If God is Omnipotent (All Powerful) Why Did He Need to Take Six Days to Create the Universe?
Rich Deem

Introduction

If God can do anything (if He is truly omnipotent), why did He take six days to create the universe, when He could have done it instantly? Astronomical data indicates that the universe began 13.8 billion years ago,1 but the earth was not formed until 4.5 billion years ago.2 Why would God wait 9.2 billion years after creating the universe to create the earth? And why would He wait another 4.5 billion years to create humans, if we are really God's ultimate reason for creating the universe? Are the atheists correct in asserting that the whole thing was an unplanned accident? The Bible actually addresses many of these issues and provides answers that tell us why God created the universe the way He did.

Does time matter to God?

The main problem with the question is that it makes some assumptions about God that just aren't true. Many skeptics assume that instant creation demonstrates the power of God more decisively than creation over a period of time. One problem with this assumption is that the element of time is irrelevant to God. In fact, the Bible says that God created time along with the universe.3 Therefore, God is not bound by time, so that six days, six minutes, or six trillion years mean nothing to Him. It's not like He had to wait around for things to happen, since He is not subject to time.

Advantages of creating over time

Even though God is not bound by time, one could say that creating instantly would be preferable to creating over a period of time. However, any astronomer asked the question would prefer that the universe be created over time. Curiously, astronomers would be out-of-business if God had created the universe instantly. This is because the universe is expanding at nearly the speed of light, so that we can see back in time nearly to the creation event itself. If God had created everything instantly (but kept the universe the same size), and placed all plant and animal life on earth a few thousand years ago, we would see nothing of the heavens, other than the solar system and a few stars.4 However, Psalm 19 says that the heavens declare the glory of God,5 so it seems likely that God wanted us to see the entire universe. If He had created it instantly, this would not be possible.

The same logic can be used for the creation of the earth and life on it. Besides indicating that the heavens declare the Glory of God, Psalm 19 says that the firmament shows His handiwork. The biological history of the earth is preserved in the rocks so that we can see the creative handiwork of God in producing life's history. If the universe and earth were created instantly, there would be no history of life to examine, and God's glory would not be visible to us.

Why did God wait 9 billion years to create the earth?

The main reason why the earth was not created until billions of years after the creation of the universe involves the nature of the universe at its creation. The initial Big Bang creation event resulted in a universe that consisted almost entirely of hydrogen and helium. Obviously, rocky planets are not possible in such a universe. Heavier elements (including carbon, oxygen and metals) were formed in the nuclear furnaces of stars (hence Carl Sagan's famous line, "We are star stuff."). Really large stars burn quickly and end their lives in spectacular explosions, which distribute these heavy elements throughout the local vicinity. So, rocky planets (and living organisms) were not even possible during the first few billion years of the universe's history. Even now, most stars are metal-poor compared to our Sun (determined through spectroscopy). So, the earth was created at one of the earliest possible times in the history of our universe. Although many stars may be surrounded by planets, rocky planets are likely to be at least somewhat rare in the universe (although we are just beginning to collect data to answer this question).

Why did God wait 13.8 billion years to create human beings?

Why did God wait an additional 4 billion years before creating human beings on earth? It turns out that we were created at the ideal time to observe the glory of how God created the universe.5 If we had been created earlier in time, we would have been unaware of dark energy,6 leaving in question the ultimate fate of the universe (allowing atheists the out of claiming that the universe might undergo eternal cyclic expansion and contraction). If we had been created later in the history of the universe, Hubble expansion would be unobservable, along with cosmic background radiation, and Big Bang nucleosynthesis.6 In the future, scientists will be unable to determine how the universe came into existence, but would assume that it was eternal and static:

The remarkable cosmic coincidence that we happen to live at the only time in the history of the universe when the magnitude of dark energy and dark matter densities are comparable... Observers when the universe was an order of magnitude younger would not have been able to discern any effects of dark energy on the expansion, and observers when the universe is more than an order of magnitude older will be hard pressed to know that they live in an expanding universe at all, or that the expansion is dominated by dark energy. By the time the longest lived main sequence stars are nearing the end of their lives, for all intents and purposes, the universe will appear static, and all evidence that now forms the basis of our current understanding of cosmology will have disappeared.6

So, cosmologists were created at the optimal time to observe how the heavens reflect God's glory.

The purposes of creation

In order to determine why God created the way He did, we need to understand the purposes for which God created the universe. Atheists and certain religious sects assume God created the earth for mankind to give us a perfect place to live that is designed for our enjoyment. However, nowhere does the Bible indicate that God created the earth for our pleasure or enjoyment. In contrast, the Bible indicates that the earth was established to accomplish the purposes of God.7 What are the purposes of God regarding this creation? First and foremost, the creation is designed as a place where evil can be conquered.8 Jesus Christ, through His sacrifice on the cross, provided a sacrifice to remove the evil we have committed and reconcile us to God and each other.9 Our role in this purpose is to choose between good and evil.10 By choosing good, we participate in God's purposes and bring glory to Him.11 According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, "Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever."12 This creation is not the ultimate purpose of God, since it will be destroyed13 and replaced with a permanent, perfect creation,14 in which we can live with God forever. So, by necessity, this universe must be temporary and subject to the laws of thermodynamics.

Why an ancient earth?

Although there are good reasons why God would have created the universe billions of years ago, are there any good reasons why God waited 4.5 billion years before creating humans on earth? One obvious reason is to allow the earth to produce abundant topsoil through weathering processes. However, this process would not require billions of years (millions of years would probably suffice). Although humans require only good soil and plant life to survive, God's purposes for humans are not restricted merely to human survival. In fact, God wants human beings to participate with Him in proclaiming the gospel of His Kingdom.15 What does this have to do with the fact that the earth is billions of years old? The ability to proclaim the gospel is directly dependent upon technology. At minimum, there must be good roads, so that preachers can get from one place to another. It is a curious fact that Jesus arrived at exactly the time during which the Roman empire was building roads all over the civilized world. God's timing couldn't have been better! In order to build roads, technologies such as metallurgy are required. These technologies would have never developed except that the earth has large deposits of metallic ores. These ores were produced through the actions of bacteria throughout the entire history of the earth, which resulted in concentrated deposits of specific metals. Without these deposits, it is very unlikely that humans would have ever developed beyond the Stone Age. In addition, the key to the development of technology occurred when fossil fuels were first exploited during the industrial revolution. The formation of these readily available energy reserves occurred through the lives and deaths of countless billions of plants and animals over the course of hundreds of millions of years of earth's history. Without earth's long history of life, the spreading of God's message would have been much more difficult.

Conclusion Top of page

Both the universe and earth must be ancient in order for God's purposes for humanity to be fulfilled. An extremely large universe that declares God's glory is only possible if it is ancient and expanding at nearly the speed of light. Likewise, the earth must be ancient in order to aid in the development of technology to facilitate the spread of the gospel throughout the world. Why did God create the universe in the manner He did? Here is a summary of some of the constraints that God used in designing the universe to accomplish His purposes:

Purpose for Creation Constraint
Display God's Glory
  1. Universe must be very large
  2. Entire universe must be visible to us
    1. Universe must be old
    2. Universe must be expanding at nearly exactly the speed of light
  3. Earth must display God's handiwork
    1. Earth must be old
    2. Earth must display a long history of God's creatures
Evil must be limited
  1. Evil must exist
  2. Human choices for evil must be limited through
    1. Subjecting all actions to the law of cause and effect (time must exist)
    2. Expressing evil requires work and produces consequences (Second law of thermodynamics must exist)
    3. Restricting humans to a small part of a large universe
      1. stars and galaxies are separated by large distances
      2. gravity must exist to restrict space travel
    4. Complete separation of humans from God's domain (i.e., heaven) during the time that they can choose to commit evil deeds
    5. Limited human lifespan (death must exist)
    6. Complete, permanent separation of humans who refuse to choose good over evil (i.e., hell)
Humans must choose
  1. Humans must have free will to choose
    1. Good choices must exist
    2. Evil choices must exist
  2. Humans may choose to participate in spreading God's message
    1. Human language must exist
    2. Technology must exist, requiring
      1. large deposits of metallic ores (produced over long periods of time)
      2. large deposits of fossil fuels (produced over long periods of time)
Universe must be temporary
  1. Requires the first and second laws of thermodynamics
  2. Requires the existence of time


References Top of page

  1. D. N. Spergel, R. Bean, O. Dor´┐Ż, M. R. Nolta, C. L. Bennett, J. Dunkley, G. Hinshaw, N. Jarosik, E. Komatsu, L. Page, H. V. Peiris, L. Verde, M. Halpern, R. S. Hill, A. Kogut, M. Limon, S. S. Meyer, N. Odegard, G. S. Tucker, J. L. Weiland, E. Wollack, E. L. Wright. 2007. Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) Three Year Results: Implications for Cosmology. Astrophysics arXiv:astro-ph/0603449v2.
  2. Chris Stassen. The Age of the Earth, Talk Origins, last updated September 10, 2005.
  3. No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. (1 Corinthians 2:7)
    This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time (2 Timothy 1:9)
    The hope of eternal life, which God... promised before the beginning of time (Titus 1:2)
    To the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:25)
  4. The reason for the restricted view would be because of the limited speed of light. If the universe were created instantly 6,000 years ago, fewer than 5% of the stars in our galaxy would be visible, since the light from those stars would have reach us only if they were within 6,000 light years (the Milky Way galaxy has a diameter of ~100,000 light years). So, instantaneous creation would restrict our view to the Solar System and near-earth stars - no other galaxies could be seen until at least 2 million years after the creation event.113040000
  5. To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. (Psalm 19:1)
  6. Krauss, L. M. and R. J. Scherrer. 2007. The Return of a Static Universe and the End of Cosmology. Gen. Rel. Grav. 39: 1545-1550.
  7. O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness. (Isaiah 25:1)
    Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'; (Isaiah 46:10)
    The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, Even the wicked for the day of evil. (Proverbs 16:4)
    for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)
  8. Sharpen the arrows, fill the quivers! The LORD has aroused the spirit of the kings of the Medes, Because His purpose is against Babylon to destroy it; For it is the vengeance of the LORD, vengeance for His temple. (Jeremiah 51:11)
    Alas, you who are longing for the day of the LORD, For what purpose will the day of the LORD be to you? It will be darkness and not light; (Amos 5:18)
    "But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD, And they do not understand His purpose; For He has gathered them like sheaves to the threshing floor. "Arise and thresh, daughter of Zion, For your horn I will make iron And your hoofs I will make bronze, That you may pulverize many peoples, That you may devote to the LORD their unjust gain And their wealth to the Lord of all the earth. (Micah 4:12-13)
    the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)
  9. ...Jesus the Nazarene... this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. (Acts 2:22-23)
    For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
    But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. (Ephesians 2:13-16)
    and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach-- (Colossians 1:20-22)
    ...Christ...When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Colossians 2:11, 13-14)
    and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24)
  10. "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, (Deuteronomy 30:19)
    "If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15)
    "Let us choose for ourselves what is right; Let us know among ourselves what is good. (Job 34:4)
    Do not envy a man of violence And do not choose any of his ways. (Proverbs 3:31)
    "He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. (Isaiah 7:15)
  11. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. (1 Chronicles 16:24)
    Therefore glorify the LORD in the east, The name of the LORD, the God of Israel, In the coastlands of the sea. (Isaiah 24:15)
    Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made." (Isaiah 43:7)
    "The beasts of the field will glorify Me, The jackals and the ostriches, Because I have given waters in the wilderness And rivers in the desert, To give drink to My chosen people. (Isaiah 43:20)
    "Then all your people will be righteous; They will possess the land forever, The branch of My planting, The work of My hands, That I may be glorified. (Isaiah 60:21)
    "I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations. (Isaiah 66:19)
    "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
    But when Jesus heard this, He said, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it." (John 11:4)
    Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)
    For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, "THEREFORE I WILL GIVE PRAISE TO YOU AMONG THE GENTILES, AND I WILL SING TO YOUR NAME." (Romans 15:8-9)
    Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
    In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:8-12)
    Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
    For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:15)
    Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:12)
    Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11)
    but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. (1 Peter 4:16)
    and he said with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters." (Revelation 14:7)
  12. Westminster Shorter Catechism from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
  13. But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:7)
    But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10)
    looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! (2 Peter 3:12)
    "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished." (Matthew 5:18)
    "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." (Mark 13:31)
    "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." (Luke 21:33)
    And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, "YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN." And this expression, "Yet once more," denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. (Hebrews 12:26-27)
    And all the host of heaven will wear away, And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll; All their hosts will also wither away As a leaf withers from the vine, Or as one withers from the fig tree. (Isaiah 34:4)
  14. "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. (Isaiah 65:17)
    But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13)
    And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. (Revelation 21:1)
  15. "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)
    But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:60)
    "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)

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Last updated March 31, 2008

 

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