This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
By Dimmtri Christou
In the beginning of a chapter devoted to the dogma of creation ex-nihilo in the significant work Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, philosopher of religion and theologian William Lane Craig explains: ―For the author of Genesis 1, no preexistent material seems to be assumed, no warring gods or primordial dragons are present —only God […]‖1 Craig concludes that Genesis 1 speaks plainly of the universe coming into being in the temporal sense in which the universe came into existence, sometime ago in the finite past, from nothing. Ironically the noted atheist, theoretical physicist and
cosmologist, Laurence M. Krauss, has recently argued that the universe came into being from nothing as well. However in his most recent work, A Universe from Nothing, Krauss, albeit contradictorily, argues: ―[…] quantum gravity not only appears to allow universes to be created from nothing—meaning, in this case, I emphasize, the absence of space and time—it may require them.‖2
J. P. Moreland & William Lane Craig. ‘Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview.’ (Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p. 554. 2 Laurence M. Krauss. ‘A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing.’ (Atria Books, 2013), p. 168.
Hence. such arguments remain outside of the scope of this article. quantum gravity is the efficient cause of the universe. 1. However. . Subsequent to analyzing Philo of Alexandria‘s view of creation. Yet. ‗creatio ex nihilo‘) explains that the universe came into being from non-being. it is believed the universe did not merely come into being from nothing. Ss Athanasius and Maximus the Confessor will also be gauged for their particular contributions to the three aforementioned questions raised which will remain as the key hermeneutic for this article in scrutinizing the dogma of creation ex-nihilo. this article will gauge a Patristic interpretation of the Christian dogma of creation ex-nihilo and so attempt to fill the hole that various apologists sometimes tend to dig. this article will assess what the dogma discloses regarding the nature and autonomy of the Creator. with reference to the dignity of matter. Firstly this article will endeavour to analyze Philo of Alexandria‘s view of the nature of God and his relationship to the universe. Specifically by analyzing a Patristic interpretation of creation ex-nihilo. While both scholars cannot be simultaneously correct. However what is of key interest to this article are the details that aren‘t shown attention in professional debate and literature published by prominent Christian apologists on the dogma of creation. God is the efficient cause of the universe. Early Witness to the Dogma of Creation Ex-Nihilo The dogma of creation from nothing (La. for Krauss. For according to the classical metaphysical formulation. and while both scholars have argued in favour of their distinctive positions regarding the subject matter.For Craig. and the spatio-temporal confines of creation.
the reduction to actuality of potency—by pre-existing matter and so matter‘s existence being derived presupposes the eternity of matter. Arguments for God as efficient and first cause of the universe appear in a variety of forms. acting as a bridge between Hellenistic and Hebraic thought. that independent of God‘s creative activity. For a full treatment of the Kalam cosmological argument. is generally understood to be the efficient and first cause of the universe‘s existence and so is understood as its fundamental origin. an early attempt at synthesizing Hellenistic thought with the Hebrew scripture is found in the works of Philo of Alexandria (c. ‗The Kalam Cosmological Argument. Metaphysics III. 2009). matter is by nature eternal.3 Rather.being cannot be derived from non-being. matter could only come into existence from being acted upon—namely.. Philo. 20 BCE. Still independent of the aforementioned reference. In contrast with the later dogma of creation ex-nihilo expounded upon by Christian thinkers. or Prime Mover. 8. 999b. – 50 CE). The most popular form of the argument at present is the Kalam cosmological argument. nothing comes. 4. published in: ‗The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Yet in the history of ideas. Hence.4 Still. 3 . Aristotle‘s argument is as follows: the existence of matter is contingent upon pre-existing matter. For nothing just is no-thing and so lacks causal power—from nothing. see: Wiliam Lane Craig‘s & James D. Philo‘s mindset and contribution possesses uniqueness as well as illustrates a degree of coherency between that of mystical Mosaic thought with that of Hellenic philosophical principles. 101-202. Sinclair‘s article. In particular. wherein Aristotle argues: ―that generation should take place from nothing‖ is an axiomatic impossibility. The nature of matter then just is to be a substratum from which the existence of matter is derived. historically preceded Christian writers.. the One. God.‘ Pp. where a reciprocal relationship between Mosaic thought in context of Hellenic philosophical and scientific categories are commonly displayed by their harmonious utilization. Philo‘s approach and contribution to the proposition of creation ex nihilo presents a dualistic function. the ancient Greek philosophers prior argued for the inverse—specifically. 4 See: Aristotle.‘ (Black well Publishing Ltd.
. Legum Allegoriarum. ‗Drama of the Divine Economy: Creator and Creation in Early Christian Theology and Piety. p.g. God being devoid of qualitative properties of being. ―God is not only devoid of peculiar qualities. expresses a holistic understanding of the cosmos. rather than being monolithic in nature. this article will now gauge Philo‘s model of creation before analyzing the Patristic sources focusing on creation ex-nihilo. 8 Philo. 3.36 5 . 48.‖5 One should expect then to discover a view of creation in Philo‘s literature that. the Mosaic Law and the law of nature are thoroughly bound up with each other. 1. where creation is not purely gauged as a hierarchical tree of the varying degrees of being but instead is experienced as a celestial organism imbued with intrinsic value and so of inimitable soteriological worth and meaning—thus differentiating Philo from strict Middle Platonic thought while demonstrating the effect of the dualistic function of Mosaic thought with Hellenic philosophical principles. 7 Philo. 46. properties which are appropriate to composite objects (e.6 Specifically as Philo argues. 9 Philo. but he is likewise not of the form of man…‖7 such that God is ―[…] free from distinctive qualities.‖8 9 Following Philo‘s argument. 2012).’ (Oxford University Press. Legum Allegoriarum. 6 Cf. In light of Philo‘s distinctive methodology. For Philo God so drastically transcends creation that he is considered wholly distinct from it. p.Hence understanding Philo‘s approach and model of creation as distinctive in its own unique respect from that of the Middle Platonists remains as a key principle toward analyzing the Alexandrian‘s contributions. objects Paul Blowers. Quod Deus Sit Immutabilis.. Ibid. That said. 55. Paul Blowers explains that for. ―[…] Philo.36.
3. p.composed of form and matter). the Logos derives the derivatively functional role as an ontological bridge between the terrestrial realm of being and the celestial realm of being.11 The Logos is. who is the causal basis of the universe‘s being. Philo‘s creation framework. as God is wholly other from creation. the Logos is understood as the exemplar of all being. as derived from Plato‘s Timaeus. meaning as Blowers explains that the Logos is ―[…] the intersection of God‘s transcendence and immanence…‖14 All the same. Legum Allegoriarum. considered as the Idea of Ideas. as Philo interprets. 12 As the Idea of Ideas. 14 Paul Blowers. Though paradoxically for Philo only God is capable of speaking positively of himself for only God possesses positive knowledge of his own nature. De Opificio Mundi.10 Nevertheless. Certainly qualitative predications imply positive knowledge of a being‘s essence. 11 10 . 3. ‗Drama of the Divine Economy: Creator and Creation in Early Christian Theology and Piety. which with respect to God for Philo is a priori impossible as God is utterly ontologically distinct from all created being. the divine second principle. 49. Quod Deterius Potiori Insidiari Soleat.’ (Oxford University Press. imbuing his imprint upon all things created through him (the thought being here the perceptible world came into existence from the mind of God by way of its archetypal seal and model). necessitates the conclusion that one is incapable of exhaustively and positively speaking about the essence of God. the Logos is considered the fundamental agent Philo. argues that God himself is not responsible for the creation of the universe but rather it is the Logos instead.96 12 Philo. 2012). 25. Legum Allegoriarum.13 Consequently. 13 Philo.206 Philo. 75-76.
p.’ (Oxford University Press. ‗Drama of the Divine Economy: Creator and Creation in Early Christian Theology and Piety. 17 Philo. 134. 18 Paul Blowers. Philo. Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres Sit.‖16 17 Of particular importance. Philo believed that the corporeal world is eternally being formed by virtue of the agency of the Logos. 51. Philo denies that matter is a preexistent principle and so divine insofar as matter existed eternally alongside God. De Opificio Mundi. Philo also denies that creation possessed a temporal beginning. being as such the imperishable Form of wisdom comprehensible only to the intellect. 2012). Early Christian witnesses to the Dogma of Creation Ex Nihilo Philo. as this article lightly touched upon prior and as Blowers points out.‖18 2. Thus God did not at some point of time begin to create the world but instead has been ―eternally applying himself to its creation. On the other hand. 1.7. is the fact that Logos for Philo operates as a salvific compass for ―worthy souls‖ precisely as mediator of creation. for Philo. the Logos as the mediating principle for the existence of the universe doesn‘t merely create and so retain a static relationship with the cosmos from eternity but rather dynamically orients the person to ―ultimate perfection in the Creator‘s bosom. 7. De Providentia.15 In this respect.responsible for the existence of the universe. Accordingly. it is by the act of God‘s thinking that God simultaneously and eternally creates as it is by God‘s eternal thoughts that all particulars—including the intelligible world— receive their essential existence relative to their distinctive nature. As such. Instead. 16 15 .
John Behr‘s translation of ‗On the Incarnation’ (New York: St Vladimir‘s Seminary Press. 20 St Athanasius. which St Athanasius details as stating that ―[…] God is not able to make anything unless matter preexisted. so much so that one can see manifestly as to why the dogma of creation from nothing possesses cornerstone status for the great Bishop‘s cosmological. In St Athanasius‘s works Against the Gentiles and On the Incarnation. 19 .Turning now to the varying Christian witnesses regarding the dogma of creation from nothing. and anthropological understanding of reality. we find in chapter two of On the Incarnation St Athanasius‘s argument against the Platonist notion of the eternal nature of matter. On the Incarnation. Though. Creation from nothing is alluded to on almost every page by the Alexandrian. Specifically St Athanasius‘s argument against the pagans found in the works On the Incarnation and Against the Gentiles will be addressed within the following section so as to answer the questions pertaining to God‘s autonomy and nature and the spatial-temporal confines of creation. we will first begin our assessment by analyzing St Athanasius the Alexandrian‘s contribution to the dogma of creation from nothing before gauging St Maximus the Confessor.‖ 20 While the Platonic notion of the eternal nature of matter as described by St Athanasius is For the purpose of this article Fr. 2011) will be utilized. Christological. 2.19 creation from nothing is referred to almost indefinitely. just as a carpenter must already have wood so that it may be used. In particular the Bishop of Alexandria begins by elucidating the Platonic understanding of the cosmos. in turning specifically to St Athanasius‘s distinctive contribution to the dogma of creation.
according to them God is only a craftsman and not himself the cause of matter. from which created things come into being. Indeed God‘s creative capability would be univocal to that of contingent beings according to the Platonist notion. 2. On the Incarnation. For according to the Platonist understanding of matter God would simply be proficient in arranging and forming rather than creating.false for varying reasons. or is devoid of. God would not have made anything. Essentially St Athanasius is arguing that by admitting God creates from preexisting material a priori presupposes that God lacks. That is insofar as God by virtue of his creative activity and power does not differ from the artisan or carpenter. He could in no way be called ―Creator. … And if this is so. but simply makes things from pre-existent matter. as the carpenter is limited to the confines of the material that surrounds him. just as the weakness of the carpenter is certainly his inability to make any required thing without wood. though as St Athanasius explains this is false for 21 St Athanasius. as they thus have it. then he is weak.‖ if he does not create matter. God would then likewise be restrained in his creative capacities. . not being able without matter to fashion any of the things that exist. unless there were matter.21 St Athanasius‘s argument is a simple one. According to the argument. Yet to suggest that God does not create from non-being but rather forms or arranges preexistent material is to suggest that God is substantially deficient in kind for St Athanasius. the causal power to create from nothing. St Athanasius argues against the notion by stating that to say God creates from preexistent matter is to accredit weakness to God: They do not realize that saying such things is to impute weakness to God: for if he is not himself the cause of matter.
St Athanasius explains: ―But the God of all is good and exceeding noble by nature—and therefore is kind. but from nothing and having absolutely no existence God brought the universe into being…‖22 such that God‘s omnibenevolence necessitates in his causal activity not only ontological priority in relation to created objects but as well an unrestrained will that is not determined or affected by the features of eternally preexistent objects. but desires all to exist. 2. On the Incarnationi. Against the Gentiles. Hence both of the aforementioned difficulties presented by the Platonist notion of matter appear as metaphysically nonsensical to St Athanasius. Thus by limiting God‘s creative power to preexistent matter one would be restricting God‘s sovereignty and omnipotence over creation. St Athanasius. for St Athanasius ―God is not weak. Further by suggesting that God arranges or shapes preexistent material one would be suggesting that God is restricted in his will by the goods that surround him. For one that is good can grudge nothing: for which reason he does not even grudge existence. Instead God creates out of his intrinsic goodness from nothing. as objects of his loving-kindness. .‖23 22 23 St Athanasius. For St Athanasius matter is contingent and so its existence is conditional upon the creative will of God. Still. All the same God does not simply create for the sake of creating insofar as the act of creating merely typifies some exercise in unconditional power for St Athanasius. 41.an artisan shapes and is a ―shaper‖ of objects while distinctly God creates and is ―Creator‖ of objects.
‗Athanasius: The Coherence of His Thought‘. ―For the nature of created things.The created world‘s existence and simultaneous subsistence is contingent upon the love of God and so cannot be understood merely as an exercise in sheer power—that the mere fact that the world possesses being for St Athanasius presupposes the loving goodness of its creator. what does the dogma of creation ex nihilo disclose regarding the dignity of matter. St Athanasius. enlightened by the governance. and ordering of the Word. He did not abandon it to be tempest-tossed through its own nature. may be able to remain secure. if composed of itself only. So seeing that all created nature according to its inherent structures is in flux and subject to dissolution. he made everything by his own eternal Word and brought creation into existence. lest it run the risk of again lapsing into nothingness. pp. ―inasmuch as it is brought into being out of nothing. for St Athanasius matters returns from where it first came. namely. As Khaled Anatolios succinctly explains. Against the Gentiles. 2004). therefore demonstrating the conditional nature of matter.‖25 Finally in turning to St Maximus the Confessor‘s Ambiguum 7.26 this article will attempt to answer the final question before concluding. (Routledge. 40 -41. is of a fleeting sort. Likewise the world‘s being contingent upon the love of God discloses that material objects are inherently incapable of sustaining their own existence. But being good. and in order to prevent this happening and the universe dissolving back into nothing.24 That said. 41. 24 25 Khaled Anatolios. and weak and mortal. he governs and establishes the whole world through his own Word who is himself God. since it participates in the Word who is truly from the Father and is helped by him so as to exist. . so that creation.‖ as the Alexandrian explains. providence.
[1077C]. understanding the logoi of all created beings in all of their cosmic plurality just is to understand the essential principle underlying the nature of a particular being. 26 .‖28 Consequently as essential principles. Since the For the purpose of this article Paul Blowers‘s & Robert Louis Wilken‘s translation (New York: St Vladimir‘s Seminary Press. 27 St Maximus. As St Maximus explains: ―When we learn the essential nature of living things. That said. the logoi of creation disclose. 2003) of St Maximus the Confessor‘s Ambiguum 7 will be utilized. 2012). he who knows the Logos would know that the Logos is many logoi.For St Maximus. Ambiguum 7. how. the logoi do not appear as a spontaneous categorization or mere metaphysical explanation for the variety of beings that exist but rather present the purposed incarnate imprint of the Logos.‖29 The dignity of matter in light of the cosmological pattern of logoi as such demonstrates an image of creation endowed with teleological features that not only disclose the relational manifestation of the object with its creator but also its final end. For all things that come to exist do so in relation to the Logos since he is the ―beginning and cause of all things. p. in what respect. [1077A]. as Blowers states: ―the exemplary pattern for the unfolding of the ―actual‖ or historical creation. and out of what they exist. Ambiguum 7. As St Maximus puts it. who just is the exemplar cause of all being such that all being possesses as a causal effect a distinctive essential principle analogous to its archetype. in which all material objects that exist possess a distinctive characteristic relative to their nature. 28 St Maximus. 29 Paul Blowers. 162.‖27 The essential nature—that is the logoi as such—therefore present a causal structure as well as a universal teleology.’ (Oxford University Press. ‗Drama of the Divine Economy: Creator and Creation in Early Christian Theology and Piety. we will not be driven by desire to know more.
‖30 St Maximus elucidates upon this notion stating: Since each person is a ―portion of God‖ by the logos of virtue in him. his hidden presence in them assuring the eschatological fulfillment of their protological purpose. . as the argument has shown. 3. present the reader with an understanding of creation that doesn‘t simply finds its resting place in offering a refutation against the Platonic belief that the world has existed from eternity. Similarly.logoi of creation disclose the actualization of certain events in creation as being actualized through the Logos. Ibid. St Athanasius‘s contribution as well as St Maximus‘s contribution to the dogma of creation from nothing has been analyzed. St Maximus‘s contribution to the dogma of creation from nothing 30 Cf. whoever abandons his own beginning and is irrationally swept along toward non-being is rightly said to have ―slipped down from above‖.. St Athanasius‘s contributions. Therefore since all matter is created in such a way to possess an essential principle matter as a consequence possesses not only an intelligible form but soteriological worth that is teleologically explicated through its distinctive logoi. being unique in their own respect. Subsequent to gauging Philo of Alexandria‘s distinctive view of creation wherein at the eternal instant God thinks so too does he create. 163. Conclusion This article has endeavored to understand the Patristic background to the dogma of creation ex nihilo. because he does not move toward his own beginning and cause according to which and for which and through which he came to be made. Blowers explains that ―[…] the Logos incarnates or embodies himself in the logoi ―simultaneously‖ from beginning to end.
.presents the reader with a metaphysically holistic understanding of reality that finds its intrinsic intelligibility through the embodiment of the Logos in creation.
Philo. J. Khaled Anatolios. Krauss. Legum Allegoriarum. De Providentia. 8. On the Incarnation.’ (Atria Books. ‘A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing. Philo. Quod Deterius Potiori Insidiari Soleat. Moreland & William Lane Craig. ‗Drama of the Divine Economy: Creator and Creation in Early Christian Theology and Piety. Philo. 7 . Philo. Against the Gentiles. Philo. 4. St Athanasius. Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres Sit.4. 9. St Maximus.’ (Oxford University Press. 12. ‗Athanasius: The Coherence of His Thought’. 10. 2012). 13. Laurence M. Bibliography: 1. 2003) 2. 2013) 3. (Routledge.’ (Illinois: InterVarsity Press. De Opificio Mundi. Ambiguum. Paul Blowers. St Athanasius. 7. Philo. ‘Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. 6. 5. 11. 2004). Quod Deus Sit Immutabilis. P.