Jump to content

Serious Implications of Creation Ex Nihilo


Sargon

Recommended Posts

This discussion is inspired by Blake Ostler's treatment of it in vol. 2 of his series "Exploring Mormon Thought."

The doctrine of creation ex nihilo seems to be incompatible with any notion of significant free will. Here are the premises of this discussion, which I believe are accurate representations of orthodox Christianity (but not of Mormonism):

1. God is the only entity in the universe that has the property of self-existence. It is impossible for God to
not
exist.

2. All other objects, be it living things or non-living things, do not have the property of self-existence. It is their nature to not exist.

God created all things besides himself ex nihilo, bringing them from their natural state of non-existence into a state of existence. If left to their own devices, all things besides God would immediately blink out of existence, because it is their nature to not exist. In every moment their existence is necessarily sustained by God. In effect, God re-creates ex nihilo all things in every moment. If God did not do this, all things besides God would blink out of existence immediately after the first moment of their existence.

The implications of this are astounding. This effectively makes God responsible for everything that occurs. The actions we perform in one moment have no effect on the conditions of the next moment because the conditions of the next moment are created ex nihilo by God. It only appears that we impact future moments because that is how God has chosen to go about re-creating each new moment ex nihilo.

For example, the stages of growth that a tree passes through are artificial. The conditions of the tree at T1 have no bearing on the conditions of the tree at T2. In every moment T God re-creates the tree ex nihilo. In every moment T God re-creates the tree ex nihilo in a stage slightly more advanced than it was at at T-1.

This idea won't be terribly problematic for hyper-Calvinists who embrace God's absolute sovereignty over the universe anyway. But for other Calvinists, Arminians, and even open theist of the creatio ex nihilo tradition this is highly problematic. It suggests that who we are, including our desires, will, and our choices, are completely determined and created ex nihilo by God in every moment. There is no free will. There is no accountability for who we are, and for what we do.

There is no real opportunity for a man to enter into a relationship with God.

Thoughts?

Sargon

Link to comment

This idea won't be terribly problematic for hyper-Calvinists who embrace God's absolute sovereignty over the universe anyway. But for other Calvinists, Arminians, and even open theist of the creatio ex nihilo tradition this is highly problematic. It suggests that who we are, including our desires, will, and our choices, are completely determined and created ex nihilo by God in every moment. There is no free will. There is no accountability for who we are, and for what we do.

Unfortunately free will is logically problematic even if you don't believe in creation ex-nihilo.

Link to comment

Unfortunately free will is logically problematic even if you don't believe in creation ex-nihilo.

Don't hi-jack the thread! :P

Link to comment

Don't hi-jack the thread! :P

Sorry. I'm just pointing out the conundrum you're stating is independent of the belief you're associating it with. I honestly don't see how free will is any more or less problematic if one has the assumption of creation ex-nihilo

Link to comment

Sorry. I'm just pointing out the conundrum you're stating is independent of the belief you're associating it with. I honestly don't see how free will is any more or less problematic if one has the assumption of creation ex-nihilo

There are those who maintain that free will is possible in a universe created ex nihilo. I'm pointing out why I think it is not. That is what this thread is about.

Link to comment

God did not create us out of nothing, He created us out of Himself.

We share in His self-existence.

This discussion is inspired by Blake Ostler's treatment of it in vol. 2 of his series "Exploring Mormon Thought."

The doctrine of creation ex nihilo seems to be incompatible with any notion of significant free will. Here are the premises of this discussion, which I believe are accurate representations of orthodox Christianity (but not of Mormonism):

1. God is the only entity in the universe that has the property of self-existence. It is impossible for God to
not
exist.

2. All other objects, be it living things or non-living things, do not have the property of self-existence. It is their nature to not exist.

There is no real opportunity for a man to enter into a relationship with God.

Thoughts?

Sargon

Link to comment
God did not create us out of nothing, He created us out of Himself.

We share in His self-existence.

Even those who are evil and condemned to hell by Him?

This still makes God responsible for everything that happens - even more so. It also expands the philosophical question about whether God, if your premise is correct, can and did create evil. It raises more questions than it answers.

Link to comment

Sargon,

The ruminations you present on the implications of creation ex nihilo are based on a straw-man understanding of the doctrine. Creation ex nihilo refers to God's bringing the universe into existence, i.e., it has to do with the initialization of the space-time-matter-energy matrix. It affirms that this matrix does not derive from some preexisting eternal "stuff" but has a beginning of existence a finite period of time ago. The doctrine does not affirm that God creates each moment ex nihilo. Christian theologians who have taught creation ex nihilo have generally distinguished and affirmed the reality of secondary causes in the existing universe as different from the primary "cause" or ex nihilo initialization of the physical universe.

One of the fallacies in your reasoning is that if an object does not have the property of self-existence then "it is their nature to not exist." This does not follow, and it is not something I or anyone I know accepts as a corollary of creation ex nihilo. It is in God's nature to exist necessarily; it is in a creature's nature to exist contingently (not "to not exist").

Orthodox Christians like myself affirm that God sustains the cosmos and all things in it without attributing to him direct responsibility for each and every action of each and every creature in the cosmos. We view both physical cause-and-effect and volitional choice-and-action as real, not illusionary.

This discussion is inspired by Blake Ostler's treatment of it in vol. 2 of his series "Exploring Mormon Thought."

The doctrine of creation ex nihilo seems to be incompatible with any notion of significant free will. Here are the premises of this discussion, which I believe are accurate representations of orthodox Christianity (but not of Mormonism):

1. God is the only entity in the universe that has the property of self-existence. It is impossible for God to
not
exist.

2. All other objects, be it living things or non-living things, do not have the property of self-existence. It is their nature to not exist.

God created all things besides himself ex nihilo, bringing them from their natural state of non-existence into a state of existence. If left to their own devices, all things besides God would immediately blink out of existence, because it is their nature to not exist. In every moment their existence is necessarily sustained by God. In effect, God re-creates ex nihilo all things in every moment. If God did not do this, all things besides God would blink out of existence immediately after the first moment of their existence.

The implications of this are astounding. This effectively makes God responsible for everything that occurs. The actions we perform in one moment have no effect on the conditions of the next moment because the conditions of the next moment are created ex nihilo by God. It only appears that we impact future moments because that is how God has chosen to go about re-creating each new moment ex nihilo.

For example, the stages of growth that a tree passes through are artificial. The conditions of the tree at T1 have no bearing on the conditions of the tree at T2. In every moment T God re-creates the tree ex nihilo. In every moment T God re-creates the tree ex nihilo in a stage slightly more advanced than it was at at T-1.

This idea won't be terribly problematic for hyper-Calvinists who embrace God's absolute sovereignty over the universe anyway. But for other Calvinists, Arminians, and even open theist of the creatio ex nihilo tradition this is highly problematic. It suggests that who we are, including our desires, will, and our choices, are completely determined and created ex nihilo by God in every moment. There is no free will. There is no accountability for who we are, and for what we do.

There is no real opportunity for a man to enter into a relationship with God.

Thoughts?

Sargon

Link to comment
The ruminations you present on the implications of creation ex nihilo are based on a straw-man understanding of the doctrine. Creation ex nihilo refers to God's bringing the universe into existence, i.e., it has to do with the initialization of the space-time-matter-energy matrix. It affirms that this matrix does not derive from some preexisting eternal "stuff" but has a beginning of existence a finite period of time ago. The doctrine does not affirm that God creates each moment ex nihilo. Christian theologians who have taught creation ex nihilo have generally distinguished and affirmed the reality of secondary causes in the existing universe as different from the primary "cause" or ex nihilo initialization of the physical universe.

They can "distinguish" the secondary causes as different all they want; however, that denies the omnipotence of God in being fully in control of the initial process of bringing this all into existence. Did God just roll the dice, so to speak, and generate a random space-time-mater-energy matrix, as your premise implies? Or was He really fully in control of the process and design? I would ask the question, where did the "secondary" causes come from, if nothing existed before God pushed the button? If they do not come from God, then where do they come from?

Orthodox Christians like myself affirm that God sustains the cosmos and all things in it without attributing to him direct responsibility for each and every action of each and every creature in the cosmos. We view both physical cause-and-effect and volitional choice-and-action as real, not illusionary.

In effect, if God is responsible for the existence of time, and if He is also responsible for the root creation that pushes out along that time line, then He is also responsible for the outcomes over time. Indeed, it is clearly evident that He knows what those outcomes will be.

The only way I see Orthodox Christian theology (whatever that is) being able to deal with this, and still keep the doctrine of CEN intact, is to acknowledge the existence of a certain level of chaos that is outside God's control in all of this. However, that brings up some significant theological issues having to do with His omnipotence and omniscience that you would also have to explain away.

Where do those "secondary" influences come from that make God not responsible for our actions? I'm interested in knowing the answer to that.

Link to comment

Even those who are evil and condemned to hell by Him?

This still makes God responsible for everything that happens - even more so. It also expands the philosophical question about whether God, if your premise is correct, can and did create evil. It raises more questions than it answers.

Sorry, I don't believe in Hell, and there is no object which is "evil". It's an abstraction, just like "good". What I mean is that good and evil are not something that are created; they're moral or ethical judgements applieds to people, actions, words, etc. God definitely created the standard by which we judge things to be good or evil. The question of whether God created "evil", though, is like asking whether God created the internet. God did not create the internet, he created human beings with the capacity to create the internet. An entity called "evil" did not fly a plane into the WTC or kill millions of people in the Holocaust; human beings did all of that. So while God did create human beings, He did not create our actions; and it is the actions which are "evil". Hope that made at least some sense.

Link to comment

Hi Sargon:

You wrote:

This idea won't be terribly problematic for hyper-Calvinists who embrace God's absolute sovereignty over the universe anyway. But for other Calvinists, Arminians, and even open theist of the creatio ex nihilo tradition this is highly problematic.

I would just point out that the belief in "God's absolute sovereignty over the universe" is part and parcel of Calvinism. It is not a doctrine unique to hyper Calvinism. The differences between Calvinists and hyper Calvinists lie elsewhere.

Best.

cks

Link to comment
Sorry, I don't believe in Hell, and there is no object which is "evil". It's an abstraction, just like "good". What I mean is that good and evil are not something that are created; they're moral or ethical judgements applieds to people, actions, words, etc. God definitely created the standard by which we judge things to be good or evil. The question of whether God created "evil", though, is like asking whether God created the internet. God did not create the internet, he created human beings with the capacity to create the internet. An entity called "evil" did not fly a plane into the WTC or kill millions of people in the Holocaust; human beings did all of that. So while God did create human beings, He did not create our actions; and it is the actions which are "evil". Hope that made at least some sense.

While it's interesting as a personal philsophy, what do you base it on?

Both hell and evil, in a very real way, are demonstrated by reality in this life, and testified to scripturally.

We're also talking primarily about ultimate responsibility, not whether the existence of evil is directly or indirectly created by God. The question remains as to why a God who brings this all into existence, and as the One who had sole control over the process of creation (according to CEN), would purposely bring evil into the equation. And if He did, what was His purpose for doing so - if one can actually rationalize the concept of God being responsible for evil?

The other observation I have is that even though God's children may perform the action, the seeds or root of those actions, whether they be good or evil, are created in the individual by God - if CEN is correct. Hence, if CEN is correct, God is responsible for the actions of those He brings into existence - because He controls and is responsible for the entire process of creating them as they are.

Again, I disagree strongly that evil and hell are conceptual / moral situations only. There are those in the world who are evil. There is the existence of hell in this world, as a type and shadow of that place described in scripture. Human beings who are evil demonstrate what they are every day, and hell exists because of evil.

Link to comment

This discussion is inspired by Blake Ostler's treatment of it in vol. 2 of his series "Exploring Mormon Thought."

The doctrine of creation ex nihilo seems to be incompatible with any notion of significant free will. Here are the premises of this discussion, which I believe are accurate representations of orthodox Christianity (but not of Mormonism):

1. God is the only entity in the universe that has the property of self-existence. It is impossible for God to
not
exist.

2. All other objects, be it living things or non-living things, do not have the property of self-existence. It is their nature to not exist.

God created all things besides himself ex nihilo, bringing them from their natural state of non-existence into a state of existence. If left to their own devices, all things besides God would immediately blink out of existence, because it is their nature to not exist. In every moment their existence is necessarily sustained by God. In effect, God re-creates ex nihilo all things in every moment. If God did not do this, all things besides God would blink out of existence immediately after the first moment of their existence.

The implications of this are astounding. This effectively makes God responsible for everything that occurs. The actions we perform in one moment have no effect on the conditions of the next moment because the conditions of the next moment are created ex nihilo by God. It only appears that we impact future moments because that is how God has chosen to go about re-creating each new moment ex nihilo.

For example, the stages of growth that a tree passes through are artificial. The conditions of the tree at T1 have no bearing on the conditions of the tree at T2. In every moment T God re-creates the tree ex nihilo. In every moment T God re-creates the tree ex nihilo in a stage slightly more advanced than it was at at T-1.

This idea won't be terribly problematic for hyper-Calvinists who embrace God's absolute sovereignty over the universe anyway. But for other Calvinists, Arminians, and even open theist of the creatio ex nihilo tradition this is highly problematic. It suggests that who we are, including our desires, will, and our choices, are completely determined and created ex nihilo by God in every moment. There is no free will. There is no accountability for who we are, and for what we do.

There is no real opportunity for a man to enter into a relationship with God.

Thoughts?

Sargon

I have to agree with Rob Bowman about one philosophical point. If God is the only being whose nature is self-existent, it does not follow that the nature of creatures is non-existence. It is literally the nature of nothing to be non-existent. Ostler is correct in seeing the distinction between the existence of the creature and Creator, but he makes the chasm too wide. It is in the nature of that which is created ex nihilo to have contingent existence.

I think that will be the extent of my philosophical speculations on this subject. In our last go-round Sargon, I was forced to try to make philosophy rescue theology. It appears to me that in this case, it is theology that rescues philosophy. I reserve my opinion with regard to Rob Bowman's secondary causes. For all I know, that may be an adequate answer. But I didn't like the way it seemed to divorce God from the scene after placing man in it. As a Catholic, I think I am obligated to hold that God continues to create ex nihilo every time a human soul is conceived. I am not saying Rob is wrong, I may easily be misunderstanding, but I would be a little uncomfortable with an emphasis pointing to an "ex nihilo initialization" that would not recognize God's continuing "hand" upholding, preserving, and creating anew.

I am prepared to grant that for all intents and purposes, creation ex nihilo implies no freedom. God knows perfectly everyone's environment, capabilities, and inclinations. In His omniscience, He can take this data, and calculate every movement of such a creature if nature is permitted to take its course. But with regard to the rational creatures, it has never been God's intent to let nature take its course. In the natural order, I am in agreement, Sargon, that there is no opportunity for relationship with God. I should perhaps qualify that. Naturally, there is a relationship of dependency between the Creator and all of His creatures, but not a mutual personal relationship. That was the part that stings regarding your opening post Sargon. But I think we can establish how God gives rational creatures true freedom, and the choice to love the good, the true, and the beautiful, or not.

Maybe later I will try to develop what I think Catholic theology says about how by God's love, the rational creature can be elevated to transcend his nature, and have the gift of true freedom by which men make choices similar to those of our first parents. Maybe tomorrow or Sunday. It would be great if beforehand, I could hear criticism from other Catholics or traditional Christians who think I have granted too much to Sargon's/Ostler's main argument.

Thanks,

3DOP

Link to comment

It would be great if beforehand, I could hear criticism from other Catholics or traditional Christians who think I have granted too much to Sargon's/Ostler's main argument.

Hi 3DOP:

I have no doubt that you're already quite aware of the references, but Aquinas' ST, First Part, Questions 23 and 83 obviously pertain. (And I already hear echoes of Q 23 in your response.) I wonder if you think Aquinas there gives undue refuge to Ostler's objections. I don't believe so.

Best.

cks

Link to comment

3DOP,

The view I articulated certainly does not "divorce God from the scene." God is free to work through secondary causes as well as the primary ex nihilo cause. And by the way, this is a Thomistic way of speaking, so it's quite consistent with Catholic theology. In this regard, historically, most conservative Catholic and evangelical Protestant theologies have been in agreement. The distinction enables Christian theology to maintain a robust understanding of divine providence and preservation without teaching hard determinism. This is why I would not grant that creation ex nihilo entails that creatures have no freedom or volitional power.

You raise an interesting point about the origin of the soul. There are two views in classic Christian theology, creationism (not to be confused with the creationist theory of the origin of species) and traducianism. Creationism maintains that God creates the soul ex nihilo, so this view, if accepted, would have to qualify my generalization that creation ex nihilo refers to the initialization of the cosmos. Traducianism holds that the soul is generated along with the body, i.e., that the body-soul parents naturally produce offspring that are body-soul beings. I take it you adhere to creationism; I am not dogmatic on the question but favor traducianism, as apparently did Tertullian, the later Augustine, and Gregory of Nyssa. Here I am definitely not Thomistic, since Aquinas rejected traducianism as heretical. Protestants have never had a consensus on the issue: Luther was traducian, Calvin creationist (yet Shedd and Gordon Clark, Calvinist theologians, held to traducianism). All of these theologians agree that God specially created ex nihilo the souls of Adam and Eve. Neither creationism nor traducianism denies human freedom or volitional responsibility. Our life is from God, but he made us in the imago Dei and therefore as creatures with the capacity for self-direction, for making genuine choices. That capacity has been corrupted by sin, but not in such a way that we do not continue to be responsible for our actions.

I have to agree with Rob Bowman about one philosophical point. If God is the only being whose nature is self-existent, it does not follow that the nature of creatures is non-existence. It is literally the nature of nothing to be non-existent. Ostler is correct in seeing the distinction between the existence of the creature and Creator, but he makes the chasm too wide. It is in the nature of that which is created ex nihilo to have contingent existence.

I think that will be the extent of my philosophical speculations on this subject. In our last go-round Sargon, I was forced to try to make philosophy rescue theology. It appears to me that in this case, it is theology that rescues philosophy. I reserve my opinion with regard to Rob Bowman's secondary causes. For all I know, that may be an adequate answer. But I didn't like the way it seemed to divorce God from the scene after placing man in it. As a Catholic, I think I am obligated to hold that God continues to create ex nihilo every time a human soul is conceived. I am not saying Rob is wrong, I may easily be misunderstanding, but I would be a little uncomfortable with an emphasis pointing to an "ex nihilo initialization" that would not recognize God's continuing "hand" upholding, preserving, and creating anew.

I am prepared to grant that for all intents and purposes, creation ex nihilo implies no freedom. God knows perfectly everyone's environment, capabilities, and inclinations. In His omniscience, He can take this data, and calculate every movement of such a creature if nature is permitted to take its course. But with regard to the rational creatures, it has never been God's intent to let nature take its course. In the natural order, I am in agreement, Sargon, that there is no opportunity for relationship with God. I should perhaps qualify that. Naturally, there is a relationship of dependency between the Creator and all of His creatures, but not a mutual personal relationship. That was the part that stings regarding your opening post Sargon. But I think we can establish how God gives rational creatures true freedom, and the choice to love the good, the true, and the beautiful, or not.

Maybe later I will try to develop what I think Catholic theology says about how by God's love, the rational creature can be elevated to transcend his nature, and have the gift of true freedom by which men make choices similar to those of our first parents. Maybe tomorrow or Sunday. It would be great if beforehand, I could hear criticism from other Catholics or traditional Christians who think I have granted too much to Sargon's/Ostler's main argument.

Thanks,

3DOP

Link to comment

handys,

I took a look at the article, and it does not support your claim that scientists have disproved creation ex nihilo. All the article says is that some scientists are working on an experimental method that might enable them to test one aspect of a purely hypothetical way of explaining the origin of the universe that would avoid, at least in an immediate sense, the implication of creation ex nihilo. The experiment would not and could not prove that creation ex nihilo is false.

We've already proven as mere mortals on this planet that scientifically the universe is not created out of nothing.

http://domino.lancs....02573B60045CA77

Link to comment

handys,

I took a look at the article, and it does not support your claim that scientists have disproved creation ex nihilo. All the article says is that some scientists are working on an experimental method that might enable them to test one aspect of a purely hypothetical way of explaining the origin of the universe that would avoid, at least in an immediate sense, the implication of creation ex nihilo. The experiment would not and could not prove that creation ex nihilo is false.

Here are some articles that simplifies it for you:.

http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2008-05/littlest-big-bang

http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2007/12/the-cosmos-in-a.html

The experiments have already been replicated.

Link to comment

Hi Handy:

You posted:

Here are some articles that simplifies it for you:.

http://www.popsci.co...ttlest-big-bang

http://www.dailygala...osmos-in-a.html

The experiments have already been replicated.

For the benefit of the non-science types here (me), perhaps you can explain exactly where and how these articles demonstrate the falsity of CEN.

Best.

cks

Link to comment

Hi 3DOP:

I have no doubt that you're already quite aware of the references, but Aquinas' ST, First Part, Questions 23 and 83 obviously pertain. (And I already hear echoes of Q 23 in your response.) I wonder if you think Aquinas there gives undue refuge to Ostler's objections. I don't believe so.

Best.

cks

Thanks cks. I had been poking around the Summa, but didn't find anything that I thought directly addresses Ostler's objections. It would seem that Ostler would grant Aquinas' arguments in favor of free will, but proceed to argue for creation ex materia because of the supposed contradiction. I did not think any of the objections covered this specific question very well. If he did and I missed it, what is the article?

Thanks much,

3DOP

Link to comment

Thanks cks. I had been poking around the Summa, but didn't find anything that I thought directly addresses Ostler's objections. It would seem that Ostler would grant Aquinas' arguments in favor of free will, but proceed to argue for creation ex materia because of the supposed contradiction. I did not think any of the objections covered this specific question very well. If he did and I missed it, what is the article?

Thanks much,

3DOP

Hi 3DOP:

Sargon doesn't directly cite his source, but he's undoubtedly referring to Ostler, Exploring Mormon Thought, vol. 2, 411ff.

While I generally find Ostler to be incisive, this is a swing and a miss, and shouldn't pass without comment:

For any created substance CS, if God creates CS, then God imparts esse to CS. "God imparts esse to CS" means that God causes CS to be actual. Created substances have only a defective actuality because they do not have esse essentially. Only God has esse as his essence. That is to say, in traditional thought, God alone has existence as part of the definition of what it is to be God, and creatures have nonexistence as part of what is definitive of creatures.

Can you imagine any Christian philosopher (or, frankly, any philosopher at all) agreeing with Ostler that one of the definitive attributes of a created being is its nonexistence? Perhaps Ostler is bold at this point, but he's certainly not cogent. What on earth or in heaven is a "defective actuality?" Apparently, it's an actuality that is contingent.

I can't see Ostler granting this: "But it does not of necessity belong to liberty that what is free should be the first cause of itself, as neither for one thing to be cause of another need it be the first cause. God, therefore, is the first cause, Who moves causes both natural and voluntary. And just as by moving natural causes He does not prevent their acts being natural, so by moving voluntary causes He does not deprive their actions of being voluntary: but rather is He the cause of this very thing in them; for He operates in each thing according to its own nature."

Best.

cks

Link to comment

While I disagree with the terminology Ostler uses above, what he says reminds me of a few statements in Sheed's "Theology and Sanity"(Catholic):

"We have seen why God exists: He exists because what He is demands existence, cannot not-exist. But this created universe does not thus demand existence. How then does it exist? It can exist only because God, who alone possesses existence as of right, confers existence upon it...Because we are made by God of nothing, then we cannot continue in existence unless God continuously holds us in existence...To return for a moment to the carpenter: he can make a table and leave it, and the table will continue, none the worse for his absence. But that, we saw in chapter 1, is because of the material he used, namely, wood. Wood is so constituted that it will retain a shape given to it. Similarly, if God, having made the universe, left it, the universe would have to rely for its continuance in existence upon the material it was made of: namely, nothing."

Link to comment

Handys,

You wrote:

Here are some articles that simplifies it for you:.

http://www.popsci.co...ttlest-big-bang

http://www.dailygala...osmos-in-a.html

The experiments have already been replicated.

The experiments do not prove that the universe started by the hypothesized "collision of branes," much less that this means that branes are eternal, self-existent realities that spontaneously gave rise to everything. This is a hypothesis I should think a Mormon would find problematic at least as much as I do, but I have run into Mormons before who seemed to feel such theories preferable to the specter of creation ex nihilo.

Your first article states, "And though they don

Link to comment

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...