Did God Create the Universe in Exactly Six Days?
Many will say, "The story of the 6-day creation is literal-God created the universe and all that is in it in six days." That is what the Bible says. Often they will insist that these are to be considered six twenty-four hour days.
What are the objections to the literal interpretation?
1. A day is a human invention related to the period of the earth's rotation. The sun was not placed in the sky until the fourth day. Therefore, God would have had to invent a twenty-four hour period for no purpose. Being eternal, God has no need to mark time. Indeed, "with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day." [2 Peter 3:8]
2. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 differ in the order of creation. In Genesis 1, Adam and Eve are created only after all the rest of creation is in place. In Genesis 2, Adam is created prior to the creation of vegetation and animals. Eve, on the other hand is created after the animals were created. A literal interpretation requires one of these accounts to be false. Because Scripture cannot be false, a non-literal interpretation is the only option,
3. In Genesis 2, Adam was created prior to dinosaurs. Even though they are not specifically mentioned in Scripture, it is clear that they once roamed the earth many years prior to man's appearance. Because they could not have existed contemporaneously with Adam, the only other possible explanation is that God placed their bones in the earth at creation to deceive us. God is Truth and, therefore, that explanation fails.
4. Finally, we have deduced from our study of creation that nothing created can exceed the speed of light. We also know that there are an uncountable number of stars that are millions of light-years away. If the Genesis 1 creation account is taken literally, then the only stars in the sky that we would see would be within the 10,000 light-year range as light from anything beyond that would not have reached us as yet.
What is the Catholic view?
The truth of Genesis 1 & 2 is that God created the universe out of nothing and sustains it in being. God created Man in His image and likeness-that is, he created for man an immortal soul, which he continues to do for every man. And finally, that we are all descended from Adam and Eve.
Beyond that, the Book of Genesis is NOT a science book intended to tell us HOW God did it; only THAT He did it. With this view, the problem of a 24-hour day without a sun, the sequential differences between Genesis 1 and 2, the dinosaur problem and the necessity for starlight to exceed the speed of light all evaporate like so much mist-and yet what remains is absolutely undeniable-God did it all from nothing.
Science and Religion both seek truth. Science, by its nature, confines itself to the observable world; Religion includes both the observable world and Divine Revelation. Nevertheless, honest and correct science and honest and correct religion can never be at odds. The problem with Carl Sagan and Charles Darwin and a zillion others is that they are not honest because they fail to allow for the existence of anything they cannot observe. (Although I think that now they both know the score.)
So if it is not important to believe that God created the universe in 6 days, why is it in the Bible?
God does not put words in the Bible to no purpose. God is establishing a pattern for us. "On the seventh day God rested." Are we really to believe that He was all tuckered out from all this creating work and needed to put His feet up and relax? No, of course not. Any parent knows that proper behavior needs to be modeled. WE NEED to rest every seven days from OUR work of six days. Through the Genesis account, God models the behavior He intends for us to learn.