Eternal Matter

“But by the almighty power of God it is not only possible that something should be made of nothing (the God of nature is not subject to the laws of nature), but in the creation it is impossible it should be otherwise, for nothing is more injurious to the honour of the Eternal Mind than the supposition of eternal matter.  Thus the excellency of the power is of God and all the glory is to him.”

-Matthew Henry (1706)

I don’t think Joseph Smith liked what Matthew Henry wrote 300 hundred years ago about God.


  1. Bold, my friend, very bold.

    Would all the biblical translators, even those behind the NRSV, make such an absolute claim? Would not they perhaps give a slight concession to the traditional translation of Genesis 1:1.

    Authors of the ancient near eastern myths would press your arguments. Plato and some other Greeks would agree with you. The early higher critics would be in your camp (though not all). Process theologians would revel in your thesis. And of course, Joseph Smith makes it absolutely fundamental for the faith.

    But are you truly sure about Moses? I am thinking that you probably would not lay claim to exactly what Moses believed on eternal matter.

    And you are black and white convinced on Paul, John, and the author of Hebrews, etc.? What about the disciples of John?

  2. Todd,

    If I thought that creatio ex nihilo was taught in any of the biblical texts I personally would have no problem admitting that fact. However, I simply see no evidence for it; moreover, the evidence, in my judgment, strongly points in exactly the opposite direction.


  3. If you had none of the additional ANE texts, would you still say the same thing?

    Let’s go outside tonight. You stand in your backyard, and I will stand in mine (I have got all the snow. Fun, huh.)

    I look at the earth below my feet. As far as I can imagine below the dirt, God created it all. Everything. Now I look up into the heavens. As far as I can see and envision (sun, moon, stars, gods – you know, everything that fills the heavens) God created.

    Outside of Creator, everything (yes, everything) is creature.

    That is what I hear loud and clear comin’ from the Bible, YD – I have been reading these verses over and over again – Genesis 1:1-3, Nehemiah 9:6, Ps. 33:6, 9, John 1:1-3, Acts 2:23, 14:15, 17:24-25, Rom. 4:17, II Cor. 4:6, Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 11:3, Rev. 10:6, etc. – and I do not get the same harmony of thought when I read the other ANE texts.

    (And there are all kinds of implications and applications of this in one’s faith.)

  4. I would ask why a philosophically perfect God would bother to ruin His state of perfection by altering affairs and creating a universe.

  5. Todd: add this to your list

    PS 104:24 How many are your works, O LORD,
    In wisdom you made them all
    The earth is full of your creatures…
    v .30 When you send your Spirit, they are created
    and YOU renew the face of the earth

    v.31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever
    may the LORD enjoy HIS works .

    question to my LDS friends, if the LORD does NOT make something, does HE enjoy it just as much ????

  6. Seth: about the “why GOD would alter HIS the perfect setup, etc….I’m thinking the answer to this is actually tied up in community/and the nature of the trinity….but I’ll just hide out until Fr.Gregg comes around……

    good question.

  7. yes, Fr.G, once again we share a brain……is it my week or yours ???……….

    I think it’s really this simple…..why do couples “ruin” their orderly lives , their “perfect setup” to have , not just one kid, but MAnY ??? this makes no sense for those whose agenda won’t accept the sharing OUTWARD of love to more and more..

  8. Todd,

    None of the texts you cite affirm the notion of creatio ex nihilo. (And If they did, as I said previously, I would have no trouble admitting that fact.) Unfortunately, I just don’t have time to exegete each passage here (perhaps I will have to broaden my series of posts on creation at FPR). Additionally, I will point out that I have not really discussed the broader ancient Near Eastern context of Genesis in my series on creation in Genesis 1-3 at FPR yet. My arguments are thus from the text itself.

    I think you should go (re)read 2 Peter 3.


  9. FrGreg,

    If “God is love” were all there were to say about it, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Because we all agree on that.

    It’s just the “commentary” that we have these debates over.

  10. I am back (just for a minute – I am soon heading to Wyoming for a men’s weekender).

    TYD, it is not to hard to see the fundamental presuppostions behind your arguments. Belief in eternal matter/intelligence outside of God’s being is one of those assumptions.

  11. Todd,

    If there is something problematic with any of my arguments concerning Genesis 1-3 please point it out. Bald assertions don’t carry much weight with me.


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