Copan, Paul and William Lane Craig. Creation out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration. Logos ed. Leicester, England Grand Rapids, MI: Apollos; Baker Academic, 2004.

In this book, Copan and Craig bring to bear the most recent biblical scholarship, philosophy and scientific foundation for understanding what Genesis 1 teaches about creation. This view provides a counterpoint to the tradition of thinkers like Schleiermacher who argued for a detemproalized creation which has no connection to philosophy or science, but is only concerned with religious experience. Specifically, Copan and Craig endeavor to give reason to accept the idea that the God of the Hebrew scripture created the material world from nothing. This book is broken down into eight chapters. Chapters 1 through three provide the biblical and extrabiblical witness to creation ex nihilo, chapters 4 through 6 give a philosophical underpinning for the book’s thesis, and the final chapters 7 and 8 provide the scientific and naturalistic evidence for the thesis.

Chapter 1 makes the case that creation ex nihilo is the best interpretation of the teachings of the Old Testament. The chapter offers three lines of reasoning. First, the cosmology of Genesis is distinct from other Ancient Near Eastern mythology in its assertion of both monotheism and a contingent creation distinct from the creator. Second, the Hebrew word for creation, bārāʾ reinforces the cosmological idea that God created purely from his word and not from any existing material reality. Third, in a two-stage process, the Hebrew God created all matter and then organized it into the universe.

Chapter 2 surveys key passages from John 1:3, Romans 4:17, Hebrews 11:3 and a series of other verse that reinforce the Old Testament concept of creation ex nihilo. These NT verses, according to Copan and Craig, mirror the explicit teaching of the Old Testament of a God who is both distinct from all he created and whose creation remains contingent on his being. One key argument is that “Either creatio ex nihilo is true, or God is not all-powerful. But God is truly all-powerful” therefore, creation ex nihilo is an indirect, yet clear, teaching of the NT.[1]

Chapter 3 provides insight from other non-biblical literature that supports the Hebraic concept of creation ex nihilo. The three main sources for the study are the Apocrypha, later Jewish sources such as Josephus, Philo, Gamaliel II, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Medieval Jewish exegetes and the Church Fathers. These early sources reinforce the Hebrew cosmological worldview that God is the uncreated beginning for all matter. These sources, including the Church Fathers, confirm that the biblical doctrine of ex nihilo makes the most sense of the biblical teachings of God’s sovereignty, freedom, eternality, and necessity.

Chapters 4, 5 and 6 provide a deeper philosophic understanding and foundation for creation ex nihilo. The Scripture makes a distinction between the concepts of God as creator and conserver which many scholars and philosophers tend to conflate. God as creator and patient preserver implies an A-theory of time and objective temporal becoming. Competing solutions to the problem of divine aseity are argued among Platonists and anti-Platonists. Copan and Craig concede they do not have an authoritative answer for theists looking to explain abstract objects but posit the most promising solution lies in a nominalist or conceptualist account. Considering there are a variety of plausible solutions, there is a valid reason to accept the concept of ex nihilo. Philosophic support for an uncreated creator and a created universe are supported two basic arguments:[2]

  1. An actual infinite cannot exist.
  2. An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
  3. Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.

And the second syllogism is similarly argued:[3]

  1. The series of events in time is a collection formed by successive addition.
  2. A collection formed by successive addition cannot be actually infinite.
  3. Therefore, the series of events in time cannot be actually infinite.

Both arguments form the logical foundation for belief in the aseity of God and creation ex nihilo.

The final two chapters 7 and 8 provide a scientific foundation for accepting creation ex nihilo. Here the authors argue that standard Big Bang cosmology of an expanding universe and the principles of thermodynamics demonstrates the universe must have a beginning. Therefore, the theistic assertion of creation from nothing by an uncreated creator cannot be contradicted by the best empirical evidence. The authors finally address three arguments against creation ex nihilo; a self-created universe, supernaturalistic and naturalistic alternatives. The authors conclude that these theories are not as straightforward as the ones posited in previous chapters nor are they supported by the best scientific evidence. Therefore, creation ex nihilo is the most plausible biblical, philosophic, and scientific answer to the cosmos.

I give Copan and Craig’s book Creation out of Nothing: book 5 stars for anyone interested in discovering the biblical, scientific and philosophic foundations for creatio ex nihilo.

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Footnotes

[1] Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, Creation out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration, Logos ed. (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Apollos; Baker Academic, 2004), 91.

[2] Ibid., 200.

[3] Ibid., 211.

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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