A Question

Why are Christians concerned with nihilism when they affirm creation ex nihilo?


5 thoughts on “A Question

  1. This has been in the back of my mind lately too. I think the initial or most common answer maintains a dualist view of the world in which God and creation and life are one on side and sin, privation, and death are on the other. Then we go ahead and lump in nihilism with the latter because it can’t possibly correspond with the former. But Paul J. Griffiths has some other thoughts on this. See his blog post here: http://pauljgriffiths.com/2010/05/06/ad-nihilum-ex-nihilo-toward-nothing/


  2. Thanks for the response. At this point the question simply popped into my mind as a suggestive one. I suppose it is mostly guided by what I suspect most Christians express in unfaithful fear that we must continue to positively construct against some nebulous impeding force of nihilism (insert reference to any number of sci-fi movie here). I had seen Griffiths post but did not take the time to read it. He concludes by suggesting that creation, from a Christian perspective, cannot be moved ad nihilum. I am not quite sure what to make of this. Tangentially I would relate this to my concern about language of ‘saving our planet”. I have no fear for our planet. If at some point things are bad enough humanity will puked out as the land of Israel did to its people (Lev 18:28). I definitely fear the effects that people and animals and plants will suffer but the planet will be fine in the long run (at least in relation to humanity’s actions).
    I am concerned that we are guided by death and destruction as gods to be feared and served in ceaseless production that just gets turned back into death and destruction. I wish therefore we could face the nihilo as yet another site or the site of creation (resurrection).
    Just rambling thoughts from a random question.


  3. Apparently Griffiths also once said that every professor should keep a human skull on his/her desk to remind him/herself of their inevitable death. I’m not so sure about that though; just makes me think of Hamlet. In other thoughts, there was a quote I came across in one of Paul Virilio’s books (not Virilio though) that goes as follows: “Nothing is still a programme. Even nihilism is a dogma.”

    I agree that limiting the nihilo to the creation event (as if it occurred on one point in space and time) leaves us with a rather impoverished understanding of the nihilo and especially of creation ex nihilo. Which is why I like your “resurrection” in brackets. In other words, the act of creation ex nihilo occurs throughout history, not achieved by our own resources, but as gift, as blessing. The resurrection of Christ is creation ex nihilo. Creation ex nihilo is the impossible possibility. Maybe even apocalyptic. (Which would get us into a whole set of other questions yet, which may or may not be worth teasing out).


  4. Yes . . . apocalyptic. I fear I am hardly contemporary enough to engage with that topic. I am almost finished Nate Kerr’s Christ, History and Apocalyptic so a review of that should be forthcoming. I question the extent to which entire theological constructions need to suddenly be translated into whatever contemporary idiom is most prevalent. I am certainly not trying to take anything away from the great work that those considering ‘apocalyptic’ are producing it is only a caution for myself as I continue to formulate my expressions.
    Do you bring in the term because of the decisive and ‘irruptive’ nature of considering resurrection and how that relates to recent theological work on apocalypticism?


  5. Yes, that’s why I brought up the term. I then also realized that it could be thought of in terms of the end of the world, the book of Revelation, etc. which I’m not all that interested in. I think we could say that the resurrection of Christ was ex nihilo in that it wasn’t a reaction to something. It wasn’t necessary, rather, it was a fully gratuitous act. What I’m saying is that we have a tendency to think of the nihilo as existing before the creation account given in Genesis, and then God created ex nihilo, out of nothing. But the way I understand ex nihilo is not simply “out of non-existence” but more importantly “not in reaction to anything.”

    I’m with you on the idiom comment but at the same time it seems to be the nature of theological discourse. Language changes and the way we use language changes and so talking about God becomes a multi-idomatic endeavor. But to what extent, I don’t know either.


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