Distant starlight and the biblical timeframe
This post comes from Dr Don Batten of Creation Ministries International.
The following question is often directed to Christians, ‘How can you believe in a straightforward biblical time-frame and explain distant starlight?’
The ‘problem’ is formulated thus:
- The biblical time-frame is about 6,000 years since creation (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”, Gen. 1:1)
- There are stars that are millions and billions of light years distant that we can see. Travelling at the speed of light, the light from those stars would take millions or billions of years to travel to Earth, depending on the distance, so that we can see them.
Skeptics of the Bible’s history often frame this as a ‘gotcha’ question because they think that there is no satisfactory answer. Theistic evolutionists, who accept the grand evolutionary tale and ‘add God’, often pose this question. Likewise with so-called ‘old earth creationists’ who wish to defer to the secular timeframe but retain other parts of the Bible’s account. They think that such an unanswerable question destroys belief in the Bible’s timeframe—and thus Genesis ‘must’ be poetic, ‘just theology’, or ‘the days are long periods of time’, etc.
But this question does not trouble me because creation week entailed a series of miracles.
A series of miracles
Throughout the account in Genesis 1, the Bible says that God spoke things into existence—eight times, “And God said … ”. And after He spoke it is often concluded with, “and it was so”. The New Testament tells us, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Heb. 11:3).
The word of God brought the universe into existence from something that is not visible, something unlike ordinary visible/tangible matter and energy. This is consistent with the scientific conclusion that the matter and energy that comprise the universe cannot be eternal. Thus, the cause of the universe must be supernatural.
And so the Bible describes the Word of God as powerful: “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11).
The New Testament tells us that this agency of God, the Word by which He created everything, was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (Jn. 1:1–3).
Genesis 2 tells us that God made the first man and woman. He took dust and made the man, Adam (Gen. 2:7), and took his rib and fashioned the woman, Eve, the mother of all.
I have never had anyone demand that I explain to them how God made a man from dust. And yet there is this demand that we explain how God could have created the stars such that we can see the light from distant stars.
The Genesis account makes it clear that the creation of the heavenly bodies was just as miraculous as the creation of the first people:
And God said, “Let there be lights … And God made the two great lights—the greater light [sun] to rule the day and the lesser light [moon] to rule the night—and the stars” (Gen. 1:14–16).
Was this any less a miracle than the creation of the man from dust? And yet there is a demand for a naturalistic explanation for how God did this! This seems to me to be quite inconsistent and unreasonable to demand such a thing as a condition of believing the Bible’s account, especially the timeframe.
It’s also interesting that the timeframe of six days with a seventh day of rest—the basis of our 7-day week (Ex. 20:11)—underlines the miraculous nature of God’s actions. And that is part of the problem for those who don’t or won’t believe the timeframe, such as theistic evolutionists and long age creationists. When they refuse to believe the timeframe, they then tend to think of ‘creation’ in a naturalistic way, over billions of years. And then secular ideas of how things came to be take precedence over the Bible’s clear account. Thus the miraculous nature of Creation Week takes a back seat and so we have this demand for a naturalistic explanation for how we can see distant starlight.
The bottom line: Creation Week involved a series of miracles, one after the other. Thus, these are things for which we can provide no natural explanation. We do not know how God could speak the stars into existence, and thus we cannot know how He created things in such a way that we can see the light from celestial objects millions and billions of light years distant.
In other words, the question tacitly denies the supernatural nature of the Creation Week events. In doing so it robs God of His omnipotence and limits Him to work only in ways that we can understand. This results in a very diminished view of God. In effect, those who do this are constructing a god compatible with their own limited understanding, which is a form of idolatry.
The Genesis account makes it clear that the creation of the heavenly bodies was just as miraculous as the creation of the first people.
Appendix: Other comments
According to Shaun Doyle, “When God says He created something supernaturally, we’re no longer given the option to interpret its origin in terms of natural processes. If we try, we will conclude a false origin”.
Alexey D wrote: Processes which happened during creation week should be very different from processes that happen after it. It is quite clear even in everyday life that the process of product manufacturing is very different from the process of product exploitation. What happens with car in a factory is very different from what happens when you drive it. Writing of software is very different from using this software. Cooking a cake is very different from eating it. So, what happened during the “manufacturing” of our universe should not be necessary explainable with laws which we observe while living in an already “produced” universe.
According to George H, God created the laws of science that applied after the Creation Week. This means that these laws do not necessarily apply during the Creation week. So the starlight that comes from more than 6 thousands years ago, began during Creation Week when the current laws of physics not longer apply. So the age of these light-sources cannot be calculated by physics because any such calculation breaches the boundary condition of Creation Week.
This has implications for scientists who extrapolate backwards in time past recorded history. Obviously, according to the historical record in the Bible, the earth’s real history is no longer than about 6,000 years and scientists shouldn’t extrapolate backwards past then. If they do, there is something wrong with their assumptions and their findings are purely theoretical and don’t match reality.
This is a boundary condition problem. Theoretical models always assume certain boundary conditions and the model only applies within these constraints. The problem with the big-bang model and Darwinian evolution is that they violate a boundary condition imposed by God. If we extrapolate backwards in time for 6,000 years we reach the initial condition after God created the universe. Beyond that we are making assumptions about a miracle which is nonsense! So the supposed 14 billion age of the universe is nonsense. It’s purely hypothetical. It’s like remote sensing without ground truthing with in-situ measurements.
This post comes from an article, by Dr Don Batten of Creation Ministries International.
Posted, May 2022
Also see: The greatest miracle