Boundary: Journalism vs. Creation in Writing


Creatio ex nihilo (Latin for “creation from nothing”) refers to the view that the universe, the whole of space-time, is created by a free act of God out of nothing, and not either out of some preexisting material or out of the divine substance itself. This view was widely, though not universally, accepted in the early Christian Church, and was formally defined as dogma by the fourth Lateran Council in 1215. [1]

The classical tradition of creation from chaos first came under question in Hellenistic philosophy (on a priori grounds), which developed the idea that the primum movens must have created the world out of nothing. Theologians debate whether the Bible itself teaches creation ex nihilo. Traditional interpreters argue on grammatical and syntactical grounds that this is the meaning of Genesis 1:1, which is commonly rendered: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” They find further support for this view in New Testament passages such as Hebrews 11:3—”By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” and Revelation 4:11, “For you [God] created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” However, other interpreters understand creation ex nihilo as a second-century theological development. According to this view, church fathers opposed notions appearing in pre-Christian creation myths and in Gnosticism—notions of creation by a demiurge out of a primordial state of matter (known in religious studies as chaos after the Greek term used by Hesiod in his Theogony). [2]

The average Ph.D. thesis is nothing but a transference of bones from one graveyard to another. [3]


It is widely reported that God-created the world out of nothing. That is a pure act of creation. At the opposite end of creativity, it is also said that journalists do not create the news but instead simply report it. A third concept of creation is that of bringing order to chaos.

After many years of trying to write fiction, which is close to creating words out of nothing, I decided to become a journalist and report on ideas. This changed my goal from creating something new, and verifying that it was entirely new, to accurately reporting what I found interesting in the world. This was much simpler, much easier and possibly more beneficial.

I decided to become a journalist of ideas and a book reporter. I write the news of what I find in a book. Instead of reviewing the entire work, I might review a chapter. A paragraph. Or even a list or a footnote. Or an idea.

I might also describe this as a trend from seeking to be more original to become more useful. We do not begin, as God did, with an empty universe. Or even a clean white page. We begin with life, which is messy and chaotic. The enemy of the journalist is confusion. Perhaps it is sufficient to bring clarity to chaos and confusion.

It’s sufficient to move the bones and arrange them neatly, labeled by footnotes to indicate their origin.

A good friend once pointed out that, as an ENTP where the P and J are almost equal [4], what I love is walking into chaos (P), creatively recognizing trends and patterns (N),  sorting chaos into into my idea of order (J) and tweaking that so it functions at the highest possible level of quality for the benefit of everyone (NT). And then, of course, telling everyone about it (E).


Which is more your paradigm for writing:  creating out of nothing, creating out of chaos, or reporting clearly what is?


[1] “Creatio Ex Nihilo” from the Encyclopedia of Science and Religion COPYRIGHT 2003 The Gale Group Inc. From

[2] Ex nihilo – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,

[3]  J. Frank Dobie, “A Texan in England”, 1945, according to Jimmy Stephens at

[4] “ENTP (extroversion, intuition, thinking, perception) is an abbreviation used in the publications of the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to refer to one of sixteen personality types.” ENTP – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,  from Google ENTP for other interpretations and ENTJ for comparison.

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