The Final Frontier: Exploring the (God of the) Universe – Part 1 (Theology)

This is a paper from this semester…. a rough draft, um, I guess… This is an area I would like to explore in longer volume, but I guess I first have to have a publisher….

Introduction:

Christians are often left with two options when it comes to science and theology. They can either theologize science to the extent where they begin to create a ‘God of the Gaps’ theology, or they can place science in the bible. When it comes to the act of creation, Western Christians have been left with ex nihilo as the theological and scientific principle to describe what God created our universe from; yet, science is revealing otherwise. To avoid both the ‘God of the Gaps’ theology, as well, as reading into Scripture scientific consensus in regards to Creation, I propose that we explore alternative theologies which are more likely to represent a co-habitation with science as well as with Scripture. Instead of creatio ex nihilo, I propose that the natural theology of Christianity is creatio ex deo. To that end, I will engage the early Christian writers who developed ex nihilo to combat other heresies, recent scientific discoveries regarding the existence of matter, the (Eastern) Orthodox belief of panentheism, as well as the few modern theologians who are arguing for a liberal use of panentheism and creatio ex deo.

Origins and Interaction with Ex Nihilo

“We believe in God, the Father, Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.” These words, or some variation, begin many of the later Christian creeds, but the rule of God as Creator was almost absent from the earliest creedal statements of the Church. There is the Apostles’ Creed, and only one before that, is Justin Martyr’s statement (Leith 1963:18) which allows that God is the “creator and maker of all creation.” Irenaeus limits God to “maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them.” (Leith 1963:21) In Tertullian’s rule, there is only the mention made in relation to the Father and the Son, no doubt quoting Colossians 1.16. Granted, while Justin, Irenaeus and Tertullian were generally developing rules of faith, these statements show the stresses on Christian doctrines at the time. Hippolytus gives a baptismal creed with no mention of creation (Leith 1963:23). Marcellus of Ancyra, c. 340, also gives no mention of Creation. It would seem then, that not counting Irenaeus, the Western Creeds which were developed, did not see the need to focus on Creation in the rules of faith or local creeds. In the East, however, we find a much more prevalent issues of God as Creator. Leith (27) cites the Oriental Creed (Lietzmann) which predated 325 as among the first to include the phrase “creator of all things.” The local creed of Caesarea states that God is “Creator of everything visible and invisible.” Nicaea should be counted as an Eastern Creed, since the role of the West was limited, and it started after issues arose in the East (Alexandria). It follows, as it was apt to do, the Caesarean creed of just a few months before. The Creed of 381 matches the Nicene Creed.

Before these creeds were fully developed, there was a process which began in the cultural milieu which existed during the early Church, as it left its Jewish heritage and become more Gentile. As texts were examined outside their point of cultural origin, both the Hebrew prophets, which we will get too later, and the Greek philosophers became sorely misunderstood.  For example, Clement of Alexandria railed against the panentheism of the Greek Philosophers, which he claimed to be indebted too, for “deifying the universe.” Instead, he suggested that they begin to seek the “Creator of the universe” which “has merely willed” and “it follows that things come into being.” These statements, made against Plato and his work, Timaeus, would allow the Clement of Alexandria to begin the formulation ex nihilo.

Jaroslav Pelikan, however, counters Osborn in suggesting that while Tertullian was equally waging war against Plato’s idea that God and matter co-eternally co-existed, that both men were somewhat dependent upon Theophilus of Antioch. In this work, Autolycus, Theophilus states that “the power of God is manifested in this, that out of things that are not he makes whatever he pleases” perhaps misunderstanding the origin of the visible out of the invisible as expressed by the author of Hebrews to mean creation out of nothing. Regardless, the earliest Christian theologians were waging a theoretical war against Greek Philosophy which they saw as no doubt lending support to Gnosticism. They were scientists and neither were making scientific statements. Tertullian admits that their statements were indeed not found in Scripture, mainly because Scripture assumed that ex nihilo was easily understood, “For I maintain that, even if the Scripture has not expressly declared that all things were made out of nothing—just as it abstains (from saying that they were formed) out of Matter—there was no such pressing need for expressly indicating the creation of all things out of nothing, as there was of their creation out of Matter, if that had been their origin.” (Ad Herm 21) The issue with Tertullian, just as with the others, is that he was writing against Gnostics.

Before I continue, I want to examine several statements made by early Christian writers, in that often times, their doctrine of Creation was inseparable from their doctrine of God. For instance, Novatian  (c. 3rd century), wrote that God “is the absolute and perfect founder of everything…There is no room left for any being superior to him, because he contains all things…He knows no bounds, for there is nothing greater than he is. He is eternal, because there is nothing older than he is. He has no beginning, and so can have been preceded by no one. He is immortal, and dwells outside of time (On the Trinity I.2).” Creation, then, is everything not God. Creation is not from eternity, is not as old as God, and is not co-equal. Arnobius of Sicca (c.4th century) would agree, writing, “He was never brought out to exist at some point in the past. He is the source of all things, the Father of all ages and seasons, for they do not exist of themselves (Against the Nations I.34).” Athanasius (4th century) condemns those who deify creation because nothing can measure up to God, as he has power over everything (Against the Heathen 2.92). Cyril, in his Catechetical Lectures (4.5, 8.3), declare that God is God because he has the power over everything as the source, creator, of everything. Augustine would agree (On Faith and the Creed 2.3).

In regards to the statement of existence, Augustine writes, “Everything that exists and what anyone makes existed either by itself, or has been made out of something else or has been created out of nothing. A human being, because he is not omnipotent, makes children out of himself and makes objects out of something else… A person can make the box but cannot make the wood. In fact, no human being can make anything out of nothing. But God, who is almighty, has begotten a Son from himself and made the world out of nothing. He also formed humankind out of the dust of the ground, so as to demonstrate by his actions on all three levels that his power is supreme in all things (Against Felix the Manichaean 2.18).” Clearly, Augustine is giving as a sign of God’s godhood the ability to create of out of nothing, as if this had to happen to demonstrate that he was God. In effect, it may be argued that Augustine could not see a God who could create out of nothing but had never demonstrated that ability. He had to demonstrate it to be God.

Origen, in his On First Principles 2.1.4, calls it ungodly to speak of uncreated matter which is co-eternal with an uncreated God, connecting them with those who believed that the world came about by chance. Lactantius, writing in beginning of the 4th century, demanded that a God who worked with pre-existent matter was imperfect and that the one who had prepared the matter was a more powerful God (Divine Institutes 2.9). Chrysostom has sharp words for those who “say that things that exist were made out of some primary matter and to deny that the Creator of all made everything out of nothing.” He says it would be “the height of stupidity (Homilies on Genesis 2.2).” The theme is common, then, that pre-existent matter would signal a being which could not be the God of the theologians’ understandings. God was limitless and all-powerful exactly because he had created ex nihilo.

The matter raised by the early Christian thinkers was one of co-existence with God. If matter co-existed with God, then God could not have been said to have created everything. Further, one couldn’t call matter God, as that resulted in pantheism. The issue of Creation was later used as a test of apostolicity by others, including Origen who included in the necessary confession, “that there is one God, who created and arranged all things (Pelikan 113).” It was also an issue of the problem of evil and redemption. Only the God who created could save humanity, Athanasius would come to believe and state in his work, On the Incarnation (17.1). He would write, “He has made all things out of nothing through his own Logos, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Athanasius also argued that salvation was the rescue of humanity out of the primordial nothingness, the same nothing which all of creation had been called from (Ath. Ar 2.76). Not only was it regarding the salvation of humanity, but creation ex nihilo provided for the eternality of God, according to Athanasius, who wrote, “And if he, when there was no other energy, created the ages, which are made up of times, and provided the principle of creation for all things” then we must assume that God alone was eternal. So, within the ex nihilo doctrine, several issues were solved for the early Christian writers, namely, anti-Gnosticism.

Pelikan notes that ex nihilo was made expressly to counter the doctrines of emanation. He also notes in Vol II of his series that later in the 8th century, the Dualists who resurrected the Augustinian debate from four centuries before labored against ex nihilo from the standpoint of a sovereign God who created Evil. Their position was that evil wasn’t created, if it was believed that what really happened was that God brought forth “out of his own essence” evil, which is not an act of creation (221-222). The Dualists were countered that God could not create evil, and thus to do so would violate his nature. This meant that anything evil, including matter, was not created by God. As a dualist creed would later state, “God created and made all good things… by which I understand only those things that are invisible to the physical eye; the other things were created and made by the devil.” The argument for orthodoxy was generally given by John Damascus who argued for ex nihilo on the basis that Dualists were arguing against matter, and in doing so, essentially cursed God the Creator. Simply, if one disliked the created world, or held it off as somehow less than good, that person was attacking God directly. Essentially, there were two principles, God and the ‘god of this world’ so that it wasn’t so much creation at stake as monotheism.

In examining the medieval Church, we come to the conclusion that the continued focus on the ex nihilo doctrine was an almost central tenet to their faith. Pelikan notes that in the apologies of the medieval theologians, the chapter on this particular doctrine was often the longest. While many ancient doctrines were questioned, it seems that this one escaped even though many would acknowledge that it simply wasn’t to be found expressly stated in the Scriptures. Thomas Aquinas would later reclassify the doctrine as a matter of faith, rather than a matter of proof, allowing for Christians to disagree with it without the condemnation of heresy.

Ex nihilo was developed in conjunction with the early doctrines of God and fine-tuned later as the Trinitarian dogma developed. It met the challenges of the Gnostics first, the Manichaeans, and later the dualists. It positioned God the Creator of the Christian creeds as the first and only principle of Creation, which was supported by the Scriptures. Further, when the Church met new philosophies, it sustained it to combat any lessening of the Christian monotheism or the ecological impacts of viewing matter as evil. The modern theologian must remember, however, that it was in the context of theological challenges, and not scientific discoveries, that this particular doctrine developed. Further, one must remember that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin and others where not opposed to reexamining doctrine in light of new understandings of the natural world produced by what we understand as Science. What mattered to them were the theological implications of their theological opponents.

In returning to Thomas Aquinas, briefly, I note that it is in him that science and theology can find a spiritual father. While he believed in creatio ex nihilo, he was not one to hold to that as a deep doctrine of the faith, as I noted above. In speaking of creatio ex nihilo, Aquinas would defend that concept using language similar to language used by panentheists, “Since God is the efficient, the exemplar and the final cause of all things, and since primary matter is from Him, it follows that the first principle of all things is one in reality. But this does not prevent us from mentally considering many things in Him, some of which come into our mind before others (Summa Theologia  I:44:4).” However, while the matter came from God, the idea remains that God created in the modern sense, that he created from nothing, which he refuse to define as a substance (no-thing), “”To create is, properly speaking, to cause or produce the being of things (Summa Theologia, I:45:6).” All of this is bound up in his use of Aristotle in setting God as the exemplar, or first cause of creation, and as he would also write, words have meaning, which of course, allowed him in another work to write, “Properly speaking.

Following Aquinas, albeit from a different starting point, John Milton rediscovered the formulation of creatio ex deo. For Milton, who was no stranger to questioning doctrines and dogmas of the Church, creatio ex nihilo was one which made no sense.  Milton argued that God is the “primary and efficient cause of all things” but contended that the “moderns” with which he contended had no substantial evidence for their theory that creation had sprung from nothing. Milton, ahead of his time, argues that neither the Hebrew, Greek, or Latin word in Genesis would require something from nothing. He further notes that paradox of God creating darkness (Isa 45.7), which is nothing, in which God would have to at the same moment create and uncreate. He next turns to the Deuterocanonical authors, namely Wisdom and 2nd Maccabees to suggest that the ancient authors would recognize something from something instead of ex nihilo.

Milton goes on to note that “action and passion are relative terms” requiring something to exist upon which God to have action and passion on. He goes on, however, to note that the two books of God, Scripture and Reason (or Science), clearly state that everything was created but that it would be impossible for things to be created out of nothing, then matter must have pre-existed before given a shape by God. Milton sees only two possibilities then. First, there is the platonic notion that matter exists independently of God. Second, that matter must “have originated from God at some particular point of time”. He calls the former inconceivable. The latter he traces to Scripture, including Romans 11.36, 1 Corinthians 8.6, and Hebrews 2.11. He further builds the case through the use of the philosophical causes – “efficient, material, formal, and final.” He writes,

Inasmuch then as God is the primary, and absolute, and sole cause of all things, there can be no doubt but that he comprehends and embraces within himself all the causes above-mentioned. Therefore the material cause must be either God, or nothing.

He thus concludes that either matter comes from God, or there is no cause whatsoever. He further theologizes his discovery to note that the “original matter… is not to be looked upon as an evil or trivial thing, but as intrinsically good, and the chief productive stock of every subsequent good.” Why? Because of the source.

Currently, the Western view is split between the traditional view of ex nihilo as upheld by Protestants who ironically state everything in the case of sola scriptura and the Roman Catholic Church. Both claim to believe in ex nihilo, as we shall see. First, since the Protestant denominations have no singular magisterium to speak for it, I have turned to Dr. Albert Mohler, the current president of the conservative evangelical Southern Baptist Convention, and William Lane Craig, the current evangelical philosopher, to represent the traditional conservative viewpoint of ex nihilo. He writes,

The Bible begins with the declaration that “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). The doctrine of creation forms the starting point for our understanding of the cosmos and our place within it. The Bible’s straightforward explanation for the existence of all things is traced to God’s own intention to create the cosmos as the theater of his own glory. The Bible rejects all forms of dualism or polytheism, leaving the God of the Bible as the sole explanatory principle of the universe. Nothing that exists does so outside of his sovereignty and intention. The God of the Bible creates ex nihilo (out of nothing) and is not dependent upon any preexistent matter or conditioned by any external force.

Mohler has been adamant that Genesis is a “plain sense” account of the beginnings of the cosmos. He goes so far as to state, as he has done on several occasions, that the Gospel falls if Genesis 1-3 is not taken as “literal.” Mohler is not the philosophical theologian that Craig is, however, so we would not expect the level of interact we find in our next theologian.

Craig positions three alternatives to the question of why something exists rather than nothing.

“(T)he universe either had a beginning or had no beginning; if it had a beginning, this was either caused or uncaused; if caused, the cause was either personal or not personal. Four lines of evidence, two philosophical and two scientific, point to a beginning of the universe. If the universe had a beginning, it is inconceivable that it could have sprung uncaused out of absolute nothingness. Finally, the cause of the universe must be personal in order to have a temporal effect produced by an eternal cause. This confirms the biblical doctrine of creatio ex nihilo.” (italics mine)

Throughout the paper, Craig takes an approach which seems not to pay attention to scientific principles. When he does handle science, I suspect that he is still reaching through the philosophical lens. His starting point, as with Mohler, is Genesis 1. Craig ignores the fact that, as Milton pointed out, in order to act, one must have something to act on. Craig accurately notes that through the miracle of math, we are able to travel back in time to a point on a linear scale in which the universe was contracted to a singular point. This, he says, marks “the beginning of the universe” noting that the “state of “infinite density” is synonymous with “nothing.” His pattern is thus rendered”

  1. The universe “began with a great explosion from a state of density.”
  2. No object can really have infinite density
  3. Infinite density = nothing
  4. Thus, it is required that the universe has a beginning from nothing.

This ignores the reality of “infinite density” and the properties of that point. Philosophically, Craig should note that the abstract or implied properties of the singularity are that of being a point or beginning. Absolute nothing, which is an entirely different monster to tackle, philosophically, could not by definition have properties, implied or otherwise. As Lee Smolin notes, the properties of this singularity is what would go on to cause the entropy we currently see in the universe. Thus, Craig is wrong to state that the universe has begun from nothing.

The Roman Catholic position follows many of the ancient theologians still yet. They officially argue,

In every kind of production the specific effect had as such no previous existence, and may therefore be said to have been educed ex nihilo sui — from a state of non-existence — so far as its specific character is concerned (e.g. a statue out of crude marble); but what is peculiar to creation is the entire absence of any prior subject-matter — ex nihilo subjecti. It is therefore likewise the production totius substantiæ — of the entire substance. The preposition ex, “out of”, in the above definition does not, of course, imply that nihil, “nothing”, is to be conceived as the material out of which a thing is made — materia ex quâ — a misconception which has given rise to the puerile objection against the possibility of creation conveyed by the phrase, ex nihilo nihil fit — “nothing comes of nothing”. The ex means (a) the negation of prejacent material, out of which the product might otherwise be conceived to proceed, and (b) the order of succession, viz., existence after non-existence.

Further, they expressly deny creation from, or out of, the deity, either in procession or emanation due to the inability of creation to have an intrinsic divine quality or to have the divine substance divided. It is worth noting that in Catholic theology, the Spirit proceeds from the Father and in the book of Hebrews, the Son is the emanation of the Father. As noted above, creation ex nihilo became an orthodox doctrine developed against Greek support of Gnosticism when the Church began to leave its Jewish roots. The Old Testament has been recognized to not support this particular doctrine, something that Tertullian would have fully agreed with, albeit with the caveat of arguing from silence. It is to the doctrine of creation in the Old Testament to which I now turn.

Old Testament/Jewish Theology

There are more than two creation stories in the Hebrew Canon. The most familiar are those in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, although whether or not they are actual creation stories is a matter of debate. There is mention of Creation in the Decalogue found in Exodus 20.9-11 (see also 23.12, 31.14-17; cf the Decalogue in Deuteronomy 5.12-15 in which the Sabbath is disconnected from the act of Creation). Beyond that, in various psalms such as 8, 33, 104, and 148 we find references to the act of creation. In Job 26 and 40-41 we find older creation accounts in which God destroys the sea monsters which brings about creation. The books of the Prophets contain the creation myths as well, such as in Isaiah 45.7-19 and Jeremiah 10.6-13, 51.15-16. More importantly for the future discussion, the book of Proverbs contains the beginning insight into God’s artisan, Wisdom (Proverbs 3.19-20; 8.1-36). God as Creator is one of the unique qualities of YHWH. Further, the (usual) fact that the Hebrew God was able to create without the acts of theogony, cosmogony or other forms of myths which a god created the world without the interaction from other gods provided a theological basis for the future rise of monotheism.

However, there is emerging discussions on what exactly ‘create’ means. Commonly, the debates rage in the mother tongue of the attendees, however, as scholars are coming to discover, the Hebrew doesn’t comport well with the modern notions of creation. John Walton, first in his book The Lost World of Genesis One and now in his latest, Genesis One, contends that the Hebrew word bara does not mean to ‘create’ but instead, means to give existence, or to assign function. Thus, in Genesis 1, God is not so much seen as creating the items enumerated, but giving them functions in the cosmic temple. He notes that throughout the Old Testament, the word is found nearly 50 times, attached to various things such as the “heavens and the earth” (Gen 1.1), a pure heart (Psa 51.10), and most importantly, a covenant people as in Malachi 2:10. Walton cites eight categories for ‘creation:’

  • Cosmos (10, including New Cosmos)
  • People in general (10)
  • Specific groups of people (6)
  • Specific individuals or types of individuals (5)
  • Creatures (2)
  • Phenomena (10)
  • Components of cosmic geography (3)
  • Condition (1: pure heart)

What is first seen is that the created things, not counting the cosmic event at the moment, are things already in existence (by our modern standards), but reassigned a functionality in God’s Temple. Thus, the Hebrew word doesn’t lend itself to the idea that God created out of previously non-existent material, but in assigning function, brought items into existence in a way which they had not previously been. This is a common, as Walton repeatedly points out, concept in the Ancient Near East.

Walter Brueggemann contends, as well, that the ancient Hebrew thought did not contain an ex nihilo creation concept. For bara, Brueggemann notes that it is the “most majestic of terms for God’s actions as Creator, a verb used with no other subject except Yahweh.” (1997:146) He argues that the very name of Yahweh is a pointer to the generative power of the Hebrew God in that the root of the divine name means to be. However, it is generative with pre-existing material (see also 2008:325 in which Brueggemann notes that God was speaking to things already present and waiting for his command). He notes that the various Hebrew verbs linked to bara in the various passages regarding God’s acts “bespeaks active, material engagement with the stuff of creation, in an artistic endeavor.” It is the outcome of the work which is the creation, with the work being made on material already in existence (1997:147). Thus, when we think of creation, we must think of the end result, and not the act, although Brueggemann is careful to note that the “venturesome rhetoric” of Israel should not be reduced and simplified (1997:149). Proponents of ex nihilo as well as Young Earth Creationists should take note of this warning.

For Brueggemann, the pre-exile creation stories weren’t necessarily rooted in exploring ethical monotheism, but in royal ideologies and propaganda of various regimes. This may also help to explain the various, accepted and non-redacted, names of God (such as El and YHWH). The example found in Psalm 89 is given, in that David’s line is secured next to the celebration of God’s divine order in creation. Thus, the royal lineage was royal because it was connected to the God who ordered the world. While the temptation, against Brueggemann’s warning, is simplify creation rhetoric as political propaganda, we must endeavor instead to see the royal line attaching itself to an existent creation theology to secure itself. Or, as Brueggemann suggests, the fact that these poems and other liturgical reenactments contain their “rich play of rhetoric” does “not lend itself to the explanatory analysis with which it has often been forced in the interest of a “creation science.” (1997:157)

Along the same lines, the Exile gave Israel its more formative creation ideology as it was faced with the loss of identity. Creation by God had to be articulated in such a way as to prevent the absorption of Israel into the great Babylonian hoard. We find this best articulated in what scholars call deuteron-Isaiah. In 40, 43-45, the prophet gives hope to the Jewish exiles by reminding them of the eternal promise made to Jacob, and the creation of Jacob, by YHWH. This helped to secure against the Babylonian pantheon, the growing monotheistic loyalty to YHWH and shield the identity of Israel. We find some of this imagery in Jeremiah 10.1-16 in which YHWH is contrasted against the false gods. The prophets were shaping a cosmic God who had not only created the world but beget the People, established the royal lineage, and thus brought to himself Israel in a way that could not be severed as much as creation would not end.

As I noted before, there is a certain amount of connection between ethics and (the New) Creation found in Isaiah 65.17 and 66.22. In T. Ryan Jackson’s recent work, New Creation in Paul’s Letters, is second chapter deals with the idea of New Creation in the Old Testament. Calling the “new heavens and the new earth” a merism, he attempts to unpack the phrase, adding to it the idea of the new covenant as found in Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Of interest is Jackson’s description of the ‘new thing.’ YHWH is telling the exiles in Babylon to forget the Exodus story and instead, wait for the new liberation. This is also the meaning behind the ‘former things’, in that it is not speaking about the old world, but the old world system which was established by YHWH’s deliverance of Israel. Jackson’s point is that the New Creation is not a moment of an eschatological end, but something related to deliverance which accomplishes new things while ending the sins of idolatry of the old world system. This idolatry takes center stage for several subsections, in which Jackson attempts to show that the New Creation is God’s deliverance of Israel out of exile and a re-establishment of a God-centered dispensation. Creation, then, becomes the track of history in which the Creation event is tied expressly to a Covenant with Israel. Further, the New Creation is brought out of the old through a reordering of the priorities of Israel, turning them back towards YHWH. All of this comports with Brueggemann’s belief that Genesis 1 prepares the way for the “primal drama of the Bible” in that the appeal is made to God to heal the world through his ordering (2003:33). Even in Genesis 1, we see that the role of Creation reach its zenith with the creation of the human species. Following Walton and somewhat Jon Levenson before him, we understand this text to be a liturgical text sung during Temple worship, signifying the covenant. It was about the ethical covenant established between God and Israel, without much regard as to the material of Creation. In fact, Brueggeman says that while some creation texts permit an ex nihilo approach, but that it is not required.

It is not just the Hebrew Bible which precludes a doctrine of ex nihilo, but so too science. Admittedly, I am not trained as a theoretical physicist; however, I will attempt to engage those who have been, in order to draw out the scientific road blocks to such a theological stance.


Young Earth Creationists regularly point to such verses as Job 26.7 as a collusion with the scientific principle of gravity and that Leviticus 17.11 points to biology.

I am starting with the Creeds because they are generally formulations of general theological principles and part of the canonical traditions of the Christian Church. Further, given the pride of place in the Creeds, early Christians considered God as Creator as something important to maintain.

The brief survey is pulled from: Leith, John H. Creeds of the Churchs: A Reader in Christian Doctrine from the Bible to the Present. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Book, 1963.

It is worth mentioning that Irenaeus, while notable counted among the Western Christians, came from the East, during which he had purportedly learned at the feet of St. Polycarp.

I note that not all of Greek philosophy was done away with, as the Logos doctrine is surely Greek as is the immortality of the soul.

Clem. Prot. 6.70.1

Osborn, Eric Francis. The Philosophy of Clement of Alexandria. Cambridge. 1957, 33

Pelikan, Jaroslav – Vol 1.35

The author of Hebrews was not contrasting nothing and something, but was using a familiar, albeit, Platonic, worldview in which the heavens contained the ideas which came to fruition on the earth below. See: Plato Tim. 51–52; Plato Rep. 7.1-3; 9.592b; Plato Soph. 246–47; see also Philo Leg. All. 3.100-103

Pelikan Vol III 239

Peter of Sicily preached that the dualist “hurls curses as the one God, the Highest, and curses the one who created him.” (Hist 17)

Pelikan Vol IV 15

Summa Theologia I.67.1

Summa contra Gentiles 2.17

All quotes are found in Milton’s On Christian Doctrine.

Milton and the Manuscript of De doctrina Christiana,  Gordon Campbell

It is worth noting that Milton’s doctrine of creation was made in connection to his adverse position of the Trinity.

I note that modern interpreters often turn to 2nd Maccabees 7.28, forgetting Wisdom 11.17, in trying to prove that ex nihilo was considered by the ancients.

William Lane Craig, “Philosophical and Scientific Pointers to Creation ex Nihilo,” in Contemporary Perspectives on Religious Epistemology, ed. R. Douglas Geivett and Brendan Sweetman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 191.

Smolin, Lee. The Life of the Cosmos. New York: Oxford, 1997. 75-89

For a fuller discussion and response to Craig’s article, see Wes Morriston’s Creation Ex Nihilo and the Big Bang, Philo, Vol 5, No 1.

Siegfried, F. (1908). Creation. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved November 23, 2011 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04470a.htm

38-49, Lost World of Genesis One.

For a larger discussion of the cognitive environment in which the Old Testament existed, see Walton’s book, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible.

Unless otherwise noted, I will be summarizing the arguments he has made in the following three books, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 1997);  Old Testament Theology: An Introduction (Abingdon Press: Nashville, 2008); and An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination (Westminster John Knox, Louisville, 2003)

See also David Russel’s work, p69-76, in which the author notes as well as the New Creation which is the focus of Isaiah 65-66 is not a creatio ex nihilo, but one of rearrangement.

Jackson, T. Ryan. New Creation in Paul’s Letters. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010.


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3 Replies to “The Final Frontier: Exploring the (God of the) Universe – Part 1 (Theology)”

  1. Contained in the blog,
    “1.The universe “began with a great explosion from a state of density.”
    2.No object can really have infinite density
    3.Infinite density = nothing
    4.Thus, it is required that the universe has a beginning from nothing.

    This ignores the reality of “infinite density” and the properties of that point. Philosophically, Craig should note that the abstract or implied properties of the singularity are that of being a point or beginning”

    I don’t agree completely with the logic. But to some extent, I don’t think it matters.

    #2. “No object can have infinite density”…I think demonstrates a point people should keep in mind about singularities, which is valid. Singularities are a simple statement that some equations in physics, when solved, give an infinite answer. This does not reflect reality. Therefore, #2 is true. But in the logic flow from there, it is a little like saying “all unicorns are pink”. The flow after that doesn’t mean anything, so #3 and #4 are not valid conclusions. “#3, infinite density equals nothing”, really means the solution of infinite density is a singularity, thus we really can’t solve the equation correctly, which means either the mathmatics is wrong, or we really do not know what the heck is going on (our pink unicorn). I think all you can say is the math model breaks down, and we do not have any idea exactly what conditions existed before, or “at” the actual moment pre-big bang.

    I think “from nothing” still can be considered true, however, if only from “frames of reference”. But I would not put too much into its meaning. From our frame of reference, our universe did not exist before the big bang. Since our universe is the only material thing we know, nothing that we can conceive of existed before the big bang. Thus “from nothing”. Now, if we could exist “outside” our universe, then from that frame of reference, our universe was indeed created from “something”. I don’t view it as a big deal, either way. It’s like the imaginary 2-dimensional characters living on an infinitely thin peice of paper. They have absolutely no concept of mass, because the property of mass requires three dimensions.

  2. Joel, right on target.
    I was entertaining ex Deo as being in harmony with the bible and the science lately.
    Ex Deo sheds so much more light in other Christian ideas that are not fully comprehended.
    Like : Christology, why God created the woman “out of man”, why women were not included in the circumcision covenant, why marriage is one man-one woman, why not marriage man-man or woman-woman, dichotomy vs trichotomy, the Trinity, why not marriage in heaven, what will replace sex in heaven, eternal or limited hell.
    I have all these ideas I would like to share with you, it might complete your writings.
    Could you respond in a private email if you don’t mind?

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