I’m not asking you to not imagine anything, that is to stop imagining. That is hard enough. I want you to get busy and imagine nothing. Are your eyes closed as an aid to conjuring up the image? Is your mind large enough to grasp this tiny little thing?
Nothing is perhaps one of the three great brain teasers in our world. We usually find ourselves tied in knots or with a charley-horse between the ears when we think on infinity, eternity, or nothing. But while infinity and eternity are too big for our finite minds, nothing is too small.
We get in trouble with it as soon as we call it an it. There is an it to it, but it’s not a nothing, it’s a something. That is, we can talk about something that we call nothing. But it is something, a concept. The thing itself isn’t anything, it is nothing. But even though nothing is nothing, there is something we can glean from it—ex nihilo, nihil fit; from nothing nothing comes.
What does nothing have to do with unconditional election? Everything. There are any number of approaches to defending the Biblical doctrine of unconditional election. There are several strong proof texts we can use. There are implications, arguably necessary ones, we can draw from other texts. We can take the Edwardsian view of the will and work from there. Or we can start from the beginning, which is before the beginning.
Once there was God and nothing else. This, too, stretches the mind. We first try to imagine vast expanses of nothing, a sort of infinite sea of black. But there was no expanse and no black. Then we try, treading on dangerous ground, to envision the triune God, who is invisible. Nevertheless, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were, and nothing else was. There was no time when They were not, though there was a They when time was not. If we really understood this, there would be no doubters as to the sovereignty of God in His works of providence or of election. Because there was God and nothing else, there are no conditions of which He is not the ultimate cause. Because the Bible begins with “In the beginning God,” the Bible teaches unconditional election.
When we deny this truth, we deny one of the most fundamental of truths: the law of causality. This law recognizes that every effect must have a sufficient cause. If something happens, it happens because something causes it to happen. That’s a fancy way of saying that you get nothing from nothing. There never was nothing. We know this for two reasons. First, the Bible doesn’t begin with “In the beginning nothing,” but “In the beginning God …” Second, if there ever was nothing, there would be nothing now. You can’t get something from nothing. Even in metaphysics, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.