How did God create the universe?

Generations of God’s children have proclaimed in song that “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”1 But what did He have in His hands before He made the world? How does one conceptualize the creative work of God? 

Human beings create using raw materials. The baker has eggs, flour, and sugar. The artist has a canvas, a brush, and some paint. The composer uses notes, instruments, and a metronome. But what about God’s creativity? Was He a Craftsman or a Creator? Did He fashion existing matter or create it out of nothing? Most theologians embrace one of three options.

Creation Out of Nothing
Creatio ex nihilo teaches “God, in the exercise of His will and pleasure, formed all things…out of what did not previously exist.”2 Most Jews, Christians, and Muslims embrace this view. 

Creation Out of Matter
Creatio ex materia teaches “creation by God out of some previously existing, eternal lump of clay.”3 In ancient Greek mythology, these disorderly pre-existing materials were called chaos. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses affirm this position.

Creation Out of God
Creatio ex deo teaches God created out of Himself, blurring the distinction between Creator and creation. Marilyn Ferguson even claimed, “When one watches milk being poured into cereal, one sees God being poured into God.”4Hindus, Buddhists, New Agers, and Scientologists affirm this view.