A while ago I was thinking about nature and the universe and the things that the universe is made of. What exists now in the universe is what has always existed in it since its beginning. The universe is a closed system—a big one, but a closed system ultimately. When we look around at the stuff of the universe, we see a set of energy and matter that must remain constant. That is to say, energy cannot be added to the closed system of the universe, nor can it be removed. The energy in the universe is constantly being recycled, in a way, as it changes forms, but is never spontaneously generated or annihilated.
This makes sense. You cannot ultimately get rid of something, you can only change it. Even when I try to destroy something, the matter it contained must still go somewhere, it must still be somewhere, even if it’s in a million little pieces. Likewise, when we build something (like a bookshelf) it is only made of preexisting material. When we “generate electricity,” we are only transforming existing energy into a useable form, and once we “use it up,” we have but changed it back into a form we cannot use for mechanical work.
So, enough physics. I was thinking about the material of the universe itself and its creation by God, and as I did so, I realized I could not comprehend the creation of something new from nothing. I cannot understand the emergence of brand new matter or energy. So I wondered if perhaps the universe is an extension of the energy of God himself—if the elements emanate from God’s essence. If they are ultimately part of God. For where else could they come from? They had to come from somewhere, didn’t they?
But I soon realized this was pantheism. The universe, with all its elements and energies, is not an extension of God, but God’s separate creation. God created something other than himself. He created a thing that did not exist before. The Bible says in Romans 4 that God “calls into existence the things that do not exist.” Christianity does not teach that the world or human beings are an extension or concrete expression of the divine being or essence, but that God transcends his creation, is above it, is greater than it, and is other than it. God by the power of his word called into original existence things that had no existence before. Indeed, he upholds the creation continuously by his word, so that if he ceased to do so, it would dissolve into a state of inert uniformity in which no energy would be available for use. God is so powerful he could create things out of nothing. I still cannot comprehend it, but God is beyond human comprehension, and so is his act of creation. It is very important, though, that the Creator and his creation not be conflated.