For most of my life I was like the large majority of Christianity in assuming that creatio ex nihilo was actually linked to Christianity in the form of "orthodoxy." That is, Orthodox Christianity necessarily affirms creation out of nothing. It was not until I read Tom Oord's doctoral dissertation almost two years ago that I began to seriously question this doctrine. In the last two years I have read many defenses and many critiques of the doctrine.
At this point I'm well inclined to find Catherine Keller's critique of the doctrine in Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming particularly insightful and crushing.
However, this is not necessarily my place to rehash or go over all of the arguments for or against. Instead, I'm genuinely just interested in the opinions of thinkers here on NazNet in regards to two thoughts.
(1) Is there anything actually Christian about this doctrine? That is, to be Christian is to affirm a particular story: God's Word became flesh, lived, taught, was crucified, and was resurrected again by God the Father. Now there is a lot in terms of what all of this means for other things. However, this is the heart of it.
This, to me, inherently cuts at the heart of creatio ex nihilo.
(a) God did not plant a baby in Mary's womb out of nothing. Instead, Mary conceived. Certainly there was no intercourse; but nevertheless God worked in Mary's body to create a baby out of Mary's body.
(b) God's "new creation" in the resurrection is birthed out of the old. It does not replace the old.... let me work this out and add some context...
My thoughts on this began in my Philosophy Class as we were going over Kierkegaard and my professor kept drilling in how important this doctrine of creation out of nothing is for Kierkegaard. That God creates out of nothing when God makes us new. This, to me, is deeply troubling...
We often speak of ourselves as "new creations" and we are certainly that. We have tended to speak of this in terms of "transformation." However, plenty of mixed metaphors and language are used. We are said to be transformed. However, we also say that the old self has "died." It's complicated. But the first image of God's redemption of our particular humanity (that is of me, Benjamin Burch) is found in God's redemption of all of humanity. That is not a redemption which discards the old. Instead, it redeems the old. It enters into the messy chaos of humanity and redeems it. What's more, this redemptive process which leads towards new creation culminates in the ultimate chaos of death and hades. God in Christ conquers this chaos by creating out of it. Out of the sin and evil of humanity which leads to Jesus' death, God brings new creation through the resurrection of that very same exact human body, bones, blood, flesh. This is a chaos-redeeming creation, not a creation that discards and starts over from scratch.
So we've receive a narrative which affirms God's affirming of the chaos of humanity and intent to redeem it, as well as God's redeeming of that chaos through creating "himself in flesh" through that chaos and then creating anew in resurrection out of the chaos of death, sin, and evil. Does our own narrative not follow the same? While we certainly are "new creations" and our old self has "died," is it not in the same manner as Christ was raised from death to life that we are as well? Is this not what we affirm in Baptism? Is this not what we give form to in Baptism?
So what place does creation out of nothing have in this narrative?
If we move backwards some, we find that God creates humanity from something (dirt), and creates humanity again from something (Noah and his family). God also creates Israel from something (Abraham), and then creates them anew out of something (a sinful group of wonderers in the chaos of the desert), and again (people wandering in the chaos of Babylonian exile), and again (twelve men who were a part of a "sinful generation").
The story of (re)creation of Israel out of the chaos and death of the old is told in the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37:1-14. Even the creation of the heavens and earth is told in terms of creation out of the chaotic Deep in Genesis 1.
So, it seems to me that the story which we affirm as Christians seems consistent with God's creative and redemptive activity throughout God's history with the world and humanity.
So, again, is there anything Christian about this? Does our own story not cut at the heart of creation out of nothing?
(2) What is gained by affirming creatio ex nihilo?