Ex nihilo is Latin for "out of nothing."
When humans "create," we use pre-existing materials to do so: rock, mortar, metal, wood, and the like. We are not capable of making something "out of nothing."
When GOD created the universe, there was no already existing material for Him to work with. He caused all things to come into being. Where once there was nothing, now there was everything that we know as "the universe."
Atheists imagine that the universe popped into existence "out of nothing" for no reason, that is to say, with no cause for the event.
Theists, as a general rule, believe that the only sufficient reason for the existence of the universe is the existence of an entirely different kind of being from the "things" that are forms of energy and matter in the space-time continuum.
- III. "The World Was Created for the Glory of God"
- Scripture and Tradition never cease to teach and celebrate this fundamental truth: "The world was made for the glory of God." St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things "not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it", for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness: "Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened his hand." The First Vatican Council explains:
- This one, true God, of his own goodness and "almighty power", not for increasing his own beatitude, nor for attaining his perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through the benefits which he bestows on creatures, with absolute freedom of counsel "and from the beginning of time, made out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal. . ."
- God creates "out of nothing"
- If God had drawn the world from pre-existent matter, what would be so extraordinary in that? A human artisan makes from a given material whatever he wants, while God shows his power by starting from nothing to make all he wants.
- Scripture bears witness to faith in creation "out of nothing" as a truth full of promise and hope. Thus the mother of seven sons encourages them for martyrdom:
- I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws. . . Look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being.
- Since God could create everything out of nothing, he can also, through the Holy Spirit, give spiritual life to sinners by creating a pure heart in them, and bodily life to the dead through the Resurrection. God "gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist." And since God was able to make light shine in darkness by his Word, he can also give the light of faith to those who do not yet know him.
- The truth that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures is inseparable from faith in God the Creator. God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes: "For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Far from diminishing the creature's dignity, this truth enhances it. Drawn from nothingness by God's power, wisdom and goodness, it can do nothing if it is cut off from its origin, for "without a Creator the creature vanishes." Still less can a creature attain its ultimate end without the help of God's grace.
- No creature has the infinite power necessary to "create" in the proper sense of the word, that is, to produce and give being to that which had in no way possessed it (to call into existence "out of nothing") (cf DS 3624).
- The profession of faith of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) affirms that God "from the beginning of time made at once (simul) out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal, that is, the angelic and the earthly, and then (deinde) the human creature, who as it were shares in both orders, being composed of spirit and body."
We literally cannot picture all things coming into existence out of nothing.
This is a special case of the problem of reification.
- Dei Filius, can. § 5: DS 3025.
- St. Bonaventure, In II Sent. I,2,2,1.
- St. Thomas Aquinas, Sent. II, Prol.
- Dei Filius, I: DS 3002; cf. Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800.
- Cf. Dei Filius, can. 2-4: DS 3022-3024.
- Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800; cf. DS 3025.
- St. Theophilus of Antioch, Ad Autolycum II, 4: PG 6,1052.
- 2 Macc 7:22-21,28.
- Cf. Ps 51:12.
- Rom 4:17.
- Cf. Gen 1:3; 2 Cor 4:6.
- Phil 2:13; cf. 1 Cor 12:6.
- GS 36 § 3.
- Cf. Mt 19:26; Jn 15:5; 14:13.
- Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800; cf. DS 3002 and Paul VI, CPG § 8.