Where did the universe come from?
We take a look at different views on creation, and answer the question 'why does something exist rather than nothing'?
Have you ever wondered why there’s something rather than nothing? In this article we’re going to look at different theories on the origin of the universe, and then we’ll consider the Christian view of creation.
How a person answers questions about the origin of the universe comes down to his or her worldview — that is, how a person understands and makes sense of the world in which he or she lives. Each worldview has a different creation story, and we’re going to examine the four most common kinds.
Polytheists believe that the world has many gods. These gods are often like humans, but with special superhuman powers. When it comes to the world’s origins, there’s not just one polytheistic view. Some hold that the world is a result of a catastrophic battle between warring gods. Often, polytheists believe that the gods have domain over certain regions of the universe, such as the sun, moon, planets, sky, and ocean, or over things like love or war. Despite the differences, generally all polytheists hold to the belief that the basic elements of the world have always existed.
Pantheists hold to a view known as monisim, which teaches that everything that exists belongs to one kind of thing (or substance). For them, God is identical to the world. In other words, everything is God. Some pantheists believe that the world is eternal and that it has always existed, while others believe that the world goes through a series of births and rebirths (reincarnations) until it reaches perfection.
In some ways, naturalism is similar to pantheism in that both recognize that nature is eternal. Most naturalists accept the current working cosmological theory that the universe came into existence through the Big Bang, an explosion that occurred roughly 14 billion years ago, bringing all space, time, and matter into existence from zero density, which implies that the universe came from nothing. Naturalists are perplexed as to how a universe can come from nothing. In order to answer this, naturalists have developed various theories, like the multiverse theory, which says that our universe is just one of many finite universes that exist. If something like the multiverse is true, then the naturalist would say that nature extends infinitely into the past. In other words, nature has always been.
In contrast to the above theories, theists, such as Jews, Muslims, and Christians, believe that God created all things that exist "ex nihilo" - a Latin term meaning “out of nothing”. He didn’t use material that existed beforehand, a view known as creation "ex materia" (out of materials). Rather, God brought all things into existence, including all space, time, and matter through his creative power, out of nothing.
The Christian View
While Christians generally agree with Jews and Muslims on creation, there are some differences. Before we delve into those differences, it would be helpful to look at some key passages from the Bible on creation.
- Perhaps the clearest passages on creation are from Genesis chapters 1 and 2. These chapters depict the formation of the heavens and the earth, the creation of plants and animals, and the special creation of human beings. There are various theories on how to interpret the first two chapters of Genesis. We’re not going to go into each of those theories here, but only emphasize that these chapters clearly teach that God is responsible for creating all things, including humans, and that there was an absolute beginning to creation.
- In some ways, the author of Genesis is comparing the Hebraic (and Christian) worldview with that of the surrounding worldviews, which were polytheistic. In contrast to their neighbors, the Hebrews were monotheists — people who devoted themselves to the worship of one supreme God. Unlike their neighbors, who believed that the sun, moon, and other parts of creation were divine, the Hebrews taught that only God was divine, and he was responsible for the creation of all things.
- Genesis 1:1 also indicates that there was an absolute beginning to the universe. God created all space, time, and matter. Other passages which speak of the universes beginning include John 1:3; Acts 17:24; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 1:2, 10-11; 11:3. Perhaps one of the clearest passages that demonstrate an absolute beginning to creation is Colossians 1:15-16, which tells us that it was through the Son that God created “all things,” even those things which are “invisible.” Christians also believe that creation had an absolute beginning because God alone is eternal (Psalm 90:1-2; 102:25-27; Isaiah 41:4; Rev 1:8, 17; 2:8; 21:6; 22:13).
The Trinity and God’s Freedom
So what makes the Christian view different from Jewish and Muslim views? The answer begins with the Trinity. Unlike other theistic religions, Christians believe that God is a tri-unity of persons. Each person of the Trinity was involved in creation (Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13; John 1:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 1:2, 10-11; 11:3).
But why is that significant? It’s significant for two reasons:
- God did not have to create anything: Christians believe that God is love (John 1:4:8), yet, if God were just one person, then there would be no one for God to love. Therefore, God would have to create in order to demonstrate His love. This would also indicate that God needed something other than Himself in order to be complete. In contrast, Christians believe that since God is a Trinity of persons, He did not have to create because God has always existed in a perfect loving relationship. This leads to a second reason.
- God created out of His freedom: Since God did not have to create, He did so out of His freedom. In other words, Christians believe that creation is ultimately a gift of God’s grace out of His perfect freedom and love to share life with creation.
As you think about God’s creation this week, take time to thank Him for his grace in creating the world.
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