Christianity has historically affirmed that the first chapter of Genesis describes God speaking the material universe into existence for the first time out of nothing. What is traditionally called creation ex nihilo by divine fiat. So: when Genesis 1:1 states In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, this was God speaking into existence the absolute beginning of all things both in space and on our planet earth. Nothing in our known, material universe existed before Genesis 1:1. There was only the eternal, Triune Godhead.
This doctrine has been held by the Christian Church since its formation on the day of Pentecost. Early Christian apologist clarified and defended the absolute beginning of creation ex nihilo against the pantheistic cosmologies when they interacted with the Roman-Greco philosophies that entailed belief in gods creating out of eternal matter. The Shepherd of Hermas, written sometime between 90-150 A.D., was one of the first extra-biblical, non-canonical sources affirming creation ex nihilo. The second book of The Shepherd called Commandments, under the first command states,”First of all, believe that there is one God who created and finished all things, and made all things out of nothing.” This view of creation was articulated and defended by such men as Tatian, Irenaeus, Theophilus of Antioch, Tertullian, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, and Augustine.
Even the major theological creeds and confessions of the Christian Church affirmed the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. For instance, the opening lines of the Nicene Creed state, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.” Later, during the time of the Reformation, many of the major confessions affirmed the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. The Belgic Confession under Article 12: The Creation of All Things, states, “We believe that the Father created heaven and earth and all other creatures from nothing, when it seemed good to him, by his Word– that is to say, by his Son.” The Westminster Confession of Faith 1646, in Chapter 4 on creation, even expands on the understanding of creation by affirming six day creationism. It states,
I. It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.
The same is affirmed in the cousin confessions of The Philadelphia Confession of 1742, and The London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689.
During the last two and half centuries, however, there as been an ascent of uniformitarian philosophy and Darwinian evolution as the governing principles over the various scientific disciplines. Since that time, the truth claims made by scientists regarding the origin and history of the world have been granted a certain intrinsic infallibility that allows those claims to not only challenge Scripture, but to also correct the biblical record of creation. As a result, the Church has slowly conceded the propositional teaching of creation as revealed in Scripture to these so-called scientific constructs. Across the broad spectrum of denominational conviction, what the historic creeds and confessions have taught about creation has largely been abandoned.