St Athanasius: The Nothingness of the World

It may come as a surprise to most Orthodox and Catholic believers that the ecumenical dogma that God created the world from “out of nothing” (creatio ex nihilo) is now disputed by some theologians in the name of the Bible—at least it came as a surprise to me. I describe the creatio ex nihilo as a dogma, even though I cannot cite a conciliar dogmatic definition that affirms it as such. I personally believe that the doctrine is presupposed in the Nicene anathema directed against those who deny the eternal generation of the Son: “But those who say, There was when the Son of God was not, and before he was begotten he was not, and that he came into being from things that are not, or that he is of a different hypostastis or substance, or that he is mutable or alterable–the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes.” In other words, Jesus Christ is not like those beings who have been created from out of nothing—he is God. In the second century St Irenaeus clearly affirms the doctrine of the creatio ex nihilo, and Tertullian states that it belongs to the Rule of Faith. In the third century the great Origen also asserts the doctrine, and I am unaware of any mainstream theologian after him who disputed it. Yet some theologians today claim that inasmuch as the doctrine is not explicitly taught in Holy Scripture, the Church is free to abandon the confession that Almighty God has, by his grace, created the world from out of nothing. See, for example, the blog site of evangelical theologian Thomas Jay Oord. I doubt, though, that many Orthodox or Catholic theologians would agree, and there are still plenty of Protestant theologians who also affirm the doctrine. Even if Holy Scripture does not explicitly express the creatio ex nihilo, this does not mean that it is unbiblical. The confrontation of the gospel with the ontology of Hellenistic philosophy compelled catholic theologians to formulate the teaching that underlies the declaration of Genesis 1: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth …” Met John Zizioulas explains:

In accordance with biblical theology, of which the Fathers cannot have been ignorant, the world is not ontologically necessary. Although the ancient Greeks assumed with regard to the ontology of the world that it was something necessary of itself, the biblical doctrine of creation ex nihilo obliged the Fathers to introduce a radical difference into ontology, to trace the world back to an ontology outside the world, that is, to God. They thus broke the circle of the closed ontology of the Greeks, and at the same time did something much more important, which is of direct interest to us here: they made being—the existence of the world, existent things—a product of freedom. … With the doctrine of creation ex nihilo the “principle” of Greek ontology, the “arche” of the world, was transposed to the sphere of freedom. That which exists was liberated from itself; the being of the world became free from necessity. (Being as Communion, pp. 39-40)

St Athanasius the Apostolic inherited the teaching of the creatio ex nihilo and made it the cornerstone of his soteriological, christological, and trinitarian reflections. Every page of Contra Gentes and De Incarnatione bespeaks the doctrine. The world is not a necessary emanation of the deity nor something that God has crafted out of pre-existent matter: it is the product of his absolute love and gracious will. By his Word the Father has freely brought all beings into existence from out of nothing:

The making of the world and the creation of all things have been taken differently by many, and each has propounded as each has wished. Some say that all things have come into being spontaneously and as by chance, such as the Epicureans who, according to themselves, fantasize that there is no providence over the universe, speaking in the face of the clear and apparent facts. … Others, amongst whom is Plato, that giant among the Greeks, declare that God made the universe from preexistent and uncreated matter, as God is not able to make anything unless matter preexisted, just as a carpenter must already have wood so that it may be used. They do not realize that saying such things is to impute weakness to God: for if he is not himself the cause of matter, but simply makes things from pre-existent matter, then he is weak, not being able without matter to fashion any of the things that exist, just as the weakness of the carpenter is certainly his inability to make any required thing without wood. According to the argument, unless there were matter, God would not have made anything. … And if this is so, as they thus have it, according to them God is only a craftsman and not himself the cause of matter. He could in no way be called “Creator,” if he does not create matter, from which created things come into being. …

These things, then, they fantasize. But the inspired teaching and faith according to Christ casts out their vain talk as godlessness. For it knows that neither spontaneously, as it is not without providence, nor from pre-existent matter, as God is not weak, but from nothing and having absolutely no existence God brought the universe into being through the Word, which it says through Moses, “In the beginning God made heaven and earth” (Gen 1.1), and through that most useful book of the Shepherd, “First of all believe that God is one, who created and framed all things, and made them from non-existence into being,” as also Paul indicates when he says, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which appear” (Heb 11.3). For God is good, or rather the source of all goodness, and one who is good grudges nothing, so that grudging nothing its existence, he made all things through his own Word, our Lord Jesus Christ. (Inc. 2-3)

Athanasius suggests that the restriction of divine creation to pre-existent matter in fact imputes imperfection to the Deity and limits his omnipotence and sovereignty. He would not truly be the Almighty Creator if he were unable to bring the world into being from non-being. But the God of the Bible does not need pre-existent matter with which to work. He only has to speak the word by his Word, and the world springs into being. But why would he do so? Out of his goodness, Athanasius answers. It is his nature to give existence and life—not because he is compelled to do so but simply because he is love. He does not begrudge existence; he delights in bestowing it and rejoices in all he has made: “But the God of all is good and exceeding noble by nature,—and therefore is kind. For one that is good can grudge nothing: for which reason he does not grudge even existence, but desires all to exist, as objects for His loving-kindness” (Gent. 41).

But if created beings are made out of nothing, then they do not possess existence in themselves. They cannot guarantee their existence nor sustain themselves in existence. They are always vulnerable to falling back into the nothingness whence they came. “For the nature of created things,” Athanasius explains, “inasmuch as it is brought into being out of nothing, is of a fleeting sort, and weak and mortal, if composed of itself only” (Gent. 41). Creaturely existence is inherently unstable, evanescent, transitory, ephemeral. Or as Zizioulas puts it: “The world always exists in some relation to this nothing, remains exposed to it and liable to revert to nothing” (Lectures in Christian Dogmatics, p. 89). Every being contains within itself the nothingness that can accomplish its dissolution. When God created the world, he did not give it the means by which to secure its eternity. The world is utterly dependent on the grace and mercy of its Creator. If the divine Word were to withdraw his presence even for an instant, the creation would collapse into the void of nihility. But God in his love preserves his creation by his Word and providential care:

So seeing that all created nature according to its inherent structures is in flux and subject to dissolution, and in order to prevent this happening and the universe dissolving back into nothing, he made everything by his own eternal Word and brought creation into existence. He did not abandon it to be tempest-tossed through its own nature, lest it run the risk of again lapsing into nothingness. But being good, he governs and establishes the whole world through his own Word who is himself God, so that creation, enlightened by the governance, providence, and ordering of the Word, may be able to remain secure, since it participates in the Word who is truly from the Father and is helped by him so as to exist. This was done so that what would have happened to creation, apart from the sustenance of the Word, did not happen—namely, a relapse into nothingness: “For he is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation, because through him and in him subsist all things, visible and invisible, and he is the head of the church” [Col. 1:15-18], as ministers of the truth teach in the holy writings. (Gent. 41; quoted in Khaled Anatolios, Athanasius: The Coherence of his Thought, pp. 40-41)

Though his Word the Father is radically immanent to and present in the world, constantly acting to preserve, order, maintain, protect, and guide his creation and bring it to fulfillment. Creation moreover is divinely constituted to receive the preserving and renewing activity of the Word. It “participates in the Word,” as Athanasius states. This participation in the Word does not suggest any sort of distance between the creation and the Father, as if the Word were an intermediate, in-between being, for the Word is the perfect Image of the Father and coinheres in him just as the Father coinheres in his Word.

Man too has been summoned into being from non-being. He does not possess life; he does not possess immortality; he does not possess divinity. He is created and thus like all created beings enjoys an existence held above the abyss of nothingness; yet he is also destined by God for a life beyond his natural finitude. Within the garden God has placed the tree of life. Khaled Anatolios elaborates:

According to its nature (physis), humanity is incapable of knowing and relating to God. This aspect of the human being corresponds to the utter “beyondness,” or transcendence, of God and the incommensurability of divine and human beings; if God’s nature is that of true being, who is utterly self-sufficient and inaccessible, human nature is characterized by its origination from nothing. This ex nihilo is by no means merely a historical datum or a punctiliar “moment” in the story of humanity’s beginning; it is an ontological determination that characterizes humanity’s existence, and that of creation in general, as deriving from and thus inherently tending toward non-being. … However, this aspect of human “nature,” or physis, cannot, by definition, characterize the actual constitution of the human being as such. It merely refers to the radical nothingness which underlies human existence and indicates humanity’s inherent lack of self-possessed being and thus its radical incapacity to preserve itself in being through its own power. For human beings to actually exist, human “nature” must be radically complemented by the dynamic of “grace”, charis, which corresponds to the divine philanthropia. The aspect of “grace” in the human being is the gift that is granted to humanity of participation in God the Word, in whom all created things have their consistence. Thus, humanity is conceived simultaneously as being of a corruptible nature that tends toward nothingness, in contrast to the perfect and transcendent nature of God, and yet as possessing the grace of participating in divine life, because of the divine philanthropia which overcomes the natural disparity between the God who is and the creation that comes to be from nothing. (Athanasius, p. 41)

That humanity is destined for theosis, for eternal participation in the life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the ultimate significance of being created in the image of God:

Among these things, of all things upon earth he had mercy upon the human race, and seeing that by the principle of its own coming into being it would not be able to endure eternally, he granted them a further gift, creating human beings not simply like all the irrational animals upon the earth but making them according to his own image, giving them a share of the power of his own Word, so that having as it were shadows of the Word and being made rational, they might be able to abide in blessedness, living the true life which is really that of the holy ones in paradise. (Inc. 3)

Human existence, therefore, must be understood as one of radical giftedness. Not only has humanity received the gift of existence from out of nothing, but it has also been given the gift of a divine existence that it cannot achieve by its natural capacity and powers. Thus is displayed the philanthropia of the Lover of mankind.

But what would happen if man were to say no to the gift?

Anyone want an apple?

(Go to “The Surd of Sin and the Expulsion from Paradise”)

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30 Responses to St Athanasius: The Nothingness of the World

  1. Fr. Aidan,
    I too have seen the falling away from Creation ex nihilo, especially among Protestants. Combine this tendency with “God is pure energy” & the end result of their theology is either Atheism or Pantheism.


  2. PJ says:

    Creation ex nihilo is explicitly affirmed in 2 Maccabees. It is also explicitly affirmed in the Nicene Creed. As St. Thomas noted, even an eternal universe is still created from nothing on account of its contingent nature.


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Good point about 2 Maccabees.

      I have not done a lot of historical study on the creatio ex nihilo. I know that there were some 2nd century theologians who apparently taught that God created the world out of formless “stuff” or something like that. But what I find impressive is that once Christian theologians began to clearly teach the creatio ex nihilo, it did not generate much, if any, controversy within the Church. Christians recognized it as a faithful interpretation of Holy Scripture. That, for me, is a decisive dogmatic point.


  3. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    I have expanded the article just a bit. I’ve included another passage from Contra Gentes that brings out very clearly the propensity of the world to fall back into nothingness, if it were not for the grace of God.


  4. Tom says:

    Great comments, Fr. Aidan. I’ve just dropped Tom Oord off at the airport 5 hours ago after spending the past three days with him running a conference here in Minneapolis! He’s a good brother (Nazarene). He shares some ‘Process’ commitments, one of which is the denial of ex nihilo (or the affirmation of an essential/necessary God-world(s) relationship). But other non-Process Protestants share the value of such a link between God an world (Jenson, McCormack, et. al.) in which the begetting of the Son itself is inseparable from the intention to create/incarnate. Hart’s critique of Jenson on this is well-known. I have to agree with Hart. I think it’s disastrous to deny ex nihilo.


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Two questions, Tom:

      1) How do you assess the biblical evidence regarding the creatio ex nihilo?

      2) As a Pentecostal theologian, why do you think the doctrine is important?

      P.S. Thanks for visiting the blog!


    • PJ says:

      “He shares some ‘Process’ commitments, one of which is the denial of ex nihilo (or the affirmation of an essential/necessary God-world(s) relationship).”

      How can there be necessity in God? If God needs the world, then He is as much our creature as we are His creature. The thought makes me shudder.


  5. PJ says:

    Everything old is new again: These “process theology” nonsense is just a bunch of repackaged heresies from the very dawn of the faith. Protestantism is devolving at an amazingly rapid pace.


  6. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    I have been challenged by St Athanasius’s argument about the precariousness of existence and its inherent propensity to lapse back into nothingness. I remember first encountering this thesis back in the early 90s in the writings of Zizioulas; but it did not make much of an impression. I probably thought something like “What’s the big deal? God is preserving his creation, so the ‘worry’ about nothingness is a ‘non-worry.'” But clearly Athanasius’s discernment on what it means to be “created” takes us to the heart of Eastern patristic theology and explains Orthodoxy’s identification of death as the great enemy.


    • PJ says:

      Non-being — that is what hell is. But we somehow remain conscious. Conscious non-being. Awareness of nothingness. Of utter isolation. Less than zero. I’ve glimpsed it in nightmares and fearsome reveries.


      • PJ;

        You have hit on an idea that was very startling to me a couple of years ago–death/life is not necessarily the equivalent to non-existence/existence like we are used to thinking in our purely physical rationalism & experience. We are used to life = existence = moving around, interacting, & etc. while death = non-existence = no moving, no interaction & no etc.

        But since Christ destroyed death & transformed it into a passage from the temporal realm to the eternal realm, does not this then change the status quo of life/death = existence/non-existence. Again it is not an either/or scenario…it seems to me that this means that there is a 3rd option that is beyond my ability to conceive of, or for lack of a better term, name/identify/explain. I like your phrasing “Conscious non-being. Awareness of nothingness.” I shall have to mull this over…


  7. Fr. Aidan,
    This has always been a cornerstone for me – back to seminary days. The precariousness of existence and our tendency towards non-being is the very heart of what I understand to be sin. Sin is a movement towards non-being, though it cannot make itself not-be because existence is the gift of God. Thus there is a “me-ontic” existence (“me” being a more relative term than “ouk”). The movement towards righteousness is the movement towards true existence, reality, authenticity. I’m trying to remember where I first encountered “me ontos” – it could have been somewhere in Zizioulas – though I have always associated it with Athanasius.


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      I am reminded of Lewis’s *The Great Divorce*. The folks from hell who visit hell find the grass painful to step on. They have lost most of their being and are mere wisps, whereas everything in heaven are “solid.”


  8. elijahmaria says:

    Father Stephen: The nuns impressed upon us at a tender age that sin leads not only to spiritual death but also to physical suffering, death and living-corruption. We were often directed toward the gospels where Christ forgave sins prior to healing the body. We were cognizant of living death being something other than passing through death into life. I expect it is that living death which is the prelude to the state you speak of as non-being, though I find it difficult to grasp the concept as a reality.


  9. infanttheology says:

    Father Kimel,

    Enjoyed this immensely. Thank you for so generously sharing the fruits of your reading.

    Father Freeman:

    “This has always been a cornerstone for me – back to seminary days. The precariousness of existence and our tendency towards non-being is the very heart of what I understand to be sin. Sin is a movement towards non-being, though it cannot make itself not-be because existence is the gift of God.”

    I like this idea in many ways, but how does the fall figure into all of this? Of course Adam and Eve were created able to sin, but were they able not to sin? (even if eventually, they would be not able to sin!). With this view, it seems as if the fall was more or less inevitable – and should have been expected. Is that generally what EO folks think?



  10. tgbelt says:

    Fr Aiden,

    It’s a complicated debate. My reasons for holding to ex nihilo are primarily theological, then biblical, then (believe it or not) existential. Though the term ex nihilo itself doesn’t appear in Scripture, I think the idea does. The biblical case if more cumulative (Gn. 1; Ps. 33:6; Pv 8.24 Jn. 1:3; perhaps Rm 4.17; Col. 1.16; Heb. 11.3). Even if plausible arguments can be made for why none of these ‘has’ to be understood in absolute terms, it think overall (especially when it’s remembered that the biblical worldview engages secular beliefs that viewed matter as eternal) it makes far better sense to read them that way.

    I can’t think of any uniquely Pentecostal commitment I have that requires ex nihilo. But I do have broadly existential reasons for believing in ex nihilo. I’m not sure how to express this, but it seems to me that my choice to utterly and absolutely depend upon God only makes sense if my choice maps an equally utter and absolute ontological dependence upon God. But if matter exists apart from God’s creative command, then my dependence upon God isn’t absolute; something about me doesn’t owe the fact “that it exists” to God. And if that’s the case, I can’t pretend to view myself as dependent upon God in ways I’m not actually dependent upon him. And it goes the other way as well, for if ex nihilo is false, there’s a sense in which God’s existence requires the world. And of course that’s standard Process doctrine.

    It’s an objection a lot of folks have made to Process theology, namely, that Process is eschatologically vacuous. If God has been persuading and drawing creation for a temporal eternity and this is where we are, it doesn’t encourage confidence in the consummation of all things as described in Scripture.

    I run into two reasons Process-minded folks (like Tom Oord) have for denying ex nihilo: (1) God’s essentially relational existence entails something to which God must relate (i.e., the world), otherwise God isn’t relational sans creation, and (2) ex nihilo isn’t a meaningful notion. “Nothing comes from nothing” (ex nihilo nihil fit), so we’re literally not saying anything that’s really conceivable when we say God spoke the world–poof–into being out of nothing.


  11. Tom says:

    It’s Father Aidan (not Aiden). I knew that. Sorry!


  12. Agni Ashwin says:

    What is “nothing”, exactly?


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      I took my best stab at “explaining” “nothing in my most recent article. As you will gather, I do not believe that “nothing” is definable. Christian theologians invoke the creatio ex nihilo as a way to speak of the transcendent God as the sole cause of the world he has freely and gratuitously made and thus to speak of the radical contingency of the world. The world might never have been, yet God is eternally Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

      Herbert McCabe has an illuminating discussion of the creatio ex nihilo in his book God Matters. He claims that the question of God begins with the radical philosophical question “Why is there something/everything instead of nothing?” But “everything,” he notes, is a difficult concept:

      There is indeed a difficulty about having a concept of “everything,” for we ordinarily conceive of something with, so to say, a boundary around it: this is a sheep and not a giraffe. But everything is bounded by nothing, which is just to say that it is not bounded by anything. To put what is the same point another way: we can have no concept of nothing, absolutely speaking. We can use the word relatively; we can say, “There is nothing in the cupboard” meaning there are no largish objects–we are understood not be saying there is no dust or no air. “There is nothing between Kerry and New York” means there is no land. It does not mean there is absolutely nothing, no sea or fishes. The notions of everything and of absolutely nothing, are not available to us in the sense that the notions of sheep or scarlet or savagery are available to us. And this means that we are asking our ultimate radical question with tools that will not do the job properly, with words whose meaning has to be stretched beyond what we can comprehend. It would be very strange if it were not so. As Wittgenstein says, what we have here is the mystery.” (p. 5)


  13. Mark Chenoweth says:

    I don’t think Genesis 1 teaches Creation Ex Nihilo, but it was a development that started appearing in the deutero-canonical books (for lack of a better term), and then in the New Testament. Regardless, it IS in the bible. And I think one could make a tentative case that modern cosmology adds a plausibility to the doctrine, as does the Kalaam cosmological argument, although guys like Stephen Hawking would like to deny that.

    I know a lot of Orthodox don’t like natural theology, but I like it. It just needs to be used in a balanced way.


    • Natural theology is a fine starting point to revelation from God. Where most disagreement enters is when natural theology is used as the end of all revelation from God & arguments based on it are used to refute other beliefs. SBNR (spiritual but not religious) adherents quite often appeal to natural theology to justify not pursuing a relationship with God. An end all natural theology tends to result in either Pantheism where creation is “God” or Deism where God is not actively working in His creation.



  14. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Mike, Tom, and others, perhaps you’d like to comment on this interview with physicist Lawrence Krauss. Do physicists understand what “nothing” means for Christian philosophers?


  15. Mark Chenoweth says:

    If Krauss says “moronic philosopher” in this interview one more time, I think I’m gonna flip. He tends to be too dismissive of theistic ideas too quickly. His remark in a debate and online that Jesus’ death and resurrection is derived from pagan myths has been dismissed by all scholars, atheist/Christian for the last 100 years. Quite unfortunate that he still repeats it. His interaction with Dr. Craig is interesting.

    Krauss does raise some interesting questions regarding fine tuning, but his easy hand waving dismissal of theism really makes him less credible IMHO.


    • Despite Krauss’ claims, scientists do not like to be proved wrong & can be quite cruel to other scientists that think outside of the box in drawing or presenting alternative conclusions to their work. Despite their claims of logic & rationality they frequently are not as they tend to reject what does not fit in their preconceptions. Science likes to use the history (its mis-representation actually) of Galileo as a case in point proving religious ignorance while ignoring the history of Louis Pasteur & his discovery of germs & bacteria. Stephen Hawking rejected the Big Bang Theory for decades because “it left room for God” which did not jive with his then atheistic views. They also tend to ignore the scientists that turned from atheism to theism such as Mr. Hawking who is now a practicing Episcopalian. Einstein also retained theistic belief through his scientific endeavours because he saw too much order in the cosmos for God not to have created it. Conversely Hawking saw too much chaos for the cosmos to contine in existence without God.

      Krauss errs when he says that because science can explain the how (or as he admits an alternative how ) that it does away with the why of God, or at least in his eyes makes the why of God irrelevant. Usually through many theories science has merely pushed the “God question” further back a level. For example the theory of multi-verses or cosmic strings bumping into each other causing big bangs everywhere no more refutes creation by God any more than 1 universe & 1 big bang; one is still left with the fundamental question of God.

      One of my hobbies is astronomy/astrophotography so I have read much about the scientific advances in cosmological theory. Cosmologically speaking much of what is now being taught as scientific fact is in reality computer model theory. Many scientific fields have reached the point that they can no longer perform scientific experimentation to prove/disprove theory…the universe is just too vast & our instruments have reached their limits. Much that passes for experimentation is computer generated models where the outcome is based on the programming income. Naturally, they get the theoretical outcome they thought they would because the programming is based on their assumptions that were translated into computer code to begin with. But the scientists declare that this is proof while ignoring other scientists who use different assumptions that much easier explain things the way they are in alternative cosmological theory.

      The problem with many Christians arguing against such atheism is that they ultimately end up arguing the opposite side of the same coin. Dr. Craig put forth statistics as proof of God & I have seen others follow this red herring idea as well. I saw a presentation by a 7th Day Adventist once that went to great lengths to statistically show how the cosmos as it exists only had a 1 in bazillionth percentage (I forget the actual statistic, but it was extremely remote) chance of existing as it did. He then stated that according to logical deduction & scientific reasoning science thus proved that God had to have created the cosmos because otherwise it was statistically impossible through the random chance of evolution. The presenter was most confused when his debate opponent laughed & kindly thanked him for proving his case. He & others had thought that this was a wonderful logical argument against the illogical atheists; it was published widely in several Christian apologetics texts. In reality they failed to realize that they had actually proven the scientists claims since the cosmos does exist despite the statistical impossibity.

      No field of science can empirically prove/disprove God, neither can all fields combined. To argue from their level is unproductive at best: “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.” (Pr 26:4) God is not a thing to be measured nor a concept to be deduced nor a question to be answered. Instead God is Trinity, a union of three persons who are to be experienced. “Yet answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” (Pr 26:5)


      • Mark Chenoweth says:


        I find the response that you can’t prove God exists a lot. Have you read much of Craig or Plantinga? Many western Christian philosophers will use the word prove for lack of a better term. I’ve heard Craig say on a number of occasions that you can’t PROVE that God exists, yet he still might use the term from time to time. For example, a “proof” of God’s existence doesn’t mean what you think it means.

        Most “proofs” of God’s existence are really asking us to affirm something much more modest. That it’s more likely that a syllogism is true than false.

        Craig and other Christian apologists like Richard Swinburne (who is an Eastern Orthodox convert btw), Robin Collins and others are trying to make belief in God more REASONANABLE than the alternative.

        Also, the seventh day adventist could have responded with the analogy of philosopher John Leslie. If you imagine that you were sentenced to death , tied up to a tree and fifty trained marksman were aiming at your chest. After the command to fire was given, you find that you’re alive! Is it more reasonable to think, well of course I’m alive! If I weren’t alive, I couldn’t be here to attest to my being alive! They all must have just accidentally missed! Or to say, there must have been some sort of plan in all this. They must have all missed on purpose.

        I agree that natural theology can only be a starting point though. It can never substitute for personal experience. And guys like Craig and Plantinga would totally agree.

        Sometimes, I think western/eastern semantics can get in the way when were saying very similar things. For example, it seems that a lot of what Andrew Louth says in his “An Essay on the Nature of Theology” is similar to what Alvin Plantinga says in his “Warrented Christian Belief.” One is put in the language of and style of the church fathers, and another in the language of analytical philosophy. Nevertheless, there are many points of a agreement.


  16. Mark Chenoweth says:

    Ugh, so many typos in that last post. I’ll use the excuse that I wrote it on my phone.


  17. Hi Mark,

    Nice response & thanks 🙂 I’ll try to answer several of your comments…Again this is just my two bits which will not buy you a cup of coffee anymore 😉

    No, I have never read anything by either man. I have basically quit reading anything along the lines of traditional apologetics because, despite the 20-30 years (I was still a Protestant) since I was into such things, the arguments have not changed for either side. Within this past year I picked up a book New Proofs For The Existence Of God by Robert J. Spitzer. I was just curious to see how the traditional apologetics field had developed over the decades given the recent scientific advances…I was dismayed to see that it has not. I am now of the opinion that both sides are talking around each other–semantics as you put it.

    You are however quite right in your statement that the apologists are trying to promote the idea that faith/belief in God who cannot be seen (measured empirically) is still a reasonable thing & this is not bad thing if done wisely. Arguing with the scientists’ & atheists’ own tools though is futile; so is arguing from the Scriptures. Furthermore, in Orthodox liturgical services we are called & called to be rational/reasonable sheep who are wiser than the serpent; never blind sheep.

    The problem is in the heart, not the head (in the Orthodox sense); this is where I discreetly & indirectly begin my discussions because the head usually follows the heart (we humans are not strictly logical) rather than the other way around in my experience. Most hearts actually hope that there is “something more” that just the physical creation that surrounds us. I have never seen one that did not, but I refrain from all-encompassing statements. Science is proper to the how of God’s creation, but its adherents err when they deny/ignore the why of God such as Krauss. IMO this is kind of like throwing out the baby while keeping the dirty bath water. All you end up with is a screaming baby & useless water.

    One needs to take care when comparing Orthodox texts with heterodox texts, such as your Louth/Platinga example. I have not read either book to which you refer so I cannot comment on the specifics you mention. I do admit that there may be real commonalities or there may not be. Both sides (East & West) may be using the same terms, but frequently what is understood by those terms is entirely different because the mindsets are different. For example, salvation may be viewed as instant vs. ongoing. Grace may be viewed as created by God vs. God’s uncreated energies. Symbol may be viewed as something that represents (reminds us of) something else vs. something that makes present what it represents. I have had many a heterodox declare that we all believe the same thing when in reality we do not once you get below the surface layers.

    Thanks, Rhonda


  18. PJ says:

    Stephen Hawking seems to have become more, not less, of an agnostic. And I don’t think he’s a Christian of any sort.


  19. He may have by now. His first wife was devout, but he is now in his second marriage having left his first wife for one of his nurses. Apparently he got tired of being told that he wasn’t God & his wife got tired of telling him so. Most atheist-leaning adherents that change usually change slowly & do not convert in an instant immediately becoming outspoken proponents for theism. Their family income & professional credibility, & their self-worth, is at stake. They usually fall into the non-confrontational agnostic (don’t know what to believe among all of the conflicting choices) or deist (like Einstein’s God via Spinoza) lines. Seldom do they become devout in any denomination or group as the self-ego & resulting self-esteem is very protective of itself. It once took Hawking 20+ years to admit that he was wrong about one of his pet theories despite all of the science against it from multiple sources. It also took him decades to surrender on the Big Bang Theory. I give Hawking credit, he usually does not go out of his way to tweek the nose of the religious unlike many others of his profession unless he is promoting a new book (IOW when he needs the controversy to garner free media publicity). He’s usually too busy thinking up his next brilliant cosmological theory. I own & have read several of his books. As far as intelligence the man is absolutely brilliant!


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