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I studied Church Dogmatics over the summer and answered questions put by my teacher on different subjects important to theology. This is the tenth of a series of post I will publish from these studies and writings.
Painting by Taruna - Art for Creation

Painting by Taruna – Art for Creation

 

Creation ex nihilo

If it is a fact that God, who is good, created the world, the world must also be good. This gives rise to the question where bad things come from. A Gnostic (heretics in the first centuries) way of solving this problem is to say that God constructed the world from pre-existent material and couldn’t help the flaws this material had. Christians do not accept this. Rather, in answer to the Gnostics, theologians established that God created ex nihilo, meaning that God made the whole world out of nothing (McGrath 2011:219). This is important because it establishes that God is not dependent on anything at all. He doesn’t need anyone to supply Him material which He then forms into a world, He makes it out of nothing. He is thus also the sole source and is Himself the reason for the worlds existence (Henriksen 1994:91).

When speaking of creation ex nihilo, we mean the first creation, creatio prima. And that creation is good. Now, good in this sense doesn’t mean perfect. God created the world but not the evil which destroys the world. According to Augustine, that evil is not a substance, but the opposite of good (McGrath 2011:218).  But after God created the world out of nothing, He continues to create, creatio continua, using that which He created from nothing at first (Henriksen 1994:90ff). And a large part of that creating is redemption, making perfect the good that sin tries to break down (McGrath 2011:220f). This is what Luther puts foremost in the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, the salvation, or new creation, of man. God takes a man who is and has nothing, and makes him something. Thus God creates things out of its opposite, makes something out of nothing (Althaus 1966:119).

Sources:
Henriksen, Jan-Olav. Guds virkelighet: Kristen dogmatikk (God’s Reality: Christian Dogmatics), Oslo: Luther Forlag 1994.
McGrath, Alister E. Christian Theology – An Introduction, Oxford: Blackwell 2011.
 
 

Please stay tuned for subsequent parts!

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