Starlight and the Age of the Universe - Article from Greg Koukl

This is an article from Greg Koukl that I appreciated regarding Starlight and the age of the Universe. When it comes to the debate or argument regarding young earth vs. old earth, Christians and others need to be aware of the implications on each side. I really liked how he laid this out, even if it may seem a bit harsh at times to the YEC, because I think they need to realize, from a Christian point of view, how silly it can sound at times. The more I learn, the more I realize that some things make more sense than others, and its all God's world anyway. The truths of His world, universe, creation basically WILL line up with the reality that He is. This all, regardless of what we think and our own interpreations. Whether true or false, just believed, or trying to force what has been forced onto us by those we respect or listen to.

Greg Koukl - Starlight and the Age of the Universe

"A young-universe creationist is in a very difficult spot. If he holds that God created the light in transit, he also has to hold that we have no way of knowing that anything further than 10,000 light years away actually exists. We can't see it. We're not seeing it; we're seeing an image that God created in transit. The light from it won't reach us for a billion years.

You see, the argument from young-earthers regarding star light is that God not only created the galaxies in deep space, but He also created all the light between that star and earth. This is why we can see them now even though the universe is young.

My question is, how do you know the stars are really there? You don't see the light of anything that existed. You're seeing an image created in transit of an event-- watch this-- that never took place.

If all we're seeing is an image that God created in transit, then the only way we're going to see the actual thing that exists is if we wait around another billion years for the light of the actual star to reach us. Who of us believes the Lord will tarry that long? Not a billion years. Which means we'll never see it, will we? We'll never see what God actually created, not the thing itself.

Doesn't that throw into question the existence of anything in outer space at all? Because, in fact, since we'll never see the thing itself-- and what we see is not the thing, but an image God created in transit-- well then, why would God ever need to create the thing in the first place? The image would be fully adequate for God's purpose. The only thing God would have to create is the light image, because we'd never see the thing itself anyway. But doesn't the Scripture seem to indicate that what we see are the very things that God created?

You see, this "God created light in transit" view is kind of misleading, because we think of it like the steady glow of a light bulb. There's a light bulb way out there in space and just a steady glow in between. God could put that glow from me to it and I could see the glow.

But the images we actually see in outer space-- that, according to young earthers, were allegedly created in transit by God-- are images of turbulent events, not just a steady glow.

Let me give you an illustration. Astronomers looking through their telescopes see a super nova explosion a billion light years away. (Super nova is when a star explodes and sends its material spewing out into space.) What exist now, at this moment, are the random bits of the old star which, allegedly, is the condition God actually created six to ten thousand years ago.

What this means is that the star the astronomers saw explode never existed. The super nova never happened. This seems to suggest that God created the illusion of the universe and not the universe itself, because that which allegedly exists, we will never see. That which allegedly exists, we'll never see, and that which we actually see never existed.

If that's the case, then I think it's fair to ask ourselves what else we think exists, but doesn't? How much more of the world is just an illusion created by God? How do we know what is real and what is not?

At this point, you can't fall back on the Bible, for two reasons. First, the Bible seems to say that God created actual heavenly bodies, not just images to aid us in some way. Yet in this view, that is not the case. Second, even the words on the pages of my Bible reach my mind through light images. Why should I trust that what I see looking down when I'm reading is real when I can't trust what I see gazing up at the night sky?

Doesn't this begin to create a skepticism about the existence of real things? A skepticism that could collapse into solipsism, the theory that the self is the only thing that can be known: I'm the only one that exists, and my perceptions.

This view, then, undermines all observational disciplines, including science and history. Because we don't know if we're seeing the thing itself or merely a fabricated image, an illusion of something that doesn't exist.

Let me say it again. What's really there, we never see. What we do see was never there. There were no super nova explosions billions of years ago. Those things never happened. The only thing we see are images of explosions that never took place.

This would mean that virtually everything I see in the heavens-- anything outside our solar system-- isn't real. It's simply a light image of events that never took place, an illusion.

Why make stars so far away that we can't see them? Why make events appear to our eyes that never happened? There's a simple word for it. It's called deception. That's what God would be guilty of if that's really the way it happened.

As an old-earther, I'm going to say that evidence for an ancient universe is in the heavens because scientific testing shows us that these stars are far away and their light takes a long time to reach us. Therefore, if we're seeing light from those stars, and they're a billion light years away, then those stars must have existed for at least a billion years.

The counter from a young-earther is, No, wait, you don't understand. God actually created the light in transit. If God created everything in six days, then He had to create the star, too, because it does say He created the heavens and the earth. I'm thinking this is what they're going to hold.

So, He created the star and the earth and the light in between, which sounds fine if you're thinking of the star like a light bulb that is giving off a steady glow. But what we have in the galaxies are not just simply light bulbs giving off a steady glow, and you have this undifferentiated stream of glow flowing through the universe that God creates. Rather, what we have are light images of specific events in the universe, like super nova explosions, for example. So, if we see a super nova explosion that appears to be a billion light years away, this suggests, from my view, that it actually happened a billion years ago.

But a young-earther is going to have to say, No, that image is just something God created in transit. He just created it. It didn't really happen because there was no "billion years ago." Instead, the only thing that God actually created are all these little bits and pieces floating around in the universe that look like they were the result of that explosion that never happened.

You call that deception? That's my point. God doesn't do that, I suspect.

There's one other point to that, too. If this is the case, actually-- if the earth is only six to ten thousand years old-- then nothing outside of our solar system...

[tape ended here]

What a young-earther is going to have to say is that the star never exploded because it's just a light image that was created in transit. It looks like it exploded a billion years ago, but there was nothing here a billion years ago. What we actually have here now are just bits and pieces floating around. And what we see that looks like a billion years ago is not the super nova that exploded and gave us the bits and pieces we have now, but instead is simply an image that God made in between.

My point is simply that we have observational evidence that seems to indicate an ancient universe. And the solution-- the way young-earthers would get around that-- creates an absolutely unacceptable situation in which we'd have to admit that all galactic phenomenon are simply images and illusions created by God. And we have no way of knowing whether things actually exist out there today that somehow correspond with those phenomenon, because we can't see those things yet. It will be a billion years before we actually see those things.

I think that this view leads to an absolutely untenable situation and encourages incredible skepticism. Because if that's the case, and what I see are simply images created in transit, then I have no confidence that there's anything beyond those images. Because, actually, God didn't need anything more than the images. He doesn't need the thing itself, because we won't see the thing itself for a billion years."

This is a transcript of a commentary from the radio show "Stand to Reason," with Gregory Koukl. It is made available to you at no charge through the faithful giving of those who support Stand to Reason. Reproduction permitted for non-commercial use only. ©1997 Gregory Koukl