How did God Create the Universe? Was the World Really Created in Six Days?

God Creates Universe with Big Bang

That might be the Sunday morning newspaper headline oh, about 13.75 billion years ago . . . if newspapers were possible in the primordial quark-gluon soup.

I know, I know, the Bible says the world was created in six days. But God gave us the Bible to teach us about spiritual things, not material things. The creation story in Genesis is not about the creation of the physical universe, but about the stages of our own spiritual growth as we become “new creations in Christ” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).

So if the world wasn’t created in six days, how was it created?

If the world was created by God as Genesis says, then it was created by one God. That’s why we see the same physical laws applying everywhere in the universe. Those laws, and creation itself, express the nature of God because everything comes from God.

In particular, we can see God’s love, wisdom, and action expressed everywhere we look. Love is the substance of things. Wisdom is the shape and structure of things. And action is the function of things.

The Universe Comes from One God

It is a well-established principle of science is that the same physical laws apply everywhere. Yes, some scientists believe that there could be other universes that operate by different laws. But at least our universe has the same laws everywhere.

From a spiritual perspective, there is a simple reason for that: all of the laws of physical reality were established by God, and are therefore universal. The fact that there is a single, unified set of laws points to a single God establishing those laws. If there were multiple gods each attempting to establish a different set of laws, we would see a chaos of conflicting laws in the universe around us. But that’s not what we observe.

We can take the principle of a single, unified set of laws one step further. The laws of the physical universe were not established by God arbitrarily. They are what they are because they express the nature of God.

That’s because the universe was not only created by God. It was and is created from God. So when we observe the physical universe and its laws, we are seeing a reflection of God’s character and personality.

God’s Canvas

When walking through an art gallery, we can see something of the character of the various artists in their artwork. That’s because the character and form of the artwork expresses something of each artist’s own character and mindset. A skilled psychologist who was also familiar with art could provide some analysis of an artist’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences simply from looking at that artist’s body of work, without ever meeting the artist in person.

The physical universe is God’s canvas. On it we see painted an expression of God’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. A person skilled in interpreting God’s artwork in nature could also tell a great deal about the mind of God.

If we wish to do this, we must understand the concept of “correspondences.” This is a vast, universal, and precise law defining the relationships among all three of the major levels of reality: divine (God), spiritual, and material. In a nutshell, correspondences are the way divine realities express themselves in spiritual realities, and spiritual realities express themselves in material realities.

An example might make this easier to understand. A hug brings two people into close contact with one another. That is a physical expression of a feeling of love and affection between those two people—real or pretended. If it’s real, the people hugging each other feel close to each other in their hearts, and they want to be close to each other physically, too. The hug doesn’t just symbolize that love. It actually expresses it physically. That’s how correspondences work.

Every single love and every single truth that exists in God, in the spiritual world, and in our own hearts and minds is expressed very precisely in some particular object or process in the material world.

In short, correspondences are the mechanism by which God created the universe as a vast, intricate expression of God. So the universe is both created from God and expresses the character of God.

Exactly how God created the spiritual and material universes is something we finite humans may never fully understand. But basically, what God did was slow down and put limits on the infinite reality of God as it flowed out. In doing so, God took what was infinite and made it finite. And like the artist’s canvas, even though the universe and everything in it is an expression of God, none of it is God.

The difference is that unlike the artist, God not only created the universe in the beginning, but is continually creating it. In fact, creation is not really something God did at some point in the past. Time does not apply to God. Instead, creation is something God is doing from within every moment. If God were to step back from the universe or any part of it even for a nanosecond, it would instantly cease to exist.

Is your brain getting tired? Mine is! Let’s look at some things that are easier to understand.

The Nine Billion Names of God

Yes, there is one God who is the creator of the universe and is at the center of the universe. However, God is not some simple, undifferentiated point of being. Theologians say that God is infinite, omniscient, omnipresent, and all sorts of other omnis. The well-known science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once wrote a short story called “The Nine Billion Names of God.” Put in ordinary language, even though there is one God, that God is made of many parts, and therefore goes by many names.

You are one person, right? But both physically and mentally, you are made of a huge number of parts. There are dozens of major organs and systems in your physical body. And that’s not the whole story. Each one of those organs and systems is made of trillions of individual cells, all perfectly organized, each with its own function. If you’re an adult, you have as many as 100 trillion cells in your body. You likely have thousands of times more spiritual cells in your thinking, feeling mind.

And yet, you are still one person.

It’s the same way with God. God is not made of one hundred trillion cells or one hundred quadrillion cells, but of an infinite number of divine “cells.” Each one of those cells has its own character and function. Each is part of larger divine organs and systems in God. And all together, they make one God who has infinite parts.

The Big Three

What did you say? Oh yeah, you’re right. I did say we were going to talk about things that are a little easier to understand!

So let’s not talk about trillions. That’s too big a number for the human brain to comprehend. Let’s talk about three.

Three is one of the basic numbers of the universe. That’s because if we look at the big picture of God, we find that God has three basic “parts”: love, wisdom, and action.

  • Love is the substance of God. It’s what God is made of. It can also be called “good.”
  • Wisdom is the form or structure of God. It’s the “shape” of God. It can also be called “truth.”
  • Action is what God says and does. God’s action comes from divine love through divine wisdom.

Each one of these three is expressed in the universe and in every single thing in it.

We humans are also made of love shaped by wisdom (or intelligence), and those two are expressed in our words and actions.

A chair has the material it is made of (the love part), a shape and structure (the wisdom or truth part), and a function (the action part). No matter what we pick, we can find the love, wisdom, and action aspects of it. That’s because everything in the universe reflects the nature of God, and God is made of those basic three.

Looking at the big picture of the spiritual world—or more specifically, of heaven—there are three levels: the “heavenly” (the level of love), the “spiritual” (the level of truth), and the “natural” (the level of action). People who are heart-centered find their place in the “heavenly” level of heaven. People who are head-centered find their place in the “spiritual” level of heaven. And people who are action-oriented find their place in the “natural” level of heaven.

Even the physical universe has its analogs of these three levels:

  • The gravitational field, in which all objects are attracted to one another, depending on their size. This is the level of love.
  • The electromagnetic field, which forms a medium for transmitting waves or perhaps particles of various kinds, including visible light and the radio spectrum. This is the level of truth.
  • Ordinary matter, with its three basic states of gaseous, liquid, and solid. This is the level of action.

No matter which way we look, we see a universe created in the image of God. As we learn more about God, spirit, and nature, we can begin to see which particular things in nature correspond to which things in our own spirit, and in God.

Six Days or Fourteen Billion Years?

Correspondences also give us the key to the age-old controversy between religion and science over whether the universe was created in six days, as the Bible says, or almost fourteen billion years, as scientists now believe.

The story in Genesis was never meant to be taken literally. It was written in symbolic, correspondential language. Yes the various things on this earth did appear in generally the order described in the Creation story. But Genesis chapter 1 never was about physical creation. It is about the spiritual creation of a human being.

Why would God need to tell us about how the physical universe was created? We can figure that out for ourselves through science. The Word of God is not designed to tell us about material things that we can learn for ourselves. It is designed to tell us about spiritual things that we could never figure out on our own because they are beyond the reach of our scientific instruments.

If we view these ancient Biblical stories as telling us correspondentially about our spiritual growth and development through the various “days,” or stages, of our childhood and adult years, then there is no conflict between the Bible and modern science. A thinking, intelligent person can believe in both. Science teaches us about material reality. The Bible teaches us about spiritual reality.

Answers and Questions

Obviously we can’t give a complete picture of how God creates the universe in this short a time. Perhaps these few thoughts will answer a few of your big questions—and leave you with even more big questions for which you’ll seek answers. Because as scientists and philosophers know very well, the more we come to know, the more we realize how much we still don’t know.

If God truly is infinite, and this vast universe is an expression of God, we will never run out of new things to learn, and new worlds to discover.

This article is © 2012 by Lee Woofenden

About

Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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4 comments on “How did God Create the Universe? Was the World Really Created in Six Days?
  1. jan thiecke says:

    I discovered your site recently and have been some articles on it with great interest.I am,amongst others,what they call an agnostic atheist who has major problems with what a lot of institutionalised religions try to tell us.I hear them talking about their holy truths by stating that dinosaurs and humans walked side by side on this planet,about following jezus’ path while condemning gay people,atheists etc to hell,about sense of morality and ethics not worth a dime if you don’t believe in god,allah,jaweh,….and it feels good to finally find text written by someone(you) who is apparently deeply involved in spiritual matters,that makes sense.Reading this one directly made me think of the definition of tao in the tao te tsjing.Also your statement that the bible should be read and seen as a methaphore,talking about spiritual evolution,appealed a lot to me.Thank you very much and keep on doing what you do,the first fresh christian shower I had in ages….

    • Lee says:

      Hi jan,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your thoughtful comment. Yes, there’s a lot of dross and chaff being peddled as silver and gold in traditional Christianity. I’m glad you found our site, and that you’re enjoying the articles here—and getting a fresh shower of real Christian truth. I hope it helps to clean out of your head the remnants of that old “Christian” falsity, and assists you on your life’s path.

  2. Taylor says:

    Hey! I’m so glad I’ve come across your site. I’m 17 years old. I was raised Christian, but drifted away from the religion for a number of reasons: for one, how could I love a god who would save a Christian murderer but condemn a loving Atheist?
    Last night I had an existential crisis and started looking for answers: I looked at Buddhism, Sihkism, various denominations of Christianity, even Wicca. Somehow I arrived at one of your articles, and things just seemed to make so much sense. I got more out of a handful of articles than 10 years of Catholic religious education!
    I’m not 100% set on a spiritual path yet. But you have opened my eyes and brought back my confidence in God when I needed it the most. Thank you 🙂

    • Lee says:

      Hi Taylor,

      You’re very welcome! I’m glad the articles here are so helpful to you in sorting out your spiritual thoughts. That’s what this site is all about! If, as you read any of the posts, you have particular questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. And godspeed on your spiritual journey.

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