconcilable with biblical monotheism and the omnipotence of God.”

But the majority of later Christian theologians affirmed creatio ex nihilo. There's no getting around this. And because Christian tradition is important to me, I do not take lightly the idea that I oppose the majority.

In my mind, however, the nine problems I have listed above are so strong that opposing the majority of the Christian tradition seems the sensible thing to do. Besides, the tradition does not jibe with the biblical witness on this issue. I typically opt for the Bible over tradition.

I happen to think that pointing out problems in the existing theory is not enough. A constructive Christian theologian like me should suggest a replacement. I will propose an alternative theory of creation in a subsequent essay. I call it creatio ex creare en amore -- God creating out of creation in love.

Posted in 2010 under Theology and Science

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Charlie Collier

01.19.2010
10:07am

Thanks for the post. I would love a follow-up post that engages theologians like Aquinas and Augustine on the topic of creatio ex nihilo. Since the tradition/Bible distinction didn’t really get going until the Reformation, I worry when this distinction is hauled out against the long consensus of pre-Reformation theologians. Augustine and Aquinas certainly never thought they were doing anything other than interpreting Scripture. And Lord knows Augustine knew his Scripture! I doubt there’s ever been a text more suffused with biblical citations and allusions than his Confessions, and who else comes to mind who preached five huge volumes of sermons on the Psalms alone? To put the concern differently, I doubt very seriously that one can both affirm that the doctrine has tradition on its side and deny that the doctrine has any strong basis in Scripture.

Also, it would be interesting to see you reflect on the work of particular contemporary interpreters of the doctrine. I have in mind first and foremost the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe (see esp. his “God Matters”, and there esp. part one), but also Rowan Williams (see scattered reflections in “On Christian Theology”). In these contemporary theologians’ work, I think you’ll find a position that evades many, perhaps all, of the difficulties you enumerated in your post.

 

Tony Scialdone

01.19.2010
10:08am

Tom:

Thanks for inviting me to comment. I hope to be constructive. While I share some of your concern over the Biblical and philosophical arguments for creatio ex nihilo, I don’t share your reasoning:

1. What do you do with the possibility that, while beyond our conception, absolute nothingness may have actually been? Our conception doesn’t limit historical reality, does it?

2. You’re committing the genetic fallacy: rejecting an idea on the basis of its origin, rather than on its merits alone.

3. To the contrary: there’s plenty of evidence, even if much of it is theoretical and philosophical. Scientists and theologians agree that the universe had a beginning…so, prior to it existing, it had to not exist.

4. First, what kind of evidence would you expect to find if something WERE created out of nothing? Second, you’re not answering the question, but pushing it further back. Is the universe eternal, or did it come to be at some point?

5. Power is the ability to do work. There’s no implication in the word that a social component is required…it appears you’re imposing your own meaning on the word.

6. Let’s turn this around for clarity: you seem to be saying that because clear revelation doesn’t exist (your words, not mine), God lacks the ability to create from nothing? Non sequitur.

7. I agree with the general principle that a powerful God would be responsible for not preventing evil (if culpable, I’m not sure to whom He would report)...but your presumption is that God would not allow evil at all. Without more evidence, I’m not sure we can draw such a conclusion. Non sequitur.

8. On what basis do you reject this idea…is it because you don’t like it, or because you have evidence that it’s incorrect?

9. On this we agree.

I’d like to add another point of contention. Let’s suppose for a moment that God DID indeed simply order the existing chaos at the beginning of our universe. You seem to be suggesting that this is evidence that God COULD NOT create from nothing. It’s not. If I take a vacation to Seattle, that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t have just as easily gone to Phoenix…does it? What God DID is not necessarily an indication of the extent of His ABILITY.

I don’t mean to be harsh or unnecessarily argumentative, Tom. I look forward to hearing more from you, especially in response to the kinds of questions I’ve raised above. I’m not done learning, and I’m sure you have much to teach me. =)

 

Dan Smitley

01.19.2010
10:23am

Tom,

I look forward to your forthcoming essay. You may address my concern in it, so feel free to say “just wait”, but if we say God created out of something doesn’t that require that something to be eternal as He is eternal? What are you willing to say is eternal with Him other than Himself?

I have a feeling you gave a glimpse of your answer in the title of the next essay but I still wanted to ask. Thanks,

-Dan

 

Charles W. Christian

01.19.2010
10:29am

My main question, then, is more a theological one, Tom: Was there a time when all there was was God?  Some Jewish commentaries of Gen. 1:1 understand it to be something like this: “Before there was anything else, there was God; then God spoke.”  This, of course, is an “ex nihilo” account.  However, what about the ancient creedal statements regarding “before there was anything, there was God.”  I believe one can affirm the idea of a God who precedes all other things without a specific ex nihilo reading of Gen. 1; however, I don’t see you addressing that question, and I’d like your take on it.

Finally (for here), the two statements that address the problems with a God who is able to create ex nihilo yet doesn’t stop evil are not convincing to me.  What about the Trinitarian model of a God who is perfect community who wishes to take a risk to reproduce this perfect community by creating?  The risks involved CAN (and do for many) address the problem of evil while still positing a God with the power to create ex nihilo.  Again, I like many of your comments, but I don’t see these two things addressed, and they are historically significant concerns.  Blessings! ~ Charles

 

Curtis

01.19.2010
3:56pm

Tom, as usual your thoughts are cogent and worth pondering.

I wonder if there is a middle ground between the extremes of creatio ex nihilo and creation from chaos. My problems with creation from chaos, as I understand the idea, is:
-Chaos seems to become the default reality. Chaos is the natural state of all things. This seems to suggest that we are not ultimately the creation of God but are God’s ordering of a chaotic primordial state or substance. We are, most basically, chaos given order.

-This also seems to smack of dualism. If God is in an eternal “battle” with chaos, how is this different from other forms of dualism in which God eternally battles evil in one form or another?

-While I think the problem of evil’s origin may be solved with creation out of chaos… the problem of evil’s exodus is glaring!

I wont offer my underdeveloped theory here but I think there is a third way in which we can see God as creator in the fullest sense and yet still affirm that chaos is a necessary element of the creation.

 

Steve

01.20.2010
6:11am

OK Tom,

Let’s say after 10 years your starting to win me over on this one.

let’s say to summarize some key points of your of your argument (maybe some previous discussions we have had on the same subject mixed in)

God is by nature both relational and creative.

If he created out pre existant matter, He would have had to created the pre existant matter which he created from pre existant matter and so on creating a sort of ‘creation loop’

where i get lost is humanity and as we know it is relatively young even by the longest estimates.

My current understanding of God’s nature is so relational that i have trouble with the notion that God would have created over and over again with out also creating community/love capable live prior to us.

then my mind starts really spinning could heaven already be populated?

maybe it sounds crazy but it seems the natural next step

 

Lori Ward

01.20.2010
7:30am

If not creation ex nihilo, then creation from what?  If ordering of chaos, from whence cometh the chaos? 

Also, regarding the power of God over against the power of evil, you seem to imply that God must not be able to overcome the power of evil—otherwise, God is culpable for not doing such.  Are you suggesting that there is some other—some power—outside of God that limit’s God’s power?

 

Steve

01.20.2010
7:52am

Please forgive my spelling everyone.

Man it must have been torture reading my papers in my pre- secretary years

 

Dan Martin

01.20.2010
11:14am

Hi Tom,

I only recently started following the blog and I’m lovin’ it! Thank You.

I love theology.

(Okay, love is a strong word there but my D.S. may read this blog and I’ll take the brownie points whenever I can get ‘em – Go Yankees!)

That being said, in order to cling to my passion for theology I need it to translate into action and real life so here’s my question.

What does all this do for Meth Addicts?

I tell our people everyday that by fully submitting to God’s loving strength they can conquer Meth, which tends to be just one particularly nasty bit of chaos in their lives. Sadly, more often than not they fail that battle. 

Are we saying God is limited in dealing with chaos in general, or is he only limited when dealing with pre-creation chaos? If those limits exist at all are they self-imposed by God, which would seemingly only make him stronger, or is he unable to fully remove chaos?

(Yikes, that has the potential to mess with traditional Naz theology.)

Sorry if I stepped outside of the scope of the post. Thanks again.

Grace and Peace, Dan

 

Jack Holmes

01.20.2010
12:13pm

Tom, I think we are so trapped in our limited, finite, physical thinking that we do not/cannot understand God. He is spiritual. He exists in a different state of being. We have no way of understanding Him outside of His explanations of of Himself expressed in our finite language, with our physical terms, and concepts. That is one reason why Jesus is so important to us.

I think it is absurd for us to make speculations about the spiritual realm unless we can form them from what He has told us. The word “nothing” has no meaning in the spiritual. What was created just did not exist before. It is that simple. Romans 4:17, and Hebrew 11:3 gives us a little insight to God’s perspective.

The whole world has a physical picture of God, including the old philosophers, which we seem to revere, but the spiritual and physical are completely different states of being. Contemporary Christian theology has not corrected that either. God is just the big man upstairs. The spiritual is beyond our comprehension. We need to understand that part, at least, and let His word help us understand Him and His heart toward His creation.

Jack

 

Wm. Andrew Schwartz

01.20.2010
12:21pm

Charles,
The position that “before there was anything, there was God”, reminds me of the mystical Jewish concept (picked up by Moltmann) called zimsum. This is the idea before there was anything, there was God, which means that in order for something non-God (something finite) to exist, God would have to withdrawn unto God’s self, making room for the finite. While this is a very sophisticated position, it does not help us with two key issues: theodicy, and “out of nothing comes nothing” (ex nihil, nihil fit).

 

Wm. Andrew Schwartz

01.20.2010
12:21pm

Lori,
I appreciate your questions - “If ordering of chaos, from whence cometh the chaos?” In response to your question, I pose a parallel question “If creation/ordering by God, from whence cometh God?” In both cases, God and chaos have no beginnings. The same logic/faith that is applied to a God with no beginning, is the same logic/faith that is applied to a chaos with no beginning.

 

Eric Vail

01.20.2010
1:53pm

Tom, you are raising some good critiques of the tradition that I believe do need to be addressed.  I think we need to examine further some of the unintended implications of traditional ways of speaking about creation.  Like many who have already posted, I do not agree with all of your critiques.  Also, Charlie Collier mentioned a few contemporary theologians whose articulations of the doctrine are not guilty of many if any of your critiques.  In my own dissertation I too tried to develop a language for talking about creation out of nothing that avoids your critiques.  I welcome anyone’s thoughts on whether I was successful or not.  See “Using ‘Chaos’ in Articulating the Relationship of God and Creation in God’s Creative Activity” at http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations_mu/5/

 

Preston Hills

01.20.2010
7:49pm

I enjoyed reading this blog. The idea of creatio ex nihilo raises questions in my mind as to why, if God is all powerful and did create the universe from nothing did he create evil and other negative factors? Does God allow calamity to grow perseverance? Also, where did God come from if nothing was there? In my personal faith I strongly believe that God is all powerful and all knowing, but I now question in a sense creation, because of the arguments posted.

 

Greg Borger

01.20.2010
7:59pm

Good stuff! I eagerly await your alternative.

As theists, problem one seems to remain an insurmountable problem. If we accept the idea of an eternal/infinite God then absolute nothingness is very much impossible to conceive.

Reguarding the question of creation out of what, that many have already raised, I am guessing that we may see an alternative that proposes that God has created out of Himself, maybe God created out His nature, will, desire, or even His Love.

 

Thomas Jay Oord

01.21.2010
8:13am

Y’all,

Thanks for your helpful comments!  I’m posting my follow-up blog, which has my alternative theory.  Your comments helped me fine-tune my arguments.  Thanks!

Tom

 

Rod

01.21.2010
9:22am

Hey, TJ,

I responded to and linked to your post on creation ex nihilo. You brought up some very good points.

Rod
http://politicaljesus.com/

 

David Egger

01.21.2010
11:40am

Creatio Ex Nihilo:  “No Problem”

To believe that God created the heavens, the earth, and every living thing is an act of faith.  We have no proof that God created it, we only know that it exists.  Whether God created this world   from absolutely nothing or by organizing chaos is of little consequence.  But to accept the idea that God created the universe yet limit our belief in His creating ability to what we can explain or understand is absurd.  How can you so easily accept the notion that God can create all the intricacies of this world only if it is prefaced with the idea that it was created out of something?  Christians should not reject the idea that God created the universe from absolutely nothing…unless His Word rejects the idea.  But this would seem to place the authority of God’s Word above man’s wisdom.  Can we do that?  Well, Proverbs 3:5 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”  It would seem that God wants us to trust Him, by trusting in His Word.

Now we are getting to the crux of all the questions being raised.  Can we trust a God who allows evil in this world when He could have created a world without evil?  Or was He just powerful enough to set this world in motion but is powerless to control it?  The implication seems to be that God is either responsible for evil or not powerful enough to stop it.  Maybe it is because He gave us all free choice to either choose Him or allow the consequences of sin to be carried out.  If He created us to glorify Him, to honor, love and serve Him it would mean very little to Him if we couldn’t choose an alternative.  That alternative is separation from God, sin, evil, and it has consequences.  If we ignore the law of gravity and get hurt should we blame God?  Maybe He should have made us with bodies that can’t be broken, not susceptible to disease and able to live forever.  Oh, yea, He does have a plan for that…for those who trust in Him and His Word.

How do we know if any part of God’s Word is true?  Considering the assets and liabilities of a Biblical concept is the wrong approach.  Truth is not proven on the basis of its assets and liabilities.  It is not based on what feels right or what the majority considers to be Truth.  What is True is True even if not one person believes it to be True.  What about all those miracles?  Should we consider the assets and liabilities of them to decide if they were real or fictitious?  How could we prove them?

The real problem is how we view God’s Word.  Once you start doubting God’s Word and deny that it is inerrant, where do you draw the line?  Do you draw the line at the “creation story”, the “virgin birth”,  the “miracles”, or maybe the “resurrection”?  Once you decide that you can not trust God’s Word is in fact God’s words, you end up with man trying to dissect and prove each and every aspect of the Bible through man’s infinite wisdom and deciding what to keep and what to throw out.  Oh, but then you would have to throw out that whole Proverbs verse above.  I am not that smart so I tend to just believe God’s Word is His Word and it is inerrant.  Now I can learn about God by reading His Word.  I don’t have to guess which parts to believe, I can safely believe it all.  If it says God created…then He did, period. 

Colossians 2:8

 

Tracey Berry

01.21.2010
4:39pm

But doesn’t scriptures say that God spoke and then there was his creation? Doesn’t that imply that there was nothing before God spoke?

Also, I don’t quite see how your 9 reasons are so solid that you don’t have any more evidence for it. I would be interested to see more support for the statements.

 

Vance

07.27.2010
9:15pm

Genesis 1:1 tells us what God did. The rest of the chapter gives some details on the order in which He did it. The text does not tell us that God created the primordial waters. The narrative begins with the Spirit of God hovering over them. God then begins His acts of creation, or bringing order out of chaos. Creation ex nihilo may be true, but that’s not what this story is about. In any case, the essay above could open the door to somewhat of a panentheistic view of God—i.e., the cosmos is IN God, even if that means the “energies” as opposed to the essence of God(to borrow from the Eastern fathers). Thus, the primordial waters are not so much the waters of chaos as a metaphor for the divine energies from which an ordered cosmos evolved.

 

David

10.03.2010
6:27am

The fundamental fallacy above, is that you assume that being exists beyond God. This has the consequence of making God a part of the natural order as opposed to above and outside of the natural order.

If you conceive of God as being ontologically beyond nature, then your issues are solved.

To understand this most basic and crucial starting point in theology one should consult Van Til “defense of the faith”

 

darrell a. harris

03.29.2012
2:33pm

Lovely, catalytic piece, Thomas Jay Oord. Thanks for it. Have you ever done the promised follow-up post? If so what is its title?
Shalom~
dh

 

Stephen Michael Purdy

03.29.2012
4:26pm

“5 Solitary Problem: Creatio ex nihilo assumes that a powerful God once acted alone. But power is a social concept only meaningful in relation to others.”

But Thomas, you are missing so many other aspects that derive from the same point.

If God was alone… then there was no such thing as “good” because good has no meaning unless compared to “evil”. God was not “holy” because there was no such thing as “unholy”. There is no such thing as mercy, because there was nobody to be merciful to.

In a way, you can argue that God (in this scenario) was not God.

Furthermore, God would have no reason to create in the Ex Nihilo scenario, because existence was perfect.  Simply by creating ... God “downgraded” existence.

I reject that.  I believe that God IMPROVES on existence by creating/organizing chaos or creating from some kind of infinite potential that is outside and apart from God.

 

Zappy

02.25.2013
12:10am

The way to deal with this question is easy, just take into account 2 things:

1. Pose ANY alternative to ex nihilo, and carry it out to it’s logical end. You’ll see that alternative is ultimately nonsensical and illogical.

2. Don’t subject the Father God Himself to material, naturalistic attributes and confines - Scripture doesn’t allow for it.

For example, God is not merely “older than we are” - God is the very source of the physical property known as time, He crafted it and rules outside and over time itself.

God is Spirit, and is not what we call “complex”(as if he were made of smaller materials and systems), He is the originating principal behind matter and complexity itself.

“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. John 1:3” - All things. “pre-existing material” would still be a thing, so it’s just deferring your problem.

 

Atelier

06.25.2013
8:59pm

I have a real interest in this subject and just ran across this discussion.. I find it fascinating!..Some thoughts:

1)There will never be an answer to the Ex-Nihilo scenario..simply because the finite cannot conceive of the infinite.We simply have no way to get to “nothing”. We have no concept or reference point for it.
2)Science and Theology both point to the same thing - All scientific evidence points to the fact that the Universe/Multiverse (the science based “worldview"s name for GOD)have a starting point..an impetus..a T-MINUS 0.00. moment…. What is that? what was that impetus?..what is the causality?
3).If you are taking the “naturalist” worldview (and without parsing words - that is the only real alternative here)In what other state do you find order out of chaos when there is no design to the ordering mechanism? Where do we see in the naturalist view a repeatable,consistent model of order from random chaos without the benefit of an intelligent or at the very least a coherent set of principals?

I so much want to learn more about this subject but my mind will not allow me to have a discussion when so much of what I hear from science seems to want to “move the goalpost” or change the meaning of words. To me, there is a very large difference between the word “empty’ and the word “nothing”. Science seems to want me to accept “empty” as meaning “nothing” and I simply cannot accept that. When I drink all the water that is in this bottle beside me - The bottle will be “empty”.. that is far different than there being “nothing” in the bottle.

“From where do things come to be that were not come to be”

 

Phillip Anderson

09.08.2013
11:28pm

The idea that there was “something” for God to work with somehow makes sense. Even as I read the first few verses of Genesis, I find I agree with the theory of creating from something rather than nothing. For example, the ESV uses words that describe substances such as, deep, waters, and hovering over. Then God speaks, and “creation” begins. But, the argument for this could be in that verse one said, “God created the heavens and the earth,” thereby creating first, the substances that His Spirit hovered over, with the next phase being to form it all.
Finally, from your introduction to the book, I have a thought in regards to the idea of God creating out of God’s own self. I think this brings up the problem of sin. Divine, in the sense of God’s divinity or perfection, could not include sin. If creation was out of God’s own self, God set Himself up to allow sin as part of God. This in my mind makes God way less then a perfect sinless God who hates sin. But, how does this fit in with your understanding of God being culpable? To who whom would God be answerable, creation?

Psalms 5:4 For You [are] not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; evil may not dwell with You. (ESV)

I have to admit that the arguments for one theory or the other is convincing. Thus, I am not ready to commit to either. I also have to think of all of this in terms of salvation and how it fits into my personal transformation and walk with Christ. Does Creatio Ex Nihilo matter? I suppose it does in terms of divinity and reason for creation.

 

GaBe

09.09.2013
4:14am

Prof Oord,Thank you for this opportunity to think deeply about my Faith.
#4. Is it necessary for there to be subsequent events of the same nature in order for there to be evidence of an original event? We have no evidence in the history of the Universe of a virgin birth, should we reject that concept in light of the fact that this had not happened before or after the Jesus event? Should we limit God to the proof of science and evidence? Because God may have chosen to do something in one particular way does not mean that He is limited only to that way. Does He have to repeat an experience for it to be believable? Is it possible that our Universe is the point of its existence and not a point to prove God’s power? My house exists to shelter my family not to provide me with data about the builder.

 

g lieuwen

01.22.2014
12:42pm

I agree all created for a purpose and function as we that in creation but not necessarily in actuality as we see chaos such as volcano’s which replenishes the earth. All will be completed someday

 

Clayton Lopez

02.27.2014
1:05pm

Take a look a Romans 4:17 for a shot at creation “ex nihilo.”

I would also inject a comment about our ability to understand matter. We are currently, as a species, dealing with the issues of quantum mechanics, and even on to string theory where the existence of matter is being reduced to information.

If there is any merit to these ideas then we should be searching more in the are of idea, thought. This will lead us back to the inherent presence of the great I AM in whom resides from forever past the fact, or reality of existence.

 

Linsey Mather

09.07.2014
12:39pm

This was an interesting read. I will admit, this is the first time I have pondered creatio ex nihilo. My initial reaction was not necessarily for or against your view. I simply have more questions. For example, if God created the universe out of something, where did this “something” come from?

Also, why do you think the idea of creatio ex nihilo gained so much popularity? Was it simply an easy answer? Or is there some merit to the idea?

In regard to problem number one, why does the fact that something is hard to conceive rule it out as a possibility? Was everything created or acted out with our comprehension abilities in mind? This is then a problem because not all humans have the same levels of comprehensibility.
Your list of problems was quite interesting. Thanks for sharing.

 

Jerimy W.

09.08.2014
11:28am

I appreciate the essay for the way it wades into unpopular waters.  Understanding and strengthening our faith requires that we continuously analyze (and adjust if necessary) our presuppositions.  I struggle with the thoughts presented in this essay, however.  Of course, I hold to the popular view that God created ex nihilo, yet, I approached this essay with an open mind, willing to listen to the evidence that existed for a different perspective.  Much of the evidence, however, seemed to only point toward the fact that there is a lack of evidence regarding creatio ex nihilo.  For me, depending on a lack of evidence to prove something proves little at all.  Too many questions still remain.
I also struggle with ascribing human logic to all of God’s attributes and abilities.  Certainly, God provides principles, laws and other means of order as boundaries for God’s creation, but does that mean that God must also function within those boundaries?  In particular, does the finite human need to be able to conceive all that God was, is or ever will be in order for God and God’s ways to be legitimate?  Absolute nothingness may be inconceivable for the human, but one can argue that incarnation, resurrection and ascension is also inconceivable.  Is there anything that is impossible with God?

 

Dustin J.

09.08.2014
12:53pm

In relationship to your first point of absolute nothingness not being able to be conceived do you think we can understand absolute perfection? It seems as though these two points are similar when in your introduction you mentioned genuine evil existing.

One thought I had through your nine points been the idea of that which existed along with God or God was the only entity to exist. If something existed alongside of God would it have the power or authority in which is often attributed to God?

Another thought I have with this thought is if we think of God as all powerful then why is the thought of Him being able to do something which is unconceivable for us be out of the question? I appreciate your points as the idea of thinking against creation ex nihilo is not one I have entertained before.

 

Mark M.

09.08.2014
2:36pm

I was particularly struck by point number five or the solitary power problem.  I haven’t ever thought about power being a social component.  In this case, God does have power over someone else thus, there seems to be something already existing rather than nothing.  I am also really intrigued to read your alternative, as stated in the conclusion, because as we venture down this road it seems necessary to ‘wonder’ about the possibilities.

Thinking about creation and the first book of Genesis has me wondering what other parts of the Bible have I skimmed, read, or interpreted without trying to examine the whole picture.  Once again I return to the idea that I am not always going to understand God, nor, truly conceive His ways, so some things are just better left uncovered.

 

Veronica Roesly

09.08.2014
3:31pm

I found this article very appealing.  This brought deep thought pertaining to “did God create from nothing”.  Scripture tells us that God is eternal (Deut 33:27); that He is the first and the last (Rev 22:13) and that He is, was and always will be (Hebrews 13:8 & Rev 1:8).  Therefore, if God created from something, then since He is eternal, He made that something too.  I have to admit, I have not formulated an opinion on this subject, yet I find it very perplexing.  If we concede and agree that God created from something, then are we saying that there are other things that are more eternal then God?  This article states that the early Christians (about 200 AD and earlier) believed that God created from something.  This thought derived from Gnostic s who had a bent view of God.  However, to say God created from something does pose its own problems as I mentioned above.

 

Susanne Blake

09.08.2014
4:24pm

This is a very complex discussion in the way we look at God and how he operates.  So if I do not know the “MInd of God” how can I assume anything except that God is the source? If God has always existed and will continue to exist. The God breathed inspiration of the Genesis account give a sequence that does have order.
God has already placed earth in a position to recreate in an orderly manner.  This gives room for wide speculation.

I guess the dinosaurs and artists early picture of man look somewhat like a “Planet of the Apes” movie. I have always wondered what Adam and Eve really looked like.  Always the perfect couple in the minds of artists.
We as humans need to see something we can grasp in order to understand.  The vastness of God and his universe is quite overwhelming to get my mind around.

I do not think that it is all that important that God did or did not create this earth from nothing or from something already here. 

God spoke the world into existence.  Whether he had already a preexisting framework or decided to make it happen right then does not appear to me to be a subject I wonder about.

Are we not going to believe in God the creator because we do not know for sure when he created and how he created this earth?

We know the word “chaos” is a word that means without much organization and could possible mean evil was rampant.  Either way God has overruled evil in the world to make some semblance of rhythm and organization.

We enjoy living in the world God created. Time and environmental changes have made life difficult for many who live in places where natural disasters have happened.  This is still a fallen world because of Adam’s sin.  I see both side of this debate and will continue to listen to more evidence for future discussions.

 

Austin Lamos

09.08.2014
6:09pm

Tom, the problem I have with this post is that I do not find your arguments entirely convincing. I know that you are the doctor and I am the student, but I don’t find your arguments against Creatio Ex Nihilo to hold a lot of water.
For instance your first premise that since one cannot conceive of “nothing” there was therefore never “nothing” is laden with error. I cannot conceive of heaven, does heaven not exist (Jesus seemed to speak of heaven as a real place)? I cannot conceive eternity, does/will eternity not exist (The Bible seems to speak of eternity)? I cannot truly conceive of a billion dollars, does that mean it doesn’t exist?
The solitary power problem only exists if you do not believe in a Triune God. If God is Triune, as in three-in-one, God cannot, by definition, act alone. God exists in community and therefore always has, does, and always will, act in community.
These are, I think the two biggest problems I have with these arguments.
I’m open to the possibility that Creatio Ex Nihilo is incorrect. But I have not yet heard a sufficient argument for a different argument. Just because it was not brought up until later in Christian history doesn’t mean that it is untrue. Just because the Bible doesn’t explicitly say “Creatio Ex Nihilo” doesn’t mean it isn’t true (The Bible doesn’t say Trinity either).

 

Melinda Helena

09.08.2014
7:33pm

What a wonderful topic!  This topic encouraged an interesting conversation in my home, thank you for that.  I want to start with the thought of this “something” that was present during the creation of the Earth.  We could go all day long trying to figure out who created the “something” and why, but what interests me the most is the relationship God had with the “something”.  It is apparent that God has power over the “something” and created, out of love, for His children an Earth.  Let’s examine the thought that the “something” is chaos and among the chaos is not only God but also evil.  We know that God did not create evil and He does have power over evil, but if God created something beautiful out of chaos, created man with free will, it would make sense that evil, or chaos could have already been present at the time of creation.

I absolutely loved this topic and can’t wait to research it further.

 

Mary Forester

09.08.2014
7:39pm

The controversy between the creation out of nothing and the creation out of something is an issue that has been ongoing. Many Bible scholars point to meaningful scripture that they believe points to a creation that was made out of nothing, and other scholars simply can’t find written evidence in the scriptures to base a claim that the world was ever “nothing” because even the word chaos is something. I can’t wrap my head around the idea of where the chaos came from? Is the chaos self-created? And if not, then wasn’t it created from God out of nothing. I’m sure that there are much smarter people than me who can figure this out quite easily, but it seems to me that it is a mystery.
I do very much agree that creation is a co-creator as far as playing a part in being a sustainer of the world. God uses people to continue His work in the world: through other people, resources, etc. Without people, by the grace of God, continuing to create in this world, it would be potentially empty at some point.

 

Paul Darminio

09.08.2014
7:50pm

The “ex nihilo” debate brings many questions.  Scripture does not require an ex nihilo perspective, but neither does it disprove this view.  We can consider how theology has developed over time as we also consider the moral and ethical considerations that come from a God who can create from nothing.  We can also consider what physics, both Newtonian and Quantum have to add to the conversation through the Laws of Thermodynamics and the Big Bang Theory.  Whichever way you take it, we are left with the many pieces of a complex puzzle and no box lid to guide our progress.
  I agree with the difficulties of a God who could create from nothing and what that has to say about the presence of evil and sin in the world.  I also wonder how we would even begin to consider matter as co-eternal with God, even if it had no form.  I am very interested in exploring these questions, but I wonder how we could ever hope to solve these riddles.

 

David Hater

09.08.2014
8:40pm

This essay was very thought provoking for me, but also very troubling for me in certain ways as well.  Although I appreciate the perspective on creatio ex nihilio, I tend to disagree with what is stated in the article.  One of the issues is not being able to conceive nothingness.  If God is God, and we are not, then when are we ever supposed to be able to completely understand or conceive what God can?  Just because we cannot conceive something does not mean that it cannot exist or God cannot do it.  Also, I may be misunderstanding the connection between the 7th and 8th point in the essay, but it would seem that God having the power to create makes him controlling as mentioned in the 8th point, and yet the argument is made that God is not controlling because evil still exists as mentioned in point 7?  My understanding is and always has been the idea that God has the power to control, yet chooses to allow free will, and therefore evil exists by choice, not by lack of control.
I respect the article and the perspective although I must disagree and sometimes I wonder if by trying too hard to understand God that we actually confuse ourselves even more.  As mentioned above, if God is truly God, then maybe we are not capable, or even meant to fully understand Him or His ways, that is where faith takes over.

 

Jared Trygg

09.08.2014
9:29pm

Tom, you wrote that you first became suspicious when you considered the following: “If God had the power to create something from absolutely nothing, God would have the power to prevent genuine evil unilaterally.”

I suppose much of this depends on how you define evil. As I understand evil, it is the resulting brokenness of the world from the fall. Sin entered the world God created through an act of disobedience made possible by the blessing of free will, which also enables creation to experience an actual relationship with God. The hard part for me to get past is that your statement seems to grant evil so much power. If God were to restore the evil, or the brokenness, outside the actions of God’s creation God then suppresses, if not takes away, the free will he so willing gave to us for the sake of having relationship. This does not necessarily affirm creation ex nihilo, but it shows that God’s love is deeper than simply not allowing his creation to experience the brokenness of the world that we are a part of. God’s love longs for relationship that is mutual in choice.

 

Kelli Simmons

09.08.2014
9:52pm

Tom,
I really do not know what to think or how to comment regarding this topic.  I honestly am going to have to “digest” not only your argument, but also some of the comments and theories of those who have posted to the site.  Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This would suggest that God always was, and chose to create something good. The Scripture refers to the Spirit of God” hovering over the waters as he continues to create, again (at least in my mind) suggesting God always was, is, and will be, the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end.  I am looking forward to your future comments on this fascinating subject.

 

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Thomas Jay Oord is a professor, author, and theologian from the Northwest. Read more