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|Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky|
Orthodox dogmatic theology
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The manner of the world's creation.
The world was created out of nothing. Actually, it is better to say that it was brought into
being from non-being, as the Fathers usually express themselves, since if we say “out of,” we are
evidently already thinking of the material. But “nothing” is not a “material.” However, it is
conditionally acceptable and entirely allowable to use this expression for the sake of its simplicity
That creation is a bringing into being from complete nonbeing is shown in many passages in
the word of God; e.g., “God made them out of things that did not exist” (2 Maccabees 7:28);
“Things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb. 11:3); “God calleth
those things which be not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17).Time itself received its beginning at the creation of the world; until then there was only
eternity. The Sacred Scripture also says that “by Him (His Son) He made the ages” (Heb. 1:2).
The word “ages” here has the significance of “time.”
Concerning the days of creation, Blessed Augustine, in his work The City of God, said
“What kind of days these were it is extremely difficult or perhaps impossible for us to conceive,
and how much more for us to say!” (Bk. 11, ch. 6; Modern Library ed., New York, 1950, p. 350).
“We see, indeed, that our ordinary days have no evening but by the setting, and no morning
but by the rising, of the sun. But the first three days of all were passed without sun, since it is
reported to have been made on the fourth day. And first of all, indeed, light was made by the
Word of God, and God, we read, separated it from the darkness, and called the light Day, and the
darkness Night; but what kind of light that was, and by what periodic movement it made evening
and morning is beyond the reach of our senses; neither can we understand how it was, and yet we
must unhesitatingly believe it” (City of God, Bk. 11, ch. 7; p. 351).
God created the world by His thought, by His will, by His word, or command. “For He
spake, and they came to be; He commanded, and they were created” (Ps. 148:5). “Spake” signifies
a command. By the “word” of God, the Fathers of the Church note, we must understand here
not any kind of articulate sound or word like ours. No, this creative word signifies only the
command or the expression of the almighty will of God, which brought the universe into existence
out of nothingness.
St. Damascene writes: “Now, because the good and transcendentally good God was not content
to contemplate Himself, but by a superabundance of goodness saw fit that there should be
some things to benefit by and participate in His goodness, He brings all things from nothingness
into being and creates them, both visible and invisible, and also man, who is made up of both.
By thinking He creates, and, with the Word fulfilling and the Spirit perfecting, the thought becomes
deed” (Exact Exposition, Bk. 2, ch. 2; Fathers of the Church tr., p. 205).
Thus, although the world was created in time, God had the thought of its creation from eternity
(Augustine, Against Heresies). However, we avoid the expression “He created out of His
thought,” so as not to give occasion to think that He created out of His own Essence. If the word
of God does not give us the right to speak of the “pre-eternal being” of the whole world, so also,
on the same foundation one must recognize as unacceptable the idea of the “pre-eternal existence
of mankind,” an idea which has been trying to penetrate into our theology through one of the
contemporary philosophical-theological currents.
The Holy Church, being guided by the indications of Sacred Scripture, confesses the participation
of all the Persons of the Holy Trinity in the creation. In the Symbol of Faith we read:
“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible
and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God . . . through Whom all things were
made. . . . And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life.” St. Irenaeus of Lyons writes,
“The Son and the Holy Spirit are, as it were, the hands of the Father” (Against Heresies, Bk. 5,
ch. 6). The same idea is found in St. John of Kronstadt (My Life in Christ).