More (Unconvincing) Reasons Some Accept Creatio Ex Nihilo
In a previous post, I listed three reasons some Christians think God created our universe from nothing. I was unconvinced by those reasons. Here are three more reasons some people embrace creatio ex nihilo. Although some are interesting, I also find these reasons unconvincing.
Science Requires the Traditional View
There are strong scientific reasons to believe our universe is expanding. This expansion serves as a key element in believing the universe began with a big bang roughly 15 billion years ago. In fact, big bang theory dominates contemporary cosmology as the best theory for how our universe began. Consequently, those acquainted with big bang theory and who believe God is Creator sometimes say science supports creatio ex nihilo.
Big bang theory does not account for what may have come before our universe. We still might wonder, “Out of what did the big bang come?” And “Do we have good reasons to wonder if something existed before the big bang?”
At present, science has no way to investigate what occurred before the big bang. But recent research suggests that the universe contains more dark matter than what would have come from a big bang. This research prompts us to ask about the origin of dark matter and whether it has connections to what existed before our universe.
Accounting for dark matter and the big bang pushes us toward metaphysical speculation. Of course, science and theology always include metaphysics. But the issues of dark matter, in addition to biblical and theological issues, should encourage us to take multiverses, cyclical universes, and other cosmological theories seriously. In sum, science does not confirm creation from nothing.
To Deny Creatio Ex Nihilo is to Affirm that Matter Predates God
Some Christians accept creatio ex nihilo, because to say God created from something sounds like God did not create all things. If God used materials that pre-existed our universe, they ask, from where did these materials come? Christians cannot claim God created all things, visible or invisible, if God started with stuff not first created by God.
I think this is a strong argument. I also believe God creates all things. But we can believe God creates all things and also believe that God created the “stuff” that existed before our universe. In other words, God can be Creator of all and not have created our universe from absolutely nothing. We’ll explore this possibility in more detail later.
Closely related to the problem of “pre-existing stuff” is the worry that denying creatio ex nihilo would require believing the universe is eternal. There is nothing explicitly in Genesis that rejects the possibility of an eternal universe. But many want to believe only God exists everlastingly.
My alternative to creation from nothing does not say our universe is eternal. Only God exists everlastingly. But my proposal also says God everlastingly creates in relation to creation. I’ll explain how these statements can both be true. But here I simply say I think God creates all things, and the world is not eternal.
God Is or Could Be All-Controlling
In the social media poll I mentioned earlier, two groups of people said the belief that God is all-powerful motivates some Christians to affirm creation from nothing. This is not surprise, because creating from nothing seems to require amazing power!
The first group in the poll supports creatio ex nihilo. To them, God’s creating from nothing is an example of God’s omnipotence or sovereignty. God’s immense power can make something out of absolutely nothing, they say. The belief that God can control creatures or creation fits nicely with their view that God creates from nothing.
The second group of people reject creatio ex nihilo. They do so in part because the theory supports the traditional view of God’s omnipotence. For a number of reasons, they find the traditional view of omnipotence or divine sovereignty unbelievable.
The traditional view of God’s power seems to make the problem of evil unsolvable. If an omnipotent God can create something from nothing, this God must be able to control others to prevent evil. There is a direct link, in other words, between the problem of evil and creation from nothing.
I share this worry. I reject the traditional view of God’s power that says God either can or does control others. I believe God is almighty, but I don’t think God ever controls others. I have explained this belief in some detail in my book, The Uncontrolling Love of God. If you want to learn how God can be almighty but not controlling, I suggest you read it.
As I see it, we should think about our Creator in a way that doesn’t make God morally responsible for failing to prevent genuine evil. We should affirm God’s creating as motivated and carried out in love not as implying God has controlling power. A major reason to reject the creation from nothing theory, in other words, is that this view implies that God does not love consistently enough to prevent evil.
These are all important reasons some have accepted the theory that God created our universe from absolutely nothing. But I find none of them finally convincing.
I’ll offer one more essay that lists yet three more reasons some accept creatio ex nihilo. These reasons and my response are part of the book I’m writing on creation. I plan to offer a new theory of initial creation in that book.
Thomas Jay Oord