Three prominent views of creation will be the topic for today: the preexistent-matter point-of-view, an emanation view, and the out-of-nothing view.
(1) The Pre-existent Matter Perspective: God constructed the world out of pre-existent matter. 1
(2) The Emanation View (Ex Deo): God created the world from himself and divided the world
(3) Creation ‘Out of Nothing’ (Ex-Nihilo): God created the world apart from his essence, with no pre-existing material.
Tracing These Out Further…
The first of these is the architecture view, the second the emanation view, and the third is the view that preserves the creator-creature distinction.
The preexistant-matter perspective would be that the world always existed beside God, as eternal, and yet God eventually formed it into what you now know and see.
To the contrary, Hinduism would be an example of the emanation view, such as a roomful of students being created out of a division of forty essences from the professor.1
Concerning the final view (the ex-nihilo, out of nothing view), Augustine would say that even if the world was created in a single-moment, it was created apart from God with seed-bearing potential to bring about the intended causality through the sovereignty and providence of the Creator. Even the ex-nihilo view can take a variety of forms and shapes.
It may be absurd to say that nothing creates something; but, it is not absurd to say that God created something out of nothing. God calls into being the things that do not exist (Romans 4:17) and lets the light shine out of darkness (2 Cor. 4:6).
Both the above verses demonstrate the Pauline perspective is that God created the universe without the use of any antecedent or material causes. Just like you were redeemed without any preexisting salvific materials, he created the world in this way too. He created out of nothing and saved you out of nothing.
If you can believe in your miraculous new-birth, you can believe in creation ex-nihilo.
For when God speaks, reality happens (John 1:1-4, Proverbs 8:1, 22-31, Genesis 1:1-27).