Early Church did not teach creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing)

Early Church did not teach creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing)

The philosopher convert Justin Martyr gives a much fuller account in his Apology for the Christians. "And we have been taught that in the beginning He of his own goodness and in the interest of man, created everything out of unformed or unorganized—amorphos matter. And if men by their good works prove themselves to be worthy of His plan, they are considered qualified, we take it, to return to His presence and to rule with Him, having become deathless and immune to suffering (or change—apathes). For in the same way in which He created in the beginning those who were not, in just such a manner, we maintain those were deemed worthy of living with Him in immortality who of their own will chose what was pleasing to Him. For it was not in our power to accomplish our own birth in the first place; but the fact that we chose what was pleasing to Him, making use of those rational faculties with which He endowed us, now convinces us and conducts us to faith."3

This is a nearly literal rendering of a passage which, needless to say, has caused the churchmen a good many headaches with its undeniable references to other existences and other creations. The most annoying thing about it is that Justin insists on reminding us all along that he is not speaking as a philosopher or as an independent thinker. This piece is his Apology for the Christians, and with every other sentence he repeats, "this we believe," "this we have been taught," and so forth. This is the official opinion of the early church.

"We do not teach," says Justin elsewhere, speaking again for the church, "that God made the world for nothing, but in the interest of the human race. . . . And man does not do and suffer what he does by chance or accident, but in accordance with the proairesis every man is more or less faithful." Proairesis, according to the lexicon, means "choosing one thing before another," a plan of action laid out in advance, not an arbitrary rule or a predestined thing, but an agreement.4[1]


  1. Hugh W. Nibley, The World and the Prophets, 3rd edition, (Vol. 3 of Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum, and Don E. Norton (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987), Chapter 26, references silently removed—consult original for citations.