A Major Divergence: Is Genesis 1 Creatio Ex Nihilo?

Genesis“This is a real creation,” wrote David Hume, “a production of something out of nothing; which implies a power so great that it may seem at first sight beyond the reach of any being less than infinite.”(Hume 1881:343-4) Hume captured our modern and classical material ontology understanding of creation.  Coming into being, in our modern understanding, means acquiring material (or immaterial) properties. We intuitively presuppose that an entity was created if prior to the moment of its creation was not there. It is, thus, not surprising that we read this presupposition into Genesis 1’s creation account.

In their co-authored work, Creation out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, And Scientific Exploration (2004), Paul Copan and William Lane Craig also read this presupposition into Genesis 1. They presupposed that ancient Near East (ANE) also understood creation as defined by substance and properties, largely the material (and immaterial) properties. I think Copan and Craig are wrong in their presupposition. So one of the things I have to do is to explain why they are wrong¹.

It is said that any fruitful criticism of any writer must generally begin by finding some common ground. Copan and Craig are correct that the Holy Writ explicitly conveys creatio ex nihilo (John 1:3 and Romans 4:17 cf. 2 Maccabees 7:28 and 2 Enoch 24:2). My criticism ought not, thus, be understood as  questioning whether creatio ex nihilo is true. It is true. Where I diverge from Copan and Craig  is on viewing Genesis 1 as also teaching such a doctrine.

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