Symposium Introduction


Scott Cowdell
Mark Heim
Chelsea Jordan King
James Alison
Danielle Nussberger
Matthew Vale



In this original study, Brian Robinette offers an extended meditation on the idea of creation out of nothing as it applies not only to the problem of God but also to questions of Christology, soteriology, and ecology. His basic argument is that creatio ex nihilo is not a speculative doctrine referring to cosmic origins but rather a foundational insight into the very nature of the God-world relation, one whose implications extend throughout the full spectrum of Christian imagination and practice. In this sense it serves a grammatical role: it gives orientation and scope to all Christian speech about the God-world relation.

In part 1, Robinette takes up several objections to creatio ex nihilo and defends the doctrine as providing crucial insights into the gifted character of creation. Chapter two underscores the contemplative dimensions of a theological inquiry that proceeds by way of “unknowing.” Part 2 draws from the field of mimetic theory in order to explore the creative and destructive potential of human desire. Part 3 draws upon the Christian contemplative tradition to show how the “dark night of faith” is a spiritually patient and discerning way to engage the sense of divine absence that many experience in our post-religious, post-secular age. The final chapter highlights creatio ex nihilo as an expression of divine love—God’s love for finitude, for manifestation, for relationship. Throughout, Robinette engages with biblical, patristic, and contemporary theological and philosophical sources, including, among others, René Girard, Karl Rahner, and Sergius Bulgakov.

Reviews and Endorsements 

The Difference Nothing Makes is incredibly learned, the product of a mature thinker who has been reading deeply and cross-sectionally for decades. The argument is sophisticated, intricate, and, in the end, convincing.” —Grant Kaplan, author of René Girard, Unlikely Apologist

“I found this book to be immensely engaging and illuminating. It offers a finessed account of creatio ex nihilo, one that it is protological, eschatological, and Christological. Admirably conversant with the constancies of traditional views, it recreates for contemporaries a fitting sense of the lovable surprise of the gift of being, and what G. M. Hopkins called ‘the dearest freshness deep down things.’ Very warmly recommended.” —William Desmond, author of Godsends

The Difference Nothing Makes is not the usual, well-heeled essay in foundational theology. Conceived and born in the matrix of contemplation, Brian Robinette’s deeply engaging contribution is a learned, grounded, and perceptive exploration of creation, incarnation, and redemption in a refreshingly new register. An unintended fruit of this remarkable book is itself a subtle redemption of theology from its own self-conscious servitude to scripted cliché.” —Martin Laird, O.S.A., author of An Ocean of Light

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