Creatio ex Nihilo, Terra Nullius, and the Erasure of Presence

Whitney A. Bauman

in Ecospirit

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780823227457
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823236626 | DOI:

Series: Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquia

Creatio ex Nihilo, Terra Nullius, and the Erasure of               Presence

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Justified by a transcendent and omnipotent Creator ex nihilo, imperial Christianity has been re-creating the world—as if ex nail—for the past 1500 years. The theology of an all-powerful Creator and Preserver has arguably served as the justification for a theoanthropology in which humans mimic the power of the Creator God through what Don Cupitt calls the “conquering of nihil” and the “re-creation of” the world. Through this re-creation, an erasure of agency and identity takes place—as if the many spaces recreated by colonial powers had been, indeed, “found without inhabitants.” This chapter argues that creatio ex nihilo can and did provide a justification for the colonial concept of individual property articulated by John Locke, along with the corollary colonial, national legal claim of terra nullius, or Territorium Res Nullius. The latter terminology suggests that there is “no prior presence” in conquered or “discovered” territories and they therefore can be owned and “made useful” through colonization.

Keywords: Christianity; ecological theology; creatio ex nihilo; theoanthropology; individual property

Chapter.  7927 words. 

Subjects: Christian Theology

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