What did God make the universe from? It seems Himself, since before Creation, only God is.

This seems to me to be the most important question for Christianity. NOT why, how, where or who, but what. From what outside or within Himself, could God have made the universe?

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  • Dr. William Lane Craig does a super detailed break down of this topic in his Defenders Podcast check out the 'Doctrine of Creation' Nov 2 '12 at 16:00
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    Why do you suppose this "from what" is "the most important question for Christianity"? The Bible certainly doesn't consider it the most important question, as it doesn't even directly address the question as far as I recall. The Bible does devote considerable space to such questions as the person of Jesus Christ, sin and holiness, etc. Or if you would suggest that the Bible is skimming over this issue, what difference would the answer make?
    – Jay
    Nov 4 '12 at 6:15

As science suggests, the physical universe of time, space, and matter is not eternal. It had a beginning. Thus it was created. It was not arranged or mixed or reassembled, but created out of nothing.

Genesis 1 repeatedly uses the phrase, "God said, 'Let there be...', and there was...". God spoke, and what previously did not exist began to exist. So, specifically, God did not make the universe from anything at all.

Indeed, God did not make the physical universe from Himself, because He Himself is outside the physical universe. In fact, God is spirit. This is in contrast to the idea of pantheism.

In the 11th chapter of Hebrews, we read this:

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.

This ex nihilo power is reserved to God alone. All other creations that mankind does is simply to take what is already made and rearrange it into another form. We never really "make a cake"--we merely assemble ingredients into a different form.

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    Exactly :) With the exception of Mormons, I believe all Christians believe in ex nihilo creation. More to the point, this differentiates Christianity from most other religions. Nov 2 '12 at 14:11
  • @AffableGeek I don't think that adherents to open, or process theology necessarily believe in creatio ex nihilo. Nov 2 '12 at 16:03
  • @AffableGeek i would be very surprised if muslims didn't believe in ex nihilo, and i would also be very surprised if mormons were the only christians who don't belive in it.
    – kutschkem
    Aug 20 '14 at 15:44
  • @Affable Geek - Actually, there are a significant sect of Christians who believe that this was a 2nd century development and believe that The Bible does not record a creation ex nihilo and considering there are several thousand years of Jewish interpretation of Genesis, this should be considered too. Oct 16 '14 at 6:39

Genesis 1:1-2 (NIV)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

It seems from this first creation story pretty clear that God created the universe - there really is nothing more to this universe physically than the heavens (space) and the earth (terra). It also seems apparent that God's spirit was there, "hovering over the waters."

What does the word "create" here mean? Does it mean form from something that was already in existence or create from nothing? It does not spell it out clearly here. However, in John, we have another creation story:

John 1:1-5 (NIV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

"The Word" here means Jesus Christ. God and Christ and the Holy Spirit were clearly in existence before the creation of the universe from what this says along with the Genesis passage above, it appears to me. Here he uses the word "made" and indicates all things were made through Christ. It appears to me from this passage that taken with the Genesis passage that only God, the Father and the Son were in existence, though other parts of the Bible seem to lend creedence to a Heavenly Host as well.

Back to Genesis:

Genesis 2:4-7

4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

5 Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth[a] and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, 6 but streams[b] came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the Lord God formed a man[c] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Here, God tells us about the fact that "the Lord God made the earth and the heavens."

Taking this simple statement with all those previous, I just get the strong feeling that indeed "created" and "made" mean from nothing - not like clay being formed into a pot, but through the Word - most literally through speaking things into being through Christ:

Back to Genesis 1:

Genesis 1:3 (NIV)

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Genesis 1:6-7 (NIV)

6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so.

Genesis 1:9 (NIV)

9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so.

And so on and so forth. God is literally speaking through the Word (Christ) the universe into creation. There seems to me to be no indication of forming from something, other than "through" the Word.

Also, I would add that the single most important question in Christianity is whether you believe Christ died on the Cross for your sins and do you take him as your Lord and Savior. After all, there are only two places that choice can lead you to - eternal paradise, or eternal damnation. That has the biggest ramifications long term for any soul ever in existence, and we seem to forget the fear that we should all have for the unutterable suffering one might face if the choices you make take you to the place no one should want to be.


There's a certain paradox where the uncreated, eternal, infinite God makes a place for the created, finite universe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzimtzum

In essence there's no real way to answer your question. Science takes us back to an instant after the big bang. From there you can either put your faith in some as-yet-undiscovered materialistic process, or the mystical idea that the uncreated, infinite, eternal God reasoned it into existence. I agree that neither is initially satisfying to the intellectually curious.

This dilemma leads us to the truly most important question about creation, which is "why?" We're either here to share in the creative act with God, or we are just really really lucky artefacts of semi-random processes. I spent many years in the latter camp for various reasons, but have since come around to the former because only there is true hope.

  • I believe the eternal "why" is love - to love God and love each other, spiritually (not carnally) in a free relationship with each other.
    – Xitalogy
    Nov 4 '12 at 13:34

Well the answer is found in Hebrews 11:3

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Note: It does not say the worlds were made out of nothing. It says that it was made out of things which do not appear. And we know it was spoken into being.

So putting Genesis 1 together with this we know that the universe was made by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit out of things which do not appear.

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    You may want to recheck what "not" is modifying. It was not made out of things that can seen - that's different than being made out of things that cannot be seen. Jun 11 '13 at 0:55
  • Welcome to C.se. This would have been a very good answer from my pov. Jun 11 '13 at 0:56

One can draw a distinction between creatio ex nihilo (creation from nothing) vs. creatio ex se (creation from Himself)? The later seems to be what you are suggesting.

I can say that traditional Christian (i.e. Catholic/Protestant/Eastern) doctrine certainly favours the former - but there is nothing in the Bible which contradicts the latter. Creatio ex se would imply a form of pan(en)theism - that humanity and divinity are not ultimately separate, but rather that humanity is some kind of lessened state of the divine, but with the potential to return to its original divinity. As Lorenzo Snow, fifth President of the LDS Church said: "As man is God once was, as God is man may be." If all humanity once was part of God, then through Christ all humanity can become God again - and Christ is our forerunner and example in our journey to Godhood.

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