Creatio Ex Nihilo (Creation Out of Nothing)

Paul Derengowski, ThM

 

How did the heavens and the earth come into being?  Was someone intelligent, responsible, and powerful enough to take credit for the existence of all that that we know?  Or is the universe and all of its residents one big eternal mass of interrelated substances that had no beginning, nor and end, and a random force or forces is or are responsible for capriciously re-arranging them into the current forms we now see?  They are fundamental questions that both the religious and non-religious have been contemplating and debating for thousands of years, either among themselves or with each other.  Is there an answer or must we settle, in relativistic style, to simplistically “agree to disagree”?

Before answering the question or origin we must take a closer look at just what options are.  Without exploring pedantically every nuance available there are essentially three views on how the heavens and the earth came to be.  The first view, that pre-existent materials have always existed, we will credit to those of a more atheist bent, even though there are those in the religious realm who also claim that there was no personal God in the beginning who created anything, but merely re-arranged the furniture, so to speak.  This view is more properly termed the Monistic view.  A second option argues that there was some kind of personal intelligence (i.e. “God”) that brought all things to be, but that those same things are not substantively or essentially different than the intelligence itself.  This view would more properly be called the Pantheistic view.  Finally, the third option concerning the argument about origins states that there was a personal intelligence (i.e. “God”) who prior to bringing all things into existence, existed himself.  Then, when the time was right, He brought the universe and its inhabitants into being, as entities essentially distinguishable from God.  The question now becomes, which of the three options best describes how the cosmos came to be?  Let’s take a deeper look at those options.

 

Monistic View

Monism, simply defined, is a worldview that sees all things in the universe as consisting of one substance; that there is a multiplicity in one reality, even though some multiplicities are unreal or illusions.  There is no beginning, nor end, to the universe, and that all things in it have always self-existed in an infinite whole, as those things are mere extensions of the One.  Moreover, there are no real differences between things, since to differentiate between things is to imply more than one reality, which is absurd.  Being itself is what is real; therefore anything contrary to being is non-being, and non-being cannot differ from being, since it does not exist.  Non-being, therefore, is an illusion.  The monistic worldview itself was first popularized by the Hellenist philosopher Parmenides and then later his student Zeno, and is later seen in many of the Eastern religions, like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism.  In the West it is embraced by New Age practitioners, Wiccans, and Christian cults like Mormonism and Universalism.

The problem with monism, though, is that it asserts something about the universe and reality that cannot be maintained when thought through to its logical end.  For if all things, including finite moments in time, are simply illusory parts of an infinite whole, then why should anyone rationally react to apparently real events which transpire in life which cause excruciating pain or overwhelming joy, much less the more mundane events which often lead up to those moments?  Logically, they should not, if not for the simple reason that individual parts, persons, and events are all contradictions in an infinite existence.  Surely one subscribing to a monist worldview should be the most aloof and passive person alive, never paying attention to stop lights, tornado warnings, or the birth of a child, if he really believes that such events are an illusion.  Yet, the monist consistently steps out of the way of oncoming traffic out of fear of being run over.

As if the illusory problem were not enough to undermine the idea that all of existence is merely extension of some impersonal, nebulous, infinite existence, one must ask, if nothing ever had a beginning, then how can anyone thoughtfully consider the present moment?  In fact, how is it possible in an infinite existence to ever get to the present without a finite past?  This was something that Zeno tried to explain, yet failed, because he equated definitions by comparing the parts of reality with reality itself.  Hence, one could not supposedly get from one point to the next due the number of infinite divisions between two points, at least according to him.  Yet, when comparing apples with apples, rather than apples and oranges, so to speak, whether speaking about arriving at a scheduled meeting or driving across town, people achieve their plans by traversing the space between finite points in time and space (apples and apples) and not just the fractional points which exist between them (apples and oranges).

The fact of the matter is, monism fails because its starting point is flawed, which is human reason.  Clearly there is an objective difference between not only beings, but between that which is physical and that which is metaphysical.  It is an objectivity which cannot be measured or realized by resorting to strictly empirical means.  There is a beginning to existence; otherwise doing something as mundane as telling someone what the time of day it is makes absolutely no sense.  Therefore, this particular view about creation needs to be rejected.

 

Pantheistic View

The pantheistic worldview basically assumes that all things are God.  They are not things God created apart from him, but that they are actually extensions of his being.  It is a slight twist on the idea of monism in the respect that whereas monism teaches that all things consist of the same substance as God’s (or at least of an impersonal “It,” if one is an atheist), a pantheist believes that the only substance which has any real existence is God.  Hence, everything that has substance—trees, the wind, one’s pet dog or cat, people, building, cars, etc.—are all a substantive part of God.  It is also different than Panentheism, which teaches that a “spark of the divine” resides within all things, yet is distinct from those things by identity.

There are several problems with pantheism and its all-encompassing view of reality, starting with the lack of distinction between God and the universe.  For it, like monism, assumes that everything co-eternally subsisted with God, as God, infinitely.  Nothing ever had a beginning, and conversely, nothing will ever have an end, including things like evil.  Evil, in other words, always existed, just like God and good.  Therefore, an eternal dualism exists which, when followed through to its logical end, means that good will never finally and conclusively overcome evil, since the two principles offset each other, being a part of God’s being.  Since God cannot necessarily ever cease to exist, then evil, which is a part of God in the pantheistic worldview, cannot ever necessarily cease to exist either.  And endless cycle of victories and defeats for both good (God) and evil will infinitely be the order of the day in the ebb and flow of existence.

Also, given that time is cyclical (which is a popular idea, once again, in Eastern religious thought, as well as religions like Mormonism), without beginning or end, one is faced with trying to explain how the present finite moment in time is ever arrived at, since in infinity nothing can ever be added to or subtracted from the time-space continuum.  In other words, if all things are merely a part of God’s being (which is paradoxical itself, for how can one “part” infinity, while at the same time not assert distinctions in the identities of things), and time is a part of the part, yet there is no first finite moment, then how can there be subsequent finite moments?  How would it be possible to arrive at July 4, 1776, if there was never a July 3, 1776, or any other date preceding it?  Not only would it be impossible, doing something as mundane as scheduling events, keeping office meetings, or trying to get to work on time would be utter nonsense.  For why schedule a ballgame, meeting, or plan to be at work at 8:00 a.m., when during an infinite existence, such as God’s (of which all would be a part), no one could ever keep the finite appointments by adding those moments to infinity?

Pantheism is simply an implausible, irrational, and illogical explanation for the beginning of creation and the universe, not only because it confuses the finite with the infinite, but it opens a veritable Pandora’s Box of contradictions, self-refutations, and problems to those who either subscribe to, or become subject to, it.  If everything is God, then the word “God” completely loses its meaning, with relativistic thought eventually taking over, then solipsism, nihilism, hopelessness and despair.  Then again, some pantheists would just as soon discard the idea of God altogether from the discussion and thereby avoid the slippery slope of having to think about just why pantheism is implausible, irrational, and illogical to begin with.  But, if such a realization dawns upon the pantheist, then one must ask: Why be a pantheist at all, if one understand the never-ending contradictions which exist within the system of thought?  Perhaps it is because the temptation to imagine oneself as a god, or that one has the potential to become a god, are too strong to resist.  See Genesis 3:5 for that bit of repeated deception.

 

Theistic View

The most satisfactory view to explain the existence of all things, therefore, is the biblical model.  God spoke all things into being out of nothing.  Not only does such a view distinguish God from his creation, it provides an objective basis to explain what time is and creation’s relationship to it.  Moreover, the creatio ex nihilo model sees evil as something totally unnecessary, with God finally and victoriously vanquishing its presence from the created order in the day of judgment.  Evil, in other words, is parasitic and contingent upon Good for its existence; Good is necessary and non-contingent upon anything else for its existence.  Therefore, the day will come, as God has so designed, when evil, and all thing associated with it, will be removed from the created order that God originally deemed as “very good” (Gen. 1:31), and will never be influential or heard from again.  Nevertheless, since it has been argued that creatio ex nihilo is taught in Scripture, it becomes incumbent to show just where.

Genesis 1:1 provides us with the first biblical reference to support the concept of God creating all things out of nothing.  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Several things are worth noting, starting with the realization that there was a beginning for the heavens and earth.  That which begins cannot exist prior to its being.  Conversely, God, as a being, was already in existence prior to that which had no being, namely the heavens and earth.  God, therefore, is necessary in order for that which is contingent, the heavens and earth, to exist.

Now, some might argue that just because the heavens and earth did not exist in their current forms that that does not necessitate the elements in which God used were not already in existence, and then all God did was take those elements and reshape or reform them into their current identities.  However, such a rationale would be violating the spirit of what God is informing the reader in the text.  For the context is not speaking about a God who co-exists alongside already pre-existent elements, and perhaps other beings, and then crediting him with doing something that others of equal caliber could do.  The context is speaking of an extraordinary Being who precedes and transcends time and space in existence, and then brings everything else into existence at a specific time and in a specific place in space.  The verse, and the rest of the creation narrative, in other words, is about glorifying God and his creative and miraculous power, not about the creation, per sé, and the mundane, naturalistic way in which the pantheist falsely assumes came to be through an evolutionary process (the latter of which in itself would contradict the pantheistic position, since evolution implies a beginning).

Job 38:4-7. Although for argument sake we will look at only Job 38:4-7, the narrative itself extends through Chapter 41 of Job.  The context itself involves God’s convicting reply to a whining Job, who has come to a place amid his trial and torment of quizzing God why he is in the predicament that he is.  God finally has had enough of Job’s contentions, along with the false counsel that he has received from his friends, and is now putting Job on the spot.  If Job thinks that he is in a position to question God and His purposes, then God is ready to meet his challenge with a few questions of His own to demonstrate Job’s lack of depth of understanding.

God begins His challenge by telling Job, “Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!”  In other words, “Okay big boy, since you want to call me into question, then tighten up your belt, and let’s get ready to rumble.”  God asks Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”  The obvious answer was Job did not even exist, which fits right in with what one would expect when considering the subject of creation.  Before God brought Job into existence, he did not exist.  Otherwise, Job would have responded with something along the lines of, “I was with You, God, in a pre-existent setting, along with the rest of my spirit brothers and sisters, enjoying You and Heavenly Mother.”  But, at the end of the Q&A session, Job can do nothing but hang his head and admit his finite inadequacy.

God follows up His provocative question with a few more dealing with the specifics of creation itself.  “Who set its measurements, since you know?  Or who stretched out the line on it?”  The answer is Job did not know, because he could not.  Job was not around, once again, because he did not exist.  Therefore, all he could do was plead ignorant, which is exactly what he ends up doing.  “On what were its bases sunk?  Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”  Job’s non-answer is deafening.

Surely if Job belonged to the same ontological order as God, which must be assumed if the Monist-Pantheist view is accepted, then he could have not only responded with a positive reply of infinite knowledge, but his questions involving his suffering as a part of God’s plan and purpose for His creation would have been justified.  Yet, Job stands in awe of God and says nothing until God is finished with him.  In fact, Job eventually confesses what he does know and that is simply, “Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees Thee; Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” (42:3, 5-6).  In other words, Job’s whole complaint is based on ignorance, he admits it, and he is resolved to change his mind.  Clearly, the whole discourse between Job and God demonstrates a fundamental distinction between God and His creation; one which shows God in existence prior to all things, with all things dependent upon God for an understanding of why they exist in God’s grander scheme, which even includes the times of evil and suffering.

Psalm 102:25-27. There is no indication of who the author is of Psalm 102 aside from a designation of “the afflicted.”  Nevertheless, whoever wrote it is consistent with Jewish cosmology and origins, as well as theology, even though the psalm itself deals mainly with personal affliction and vindication.  The idea of creation out of nothing actually starts in verse 18 when the psalmist mentions that a generation of people “yet to be created” or “yet to be born” will be created (Heb. bārā) for the express purpose of praising the Lord.  But, it is not until we reach verses 25-27 that the concept of creatio ex nihilo, as it pertains to our overall theses comes more into view.

In verse 25 we read that “Of old Thou didst found the earth;” the implication being that prior to God’s establishment of that which the earth consists, it had none.  The expression “Of old” (Heb. lepanim) has a temporal aspect to it; earth came into existence at a specific time, implying finitude and a time when the earth did not exist.  Moreover, the psalmist points out that the earth cannot exist in and of itself which implies God’s sovereignty and earth’s contingence.  Such an idea is consistent later with the Apostle Paul’s pronouncement of Jesus as the Creator in Colossians 2:16-17 with the latter verse stating, “And He [Jesus] is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”  Then the psalmist turns his attention to the heavens, probably referring to the whole universe, and insinuates the same temporal conditions and contingence for it as well.  Only God is seen as eternal and self-sufficient, relying on no one or anything for his existence.

In verse 26 the psalmist magnifies the temporality of both heaven and earth by stating that “Even they will perish” or cease to exist in their current forms.  Again, unbeknownst to the afflicted psalmist at the time, what he writes is consistent with later revelation and the coming of a “new heaven and new earth” at the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus (Rev. 21:1; 2 Pet. 3:10, 13 cf. Isa. 65:17, 22).  The exception is that the latter earth and heaven will endure throughout eternity, even though they remain as contingent upon God’s sovereignty as the rest of creation ever has been.  The former earth and heaven “will wear out like a garment; like clothing Thou wilt change them, and they will be changed.”  The imagery of changing one’s garments because of wear is emphatic due to repetition.  The idea is that there will come a day when the present earth and heaven will become old and exhausted (Heb. bālâ) and need to be changed, just like when a piece of old clothing.  And exchange will be made and the former will be discarded, as they cease to exist, except for maybe in the memory of God himself.

A final comparison is made between the temporal earth and heavens and God himself in verse 27 when the psalmist affirms the eternal self-consistency of God by stating, “But Thou are the same, and Thy years will not come to an end.”  If such could be said of creation, then creation itself would be on the same level of existence as God, the monotheistic view of the Bible would be untrue and the whole of what man understands about God and creation would be caught up in a never-ending conundrum of contradiction.  In fact, either God or creation would cease to exist.  But, as seen in just these few verses by the psalmist, God is necessary and creation is not.  Creation had a beginning, whereas God did not.  Creation will change, even to the point of ceasing to exist, whereas God does not change and will always exist.  Therefore, the psalmist further affirms creatio ex nihilo by asserting creation’s temporality and contingency, while also affirming God’s eternality and self-sufficiency.

Proverbs 8:23-29. When we turn to the Wisdom Literature of the Proverbs we again see evidence that God created all things out of nothing.  The method the writer uses to point this out is by showing positive and negative contrasts of what existed prior to God acting versus what came to be when he did act.  Although the immediate context of Proverbs 8 is the extolling of wisdom, in this particular passage the subtheme of creation from nothing stands out upon closer observation.  For instance, in verse 23 wisdom was “established” or “appointed” “From the beginning…of the earth.”  Earth had a beginning, prior to which it was nothing.

Verse 24 actually begins the first of the negative contrasts.  “When there were no depths…” and “When there were no springs…” then wisdom was personified or “brought forth.”  No depths or oceans and no springs are allusions to that which did not exist prior to the “beginning…of the earth.”  Nowhere is there any indication of pre-existing matter or molecules that existed, which God used to formulate water to create the oceans and streams, as some pantheistic-type groups assume when arguing against creatio ex nihilo.  There simply was nothing that would later constitute those things when wisdom was personified and played an agent’s role in bringing them to be.

Verse 25 continues with the negative imagery by alluding to a time when the mountains and the hills of the earth were unsettled or ever existed.  It was then that wisdom was “born,” “brought forth” or personified.  Then wisdom acted as a “master workman” (v. 30) to provide a foundation for the mountains and hills, as God rejoiced in what had been created or literally brought into existence (v. 31).

Verse 26 speaks again of earth’s non-existence, as well as some of the articles which comprise it, namely the fields and “first dust” (Heb. rosh aphar).  According to Brown, Driver, and Briggs rosh carries the meaning of time or “beginning,” 1 which would further imply that before the first particle of dust was spoken into existence, there was none.  Some might point to the phrase that God “made the earth” and extrapolate, once again, that there were pre-existing materials out of which the dust was “made,” but that would contradict the time element.  That which exists temporally and contingently, as seen in previous discussions, necessarily requires temporal moments of time to do so.  Where there is no temporal time, there cannot be temporally existing things like fields, dust, and the earth.

Verses 27-29 turns from the negative aspects of creation to the positive things God did to bring creation into existence.  First God “established the heavens” and then he “inscribed a circle on the face of the deep.”  To establish or “prepare” in this context means to bring into existence as a certainty that which otherwise did not exist initially. 2 To inscribe or “decree” is legal in nature, as if God wrote in stone the specific dimensions of the oceans whereas otherwise there was none.  In verses 28 and 29 we see parallel commentary emphasizing what took place in verse 27.  In verse 28 the skies are “made firm,” while in verse 29 the waters of the earth are “fixed” and a boundary is set for the sea (oceans).  The whole creative process is finalized with the decree, “When He marked out the foundations of the earth,” none of which existed prior to God’s declaration.  This would be consistent with what the Genesis record tells us when it states that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” which was accomplished when he merely spoke both, and all that which comprises them, into existence, prior to which they had none.

Isaiah 66:2. The context behind Isaiah 66:2 is the restoration of Israel which begins in Chapter 65.  After beginning the Book of Isaiah with a scathing denouncement of Israel’s rebellion and unbelief (“Where will you be stricken again, as you continue in your rebellion?”–1:5) and predicting future judgment upon those nations whom God used to punish Israel’s wickedness, Yahweh now assures His chosen people that the day will come that they will be restored in the land.  Amid the building of houses and planting of vineyards comes a question of what the Jews will build for Yahweh (66:1).  Yahweh asks, “Where then is a house you could build for Me?  And where is a place that I may rest?”  The questions are rhetorical, for the only answers are, there is no house, nor resting place, that Israel could build for God, due to His immensity.  It is a theme that arose in Solomon’s day after he built the greatest of temples in Israel’s history.  Solomon asked, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth?  Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built!” (1 Kgs. 8:27).  Surely if heaven is the throne of the God, and the earth is His footstool (Isa. 66:1), then what could Israel build for God that could contain him?

Isaiah then magnifies Israel’s dilemmas by pointing out just who provided all that is that Israel was planning to use to create an edifice for God.  “‘For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,’ declares the Lord” (66:2).  It is the Hebrew expression “came into being” (yihu) which is relevant to the subject of creatio ex nihilo.  Although Israel’s desire was to bring into being something which did not yet exist, Yahweh reminds them that whatever their desire or idea might be, those things which they chose to use to express their gratitude in physical form already existed due to Yahweh’s creative act.  Such was not the case, though, when God created the heavens and the earth.  God gave the physical creation being when He spoke it into existence.  Prior to that, it had no being.  The Jews, on the other hand, had to take that which God did speak into existence and reform them into a physical, finite object in order to achieve their aspirations.  Since Yahweh is an eternal, infinite, spiritual being, who existed prior to creation itself, then for Israel to assume that it could build a temporal, finite, physical structure to house God was a contradiction in terms.

It is another reason why that when the day comes that God does reside with His people in the new heaven and earth, the He will be the temple itself.  “And I saw no temple in it,” writes John, “for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple” (Rev. 21:22).  Otherwise, if something in creation consists of the same essential being as God, then there is nothing special about Him whatsoever.  In fact, both God and Jesus will have lied about God’s singularity and significance, the created order will either become God or will simply cease to exist, and the whole of the Judeo-Christian message found in the pages of the Bible will become null and void.  Such is the significance of the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo.  If God did not create all things out of nothing, then God is nothing Himself, and neither is creation.  Yet, that is not the message behind Isaiah 66:2, nor in the preceding pages where Isaiah describes God as incomparable (40:18), all-encompassing (41:4), exclusive (43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:5-6, 18, 21-22; 46:8), the sole creator (44:24), sovereign (45:9-10; 46:10-11; 55:11), and wholly other (55:8).

John 1:3. The context of John 1 is reflective of what is stated in Genesis 1.  In fact, it would be hard to mistake what John is referring to when he opens his gospel with “In the beginning” and then proceeds to talk about the agent of creation itself, Jesus Christ, as the Word of God.  Jesus, in other words, was “with God,” as God, who was instrumental in bringing creation into existence.  It is something that would lead the Apostle Paul to write, “And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).  With terminology like “beginning” and “before all things” time elements are involved when it comes to the created order; time elements that cannot apply to Jesus as one of the “things” that require time in order to exist.  Therefore, despite objections to the contrary by contemporary Arian groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christadelphians, Jesus could not have been a created being because he transcended time.  Instead, he was God, as John reveals, who brought all things into existence, which otherwise had no existence.

Emphasis of creation’s non-existence and the importance Jesus played in bringing it into existence are found in John 1:3.  “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”  The same Greek verb (ginomai) is used all three times to denote creation’s move from non-existence, with the latter usage being perfect or showing a state or condition that has continuing effect.  Otherwise the verb is aorist tense, or point-action, denoting a specific time or instance when the action occurred, implying that prior to Jesus creating all things they had no action because they did not yet exist.  Some might argue that this is another instance where Jesus merely rearranged the pre-existing molecules which constitute an already existent, eternal universe, but such a notion would defy the context itself.  For in order for something to exist it must have being or an essential constitution which distinguishes it from fantasy.  Literally translated John’s statement would read, “and without him not one thing existed which exists.”  So, there are no cryptic allusions made by John which shows that he had in mind some kind of Platonic worldview when describing the creative activity of God and Jesus.  In short, clear, emphatic language John is crediting Jesus for the creation of the heavens and the earth, without which none would have being or existence.  John, in other words, begins his gospel with not only a declaration of Jesus’ deity, but with a declarative statement about creatio ex nihilo which only Jesus could fulfill because of his deity.

Romans 4:17. Amid a discussion on the prerequisites of salvation by faith, as illustrated in the life of Abraham, is a statement that depending on how it is interpreted can be included as another reference dealing with creatio ex nihilo or it may be referring to something wholly other.  The Apostle Paul, referring to God and his omnipotent power to give life to the dead, most likely the spiritually dead, then comments “and calls into being that which does not exist.”  A literal rendering might be, “and calling the things not being as being” or “calls into existence the things that do not exist.” 3 If Paul is only talking about the end result of God spiritually regenerating the spiritually dead (cf. Eph. 2:1-2, 5; Matt. 8:22), then creatio ex nihilo is beyond the scope Paul’s discussion.  On the other hand, if Paul is speaking of something much broader than the reckoning to salvation by faith, then it could be interpreted that creatio ex nihilo is in view.

This verse is perhaps the weakest of those presented thus far to defend that God created all things out of nothing.  That said, though, it raises a metaphysical defense of how God manages create spiritual life from that which was otherwise dead.  Whereas each individual human is in a state of being known as spiritual deadness prior to God’s saving act, unable to do anything to change that state of being until God moves, it takes God moving in the life of the individual to create a condition that previously did not exist to make that individual a “new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15).  Hence, creatio ex nihilo is something that applies to that which is beyond the physical and yet within the limitations of time and space when it is realized.  Therefore, even though Romans 4:17 may not be referring to creating the physical world out of nothing, as per the overall argument in this paper, in the broader view of the metaphysical the principle still applies.

Romans 11:36. The Apostle Paul concludes a three-chapter explanation on the destiny of Israel with what amounts to a statement that favors our discussion about creatio ex nihilo.  Since chapter nine Paul has explained to his Roman audience just where in God’s scheme Israel stood.  Was the nation still God’s chosen people?  In short, the answer is yes; they were merely being put on hold, due to their rejection of their Messiah until “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (11:25).  Lauding the “depth of the riches” of God’s wisdom and knowledge Paul proclaims in verse 36, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.”  Clearly from this statement nothing in creation has any existence apart from the person of God.  All things which have any being whatsoever are contingent upon God for their existence.  Why?  Because as Paul concludes, “To Him be the glory forever.  Amen.”  Creation exists for God’s glory and for no other purpose!

Some might argue at this point by saying that since all things are from God, then all things share in the same essence as God, and therefore all things co-existed with God.  That creation itself, in pantheistic fashion, is an extension of God.  But, such an argument fails when considered in light of previous Scriptures which points out the beginning of creation (cf. Gen. 1:1; Jn. 1:1).  For something to have a beginning implies that one nano-second before that beginning there was no existence for that thing.  Instead, it was “through Him,” or through the instrumentality of God, which previously was credited to Jesus as the agent, that all things came to be.  Besides, if all things co-existed with God in a pantheistic arrangement, then one is faced with an endless number of conundrums that cannot be reconciled.  For instance, if everything is God, then all things would exist infinitely.  But, if all things exist infinitely, then why do people, stars, animals, etc., expire after a certain amount of time?  Moreover, just what is time to an infinite being other than plain nonsense?  And why the distinction between beings if all is God?  Logically only that which possesses that which is essential to be God would be God, but in a pantheistic system that would include everyone and everything.  Yet, we know by only a few casual observations that the human constitution is not like that of a redwood tree.  These are just of the many inconsistencies that exist if one accepts a pantheistic explanation of the universe and its elements.  Therefore, when Paul wrote Romans 11:36 he was clearly pointing out not only creation sole dependence upon God for its existence, but the wholly other constitutional make-up of God versus his creation.  Creation garners its existence from God for the express purpose of glorifying God.

1 Corinthians 8:6. Idols and idolatry are the main themes of Chapter 8 in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.  Given the Hellenistic culture it was common to see the many idols that dotted the Greek landscape.  It was a culture that the Corinthian believers were struggling with as some weak in the faith were stumbling over the idea of eating meat sacrificed to idols that had been bought in the local markets.  Paul responds to the question about idols and the significance of eating the sacrificial meat by first denouncing the impact that any idol has in the world.  To him idols were “nothing in the world” (v. 4).  In other words, they were not real except in the minds of those who created them.  They certainly had no standing with God, even though many might call them gods or lords” (v. 5).  The reality was that there is only one God, while all the rest were figments of a fallen imagination.  Therefore, when it came to eating meat sacrificed to the idols the problem was not in the consumption, but in the perception of those who might consider the meat tainted because of the idol to which homage was paid when it was sacrificed.  Paul’s prescription was for the more mature to restrain themselves out of consideration for the weak, who had yet to understand the vanity of an idol.  It was better that the strong believer “never eat meat again” (v. 13) than to see a fellow believer, who was lacking spiritual depth and understanding, to fall or stumble.

Amid Paul’s teaching effort he offers a contrasting statement that is similar to the one found in Romans 11:36.  Whereas there are many so-called gods and lords, to Paul and those who were with him when he wrote, “there is one God, the Father, from who [are] all things, and we in Him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through who [are] all things and we through him.”  Whereas the idols could bring nothing into existence, because they were nothing to begin with, God, through the agency of His Son, brought all things into existence and remain through their divine providence.  It is a classic formula for stating that prior to God’s act to bring creation to be, it had no existence.  But, when God, through Jesus, spoke, all things became in their specific time, in their specific order, and for their specific purpose.  Interestingly, even though idols did not exist prior to men creating them, even after they were created, they were still “nothing” in God’s estimation, mainly because they were not only impersonal, they could not do what God did when He brought mankind and the materials men used to create the idols into existence.

1 Corinthians 11:12. “For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God” (NASB).  Paul’s statement is made in the context of human roles fulfilled in relation to the person of Jesus Christ and God.  There is an order to the roles that everyone plays in God’s creation and failure to abide by that order only brings dishonor to God, who is the originator of all things.  The woman is supposed to be subordinate to the man, as man is subordinate to Jesus and Jesus to God.  Subordination, though, does not imply inferiority.  It merely demonstrates an orderliness that is characteristic of the person of God or something that is the exact opposite of what it seen in the worldviews of those who reject God’s intelligent design in creation.  Those who scoff at the reality of God’s personal design in the creation of all things necessarily revert to an impersonal randomness of all things to explain their existence.  Identities becomes confused, if not rendered meaningless, as is often seen in contemporary society where genders are switched or denied and homosexuality, adultery, and fornication are the new norm.  Paul was setting the record straight that there is a created order and that that order is ultimately answerable to God.

In verse 12 we see the orderliness of creation as it progresses from women to God.  Women have their origination “from the man,” which is an allusion to the time when God put Adam to sleep and then took one of his ribs to create Eve (Gen. 2:22).  In this respect the woman did not exist until God acted, even though it could not rightly be called creatio ex nihilo.  That concept would not be evident until the very end of verse 12 when both man and women would be included in the classification of “all things” originating in the person of God.  This does not mean that all things possess the monistic or pantheistic essentials of God, but merely that God is the sole source for everything that exists.  God, through the agency of Jesus, brought man into existence, who, in turn, used a part of man to bring the woman into existence.  Interestingly, God used two methods to create mankind: one out of nothing (man), the other out of that which already existed (woman).

Revelation 4:11. John the Beloved, just before he receives several revelations dealing with the last days of the earth and for those upon it, is invited to view a heavenly scene where God is sitting on his throne with a variety of worshipers surrounding it.  Amid the worship service is the declaration, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”  The idea that God created all things is nothing novel, as it is recorded several times throughout the Bible.  What is significant, and has been pointed out above, is that for God to create something, particularly if it is novel, is to bring that thing into being from a prior state of non-being.  Trees, animals, and human beings, much less the essences that constitute their physical presences, cannot subsist in and of themselves.  They are all totally reliant and/or contingent upon something greater than themselves to exist, otherwise there is nothing unique about God himself, since everything would be “God” in a pantheistic setting, which is inherently self-refuting.  John’s choice of verbiage makes this clear.

When John writes that “because of Thy will they existed,” the Greek word translated “existed” is an imperfect active form of the word eimi, which without any inflection simply means “to be.”  In its imperfect inflected form it would be proper to translate it “they were,” which would denote a time when the created order was not, but because of God’s will it now is and will continue to be for an indefinite duration.  That reality carries over to a second verb John uses to describe creation when he uses the aorist perfect form for the Greek word ktizo.  The Greek aorist generally denotes point-action, meaning that when God chose to bring the created order into existence, it was at a specific point in time, prior to which it did not exist.  The perfect tense carries the idea of continuing effect.  In other words, when God created “all things,” or at least all the elements which would constitute the created order, the effect of their endurance would continue as well.  The two verbs combined with the previous aorist verb for ktizo which has been translated “Thou didst create” completely defies any alternate cosmology which is rooted in either monism or pantheism.  John was a creatio ex nihilo exponent; his verb use here, and elsewhere (Rev. 3:14; 10:6), make this clear.

 

CONCLUSION

Returning to our questions, let us now answer them more succinctly.  How did the heavens and earth come into being?  They were brought into being by an omnipotent being known as God or Yahweh, who providentially spoke and all things came to be from nothing.  To assert any other view is to drift into worldview that are logically unsustainable, as well as theologically inconsistent.

Was someone intelligent, responsible, and powerful enough to take credit for the existence of all that that we know?  Indeed, there was and is.  His name is Yahweh, or simply God by most token responses, and he has revealed what he did and how he did it.  He spoke and they became.  And while some things have progressed in development, and others ceased to exist, ultimately all things depend for their existence upon God.  Otherwise, they would not exist at all!

Or is the universe and all of its residents one big eternal mass of interrelated substances that had no beginning, nor and end, and a random force or forces is or are responsible for capriciously re-arranging them into the current forms we now see?  From the biblical record all things are relative in the sense that they all have their origin in express design and purpose of God.  While some wish that ignorant, random forces are responsible for the beauty and design in the universe, such thinking itself can only be thought of as ignorant, given the specificity and detail seen throughout the universe which undermines it.

From the foregoing the only rational, logical, and revelational explanation for the universe’s being, and all that exists within it, is that God created them out of nothing, creatio ex nihilo, and that if it were not for God’s sovereign hand in maintaining it, it would return to nothing.  May the creation of God now reading this praise God for what only He could do and not attempt to steal from God that which does not belong to him.

Notes:

  1. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, 911, 4.b.
  2. By context it is meant the Hiphil infinitive construct for the Hebrew word kûn which in basic Hebrew grammar carries a causative effect (TWOT, 1.433).  Hence, God caused the heavens to be established.
  3. See NET note 30