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 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


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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16 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.

  3. NylaTheWolf AJ says:

    The Big Bang theory was actually created by a Catholic priest, Georges Lemaître. It was originally called the Cosmic Egg theory, but, like all great scientists, everyone at the time thought it sounded ridiculous and called it the Big Bang theory. However, the Pope actually loved it! He thought it sounded beautiful, and like the beginning of Genesis.

    Funny how things Atheists turn to to disprove Christianity actually turn out to be topics the church is in favor of, especially when it was created by a priest and approved by the Pope.

    • Lee says:

      Hi NylaTheWolf,

      That’s exactly why, when the Big Bang first came out, a number of secular scientist tried hard to find an alternate theory of the beginnings of the universe. It sounded too much like God creating the universe!

  4. K says:

    Did Swedenborg say something that’s similar to the “no cloning theorem” – that there can never be 2 exact copies of a being? If so, that would mean that even if there’s an infinite multiverse, there can’t be two exact clones of anyone.

    • Lee says:

      Hi K,

      Yes, Swedenborg is quite emphatic about this. For example:

      In the entire created universe, no two things can possibly be the same. (True Christianity #32)

      Click on the link to the section number to read the whole passage, which is quite fascinating.

      • K says:

        Thanks for the info. In the linked text, Swedenborg says there’s “ether” beyond the atmosphere, and then “aura” beyond that. What did he mean by those? Is that 18th century science of the natural world he was using as analogies to spiritual matters?

        • Lee says:

          Hi K,

          Yes, the ether and the aura were part of a commonly accepted 18th century view of there being multiple atmospheres, each finer than the next, that surround and interpenetrate the earth. Though they are not the same, the closest analogs we have today are that the air/atmosphere = the gaseous atmosphere, the ether = the electromagnetic field, and the aura = the gravitational field—or whatever scientists now believe about how gravity works.

          In Swedenborg’s general system, the gaseous atmosphere is analogous to the “natural” level, or the level of actions and effects, the ether is analogous to the “spiritual” level, which is the level of causes and of intellect/understanding, and the aura is analogous to the “celestial” or “heavenly” level, which is the level of purposes and of love/goodness.

          Though our present system of atmosphere, electromagnetic field, and gravitation are different in conception from the 18th century atmosphere / ether / aura system, the correspondential analogs still hold. For example, the electromagnetic field provides one of our primary means of exchanging data and information, whereas gravitation is a universal presence binding the universe and its constituents together, similar to the spiritual function of love. And of course, the effects of these things for us humans take place within the gaseous atmosphere.

  5. K says:

    Even if the Almighty creates infinitely and eternally, could this physical universe still be finite in size like scientific theory predicts is possible?

    • Lee says:

      Hi K,

      Yes. The very process of creation involved putting limits on the unlimited substance of God, to distinguish it from God. In one of the older translations Swedenborg says that in the act of creation “God finited his infinity” (True Christian Religion #33). So it is perfectly possible for the created universe to be finite in size, or in any other attribute, even though God is infinite.

  6. caionsouza says:

    Greetings Lee!
    Does Swedenborg talks about something like a “final plan” of God for humanity? It’s fairly know that after billions of years in the future, our physical universe will no longer be able to support life.
    When that happens, do you think God will “reboot” our current universe since new souls / humans can no longer born without an earth or he will be fine with everybody in their place in Heaven / Hell, no needing of new souls.

    Thank you and blessings:)

    • Lee says:

      Hi caionsouza,

      In Swedenborg’s day modern science was in its early stages. People were still making the transition from the young universe suggested by a literal reading of the Bible and the old universe that is the scientific consensus today. Swedenborg did not believe that the world was created literally as described in the Creation stories of Genesis. But he did not seem to have any clear idea of just how old the universe is.

      Swedenborg also didn’t have the benefit of today’s science about the cycles of star and galaxy formation, life sequence, and death, nor did he have the concept that the universe as a whole might one day die, in the sense that it would no longer be capable of supporting life. He believed that the Earth would never cease in its seasons and cycles and its ability to host more and more new generations of human beings. This was in reaction to the traditional Christian idea that the current Earth would come to an end in a future Last Judgment, and a new one would be formed on which the blessed would live forever in an eternal springtime.

      Swedenborg did entertain the possibility that individual planets could cease to be able to support life, in which case, he said, their angels would be reassigned to another planet so that they could maintain a connection with people living in the material world. He saw this connection between angels (as well as evil spirits) and humans on earth as necessary for their continued life and integrity.

      He did not entertain the possibility that one day there could be no planets at all in the entire universe capable of supporting human life. This possibility goes beyond anything Swedenborg could have conceived of given the science of his day.

      In my own mind, this is an unanswered question. I don’t worry about it too much. It will be at least a few hundred million years before our planet becomes uninhabitable. By that time, presumably we will have spread out to other planets and even other solar systems, prolonging our life as a species. According to Swedenborg, though, people of other planets don’t develop science and technology as the people of our planet does, so they wouldn’t be so lucky when it comes time for their planet to become uninhabitable. (For a related article, see: “Swedenborg’s Solution to the Fermi Paradox.”)

      As for the longer term, the science is still unsettled about whether our universe is closed, flat, or open, and thus whether it will eventually end in heat death or whether it will collapse back in on itself such that there could be an oscillating universe, reborn every few hundred trillion years or so. I certainly like that possibility. But I’m not going to say that’s how things actually work just because that’s how I hope they work. At minimum, people who follow Swedenborg’s theology will have to rethink his idea that the planets will never cease to be able to support life. We now know that this just isn’t true. This also suggests to me that angels must be able to continue living even if they have no current connection to people living in the physical universe. Again, these are unanswered questions in my mind.

      However, God, being omniscient and omnipotent, has certainly thought all this through even if it remains a mystery to us. God created the universe, and God therefore knows in detail exactly how it works over all time and space. God will not be surprised by the universe suddenly becoming uninhabitable. Though this is an unsettled question for me, I am certain that God has it all well in hand. Meanwhile, I do turn these questions over in my mind from time to time, because I find these things fascinating to think about.

      • caionsouza says:

        Great response, Lee! Thank you very much! ☺️

        I just forgot that young science part of Swedenborg when making the question! 😅 About it, this was a topic that used to bother me, specially because his book “Life on other Planets” and some other things he believed wrongly, because you know, if we want to believe in something, we want it to be irrefutable and infallible! At least, that was how i used to think… but today, with better understanding on how faith and the spiritual realm works, it’s not a problem for me anymore.
        Like you said in your other articles, Swedenborg’s knowledge is from another time and correct me if i’m wrong, but while there is no time like we know in Heaven, it still progress like here right? Angels are not omniscience and since as new humans die, new knowledge about our current understanding comes with them.
        I don’t know if there are labs in Heaven, maybe there are cosmologists and astrophysicists angels, since that is what they love? 😆 So, it’s not like an angel that Swedenborg meet in his era will come to him and reveal “The Great Final Ultimate Theory of Understanding of how the Universe works” and then Swedenborg becomes the most famous person that ever lived and the new church is now world’s unified religion because the author wrote a book that solved everything forever! That was not the point of the correspondences and i’m surely that God himself didn’t want it too when he allowed Swedenborg to visit the spiritual realm. 😉

        • Lee says:

          Hi caionsouza,

          I take up some of these issues in my article on Swedenborg’s book about life on other planets in this article:

          Aliens vs. Advent: Swedenborg’s 1758 Book on Extraterrestrial Life

          If you haven’t come across it already, give it a read. I think you’ll enjoy it.

          There is a whole schismatic organization of Swedenborgians that tried to make Swedenborg’s writings infallible. It hasn’t gone so well for them. Their view has been increasingly hard for them to maintain as our scientific and historical knowledge increases over the decades and the centuries. They don’t quite know what to do with Swedenborg’s Earths in the Universe. It’s not that different from fundamentalist and evangelical Christians who try to make the Bible literally infallible. In order to do so, they have to reject much of the scientific knowledge we’ve gained.

          To me it’s abundantly clear that neither the Bible nor Swedenborg’s writings were meant to tell us about science and history. They do draw on science and history as it was known in their respective eras, but that material-world knowledge simply serves as containers, as it were, to carry deeper spiritual knowledge to us.

          We don’t expect Newton or Einstein or Freud or Jung to be infallible. We recognize that they had some brilliant ideas, but also made some mistakes, or were limited by the state of knowledge at their time. When it comes to scientific, cultural, and historical matters, I am perfectly comfortable applying the same principle to the Bible and to Swedenborg’s writings. Why should we expect them to be infallible on matters that aren’t even their main point or focus? They are simply using existing knowledge to illustrate deeper matters of God and spirit.

          I believe that God purposely arranges it so that there will be material-world limitations and even error in the text of the various revelations given to humans, both to prevent the phenomenon you are talking about at the end of your comment and to push people toward thinking more deeply about what these revelations are really all about. See: “Eat My Flesh, Drink My Blood.”

          When NASA was about to send the first people to the Moon, there were a lot of very excited Swedenborgians who thought that Swedenborg would be proven right, and that Swedenborg would make the big time, just as you talk about in your comment. Instead, we got visuals on what scientists already knew: that the Moon is uninhabitable, and always has been uninhabitable. Swedenborg was shown decisively to be wrong about all the planets and moons being inhabited. Swedenborgians had to do some hard thinking and soul-searching. Some of them still haven’t recovered from that shock.

          Some Swedenborgians still have not been able to accept that Swedenborg was wrong. They have come up with elaborate theories about how the Moon actually is inhabited, but we just can’t see them because they live in some other dimension or something. Those who don’t know the science think maybe it was habitable in the past. And they make other arguments. But the simple fact of the matter is that none of the other planets or satellites in our solar system is now or ever was habitable by advanced life forms such as human beings.

          In hindsight, I am glad that Swedenborg was wrong, and that millions of people didn’t start looking into Swedenborg for all the wrong reasons. They would have gotten very excited about it at first precisely because Swedenborg predicted something that he could not have known scientifically at the time. But then, when they found out that his writings are all about God and spirit—things that they either aren’t interested in because they are materialists or disagree with because they belong to other churches and religions—they would have rejected him and torn him apart. Swedenborg himself describes how this works, not to mention Jesus in his remarks about throwing pearls to pigs. We are not meant to accept spiritual ideas based on material evidence.

          One more article for you, in case you haven’t read it already:

          Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?

          Perhaps there are labs in heaven. But those labs are in the spiritual world, not the material world. This means that they can study only the nature of spiritual reality, not the nature of physical reality. To study the nature of physical reality, labs in the physical universe are required.

          Another way of saying this is that yes, angels and spirits are dependent upon knowledge from the material world for their understanding of the physical universe. And yes, though they don’t live in time as we know it, they do live in an “arrow of time” that involves a passage of events. “Time” in the spiritual world is based on the growth of knowledge. That’s why even in the spiritual world, people are always going forward, and never backward, in the spiritual analog of time. They learn things. They do not unlearn things. So their lives move forward through the events and experiences of their lives.

          This also means that angels do not have any more advanced knowledge of the physical sciences, and material-world things and events generally, than people on earth do. They rely upon new arrivals from earth to learn what is going on here, and to learn the state of knowledge about the world and its science, culture, and history. The angels Swedenborg spoke to did not have any knowledge of any of the sciences that had not yet been developed on earth. For example, they did not know about evolution. They believed, as was common among people on earth in pre-Darwin times, that God initially created each species of animal directly (what today we call “spontaneous generation”), but gave them the ability to reproduce from there, and so continue the species.

          This is yet another reason that the sacred literature of humanity, including the Bible and the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, are not a good source of information about the material world and its science and history. Or at least, they are no better source than the other scientific and historical sources that existed in their day. As we advance in knowledge in these areas, those sacred books get left behind in their science and history, while remaining timeless in their spiritual message.

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