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Durham University

Department of Theology and Religion

Current Postgraduate Research Students

Publication details for Professor Simon Oliver

Oliver, Simon (2010). Trinity, Motion and Creation Ex Nihilo. In Creation and the God of Abraham. Burrell, David B., Cogliati, Carlo, Soskice, Janet M. & Stoeger, William R. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 133-151.

Author(s) from Durham



The doctrine of creation ex nihilo apparently distinguishes theological cosmology from ancient Greek conceptions of a universe which has no temporal beginning (as in Aristotle) or a cosmos which is formed from pre-existent chaos, the khora (as in Plato's mythic cosmology, Timaeus). While the theological doctrine of creation marks a significant break from ancient Greek cosmology, more recently some have argued for a congruence between creation ex nihilo and contemporary Big Bang theories and the notion that the universe had a temporal beginning in the form of a singularity.

Does Big Bang cosmology confirm the doctrine of creation ex nihilo and the teaching that ‘in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth’? Numerous cosmologists seem to interpret Big Bang cosmology in a way which precludes the notion of creation and a creator. For example, some account for the Big Bang in terms of a fluctuation in a primal vacuum known as ‘quantum tunnelling’ from nothing, from which the universe expanded according to what is known as inflation theory. ‘Nothing’ is defined by the cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin as a state with no classical space-time in which the basic categories of physics – space, time, energy, entropy and so on – seem to lose their meaning. This utterly uncaused emergence of the universe from nothing apparently accounts for the universe's existence without reference to anything beyond the universe itself. The universe is simply a brute fact.