Creation ex nihilo: temporal or atemporal

We know that God created the universe ex nihilo, that is, out of nothing. In this age of the popularity of the Big Bang theory we Christians often equate the two, imagining the Big Bang or a moment immediately before it to be the moment of Creation.

What I’m wondering is whether Catholic philosophy defines creation ex nihilo as having happened at the first moment of temporal history, or whether it can or even should be instead conceived as an atemporal action in which God creates the entire Universe in all its history from outside of time, with neither its beginning nor its end nor any stage in the middle being especially associated with God’s creative act itself.

The material world experiences time, so the creation must have been at the beginning of temporal history. To God there is no past or future, but to His creation there is.

God Bless

yeah… time… what a fascinating concept. I suspect that time as we understand it in the common sense is misleading…

Time itself is indeed at least* flexible*. What was time at the start of the Big Bang? Who can answer that one?

The First Vatican Council teaches that the world has a beginning in time (Session 3, Chapter 1, 3.):

“This one true God, by his goodness and almighty power, not with the intention of increasing his happiness, nor indeed of obtaining happiness, but in order to manifest his perfection by the good things which he bestows on what he creates, by an absolutely free plan, together from the beginning of time brought into being from nothing the twofold created order, that is the spiritual and the bodily, the angelic and the earthly, and thereafter the human which is, in a way, common to both since it is composed of spirit and body”

St. Thomas Aquinas says that material world was created immediately (S. th. I:65:3):

“On the contrary, It is said (Genesis 1:1): “In the beginning God created heaven and earth”; by which are understood corporeal creatures. These, therefore, were produced immediately by God.”

First of all one must define time. As physically understood time is a ‘dimension’ in what we could call a ‘space’ with four dimension (three spatial dimensions and one temporal).

If we have a graph where we plot ‘events’ as points time is just one co-ordinate in such graph.

Regarding ‘time being flexible’, I am sure you mean time is not an absolute co-ordinate but the perception of time depends on the observer, as the theory of (special) relativity tells us.

Although time is relative there are some ‘fixed rules as well’. For example the ‘speed of light limit’ for any “information” prevents time paradoxes (things that do not carry information can go faster than light, like a shadow for example, or virtual particles, this will not violate special relativity).

What was time at the start of the Big Bang? Who can answer that one?

Well SOME scientists, like Krauss and Hawking wrote recently two books where they claim to have the answer. Now their answer is quite debatable at a scientific level (since not all scientists agree with their conclusions) and plain wrong philosophically (although in their books they claim philosophy is useless and dead they indulge themselves in sophomoric and puerile philosophizing).

The MAIN POINT is that the universe does NOT need to begin with the Big Bang to need a creator. Actually the universe could be itself infinite in a temporal sense as well (like in the ’ Big Bounce Model’… which is now thought to be wrong however) and have no temporal beginning, yet the same arguments that many (like Aquinas) provide for the need of the creator would still stand.

So creation is definitively NOT ‘temporal’ in the sense that God started the Big Bang and that was it. That is more a ‘deist’ view, not a theist or Christian view.

In one sense, the act of creation started before the temporal order. Picture a vast sea of possibilities…(or a Tree of Good and Evil possibilities if you’d prefer)…God first had to KNOW the difference between Good and Evil Himself.

The Bible tells us the perfection of prudence is to contemplate Wisdom…The Bible similiarly tells us that God “played” with Wisdom before ever a thing was made and that her delight was in the sons of men.

Therefore, before God allowed some of the good possibilities to take form, He was busy creatively planning. Hence, creation “started” before temporal changes could be tracked…that is before time.

However, I do not believe that the IMMUTABLE BEING that is God…exists outside of all change. I believe God is Immutable in His essence but free to act, to plan, to decide, etc…and is, thus, free to change from a state of REST to a state of ACT for example. [When there are changes that can be tracked…there is a kind of time]

An immutable being by definition cannot change from one state to another

Don’t take my word for it…God tells you He was at Rest…and then at Work

(“My Father works until now and so do I” Jesus)

God is UNCHANGING in His essence…but definitely can experience change.

Rock and roll

Aquinas only had the science of his time to work with. He would have changed his position if he knew of the big bang. Unless he was talking about God’s “point of view”, but I don’t think he was.

I will go one step further…and suggest it is part of God’s Immutable Essence to be eternally new. “Behold I make all things new.”

God IS his essence, so he cannot change in any way.

Exactly!! Linus

Also, this isn’t just a philosophical idea, it’s part of revelation as well. I’m not very good at quoting scripture but it’s in the Bible.

What is in the Bible?

how about temporal and atemporal

from His seat in eternity all existence is before Him

the laws of the universe, which are His word,
brought it into and maintain it in existence

consider that creation is not some clockwork that was set in motion
running independently
but rather perpetually emerges into being from His eternal Now

That God is changeless.

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