An artist can take a square block of marble and form it into a beautiful statue or take a plain canvas and transform it by arranging paint pigments into a beautiful pattern, but that is not how God created the universe. God called the world into being, and His creation was absolute in the sense that He did not simply reshape things that already existed.
The first sentence of sacred Scripture sets forth the affirmation upon which everything else is established: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Three fundamental points are affirmed in that first sentence of Scripture: (1) there was a beginning; (2) there is a God; and, (3) there is a creation. One would think that if the first point can be established firmly, the other two would follow by logical necessity. In other words, if there was indeed a beginning to the universe, then there must be something or someone responsible for that beginning; and if there was a beginning, there must be some kind of creation.
For the most part, although not universally, those who adopt secularism acknowledge that the universe had a beginning in time. Advocates of the big bang theory, for example, say that fifteen to eighteen billion years ago, the universe began as a result of a gigantic explosion. However, if the universe exploded into being, what did it explode out of? Did it explode from nonbeing? That is an absurd idea. It is ironic that most secularists grant that the universe had a beginning yet reject the idea of creation and the existence of God.
Virtually all agree that there is such a thing as a universe. Some may plead the case that the universe or external reality—even our self-consciousness—is nothing but an illusion, yet only the most recalcitrant solipsist tries to argue that nothing exists. One must exist in order to make the argument that nothing exists. Given the truth that something exists and that there is a universe, philosophers and theologians historically have asked, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” That is perhaps the oldest of all philosophical questions. Those who have sought to answer it have realized that there are only three basic options to explain reality as we encounter it in our lives.
The first option is that the universe is self-existent and eternal. We have already noted that the overwhelming majority of secularists believe that the universe did have a beginning and is not eternal. The second option is that the material world is self-existent and eternal, and there are those who, in the past and even today, have made this argument. These options have one important common element: both argue that something is self-existent and eternal.
The third option is that the universe was self-created. Those who hold to this option believe that the universe came into being suddenly and dramatically by its own power, although proponents of this view do not use the language of self-creation because they understand that this concept is a logical absurdity. In order for anything to create itself, it must be its own creator, which means that it would have to exist before it was, which means it would have to be and not be at the same time and in the same relationship. That violates the most fundamental law of reason—the law of noncontradiction. Therefore, the concept of self-creation is manifestly absurd, contradictory, and irrational. To hold to such a view is bad theology and equally bad philosophy and science, because both philosophy and science rest upon the ironclad laws of reason.
One of the main aspects of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment was the assumption that “the God hypothesis” had become an unnecessary way to explain the presence of the external universe. Up until that time, the church had enjoyed respect in the philosophical realm. Throughout the Middle Ages, philosophers had not been able to gainsay the rational necessity of an eternal first cause, but by the time of the Enlightenment, science had advanced to such a degree that an alternative explanation could be used to explain the presence of the universe without an appeal to a transcendent, self-existent, eternal first cause or to God.
The theory was spontaneous generation—the idea that the world popped into existence on its own. There is no difference between this and the self-contradictory language of self-creation, however, so when spontaneous generation was reduced to absurdity in the scientific world, alternative concepts arose. An essay by a Nobel Prize–winning physicist acknowledged that while spontaneous generation is a philosophical impossibility, that is not the case with gradual spontaneous generation. He theorized that given enough time, nothingness can somehow work up the power to bring something into being.