This began as an email reply to my old college friend who came across this recent interview with John Walton on Jesus Creed. That link is the third in a series of interviews with Walton based upon his book In the Beginning, God: Creation, Culture, and the Spiritual Life. I was going to leave it as a short email, since others have said much more on the topic (see below) but then I came across this comic in today’s batch of funnies and thought I would share it all. Enjoy!
Well I knew a blogging colleague had commented on this…back in May of 2008. I may not get to my blog post so check out his (Dr. Chris Heard): http://www.heardworld.com/higgaion/?p=1027
In short, I do believe that creatio ex nihilo is something for which the Bible itself never actually argues. It simply says what it says (and it never says, “Out of nothing God created…”) The sticking point is, of course, how we understand the very first verse. I tend to agree with many others that v. 1 is an introductory statement. “This is a story about God creating the heavens and the earth.” (A paraphrase, not intended as a translation.)
It then goes on to say (using RSV for ease), “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Already existing then is “the earth” (it is formless but it is there, “void” is not the best rendering, think “empty” as in a wasteland, not void as in complete absence of anything) and “the deep” which is the waters. So these items are already there when God begins doing his thang.
It is worth noting (as someone did recently somewhere, on a blog I read perhaps?) that there are many other (presumably) created things for which we have no origin stories, most notably the bene ha elohim (“sons of God”) and/or angels.
I don’t think that a non ex nihilo reading removes anything from God in the least. It just recognizes that the story of Gen. 1-2 is not the beginning of “everything” it is just the beginning of our story.
There is more that I could say and perhaps another time I will pick up the theme (and just to be clear, the above section in quotes is in fact myself, simply pasted from my email).