I addressed a non-Jewish audience on this very subject – “Creationism” or “Intelligent Design.” Here’s some of how I presented it to them:
He alone exists and there is nothing besides Him.
Some people imagine G-d to be something like a cosmic sculptor chiseling away at a chunk of primal stuff until it assumes the form he has in mind. Then, he polishes it, puts it on display, and then he walks away.
Unlike a sculptor, G-d creates the world out of nothing. He has no chunk of anything, and the entire effect of existence is the result of His effort. Nor can the new creation maintain its shape if G-d steps back from it.
Chassidus uses simple metaphors to explore the mysteries of the Unknown and the Unknowable. Imagine throwing a stone into the air. The force behind your throw give the stone the properties of flight; but no matter how often you throw it, no matter how often it soars through he air, it never becomes a flying stone. If you see a stone flying past your window you don’t marvel at the uniqueness of that particular stone. You simply wonder, “Who’s throwing stones?”
Just as a stone, even as it flies, is incapable of flight, the universe – even as it exists – is incapable of existing. If you stop throwing the stone is once again immobile. And if G-d stops creating, the universe will return to nothingness.
He is the only anything. Everything else is being “existed” by Him.
Let’s peel back another layer: G-d created the world out of absolute nothingness, meaning that G-d does not produce the world like a chicken produces an egg. Before being laid, the egg exists both in principle and in potential: In principle because a chicken is designed to lay eggs; in potential because an egg already exists in an incipient form long before you see it.
The creator and His creation have no such relationship. Physical matter does not preexist somewhere inside G-d. Nor is G-d programmed to produce universes. So how does G-d do it?
G-d calls the universe into existence with His words, “Let there be….”
Every created being, from angel to electron, obediently responds, then, unable to maintain its own existence, slips back into nothingness. G-d repeats the command and the being responds again, constantly. Creation recurs so rapidly and seamlessly like the frames of a motion picture, that we barely detect the blip of nothingness in between.
In the Tehillim, King David marvels at the beauty of constant creation: The heavens tell of G-d’s glory and the firmament speaks of His works. The cow in the meadow speaks of His works by being a cow every moment of its life. The electron tells of G-d’s glory by behaving like an electron every second of its existence.
The universe derives its energy from tension between being and not being. As matter pulses across the divide that separates existence from extinction, the world hums with the word of G-d, thus singing His praises.
This futuristic analysis of the cosmos was first described by the Baal Shem Tov almost three hundred years ago, when he called nature, “Matter behaving in the pattern assigned by G-d’s word.”
More of this soon…