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« Is Friendship with Unbelievers Being Unequally Yoked? | Main | Links Mentioned on the 6/02/15 Show »

June 02, 2015

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something cannot come from nothing -> matter is everything there is.

Ex nihilo creation -> matter is not everything there is. God was there to create the creation.

No contradiction.

I think it's pretty obvious that it's impossible for something to spontaneously come into existence without a cause, but I don't see any reason to think God couldn't bring something into existence out of nothing.

The evolutionary argument is that nothing created everything - a logical and physical impossibility. Apparently you need to be a professor of physics to understand that. In fact, according to Hawking, the universe somehow or other caused its own creation.
The Christian position is that God created the universe. The transcendent triune God spoke and it was. He exerted His power to bring into existing matter, time and space. The universe has a cause.

God is not "nothing"
Creatio ex nihilo only states that God did not shape pre-existing matter.

Some of this may be our fault when we do not include the proper qualifiers but when we say "cannot come from nothing", we need to add the qualifier "by natural means".

The crux of the argument is that nature left to itself will not create anything out of nothing [ex nihilo]. So the argument is that by natural means, something does not come from nothing.

The other issue here is this challenge has confused the super-natural with Magic which is defined as "the art of producing a desired effect or result through the use of incantation or various other techniques that presumably assure human control of supernatural agencies or the forces of nature."

The two are not synonymous and this would be my first clarifying question to this challenger.

The idea that something cannot come from nothing is a statement from science, though in physics we call it the Preservation of Matter, that is, that matter (and energy) cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change form. This fundamental law of physics is not a problem for Creation ex nihilo, because God can create matter from nothing. (And create it so that it follows fundamental laws, like the Laws of Physics). It is a problem for atheism. Because you have to explain where all the matter and energy in the universe came from (and the laws that govern them) when you still have nothing before the Big Bang if you don't have a Person outside of Spacetime who can jump-start a universe. (Or you have to start speculating about infinite numbers of unobservable universes randomly popping into existence, all with variations on the laws of physics to get one that just happens to be perfectly as balanced as ours for stable chemistry and life.)

Magic is NOT by definition "doing something impossible". Magic (as understood by a magic user, such as a witch) is supposedly the manipulation of spiritual forces under-girding the physical world to manipulate the physical world. Magic purports to be very "scientific" about itself. That is, if you follow the rules and wave your wand just the right way, saying just the right words, mixing just the right amount of hen's teeth and spider's tears, you will get the desired effect. That's why magic is often so attractive over against something like prayer. God doesn't do magic, God does miracles, since He IS the spiritual force under-girding the universe, and humans cannot manipulate Him.

It was the Christian understanding of a non-mystical universe created by a rational God that lead to the development of science as we understand it. Cultures all around the world practiced astrology. Only in the Christian west did the study of the stars become Astronomy. All cultures has some version of alchemy, only in the Christian west did it become Chemistry. So misstating the laws of physics and using that misstatement to disprove the One who created both matter and mathematical laws the govern matter is going to get you hoist on your own petard, as the saying goes.

A person who makes this argument hasn't understood what the argument is. He's confusing "God + Nothing Else" with "Absolutely Nothing."

"Something cannot come from nothing" means that if anything has come into being, then there was not Nothing
to begin with. There was Something that caused it to be brought into being.

An almost silly thought that has occurred to me is what if God used a bit of himself for the creation, just a pinch. The Big Bang theory, now widely accepted, posits that the entire universe began with a bit of matter smaller than the smallest known particle (subatomic).This might also answer what God is speaking of when he said when you eat this bread and drink this cup it is my body and my blood. Just thought.

Wayne,

God isn't composed of parts. Certainly not material parts.

The Word of God never said the universe was made from nothing, it does say that "what is seen was not made out of things that are visible." (He11.3) Not be able to comprehend this does not make it impossible. However, What 11.3 of Hebrews provides here is the concept of information. Information is invisible, but it is the carrier of information that is material (take DNA for example). Now if the people were so primitive 20 centuries ago, how did they know information is invisible and immaterial? The whole world which we can see has come into being through principles which are invisible. In the beginning was the word, John 1. Words are revealed thoughts. And the Word became flesh. In him was life and that life was the light of men. The word is the source of life. In him was life and that life was the light of men. Light is physical. Life is a witness to God. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities --- his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen being understood from what has been made.

Let's go through some definitions and the issue should become apparent:

Magic - it does not mean "doing something impossible." This is one of the issues with flippancy in language usage, words lose their significance. Magic is the use of a particular subset of forces believed to exist in the world to accomplish some task. Even those who claim to be practitioners of magic do not believe that nothing is doing something, or that they are doing the impossible. They believe they are accessing a different source of power to manipulate the world.

Supernatural - It is not equivalent to magic. Magic usually has some involvement from the supernatural, but not all of the supernatural is magic. As such, even if we granted that magic was "doing what's impossible" that does not rule out the supernatural from influencing the natural world. Sloppy language usage makes for sloppy arguments.

"From nothing, nothing comes" - This does not mean that there is something, and without the benefit of anything else, that something brings about something else. It means that if you have nothing, the metaphysical absolute sense of nothing, then there will be no forces to incur change, and no substances (in the philosophic sense) to be changed. If there is metaphysical nothing, change is impossible, so the only state of affairs that can be is the continuation of the metaphysical nothing.

"Creation ex nihilo" - This is not creation out of nothing in the same sense as the previous phrase. Within this Christian doctrine there is a very specific something, namely God. There is an agent capable of causation such that there is the potential for a change in the state of affairs that is entirely absent in metaphysical nothing. Not only is there an agent, but there is an agent with incredible (unlimited) power. So creation ex nihilo is not the statement that something came from nothing. It is the statement that God, through his will and power alone, using no pre-existing material, created the material universe.

The nonbeliever says, not just something came from nothing, but basically, by extension, that everything came from nothing.

Sometimes they like to say that nothing is really not no thing, but actually some thing that just isn’t worth describing or talking about.

“We’ll know more later,” they say. “No God of the gaps for me,” they say.

Christians believe God created the universe. The nonbeliever believes something came from nothing – at least for now : )

I really don't see this as much of a challenge. It's kind of a "grasping at straws" attempt to debunk Christianity. God created the universe. The universe didn't create itself. If I gave you a box full of nothing--the content of that box would remain nothing for eternity. Experience tells us that things don't pop into existence spontaneously. So, why would we expect our vast universe to be the exception to that rule? It's ludicrous.

Nothing-> Nothing

God + Nothing -> The Universe


My Explanation

Understanding Aristotle's distinction between two kinds of causes can help us resolve this challenge: there are material causes and efficient causes. A material cause just is the stuff out of which something is made. An efficient cause is what produces the effect. For example, Michelangelo is the efficient cause of the statue David, and the marble he used to make it is the material cause.

Now the objection seems to interpret the claim "something cannot come from nothing" to mean "something cannot come into existence without a material cause". On this interpretation the statement is, indeed, in conflict with creatio ex nihilo, for God is supposed to have created the universe without using any preexisting material substance.

However, if we interpret the claim to mean "something cannot come into existence without a material cause and without an efficient cause", then there is no conflict. For while it is true that on the traditional doctrine of creation there is no material cause of the universe, there is an efficient cause of the universe, namely, God. So under this interpretation, the challenge dissolves completely.

As reference, please see Dr. William Lane Craig's discussion of the distinction between these two kinds of causes (paragraphs 7 & 8 of Dr. Craig's response to the question): http://www.reasonablefaith.org/causal-premiss-of-the-kalam-argument

Can a Christian continue to use the response "Something can't come from nothing" as an apologetically appropriate response to an atheists position. Absolutely! because from a naturalist's perspective that is what they believe and that is what is being challenged. In their world view it is in fact a scientific impossibility for "something to come from nothing".

The confusion or apparent contradiction proposed occurs because there is a mixing of world views and definitions. A naturalist must exclude any definition or explanation outside of nature or they invalidate their position. To eliminate the confusion in this situation one must stay within the confines of their own worldview. One cannot be a naturalist and then borrow from a Christian worldview to make a point. The minute a naturalist brings God into their own equation they have changed world views. So the claim they made under their naturalist perspective is no longer valid under the Christian perspective. The terms super-natural or miracle are possibilities in a Christian perspective but not under a naturalist one.

The challenge "Something can't come from nothing" is meant to address a naturalist perspective. Let's remember that it is our world view that colors our response. If you are in Italy you speak Italian and if you are speaking with an atheist you'll probably resort to speaking evolutionary naturalism because it lends most readily to that world view. Now from a naturalist perspective nature is all there is. Nature is confined by and contains, time, space and matter in all its various forms. So the most reasonable conclusion from a naturalist perspective is therefore that nature must come from nature. The most readily accepted theory of the origin of the universe is the Big Bang theory. This theory supports the idea that time, space and matter came into existence at the exact moment of the Big Bang. So let's go ahead and call these three conditions "nature". So here is the challenge to a naturalist view. How can nature create nature when nature didn't exist? That's like saying I created myself. If nature came into existence then it couldn't have existed prior. If nature is all there is, from a naturalist perspective, then the absence of nature would be called "nothing". Reason follows that "something can't come from nothing" and remember we are speaking in naturalist terms.

Now from a Christian worldview, time space and matter are not the only things that exist. God is outside of those constraints, he is "super-natural". So in fact "something", mainly nature, can come from "nothing", mainly that which exists outside of nature. God not being confined by nature can be the creator of it.

However at the end of the day we must make sure to point out that this doesn't mean there wasn't a cause for nature. In fact the cause would have to be outside of time, not constrained by space and not defined by matter and this is the Christian view of God. In fact scripture tells us that God created "nature" to shed light on his glory. The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the work of his hand (Psa 19:1)... For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse (Rom 1:20) Amen

When scientists say that the universe has originated from nothing without any divine intervention, they think of the universe in terms of its energy only. In the book 'The Grand Design', page 281, Hawking has written that bodies such as stars or black holes cannot just appear out of nothing, but a whole universe can. What Hawking meant to say here was this: The total energy of a whole universe is zero and so, it can come out of nothing. But stars or black holes cannot, because their total energy is not zero. But universe means not only its energy, universe means its space-time as well. Do these scientists think that the total space-time of the universe is zero, and therefore, the entire space-time of the universe can also come out of nothing?

Atheism:

Nothing × nobody = everything and everybody.

Talk about blind faith.

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