In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
The argument for creatio ex nihilo is simple. If contra Genesis God created the heaven and the earth by organizing chaotic pre-existent stuff coeternal with him, two incorrigible problems result. If on the other hand he created the heaven and the earth by organizing pre-existent beings who were not chaotic and who were not created from nothing by him, so that they were with him coeternal, then at least one other incorrigible problem results.
Take the first alternative to creatio ex nihilo: God created the heaven and the earth by organizing a bunch of chaotic stuff coeternal with him.
In the first place, because it is by definition utterly indefinite, chaos is nothing in particular; i.e., it is nothing, at all. Chaos is another term for non-being. Being formless, chaos is utterly void, as Moses makes clear. Creating creatures by organizing chaotic stuff turns out to be the same thing as creating them from nothing. For, just as there is no such thing as a square circle, so there is no such thing as chaotic stuff. Stuff by definition is not chaotic. Organizing chaos *just is* creatio ex nihilo.
In the second place, if the pre-existent chaotic stuff that is the raw material of God’s creative rearrangement is indeed coeternal with him, why then Manicheism is just true, so that Christianity (with Judaism and Islam – and Zoroastrianism) is false: for, then there is a principle of disorder that is just as powerful and just as basic as the divine principle of order. In that case, Chaos is just as mighty as the Lógos – despite that, being chaotic, Chaos can’t have any properties at all, such as being or might.
I know; the confusions multiply. Such is the way of error. Error compounds, so that the road to Hell is a slippery, steepening slope. Fortunately for us, so does Grace compound. Take it then, and eat, for the love of God!
If you reject creatio ex nihilo, you are forced then as we have just seen to Manicheism – or perhaps to our second major case: of creation as a divine ordination and reorganization of prior beings who are not themselves chaotic, but rather orderly, and coeternal with God. But this option turns out to be tantamount to atheism. For in it, the beings coeternal with God, whom he organizes into the created order, are nowise at first dependent upon or then subsidiary to him. After all, they are eternal, as he is; so they never came to be, nor can they ever stop being. He is not to them prior, in any way. Nor is he therefore in any way categoreally superior to them. Nor then are they anywise dependent upon him, or upon his motions. It is not possible then to see how his intentions could prevail against theirs, except happenstantially. He cannot then be their God, properly so called. He can at most be their tyrannical boss, superlative in some respect as a human boss might be to his subsidiaries. In that case, God is as it were a man among men, an angel among angels; mightier perhaps than his categoreal counterparts, but not otherwise better.
So, then, obviously on this construction, God is not at all dispositive of righteousness, beauty, order, or goodness. He is rather no more than a guy among guys who wants what he wants, contra the other guys who want what they want. A tyrant, i.e., and unjust as such eo ipso. And NB: this leaves the origin and meaning of goodness, in all its various aspects, radically undefined. On this construction of God, willful interested particular might of this or that eternal spirit makes right, period full stop; and so, God, bless him, is neither here nor there; he is not to be accounted for, or at all reckoned.
So much for worship, or for holiness.
Excursus: justice per se must derive from some source essentially superlative to any particular thing among other things, and as superlative to all such things, then from them categoreally different. Only thus could it pertain to all things, so as to be in the first place just, and so in the second place inform their motions with true moral knowledge, so that they might thereby achieve with each other in harmony some integral cosmos.
Absent a categoreally and absolutely superlative source and measure of justice, there is then no such thing as justice in the first place; there is rather then only a Hobbesian war of all against all; a moral chaos; a moral nonbeing; an absence of the cosmos.
But this is a pretty weak notion of God, is it not? He’s a guy among guys, better to be sure than the rest of the guys somehow, maybe (who knows? (how to tell, in the absence of his absolute prevalence as an index?)), as at least prevalent against them (for a time), but still just a guy like them, and liable to be replaced if one of them – such as Lucifer – comes up with something better for the guys.
The bottom line is that if God is just a guy among guys, albeit better than they in some ways, why then the order of things in our cosmos derives not from an almighty King, who is *absolutely* better than all others, and whose intellect and will are therefore dispositive for all others whatever as their standard and guide, but rather from a contest of wills among coequal dukes – of whom, YHWH is but one, and so liable at any moment to defeat by his equally powerful adversaries.
A contest of divine wills nowise superlatively ordered by any a priori ultimate must be no more in the end than another sort of chaos. For, absent any order superlative to their contest with each other, it is not possible to ascertain how any one of them might “win.” In that absence, none of them *could* win.
So is it that with the second alternative, of creation as a divine reorganization of pre-existent coeternal spirits, each of whom is orderly in himself, we arrive at the same conclusion: i.e., of a fundamentally disordered chaos of wills – at chaos, and so at nonbeing.
As usual, all the alternatives to theism as traditionally construed by classical Christian metaphysics (East, West, Oriental, Protestant, you name it) collapse to incoherence. Which is no more than to say that they collapse to Manicheism. Which in the final analysis is to say that they collapse to atheism; for, on Manicheism, there is no ultimate, but rather only two equally and supremely mighty principles; and so, no God.
A heaven of heavens wherein no one is King is just a parlay of Hell.