Creation Ex Nihilo

Creation Ex Nihilo

Historic Christianity has always maintained a belief in Creation ex nihilo (CEN) as expressed in the ancient Nicene Creed: “We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.”

Scripture teaches that there was nothing but God, and that God by means of his incalculable wisdom and infinite power alone brought the universe (all matter, energy, time, and space) into existence from nothing. There was no preexistent physical reality; therefore nothing should not be understood as an actual something.

Support for this truth-claim of historic Christianity can be found throughout Scripture, from Genesis through Revelation. (See sidebar.)

Reference Creation ex nihilo Statement
Genesis 1:1 Implies a singular beginning and that God created everything in its totality
Proverbs 3:19 By His wisdom God created the heavens and the earth
Psalm 90:2 Only God is eternal; the created order had a distinct beginning
John 1:3 Jesus Christ, who shares the divine nature, identified as taking part in the work of creation
Romans 4:17 God calls things into existence
Colossians 1:16 God created all things visible and invisible
Acts 4:24 God is the absolute Creator of everything
Acts 17:28 Creation is dependent on God for its very existence
2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2 God existed before time, implying that He created time
Hebrews 11:3 An explicit statement of Creation ex nihilo
Revelation 4:11 Describes what creation’s (humanity’s) response to the Creator should be

Theological Implications

It is important to underscore that when God created the universe He made no use of preexisting materials, nor did He make the world out of His own being. Christian theism rejects the view that identifies the world with God’s being or essence (either pantheism or panentheism). God alone is infinite, eternal, and independent, while the physical universe, the creation, is finite, temporal, and contingent (matter is not eternal but results from the power of God’s Word). CEN teaches not only that the universe had a singular beginning but also that the created order is continually dependent upon God’s sustaining power. Since creating the world, the sovereign God continues to uphold, preserve, and direct His creation (Acts 4:27-28; Col. 1:17). The God of the Bible is therefore revealed as the transcendent Creator and immanent Sustainer of all things. God’s wondrous intervention in His creation through the doctrine of divine providence overturns the deistic view of God. Deism sees the divine as wholly transcendent, a being who creates but does not intervene in the universe.

A profound practical implication of the doctrine of CEN is that only the sovereign Creator (who is also our benevolent Redeemer) is deserving of our worship, adoration, and devotion. A denial of the CEN doctrine would imply that matter is eternal and would constitute a challenge to God’s independence and sovereignty. Scripture explicitly warns believers not to fall prey to idolatry by engaging in the false worship of the world or of particular things in the world (Ex. 20:3-6; Rom. 1:18-23). Yet, while not a proper object of worship, the universe because it was created by God nevertheless possesses objective meaning, purpose, and significance. This notion is even more emphatically true of human beings who were made in the expressed image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and who will live even after the present creation is destroyed and replaced (2 Pet. 3:7, 10, 13; Rev. 21:1).

An important qualification of God’s creation out of nothing is that it only applies to God’s initial creation of the universe. For example, God’s subsequent creation of the animals (Gen. 2:19) and of humankind (Gen. 2:7) involved some use of preexisting materials (namely “the dust of the ground”).

Apologetic Implications

Modern scientific cosmology buttresses the doctrine of CEN more pointedly and potently than does any other discipline. According to prevailing scientific theory, the universe had a singular beginning nearly 14 billion years ago. All matter, energy, time, and space exploded (in a carefully crafted event) into existence from nothing. This basic big bang cosmological model, which is embraced by the vast majority of research scientists because it has withstood extensive scientific testing, uniquely corresponds to the biblical teaching concerning CEN. It is nothing less than strikingly probative that a book written so long ago nonetheless contains a view of cosmology that matches so closely the latest and best scientific findings.

The Bible’s description of God as sovereign over His creation serves to remind humans of their place in creation. And for Christians eager to engage skeptics with evidence for CEN, Scripture provides a basis for humility:

“This is what the LORD says-your redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself” (Isa. 44:24).

Although some Mormon writings refer to Jesus as the Messiah, Mormon doctrine about Jesus and the meaning of his messianic role are incompatible with historic Christian doctrine (“Starting Points,” Q1, 2005, p.6). -ed.