The biblical teaching of the creation of the world from nothing (ex nihilo) by a perfectly positive and free act of God, is central to the Church's thought and life.
'First of all, you must believe that there is one God Who created and completed all things, and made all things out of nothing and brought them into existence. He contains the whole, but He alone cannot be contained.'
- St Irenaeus of Lyon
The dogma of 'Ex Nihilo' helps us understand the relationship between God and the world, as it highlights that God, by His uncreated energy, created the world out of no necessity, but by His will and love.
'I am the Lord Who performs all things. I alone stretched forth the heavens and established the earth.'
- Isaiah 44:24
St Irenaeus, while combatting heresies, emphasised the biblical teaching that the one and only God Who revealed Himself to and through the prophets, and became incarnate through the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, is indeed the same God Who made the world without the need of a creaturely intermediary...'for it is a property of God's omnipotence to have no need of other tools in order to create the things He calls into existence.' ( Theophilus of Antioch ) The dogma of Ex Nihilo is the guarantee that God is the Creator, neither by necessity, nor by essence , but by His divine energy and will. The world is a result of His uncreated and loving energy. It is this world itself, and no other, that our Almighty Father Has created - a world which is both material and immaterial, visible and invisible, changeable with cycles of seasons, winds, currents and moons.
'Learn o man, of His works, of the change of seasons according to their times, and cycles of winds, and the orderly path of elements, and the orderly course of days and nights, and months and years..and of periods of abundance of sudden cloudbursts, of the multitude of movements of the heavenly bodies..'
God's Creation is exactly how He wants it. He is alone immortal by nature, and His creatures and creation have the opportunity of becoming immortal by His grace. This immortality consists in the resurrection of the world, and the making of time incorruptible - as attested to by the resurrection of the full human nature of Christ. (Luke 24:39, John 20:24-29)
Of course the formation of evil affects this good Creation which has been provided for us out of love. The making of the world is good (Gen 1:10), but it is the fallen state of affairs within this world that is debased. God, along with His uncreated energy and creation is perfect - and so it is important to remember that salvation does not mean being saved from this world ( which is indeed a gift ) , but from evil which lurks within it. (1 Cor 15:26) Matter is holy - hence we venerate the holy icons of the Lord and His Saints, we see the work of the Holy Spirit in relics and within the goodness of mankind, and we see the beauty and tranquility which this world provides us. For this reason we believe in the resurrection and fulfilment of our bodies, as they are temples of the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor 6:19-20) The Creation, and this life which we have been granted, is an expression of God's love and energy. It's beauty is indescribable, and its gifts are innumerable - and for this reason, as human beings created in the image and likeness of the Lord, we must surely want to continue living in communion with our Creator, who is able to bring us out of non-existence into being, and out of death into eternal life.
Sources: 'The Ancestral Sin' , by John S. Romanides