The question of where did everything come from is one of the most basic of all human questions. What does the Bible tell us? And, what's the latest scientific thought?
The Bible begins with the well-known statement: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." From the start of the Bible in Genesis to its end in the Book of Revelation [Rev. 14:6-7], God is presented as the One and only Creator of all things.
In contrast, modern-day science omits any divine role. It concerns itself with only the creation itself. God is left out lest He upset the scientific applecart. But, in general, the most popular theory of science is that all things originated as a "singularity" at the Big Bang. What existed before this is unknowable although more recently the idea of a multiverse has gained support. It says that our universe is just one of many, many, many universes and we somehow happen to live in the one that allows life. The parameters needed in the laws of physics to sustain life are exceedingly "fine tuned" [anthropic principle]. The precise ranges to support life are very narrow. Hence, if a Creator-God is not allowed to make the universe, maybe we happen to inhabit just the right one of many universes. However, no other universe has ever been observed. We haven't even seen the bounds of our universe! And, even if the multiverse idea were correct, it would only multiply the problem of where did they all come from!
Wasn't there a great controversy in the early Christian Church about Creation?
One major controversy in the early Church concerned the basic question of the origin of matter/energy. Remember, Christianity was born in the midst of a pagan world. Two major influences felt by Christians came from Gnosticism and the teachings of Plato. Both taught the eternal, pre-existence of matter. This directly conflicted with the teachings of Genesis and other parts of Scripture stating God created matter/energy. Only God is presented in the Bible as being eternal. Everything else therefore came through divine action.
I've heard of the teaching of ex nihilo. How does that teaching fit into the overall picture of the controversy?
The basic controversy the early Church faced concerned the origin of matter/energy itself. Has it always been here (like God), or did God alone exist before anything else came into being? The biblical answer is clear: only God is eternal. All else is created and therefore has an origin.
Ex nihilo is a Latin expression meaning "out of nothing." It came to be used in Christian circles to distinguish biblical teaching from the surrounding pagan world that believed in the eternal pre-existence of matter. The Bible reveals that God spoke the Creation into existence (Psalms 148:5 and 33:6). Once He created matter, Genesis One speaks of God using the matter He created as building material. For example, the animals and Adam were created from the Earth itself (Gen. 2:7 and 2:19).
Are there any specific Scriptures that say God created all things out of nothing?
That's a very good question! In doing research on this question, one of the articles I found most helpful was by Paul Copan. Copan vigorously defends the teaching that matter/energy was created by God out of nothing.
Yet, when all was said, he honestly concluded that the Bible lacks a "...precise formulation of a doctrine of creatio ex nihilo...."
So, is the teaching of ex nihilo really not biblical?
The answer to this question requires us to think through what the whole controversy entails. In a nutshell we might sum up some fundamental biblical truths as follows:
But, in spite of all this, the Bible itself nowhere uses the expression that God created everything "out of nothing" — ex nihilo.
Does the Bible ever speak of "how" God created matter, other than He spoke it into existence?
One possible verse on this question is Hebrews 11:3 that says: "By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible."
One possibility is that this verse speaks of two distinct issues: (1) how God formed matter/energy (verbally, by voice command) and, (2) what matter/energy was not made from. This latter aspect of creation is answered in a negative. It was not made out of pre-existing matter/energy, but the implication is that God used something invisible to us.
Normally, this entire verse is understood to witness God's vocal creation of the universe. The "not visible" is interpreted as God's command itself. Is there any evidence of it meaning otherwise?
Interestingly, the oldest text of the Old Testament that we have today is the Septuagint [LXX]. It is a Greek translation from an even older Hebrew version of the Old Testament. What we call the Old Testament was originally written mainly in Hebrew. This portion of the LXX (the Torah that begins with Genesis) was translated several hundred years before Christ's birth from a Hebrew version available at that time. After the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek came to be the lingua franca of the world of the Roman Empire. This language change greatly diminished the use of the Hebrew text among God's people. The Greek LXX translation made the Scriptures more accessible to not only the Jews, but to other peoples in the Roman Empire. It was widely used by all the writers of the New Testament when they quoted from the OT.
So, it is quite interesting that Genesis 1:2, in the LXX, says the created earth came into being from the aoratos - the "unseen" or "invisible." This seems to be just another way of saying what the latter portion of Hebrews 11:3 tells us in the New Testament and it would seem to be the source of the Hebrews 11:3 teaching. On such points, the New Testament must rely upon the earlier revelation given in Genesis. The latter portion of Hebrews 11:3 then agrees with Genesis 1:2, as given in the LXX.
The book of Colossians in the New Testament uses the Greek word aoratos ("invisible") also in the sense of created, unseen things. Speaking of the pre-existant Christ, it says "For by him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and [aorata] invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him" [1:16].
So, if the LXX translation helps us understand Hebrews 1:3, where did everything come from?
Ultimately, this would mean that the Bible takes us back to the "unseen" or "invisible" for origins of matter/energy. The invisible "what" then becomes the ultimate question left unanswered. What God has made it clear throughout the Bible (regardless of translation) is that matter/energy has not always existed. What this possible "unseen" or "invisible" non-matter/energy source might be is best left to a time when God chooses to reveal it in eternity.
So, does the biblical LXX revelation make more sense than the scientific idea?
Yes, eminently so! There is an old classical philosophical expression ex nihilo nihil fit - "Out of nothing comes nothing." When we see that the Bible tells us matter/energy was from the "invisible," we are not left with the absurdity that everything came from nothing at all.
This is, however, exactly the corner that science (without God) paints itself into. While we don't know what that "invisible" source may have been, it does not leave us in a philosophical Alice's Wonderland.
This, by the way, is just one more reason why the Big Bang theory isn't compatible with Scripture. The only agreement between the two is that each teaches a time of beginning of matter/energy. The old pagan teachings of the past that matter/energy have no origin has finally fallen. Scripture has once more been shown to offer a better explanation of origins.