A New View of Creation
I’m writing a book that offers a new theory of initial creation. It’s a project I’ve wanted to do for some time.
To help my thinking, I’m asking friends and readers to comment on the issues. So far, the comments I’ve been sent have been very helpful, and I’m incorporating them in my writing.
I plan to post small segments of the book as blog essays. Below is the first chapter of the book, as it currently stands. I’m sure I’ll make adjustments to it. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on it or on creation issues in general.
We Need a New Theory of Creation
Most well-informed Christians believe the universe has existed for billions of years. They believe this, because scientific data and measurements strongly suggest it to be true. Scientists differ among themselves on the precise age of the universe and how it began. But a Christian cannot be in step with contemporary physics, cosmology, and many other sciences and also think the universe is only thousands of years old.
Most well-informed Christians also believe God creates through evolution. To reflect this belief, some call themselves “theistic evolutionists,” “evolutionary creationists,” or a similar name. They believe God creates through evolution because the general theory of evolution has vast scientific support. Scientists differ among themselves on the details and mechanisms of evolution. But a Christian cannot be in step with contemporary biology, anthropology, and many other sciences and also reject evolution.
Few Christians realize they should also reject the idea that God created the universe from nothing. Scholars often refer to the creation from nothing theory by its Latin name, creatio ex nihilo. In this book, I give biblical, scientific, theological, and philosophical reasons why believers should deny this traditional view.
I also offer an alternative to the creation from nothing theory. Rather than simply pointing out its problems, I propose a replacement. I’m both deconstructive and reconstructive. I doubt people will relinquish their view of initial creation – even after learning of its problems – unless they have a viable alternative.
I offer a view of creation I believe is better than the alternatives. That’s a bold statement, I know. It may even sound arrogant to some people. But I don’t mean it as arrogant, and I’m not offering a new idea just for the sake of novelty. I wouldn’t waste our time giving reasons to reject creatio ex nihilo only to offer an alternative theory I thought inferior.
Above all, I want to love in everything I say, think, and do. As I see it, loving well includes thinking well about creation. Consequently, I see this book as an act of love.
When offering my alternative theory, I draw from scripture, especially recent biblical scholarship. I address and incorporate recent work in the sciences, especially cosmology and physics. I include philosophical analysis and speculation, which always plays a role in creation discussions, even when unacknowledged. And I draw from other disciplines. A viable theory of creation draws from many sources, because no one source can suffice.
To some, my alternative theory will seem radical. New ideas usually jar us. But the proposed theory retains what I think are essential elements of a Christian view of creation. For instance, I think God is and should be called our “Creator.” My new theory affirms this. In fact, I believe my alternative describes God as Creator more powerfully than the traditional one!
I also think creatures act in creative ways, because they are created co-creators. But God is the only one whom we should call “Creator” with a capital C, because God alone is the uncreated Creator. No one created God. And God plays a necessary role in creation of all things.
In this book, I specifically address the initial creation of our universe. Although a few Christians believe God creates today from nothing, creatio ex nihilo was originally proposed and continues to be considered as addressing initial creation.
I also believe God continually and currently creates. I affirm creatio continua, to use the Latin words. But my primary focus in this book is the original creation of our universe and secondarily God’s continual creating.
Although I expect my fellow scholars to evaluate my proposal, I also want a wider audience to evaluate it. So to the best of my ability, I will write in understandable language. I will also make my ideas widely available, not limiting them to the academy. We all have a stake in thinking well about our Creator.
I believe this alternative theory of initial creation can help the academy, church, and wider public. I suspect both specialists and generalists will find it interesting. While I am writing with fellow Christians in mind, I suspect nonChristians will be intrigued by my proposal. Just about everybody wonders why there is something rather than nothing.
Good that you are addressing this: “I also believe God continually and currently creates.”
I am on pins and needles. Our present understanding of creation is problematic. I’m looking forward to hearing your proposal.
Tom, Interested in your process. My initial questions are; What does “beginning/genesis” look like to God? In response to “Let there be…” What was? Moreover all of the looking back to ascertain “what is” to postulate the “how it has come to be”, does not reveal the Divine starting point. Perhaps these are addressed in other works you have done or have read, could you direct me to these resources?
Next, “why life?” “why now?” also in the eschatological, “what next?” So much in scripture is allegorical that the best conversations seem mostly theoretical more than actual, so from your de/re-constructive work, will these be addressed? Im rather simple in these matters so they may be more evident than I an able to comprehend.
I find this fascinating, and cant wait to learn more. The only appeal I would make is that you take some of the newer cosmological theories with a grain or two of salt. We know now that there was a Big Bang, (proven by the background radiation discovery) but much of the rest is still very speculative. Still, I am assuming that the basis of your idea is more theological than physical, so I am not overly worried. I thought your latest book (Love) was brilliant.
I am interested in learning more about Adam and Eve and the evolution of humans. The creation story is just poetics and I think that your book may have to touch on a little bit of the history of how people came up with these stories and what their mindset was when writing them. i guess using the deconstruction/reconstruction theology, it is a good way to tackle that.
Thanks, Sy. I agree that much of recent cosmology — especially multiverse theory — is more metaphysics than science. I’ll address those issues, but you’re right that my arguments will be primarily theological. Thanks thanks for your kind words about my love book!
Thanks for the response, Scott. I recommend Karl Giberson’s new book, Saving Adam.
Great questions, Ron. I’ll try to address most of them, although the eschatological issues will have to wait to be explored in depth in another book.
Thanks for your interest, John!
Yeah, Jan, I think one disservice the theory of creation out of nothing has unnecessarily done is to incline some to think God only created at the beginning.
Recently read John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One where he argues for a functional rather than material understanding of the Gen narrative. And he argues for the text as a temple inauguration. seems to me this would work well within an open theism view?
Thanks, David. John W and I have talked about this. I’ll definitely cite him as a scholar who says creatio ex nihilo isn’t in the Bible. Thanks!
Thanks for this. Intriguing. I’ve never thought of ex nihilo as a problem particularly but I’m very interested to know where you’re going after that introduction. The text reads well. Very clear.
I’m happy you found it helpful!