The standard orthodox teaching regarding creation is that God created the world out of nothing. This is often expressed using the Latin term ex nihilo. One website that addresses this issue states the case this way:
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.
I appreciate the objective of this website as well as the general orthodox intent in declaring that God created everything ex nihilo. I believe they are seeking to insist, as does the statement above, that God is the Creator of all, and that whatever exists is a product of His hand. He was not dependent on the work of someone else, but He is the sole source for universe.
I have some concerns with this explanation for the source of the universe.
First, I do not know of any place in Scripture that states that God created the world out of nothing. I just looked through the 286 instances of the word “nothing” in the NKJV, and I did not see it there. (I reviewed them fairly quickly, so I could have missed it.)
We do read that the world was created by the Word of God. Genesis 1-2 records that, and so does Hebrews 11:3: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” However, being created by the Word of God does not mean that the worlds were created from nothing.
I personally don’t like the idea of ex nihilo creation because it makes more sense to believe that God created the worlds out of something than out of nothing. If Scripture taught that God made the universe out of nothing, I would believe, but I would rather not take that position if it is not necessary since it does not make sense to me.
A Better Explanation
But what is the option?
It makes far more sense to believe that the universe consists of the life of God. When He spoke, His life, His spiritual energy was converted into the material matter and energy of our universe. Though not exactly the same thing, Einstein’s E=mc2 tells us that energy and matter are transferable. Since that constitutes a characteristic of our universe, it may be the Lord’s way of giving a hint as to how the matter and energy of our world come into being in the first place.
It makes a lot more sense to me to believe that when God spoke, His life (energy) was transformed into the various aspects of the creation that He was speaking into existence.
A Necessary Caution
If the universe consists of the life of God converted into the matter and energy that comprises our universe some might make the mistake of viewing the universe as God, i.e. believe that this perspective leads to a pantheistic view of the world.
It could, but this is not necessarily the case, and the Bible teaches that it is not the case. Just as God breathed out His life into us when He created us (Genesis 2:7) but we are not God, so His life going out to create the universe does not make the universe God. It is His life but not Him.
So What’s the Difference
Even if this position is correct, who cares and why should they? I believe this makes a practical difference for two reasons.
First, in talking to unbelievers about God and the universe, I believe that this position will make more sense to most non-Christians. If that is the case, it is helpful to lower at least one small barrier to belief.
Second, and this is just personal, I find that viewing the universe as being comprised of the life of God enables me to enjoy it more. It makes it seem like more of a personal gift of God. It is not just something He made from nothing, but it is His life given to us in the forms of matter and energy, shaped and organized and functioning according to His Word and for us to enjoy.
I hope that next time you view some aspect of God’s creation, this perspective of it might make you feel just a little closer to Him.