Starlight Proves Old Universe?|
Q. If galaxies are millions or billions of light years away, why don't Christian fundamentalists think the universe is also billions of years old? (J.M.,WA)
This is a terriric question and one that is debated frequently in churches today. Please don't assume we are married to any one theory concerning this question. We just want to keep open minds and listen to what the Bible and scientists say about it.
Constant Light Speed&Universe Size?
Most people assume that light has always traveled at 186,000 miles per second. The second assumption is that the universe has always remained the same size.
But in fact, there is some evidence that light used to travel much faster than today, and the Bible repeatedly says that the heavens are being "stretched out."
In other words, the universe is expanding. Therefore, it would take longer for light to travel because the universe has become bigger and is continuing to expand.
In 1927 a French astronomer M.E.J. Gheury said,
"If the velocity of light is constant, how is it that, invariably, new determinations give values which are lower than the last one obtained…There are twenty-two coincidences in favour of a decrease of the velocity of light, while there is not a single one against it" (Brown, 1980, 232).
Walt Brown's Observations
Dr. Walt Brown states, "The speed of light appears to increase at an accelerating rate the farther back one looks in time. Several mathematical curves seem to fit these three centuries of data. Projecting those curves back in time, the speed of light becomes so fast that conceivably light from distant galaxies could have reached Earth in several thousand years" (1980, 232).
An Australian astronomer, Barry Setterfield, is most well known for presenting this theory in modern times. Russian cosmologist, V.S. Troitskii at the Radiophysical Research Institute in Gorky, also concluded that "the speed of light was 10 billion times faster at time zero!" (Brown, 1980, 232).
Dr. Brown concludes by stating that the decrease in the speed of light doesn't necessarily conflict with Einstein's theory that the speed of light is constant.
"Einstein's theory of special relativity assumes the speed of light is independent of the velocity of the light source. …Many have misinterpreted this to mean that 'Einstein said the speed of light is constant.'"
"Setterfield, on the other hand, says that while the speed of light has decreased over time, at any instant all light beams travel at the same speed, regardless of the velocity and location of their sources" (Brown, 1980, 233).
Expanding Universe Biblical
Let's also look at some Bible verses that support the idea of an expanding universe:
Job 9:8 - "(God) Who alone stretches out the heavens"
Job 26:7 - "He streches out the north over the empty place, and hangs the earth upon nothing."
Isaiah 40:22-23 - "It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in."
Zechariah 12:1 - "The burden of the word of the LORD concerning Israel. Thus declares the LORD who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him" (NASB).
High School&College Astronomy
High school and college students are taught that the universe is billions of years old and that the idea of creation occurring thousands of years ago is ludicrous. While it does not matter to us whether God may have created the universe billions or ten thousands of years ago, there are theories justifying both positions. It may be wise to at least consider both.
The important thing to remember is that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1).
Science teaches the universe in five, basic terms:
Just this one verse in Genesis shows that God created time ("In the beginning").
There is a point in time when all things came into being ("beginning").
There is a Creator (power).
He created space (heavens) and matter (earth).
Finally, in verse 2 it says, "And the Spirit of God moved (showing motion) upon the face of the waters."
That's enough for me! It fits with the teachings of science.
Brown, Walt. 2001. In the beginning. Phoenix, AZ: Center for Scientific Creation, Seventh Edition. (Walt Brown received a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from MIT. He is a retired full colonel in the Air Force, a West Point graduate and former Army ranger and paratrooper. He has worked as a tenured associate professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy and as Chief of Science and Technology Studies at the Air War College).
Comfort, Ray. Scientific facts in the Bible. Available from:
Postscript: Jeffrey L. Mays passed away on 2/7/10. He contributed at least 40 dynamic questions to Remnant Report. He leaves us with a valuable lesson: never put off questions about faith, heaven and hell or other issues that count for eternity.