We now come to special doctrines. The pagan world in which these few Christians lived demanded first of all an emphasis on a monotheistic idea of God. Therefore the Shepherd of Hermas says: “First of all, believe that God is one, who has made all things, bringing them out of nothing into being.” Here we have the doctrine of creation out of nothing, which we cannot find in the Old Testament but which is implicit in it and was expressed already before Christianity by Jewish theologians in the period between the Testaments. It is the doctrine which was decisive for the separation of the early Church from paganism.
In the same line was the emphasis on the almighty God, the despotes as he is called, the ruling powerful lord. Clement says: “0 great demiurge”, (i. e., master of all work and lord of everything: he is the great builder of the universe and the lord of everything he has built. Now here are three very important concepts. I already mentioned creation out of nothing; then the demiurge; and then the almighty, the despotes who rules the world. Why are these concepts, which seem so natural to us, so important? Because they are concepts of protection used against paganism.
Creation out of nothing means that God did not find matter when He started creating, a matter which always resists the form, and which therefore should be transcended – as it was in neo-Platonic paganism. Such a matter does not exist. The material world is an object of Divine creation and therefore good and must not be disparaged for the sake of salvation. The word “demiurge” was used in Plato and Gnosticism, in the religious mixture of these centuries, for something which is lower than God, which is below the highest God, who does not deal with such low things as creating the world, but leaves it to a demiurge. This means that creation is something in which the Divine reality is less present, that it is a falling away from full Divinity. Against this, these words of Clement speak: the great demiurge is God himself; there is no duality between the highest God and the maker of the world.