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§ 3. Proof of the Doctrine.
The proof of the doctrine of a creation ex nihilo does not rest on the usage of the words בָרָא or κτίζειν, which are interchanged with עָשָׂה and ποιεῖν. God is said to have created the world, and also to be the maker of the heavens and the earth. Plants and animals are said to be created, although formed out of the dust of the earth. That, however, the Scriptures do teach this great doctrine of natural and revealed religion, is plain, —
1. From the fact that no mention is ever made of any preëxisting substance out of which the world was made. The original creation is never represented as a moulding of matter into form and imbuing it with life. Nor do the Scriptures ever represent the world as an emanation from God, proceeding from Him by a necessity of his nature. Much less does the Bible ever identify God and the world. In thus ignoring all other doctrines, the Scriptures leave us under the necessity of believing that God created the world out of nothing.
2. The descriptions of the work of creation given in the Bible, preclude the idea of emanation or mere formation. God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” In Ps. xxxiii. 6, it it said, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” And in verse 9: “He spake and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast.” It was, therefore, in the words of Melancthon, already quoted, Dicente seu jubente Deo, that the universe was called into existence. “Nam quid est aliud tota creatura,” Luther asks, “quam verbum Dei a Deo prolatum, seu productum foras? . . . . Mundum et omnia creavit facillimo opere, dicendo scilicet, ut non plus negotii Deo sit in creatione, quam nobis in appellatione.”520520Genesis, i. 5; Works, Wittenberg edit. 1555 (Latin), vol. vi. leaf 5, p. 2.
3. The same doctrine is involved in the absolute dependence of all things on God, and in his absolute sovereignty over them. “Thou, even thou, art Jehovah alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all.” (Neh. ix. 6.) “By Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.” (Col. i. 16, 17.) “Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Rev. iv. 11.) The all things spoken of in these passages is made to include everything out of God. There can, therefore, be no preëxisting matter, existing independently of his will. Everything out of God is said to owe its existence to his will.
4. The same doctrine is included in the Scripture doctrine that the universe (τὰ πάντα) is ἐκ θεοῦ of God; that He is its source, not in the Gnostic sense, but in the sense consistent with other representations of the Bible, which refer the existence of all things to the command of God. The universe, therefore, is “of Him” as its efficient cause.
5. The Apostle in Heb. xi. 3, begins his illustration of the nature and power of faith by referring to the creation as the great fundamental truth of all religion. If there be no creation, there is no God. If the universe was called into being out of nothing, then there must be an extramundane Being to whom it owes its existence. The creation is a fact which we know only by revelation. What the sacred writer here asserts is, First, that the worlds (αἰῶνες, all contained in time and space) were created, set in order, and established, by the simple word or command of God. Compare Ps. lxxiv. (lxxiii.) 16, in the Septuagint, σὺ κατηρτίσω ἥλιον καὶ σελήνην. Secondly, this being the case, it follows that the universe was not formed out of any preëxisting substance. Thirdly, God is not a mere former, but the creator of the ordered universe. The difference among commentators in the interpretation of this passage does not affect its general sense. The words are εἰς τὸ μὴ ἐκ φαινομένων τὰ βλεπόμενα γεγονέναι. The first question is whether εἰς τὸ expresses the design, or simply the consequence. In the former case, the meaning is that God created the worlds by a word in order that; i.e., in order that men might know that the things seen were not made of what already existed. In the latter, it is simply stated as a fact, that as creation was by a word, it was not out of any preëxisting substance. The other doubtful point in the passage is the construction of the negative particle μή. It may be connected with φαινομένων. This passage is then parallel with 2 Macc. vii. 28, ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων ἐποίησεν αὐτὰ ὁ θεός; in the Latin, “Peto, nate, ut aspicias ad cœlum, et terram, et ad omnia, quæ in eis sunt; et intelligas, quia ex nihilo fecit illa Deus, et hominum genus.” Delitzsch, in his commentary on this Epistle, shows that neither the position of the negative before the preposition, nor the use of μή, instead of οὐ is any valid objection to this interpretation. Others, however, prefer to connect the μή, with γεγονέναι, i.e., “the worlds were not made out of the phenomenal.” The sense in either case is substantially the same. But the question arises, What is the implied antithesis to the phenomenal? Some say the real, the ideal, the thoughts of God. Delitzsch says we must supply to μὴ ἐκ φαινομένων, ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ νοητῶν, “and these νοητά are the eternal invisible types, out of which, as their ideal ground and source, visible things by the fiat of God have proceeded.” This is Platonism, and foreign to the Scriptural mode of thinking and teaching. Whatever is real is phenomenal; that is, every substance, everything which really exists manifests itself somewhere and somehow. The proper antithesis, therefore, to φαινομένων is οὐκ ὄντων. “The worlds were not made out of anything which reveals itself as existing even it the sight of God, but out of nothing.”
In Rom. iv. 17, God is described as He “who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not, as though they were. To call may here be taken in the sense of commanding, controlling by a word. The passage then expresses the highest idea of omnipotence. The actual and the possible are equally subject to his will; the non-existing, the merely possible, is as much obedient to Him as the actually existing. Or to call may as elsewhere mean, as De Wette explains it, to call into existence. “Der das Nichtseiende als Seiendes hervorruft.” Who calls the non-existing into existence;” the ὡς ὄντα being for ὡς ἐσόμενα or for εἰς τὸ εἶναι ὡς ὄντα. On this text Bengel says, “Cogita frequens illud יהי Gen. i. exprimitur transitus a non esse ad esse, qui sit vocante Deo. Conf. Ez. xxxvi. 29.”521521Gnomon, edit. Tübingen, 1759, p. 614.
6. The Scriptural doctrine on this subject is confirmed by all those passages which ascribe a beginning to the world. By the world is not meant the κόσμος as distinguished from chaos, the form as distinguished from the substance, but both together. According to the Bible there is nothing eternal but God. He, and He alone is The Eternal. This is his distinguishing title, — He who is and was and ever shall be. As the world therefore began to be, and as the world includes everything out of God, there was nothing of which the world could be made. It was therefore created ex nihilo. This is taught in the first chapter of Genesis, “In the beginning (before anything was) God created the heaven and the earth.” In many other parts of Scripture a beginning is ascribed to the world, as in Ps. xc. 2, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” Ps. cii. 25, “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth.” In John xvii. 5, our Lord speaks of the glory which lie had with the Father before the world was. The foundation of the world is an epoch. Then time began. What was before the foundation of the world is eternal. The world, therefore, is not eternal, and if not eternal it must have had a beginning, and if all things had a beginning, then there must have been a creation ex nihilo.
7. The doctrine of creation flows from the infinite perfection of God. There can be but one infinite being. If anything exists independent of his will, God is thereby limited. The idea of the absolute dependence of all things on God pervades the Scripture and is involved in our religious consciousness. The God of the Bible is all extramundane God, existing out of, and before the world, absolutely independent of it, its creator, preserver, and governor. So that the doctrine of creation is a necessary consequence of Theism. If we deny that the world owes its existence to the will of God, then Atheism, Hylozoism, or Pantheism would seem to be the logical consequence. Hence, on the one hand, the Scriptures make that doctrine so prominent, presenting it on the first page of the Bible as the foundation of all subsequent revelations concerning the nature of God and his relation to the world, and appointing from the beginning one day in seven to be a perpetual commemoration of the fact that God created the heaven and earth. And, on the other, the advocates of Atheism or Pantheism contend against the doctrine of creation as the primary error of all false philosophy and religion. “Die Annahme einer Schöpfung ist der Grund-Irrthum aller falschen Metaphysik und Religionslehre, und insbesondere das Ur-Princip des Juden- und Heidenthums.”522522Fichte, v. sel. Leben, p. 160.
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