A fundamental difference between the biblical account of creation on the one hand, and that of the Hellenistic on the other, is that the latter never affirmed a creation ex nihilo. Plato’s Demiurge produces everything from primordial matter; the biblical Creator constructs the world out of nothing: ‘Look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed’ (2 Macc 7:28). Everything that exists received its being from the free will of the Creator: ‘for He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood forth’ (Ps 33:9). God had no need to create the world. Even His love, which, like any true love, needs an object to love, could not constrain Him to create. His love already found its perfection in the communion of the Hypostases of the Holy Trinity where each Hypostasis is both subject and object, lover and beloved. God created the world because He wanted the superabundant life and goodness within Himself to be shared by other beings that would become partakers of divine beatitude and holiness.
Creation was an act which involved all three Persons of the Holy Trinity: ‘By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of His mouth’ (Ps 33:6). At the beginning of his Gospel St. John speaks of the creative role of God the Word: ‘All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made’ (John 1:3). The Bible also has this to say about the Spirit: ‘The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters’ (Gen 1:2). The Word and the Spirit are, to use an image of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, the ‘two hands’ of the Father. This denotes the co-operation, the working together of the three persons: Their will is one, but each has a specific, different action. ‘Originator of all things is one: He creates through the Son and perfects through the Holy Spirit... Perceive these three: the Lord Who commands, the Word Who creates, and the Spirit Who strengthens’, says St. Basil the Great. In other words, in the act of creation the Father is the First Cause of all things, the Word (Logos) has the role of Demiurge-Creator, and the Holy Spirit brings to perfection all things that have been created.
It is not without reason that when speaking of the creative role of the Son, the church Fathers prefer the name ‘Word’ above all other names: the Word makes known the Father and reveals the Father to the created world. Like any word, the Word-Logos is addressed to someone, in this case to the whole of creation. ‘No one has ever seen God; the only Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made him known’ (John 1:18). The Son has made known the Father to all creatures; it is because of the Son that the love of the Father has been poured out upon creation and has given it life.
Why did God create all things? Patristic theology answers the question in this way: ‘out of the abundance of His love and goodness’. ‘Because the good and transcendently good God was not content to contemplate Himself, but by a superabundance of goodness saw fit that there should be some things to benefit by and to participate in His goodness, He brings all things from nothing into being and creates them’, writes St. John of Damascus. In other words, God desired that there should be something else taking part in His blessedness and partaking of His love.