Four conceptions of creatio ex nihilo and the compatibility questions

In David B. Burrell, Carlo Cogliati, Janet M. Soskice & William R. Stoeger (eds.), Creation and the God of Abraham. Cambridge University Press (2010)

Abstract

The notion of creatio ex nihilo has become a doctrine firmly established in the three Abrahamic religions (i.e., Christianity, Judaism and Islam). Almost all groups of Islamic thinkers accept the truth of the createdness (creatio) of the universe, and that it is preceded by its “non-existence” (ex nihilo). However, there is a diversity of opinions as to whether the concept of creatio ex nihilo is compatible with alternative accounts of the origin of the physical world, and this diversity is particularly marked between Islamic philosophers and kalam theologians (Mutakallimun). Three major factors, independently or together, play a fundamental role on how Islamic scholars deal with this very issue: (a) their views of the physical world; (b) their approaches to the divine attributes; and (c) their understandings of the teachings of their religion. The aim of this chapter is to investigate whether four different notions of creatio ex nihilo espoused by different Islamic thinkers are compatible with seven alternative accounts of the origins of the universe (five philosophical/theological doctrines – first level of compatibility; and two possible interpretations of a modern scientific theory – second level of compatibility).

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