Creation Ex Nihilo is in the Bible

“Scripture bears witness to faith in creation ‘out of nothing’ as a truth full of promise and hope.” (CCC 297)

The Big Bang
The Big Bang (photo: Gerd Altmann / Pixabay)

Ex nihilo is Latin for “from nothing.” It was stated by an atheist with whom I have had extensive interactions, that the Bible does not teach “creation from nothing.” As usual, he is mistaken, and greatly so.

Let’s see what the Bible actually teaches about this. There are many verses in support of creatio ex nihilo. I found almost all of them way back in 1981, when I was just starting out in apologetics. Here they are:

  • Psalms 33:6 (RSV) By the word of the LORD [i.e., not by existing matter] the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth.
  • Isaiah 44:24 . . . “I am the LORD, who made all things . . . “
  • Wisdom 1:14 For he created all things that they might exist, . . . 
  • John 1:3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
  • Romans 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. . . .
  • 1 Corinthians 8:6 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.
  • Ephesians 3:9 . . . God who created all things;
  • Colossians 1:16 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.
  • Hebrews 2:10 . . . he, for whom and by whom all things exist . . .
  • 2 Peter 3:5 . . . by the word of God [i.e., not by existing matter] heavens existed long ago . . . 
  • Revelation 4:11 “. . . our Lord and God, . . . didst create all things, and by thy will they existed and were created.”

If God created all “things” then he must have created ex nihilo because no thing (nothing) existed initially if there was no thing that he did not create. How much clearer could it be made? After all, “nothing” according to Merriam-Webster online, means “not any thing: no thing.” Therefore, creating “all things” means the same thing as “creating from nothing”; that is, creation ex nihilo.

And of course modern Big Bang cosmology agrees with this. Christian philosopher William Lane Craig sums up the current state of knowledge in his paper, “Creation ex nihilo: Theology and Science”:

The standard Big Bang model, as the Friedman-Lemaître model came to be called, thus describes a universe which is not eternal in the past, but which came into being a finite time ago. Moreover, – and this deserves underscoring – the origin it posits is an absolute origin ex nihilo. For not only all matter and energy, but space and time themselves come into being at the initial cosmological singularity. . . . On the standard model the universe originates ex nihilo in the sense that at the initial singularity it is true that There is no earlier space-time point or it is false that Something existed prior to the singularity.

Although advances in astrophysical cosmology have forced various revisions in the standard model, nothing has called into question its fundamental prediction of the finitude of the past and the beginning of the universe. Indeed, as James Sinclair has shown, the history of 20th century cosmogony has seen a parade of failed theories trying to avert the absolute beginning predicted by the standard model. These beginningless models have been repeatedly shown either to be physically untenable or to imply the very beginning of the universe which they sought to avoid. . . . 

Given the metaphysical impossibility of the universe’s coming into being from nothing, belief in a supernatural Creator is eminently reasonable. At the very least we can say confidently that the person who believes in the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo will not find himself contradicted by the empirical evidence of contemporary cosmology but on the contrary fully in line with it.

Some atheists try to counter creation ex nihilo by noting that Eve was created from Adam’s rib, and Adam from the dust. But of course the things he used to create men and women (dust, ribs) were already part of the group of “all things” that God created, therefore, this is no disproof of the initial creation ex nihilo.

Others try to argue that the biblical account of the earth being “without form and void” somehow suggests that God formed it from existing matter that he did not create. This is just plain silly. Here is the text:

  • Genesis 1:1-2 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. [2] The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.

The logical, straightforward interpretation is that God made the heavens (the universe); we know that he did so out of nothing, from all the passages presented above. At first the earth that he created from nothing as part of the universe was “without form and void”. Then God began to work with the initial chaotic form to make the earth as we know it. 

Verse 2 cannot be taken in isolation apart from verse 1. It’s false to say that the “water wasn’t made by God” because the Bible teaches that God made all things out of nothing (which would include the water on the early “formless” earth. Nothing in that notion precludes further “developmental” creation.

Then it’s argued by some that God made land from existing water (Gen 1:7, 9): to which I say, “so what?” He certainly did. This was a further “developmental” creation from the matter of the universe in toto that He initially created (2 Peter 3:5). But there is no logical necessity at all to interpret this as God creating land from “eternal water.”