Why Is the Doctrine of Creation Ex Nihilo So Important?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Creation ex nihilo is the Christian doctrine that God created the universe and everything in it out of nothing. He spoke all that exists, besides himself, into existence. Why does this doctrine matter?

Francis Beckwith, Carl Mosser, and Paul Owen, editors of the The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast-Growing Movement, write:

At the heart of every world-view is its understanding of God and the universe. From this understanding flow most of the other key components of a worldview. For nearly two millennia Christians have confessed in all their creeds that God is the “Maker of heaven and earth.” The Nicene Creed specifies that this includes “all things visible and invisible.”

At the heart of the Christian worldview is the idea that God is the creator of all other reality; there is a fundamental distinction between Creator and creation. . . .  The creedal affirmations of Christians are but reaffirmations of the first verse of the Bible, which majestically proclaims: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

The relationship of God to the universe that humans inhabit is a foundational truth claim of every worldview. They continue:

Thomas V. Morris points out that the biblical doctrine of creation is the key to a distinctively theistic perspective on reality. He writes, “This one statement captures the heart of a theistic world-view. We live in a created universe. For centuries, theists have held that the single most important truth about our world is that it is a created world. And it is no exaggeration to add that it is one of the most important truths about God that he is the creator of this world.”

Creation ex nihilo distinguishes theism from other worldviews that dominated the ancient world.

It was, in fact, the doctrine of creation out of nothing (ex nihilo) that most fundamentally distinguished the Judeo-Christian view of God and the world from the various religions of the ancient Near East and philosophical systems of Classical Greece—all of which assumed that the world had been formed out of eternally preexisting chaotic matter.

This doctrine has profound implications for the world we live in.

According to Christian teaching, it is God’s absolute creation and continuing conservation of the universe that accounts for its existence, order, rationality, goodness, and beauty. It is because God created the universe ex nihilo and proclaimed it good that we can be assured that evil is not somehow part of the fabric of the universe but a parasite that will one day be overcome.

And finally, the scientific method, which has given us the technology that has improved our lives so much, owes its genesis to the doctrine of creation ex nihilo.

Furthermore, according to many historians of science, the Christian doctrine of creation played a significant role in the rise and development of modern science by providing many of its basic presuppositions. It has been shown that the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo was one of the reasons the scientific revolution occurred in Christian Western Europe rather than in the ancient world or some other culture. It could even be argued that, apart from the presuppositions supplied by the Christian doctrine of creation, modern science (realistically understood) would be impossible and that divorcing science from the ground of these presuppositions makes it irrational.

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  • karl meyer

    OK, taking this element “It is because God created the universe ex nihilo and proclaimed it good that we can be assured that evil is not somehow part of the fabric of the universe but a parasite that will one day be overcome” if before the universe there was nothing (except a “god”) then where did evil come from?

    If there was “nothing” then evil must have been created at the same time.

    If evil was created afterwards then who created evil? Was it “god” or someone external agent?

  • karl meyer

    Irrelevant, who or what created “lucifer”.

    Equally surely an all-powerful “god” could prevent evil.

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?

  • The question is not whether God can prevent evil. Of course He can (by not creating free creatures). The question is whether God can prevent evil AND create free creatures. It seems that this is not actually possible.

  • karl meyer

    So not actually omnipotent then. Asimov managed to formulate a rule set that allowed free will for robotics yet your “god” is unable to do the same for her creation.

  • Omnipotence does not encompass doing what is actually impossible. Asimov was a fiction writer, so this comparison is not helping your case.

  • karl meyer

    If you are omnipotent then by definition *nothing* is impossible 😉 Your bible was written by a group of fiction writers – one who had no conception of anything beyond their tribal wars and deities

  • No theologian has ever defined omnipotence as the ability to do the impossible, so you are using a definition of omnipotence that nobody ever uses.

  • karl meyer

    Dictionary Definition

    ” omnipotent



    (of a deity) having unlimited power.

    “God is described as omnipotent and benevolent”

    synonyms:all-powerful, almighty, supreme, most high, pre-eminent;”

    Unlimited Power – there are no limits. That means nothing is impossible if you are omnipotent.

  • Unlimited power does not mean that “nothing is impossible.” That is your gloss on the dictionary definition. It doesn’t say that.

  • karl meyer

    It says exactly that – unlimited = no limits. Your stating that something is “impossible” defines a limit to your “god’s” power. If evil is impossible to remove then therefore there must be evil in your “god’s” heaven.

  • Karl,
    You just don’t know what you’re talking about. Let me help.

    The Christian view is that it was impossible to create finite, free moral creatures, all of whom would choose to love God. Once you create finite, free moral creatures, some would choose to love God and some would not (that was the start of evil).

    So, this present world is a mixture of these two kinds of free creatures, those who love God and those who don’t.

    When we die, those who love God will go to Heaven. Those who don’t love God will go to Hell. Thus in the after-life evil will be quarantined from good. Heaven will be completely free from evil.

  • karl meyer

    For an omnipotent god nothing is impossible so why did your “god” allow evil to exist?

    Which “god” and which heaven? There are over 5000 of them and tens of thousands of christian sects. Not all can be right but all can be wrong.

    Is there a Hindu heaven? A Sikh one? An Islamic one? Do Jews get to go to the same heaven as Palestinian christians (that could cause a few arguments)?

  • John

    Quite frankly I don’t know what this whole issue is with Creatio ex Nihilo. Or more specifically, why so many Christians so adamantly defend it even at the expense reasonable objections. Seems quite narrow minded

  • Michael

    Correct. And ex nihilo is also responsible for the march toward extreme deism.
    If god is transcendent, then he isn’t active in the Universe. All initial hybrid brands of deism (Catholicism) were designed to prevent backsliding into immanence, not to prevent the slide to extreme liberalism. If God isn’t a part of the Universe, then the only thing left is man’s rationality.
    The tradeoff between this and your rationalization about “evil” is not a reasonable tradeoff. Besides, believing that evil can be overcome is child like and absolutely delusional. At great cost.