Genesis 1 teaches us that God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, created the earth, simply by speaking. He ordered all of Creation and Scripture teaches us how to view his creation. Science is all about asking questions, getting data, and drawing conclusions from that data. For years, people have used the Bible as one of those data points to draw from as data, but when you compare it to science, things doesn't seem to add up. I have seen so much damage being caused by people trying to make science and creation answer the same questions, when the end, they have two very distinct purposes.
Think of it this way: "We do damage to religion when we treat Scripture like a scientific textbook, just as we do damage to science when we expect it to answer questions about a creator."(1) Scripture and science answer two distinct questions. Scripture tells us who created the world and science tell us how he did it.
I know what you're thinking: "Pastor Faith, I don't need science to tell me how Genesis 1 goes on to tell me exactly how he did it." You're right. Genesis 1 does go on to describe a story of how God created the world. It's a beautiful creation story.
Something for us to understand though is that not every story in the Bible is true. *gasp* That's right, I said that. Not every story in the Bible is true. Just as Jesus used parables in the New Testament, the Old Testament writers used storytelling to give us a better understanding of a God who is Omnipotence (all-powerful), Omniscience (all-knowing), and Omnipresence (all-present). He's too big for us to understand and these three words don't even begin to describe him adequately.
The writer of this story is using beautiful parallelism to tell us how incredible perfect God created the world. He made it balanced and beautiful. Then God created humankind in his image and was his last and most valued creation.(2)
It's important to realize how this creation story is different that other creation stories of its day. Most creation stories had "gods" creation out of procreation or war. No other story has a God creating out of nothing and out of pure desire to create something good. Our God is unique in that relationship with Creation and with us.
What's interesting is the church's progression and change in its understanding of Genesis 1 throughout time. In the 5th century, St. Augustine wrote The Literal Meaning of Genesis in which he said that it was a "logical framework" rather than a "physical passage of time." By this, he meant that Genesis 1 was not written for us to be taken as a story, not a historical or scientific account.
During the Protestant Reformation in 1517 which was made successful because of the Gutenberg Press. The Gutenberg Bible started showing up in about 1455, making the Bible available to the non-seminary trained church members. This is when we start to see in writings an increase in people taking all of the Scriptures more literally. The reason being that people had no way of knowing what Scripture passages to take literally and what passages to take figuratively.
The fundamentalist movement began to rise in the 1920's, especially in the Baptist and Presbyterian denominations. They took a hard line that if you did not support that the earth was created in 7 days and considered yourself a creationist, then you were not a real Christian. In 1925, the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tenessee battled science and evolution regarding which should be taught in the schools. The creationists won the case, but they were discredited to society, causing all Christians to be lumped in with their radical understanding of Genesis 1.
God gave us rational brains and our founder, John Wesley believed we shouldn't check them at the door. We should use them to think for ourselves. I encourage you to consider all the facts and pray on these issues. In the end, the core truth is that God is our creator, and he is the Lord and Master of the created order. Is it possible for him to have done it in 7-24 hour periods? Of course! He has the power to have done it all in a single moment. Did he do it in 7-1,000 year periods? Probably not. Basic science will tell out that our would not have survived at any stage of the story by itself.
I personally (because I know you are wanting to know by this point), am an Intelligent Design. That means I believe God planned everything that the scientist are discovering. That doesn't mean I agree with every theory that scientists come up with. They are just that, theories. To me, science proves the existence of God. Every time I learn more about God's created order, I am more amazed at his power.
As a friend of mine said, "Know what you believe and why." Don't just believe something because that's what you have always heard. Our culture demands more of you. Educate yourself and ask questions.
1 Ask: Faith Questions in a Skeptical Age. Scott J. Jones and Arthur D. Jones. Abingdon Press. 2015. p. 47.
2 If you want to read more about the uniqueness and perfection of how creation started, see Sandra Richter's book Epic of Eden.