Doctrine of Creation (Part 3)

September 02, 2012     Time: 00:10:28

We have been looking at the biblical testimony to the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo and I argued that in the Old Testament we have creation out of nothing clearly affirmed. Especially significant is Proverbs 8 which reflects on the creation narrative in Genesis 1 and which says even before the depths were brought forth God’s wisdom was with him and created the depths. The depths are mentioned in Genesis 1:2 as the condition of the earth when it was first created by God and God existed with his wisdom even prior to that.

Affirmation of Creatio ex nihilo In Intertestamental Period

In the intertestamental period, the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo comes to be literally affirmed. For example, in the book of 2 Maccabees. This is a book that is part of the Old Testament apocrypha. It is in Catholic Bibles but not in Protestant Bibles; it is an intertestamental Jewish writing. In 2 Maccabees 7:28 it says, “Observe heaven and earth and consider all that is in them and acknowledge that God made them out of what did not exist and that mankind comes into being in the same way.” So by this intertestamental time, at least, we see an affirmation in Judaism of creation out of nothing.

Affirmation of Creatio ex nihilo In New Testament

The New Testament continues the affirmation that God has created the world out of nothing. Let’s look at some passages. First, from Paul in Romans 11:36, “For from him and through him and to him are all things.” So everything that exists, Paul says, has its origination with God; it exists through him and he is the goal of everything that exists. He is the beginning and the end of all things that exist. So in chapter 4 of Romans, Paul is able to say the following in Romans 4:17, referring to Abraham, “in the presence of the God in whom he [Abraham] believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” God is the one who gives life to the dead; he raises the dead. He calls into being the things that do not exist. There is creation out of nothing; God simply brings them into existence.

Also, the book of Hebrews 11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear.” That is to say, what we see around us – the observable world – was not made out of phenomena – things that appear. The world was made by God but not out of things which appear, or phenomena, which is an affirmation again of creation out of nothing.

Finally, Revelation 4:11 is the praise given to God by the blessed in heaven, “Worthy art thou, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for thou didst create all things, and by thy will they existed and were created.” So anything that exists, everything that exists apart from God himself, exists by God’s will and was created by him.

So the New Testament continues the pattern of affirming that God is the creator of everything that exists outside himself and that, therefore, the world is created out of nothing.

The principle contribution of the New Testament to the Doctrine of Creation is its ascription of creation to Christ as the second person of the Trinity.[1] This is what has been called the “cosmic Christ” – Christ, not in his incarnation, but rather in his role as the creator of everything. Let’s look at some passages that refer to this. 1 Corinthians 8:6 is a very interesting verse where Paul says, “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” Here we have interesting prepositions characterizing creation. God is the one from whom all things exist and for whom they exist and then Jesus Christ is the one through whom all things exist, through whom these things come into being. So Christ is the instrumental cause of creation. This is not a doctrine peculiar to Paul. This is clearly expressed in the prologue to John’s Gospel. Look at John 1:1-3, “In the beginning was the Word,” and this will later be identified with Jesus Christ, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” Here Christ, the second person of the Trinity, the Word of God, is described as being in the beginning with God and is the one through whom the world is created. Also Colossians 1:15-17,

He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Here we have this image again of the cosmic Christ who is the creator of everything; not only the physical realm, but even the spiritual realms of angels and powers and principalities. All of these things come into being through Christ and were created through him. Finally, Hebrews 1:2-3 says,

In these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.

Here Christ again is described as the one through whom God has created the world. He reflects God’s glory. The author uses the image of a king who presses the image of his ring into wax, say on a letter or a seal that the king is sending as an official document, and he says that Christ bears the very stamp of God’s nature just as the wax bears the stamp of the king’s signet ring. Upholding the universe by his Word of power, Christ holds the universe in existence. He not only created it but he upholds it as well.

So you have in the New Testament this augmentation of the Jewish doctrine of creation ex nihilo by ascribing it to Christ. The fact that this doctrine is found in such diverse authors in the New Testament – in Paul, in John, in the book of Hebrews – shows that this isn’t some peculiar or idiosyncratic doctrine. This is a wide spread doctrine in the early church that Christ is the agent of creation. He is the one through whom the world and all spiritual realms were brought into being.

That completes the survey of the biblical data that I wanted to look at. What we will do next time is begin to do a systematic summary of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. I will first attempt to define and delineate what the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo affirms and then we will begin to look at philosophical and scientific reasons to affirm this doctrine.[2]



[1] 4:58

[2] Total Running Time: 10:27 (Copyright © 2012 William Lane Craig)