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What does the Bible say about Ex nihilo Creation?

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Question #1:   What is the justification (and canonical source) for the doctrine of creation ex nihilo? To me it seems fraught with problems. You apparently fully support the notion, and since I respect your research, would very much appreciate hearing your ideas on the subject.  Regards

Response #1:  Thanks for your e-mail re: ex nihilo creation. Actually, this is a subject that the Bible, not being an apologetic work, does not bother to discuss directly, it being taken for granted from Genesis to Revelation that God is the Creator of all things. Think about it – if He created everything, then He created whatever would have been there before ex nihilo - that is, there must have been a time when there was only God and no universe if, indeed, God created the universe (which is clearly stated in many scriptures and implied throughout the Bible: e.g., Ps.90:2; Jn.1:3; Col.1:16; Heb.1:2-3). In my opinion (as someone who does philology and literary criticism in professional life) an atheist reading the Bible and considering the matter honestly and objectively would almost certainly come to the conclusion that the Bible assumes ex nihilo creation, even if such a person didn't believe that this was the true reality of things. The one place where this might not be the case is in the Genesis account - especially as chapters one and two are often rendered incorrectly in English versions of the Bible. Genesis 1:1 deals with original, ex nihilo creation; Gen.1:2 - 2:3 deals with the refurbishing of earth after Satan's fall; Gen.2:4 summarizes both original creation and re-creation.

Question #2:  

I'm still having trouble with this. I don't buy the "Genesis gap". It seems to me to be a "tap dance" around the Bible not mentioning an ex nihilo creation where one's doctrinal interpretation of scripture clashes with what is simply observed as we look around us. It seems to me to diminish the wonder I feel when I contemplate the vastness of the physical universe around us, which, after all, "declares the glory of God". Your thoughts?

Response #2:

You're certainly not the only Christian in the world who has questions on this issue. Indeed, wherever science and technology are involved, conflicts with the Word inevitably arise on any number of fronts. You (and not only you) are troubled when "doctrinal interpretation of scripture clashes with what is simply observed as we look around us". Yes, it's true. But don't we walk "by faith, not by sight" (2Cor.5:7)? In fact, it's what we don't see that's truly eternal (2Cor.4:18). Scripture tells us quite explicitly that "the ages [i.e., time and space, the universe etc.] were formed by the Word of God, so that what we see did not arise from visible phenomena" (Heb.11:3), and that we know this to be true "because of our faith". Faith is the only way to know about God; faith is the only way to know the truth about what God has made. Faith in what? Not in what our eyes see, but in what we read in His Word. I can agree to disagree on matters of interpretation (on literary, exegetical or linguistic grounds, for example), but if the question becomes "is the Bible right about this?", that's where for me (and for all Christians who want to draw nearer to God) the issue has been long since decided. Faulty interpretation + persistence + a good heart will often result in correction. Disbelief can't possibly end well. "Without faith, it is impossible to please [God]" (Heb.11:6).

All this is certainly not to say that your wonder in studying the creation is misplaced. To the contrary, the appropriate awe that every human being initially has for what God has made, large and small, is most compelling evidence that He exists and that, therefore, we should seek Him (Rom.1:18-21). God did not make the universe and stand back - He is here and He is near, creating every day, new spirits, new hearts. Why should the material universe be different? And why should it be diminished in your eyes if He set it in motion from nothing before time even existed? He and His creation are all the more awesome for these truths. Indeed, as you remind us, "the Heavens declare His glory".

I try to respond to the scriptures. I am not perfect. I can err. But for me, error is mis-reading or mis-applying what has been put in the Word of God for us, while persistence and correct interpretation of scripture is the only reliable source of the truth, no matter what our eyes may see or our ears hear. For the record, I don't find "the original chaos theory" (or any ex nihilo alternative) in the Bible. I find the Bible to teach, better, to assume that He made it all before there was anything to make it out of. If I'm wrong, it's because I misinterpreted particular scriptures. The "Genesis Gap" study isn't a "tap dance" - it is an honest exposition of what I firmly and deeply believe to be there in the Word, not a rhetorical defense of ex nihilo for the sake of protecting a sentimental favorite idea. I really am prepared to believe anything - provided it is true.

If anyone would seek God, he must do so through His Word. And the journey will be a steep and difficult road, one on which precious assumptions are often shattered, and hard truths thrust before unwilling eyes. That's the experience we all have. It often involve pain and crisis. But there is no other way. And He is faithful to make it better in the midst even of a raging sea than it was before we stepped out of that boat in the first place.

God can/could do whatever He wants, however He wants. The only way we have of knowing what that may in fact be/have been is from the words He has given to guide us.

This is a complicated subject and one with which I have dealt in detail in part 2 of the Satanic Rebellion series: The Genesis Gap. I believe that this study (just click on the link) will address most of your other questions on this score, but would be happy to help in the event that you still have some further questions. Hope this helps.  You might also see the following links:

The Grammar behind the Genesis Gap.

The Shape of the Universe, Hominids, and the Genesis Gap.

Questioning the Genesis Gap

Whatever Happened to the Genesis Gap?

Where Can I Find More Information on the Genesis Gap?

Opposition to the Genesis Gap from the Creation Research Institute

Tohu in Genesis 1:2

Yours in Christ,

Bob Luginbill


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