Why Does the Universe Look So Old?

Article by Tim Challies (original source here)

When it comes to the age of the universe, Christians find themselves in a bit of a conundrum. At least, those Christians do who hold to a traditional interpretation of the first two chapters of Genesis—an interpretation that leads them to believe the universe is something less than the billions of years indicated by contemporary understandings of the scientific data. Those, like me, who hold to a six-day understanding of creation have to face this question: Why does the universe look so old? Why does it look older than it actually is? This is a question Dr. Albert Mohler took on at a Ligonier Ministries conference several years ago and his response was (and remains) helpful to me.

Before I comment on his answer, I want to point out that all Christians, no matter their interpretation of the opening chapters of Scripture, have difficult questions to face as they attempt to strike harmony between Scripture and science or, better, between God’s book of special revelation and God’s book of natural revelation. Those who believe the universe is ancient have to grapple with the existence of death before the fall, for example, or why the creation account is so clearly laid out as if it all takes place in six literal days. It is not only young earth creationists who have to admit the existence of difficult questions.

As Dr. Mohler considers the age of the universe he tells why he is drawn to the six-day view: “In our effort to be most faithful to the scriptures and most accountable to the grand narrative of the gospel, an understanding of creation in terms of 24-hour calendar days and a young earth entails far fewer complications, far fewer theological problems, and actually is the most straightforward and uncomplicated reading of the text as we come to understand God telling us how the universe came to be and what it means and why it matters.”

But why, then, if the universe is so young, does it look so old? His first answer is this:

The universe looks old because the Creator made it whole.

Accordingly to a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2, God did not create a universe that began in an infant or primordial state before maturing over billions of years, but a universe that actually began in a state of maturity. When it was still young it already looked mature because this was God’s design. Indeed, this was the case with the first human being. “When he made Adam, Adam was not a fetus; Adam was a man; he had the appearance of a man. By our understanding that would’ve required time for Adam to get old but not by the sovereign creative power of God.” Adam and Eve were created whole, mature, grown up, and were placed in a garden that was also whole, mature, and grown up. “The garden was not merely seeds; it was a fertile, fecund, mature garden. The Genesis account clearly claims that God creates and makes things whole.” There is our first answer, that the universe looks old because God created it to look old. This was design, not deception, just as was the case for Adam, the human being who had no history, no parents, no infancy, no childhood.

The second answer is this: The universe looks old because it bears the effects of sin. Sin is an evil intruder into the world and one that brought about God’s judgment. This judgment was expressed in the catastrophe of the great worldwide flood and in a million lesser catastrophes since. These catastrophes have marked, stained, and scarred all that God created. We bear the effects of sin in our tired eyes, wrinkled skin, and aching bones, and in equivalent ways the earth is marked and marred by sin. Paul says in Romans 8 that the world is groaning, “And in its groaning it does look old. It gives us empirical evidence of the reality of sin.” The universe looks old rather than young to display the evidence and consequences of sin, for once we see this we are but a short distance from considering the joy, necessity, and beauty of redemption. A suffering world is crying out for the deliverance that will come.

To my mind these are compelling answers, though they are admittedly somewhat speculative in that neither one can appeal directly to chapter or verse. I will give the final word to Dr. Mohler: “At the end of the day, if I’m asked the question ‘why does the universe look so old?’ I’m simply left with the reality that the universe is telling the story of the glory of God. Why does it look so old? Well that, in terms of any more elaborate answer, is known only to the Ancient of Days. And that is where we are left.”

All Creation Sings God’s Praise

Louie Giglio Mashup of Stars and Whales Singing God’s Praise

Psalm 148

1 Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!

2 Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!

3 Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!

4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!

5 Let them praise the name of the LORD!
For he commanded and they were created.

6 And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

7 Praise the LORD from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,

8 fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word!

9 Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!

10 Beasts and all livestock,
creeping things and flying birds!

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!

12 Young men and maidens together,
old men and children!

13 Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.

14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his saints,
for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the LORD!

The Universe Had a Beginning

In this excerpt from his message at Ligonier’s 2012 National Conference, Dr. Stephen Meyer tells the story of how Hubble showed Einstein that the universe was not eternal but must have had a beginning.

Transcript

Hubble came into astronomy in the 1920’s at a very propitious time. It was at just the time that astronomers were gaining access to these large dome telescopes that were able to resolve very tiny pinpoints of light in the night sky. Prior to Hubble and the scientists who were looking into the night sky in the 1920’s, there was debate among astronomers as to whether or not the Milky Way galaxy, in which our solar system resides, was the only galaxy, or whether there might be others beyond it. Hubble resolved that issue as he also resolved these points of light, because as he looked through this great dome telescope at the Palomar Observatory, he was able to determine that little points of light that had been viewed through ordinary telescopes before, and just looked like little points, actually revealed galaxies—whole galaxies with hundreds and millions of stars.

The picture behind us is a Spindle Nebula, and he saw Spiral Nebula, many different galaxies in every quadrant of the sky. Such that today, astronomers have something they call the “Hubble Deep Field,” and it’s a picture of the night sky. On the picture behind you’ll see a little square box, a little quadrant. Now the next slide is going to be that quadrant magnified further and you see that even in the tiniest little square in the night sky there are galaxies galore.

And so, the first thing that Hubble determined was that we live in an immense universe. It was grand in scope beyond our wildest imaginations; galaxies in every direction. Now that was just awe-inspiring, but there was also a very theoretically and philosophically significant discovery that he made that was closely associated with this, and that is the discovery that these galaxies are moving away from us. In every direction of the night sky the galaxies are receding. And the evidence for that came from something called “Red Shift.” It’s that the light coming from those distant galaxies was redder in its hue, in its electromagnetic spectrum, in its color, than it would otherwise be if the galaxies were stationary in relationship to us.

How many have heard of the Doppler Effect? Do you know of that? If you have a train moving away from us, the sound of the train whistle will drop in pitch. Well the drop in pitch corresponds to a shift in wavelength. Up in Seattle, we have these…I don’t know if you can talk about beer commercials in a church, but why not…we have these beer commercials for Rainier Beer. And they had these guys dressed up as beer cans that rode around on motor bikes. And at the end of the commercial they would ride off into the sunset saying, “Raaainieeerrrrr Beeeeer,” and you had the Doppler shift happening. I’m probably the only person that watched that and thought Doppler shift rather than let’s go get a brewsky, you know?

The same thing happens with light. Now what do you infer from that? I have a visual aide, and it’s not a beer can, it’s a balloon. Hubble got to thinking about this and he realized that if the galaxies—and I’ve drawn these little spirals on the balloon, so think going in the forward direction of time what’s happening—If all the galaxies are moving away from us, that means the universe must be expanding outward in a kind of spherically symmetric expansion. So as you go forward in time, you get the universe getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger. Now what happens if you wind the clock backwards like the Saturday morning cartoons where they make the characters go backwards? What if you, the technical term is back extrapolate in time, if you go back 1,000 years? Is the universe bigger or smaller? Ok, and as you go back, and go back, and back, and back, and back, the further you go back in time the universe gets smaller, and smaller, and smaller until eventually you reach the beginning point of the expansion, where everything was congealed together. And Hubble realized that an expanding universe implied a finite universe—a universe that actually has a beginning; a beginning in time.

Now this was a really significant discovery because at the very same time on the other side of the country there was this physicist with bad hair named, Albert Einstein. And Einstein had come to the same conclusion that the universe must have a beginning, but then he said, “No, no, no, no, that cannot be right.” And Einstein came to it on the basis of his theory of general relativity which was a theory of gravitation. And the equations of his theory suggested that the universe must be expanding outward and decelerating in order for all the math to work out. But when he realized that if it was expanding outward it must have had a beginning, he said no that can’t be right. So then he posited an arbitrary force that was meant to counter act the force of expansion in just the right measure so that the universe would be static, and therefore could have existed eternally, without expanding or contracting.

When I was a physics student we use to call this “dry-labbing.” Where you know, the professor gives you an experiment to do and you know what the answer is supposed to be, but you do the thing with the hockey pucks on the air table, and it’s not coming out right. And it’s getting near the end of the period and you want to go to dinner, and so what do you do? Now I’m not saying I ever did this, but I know some people who did. And you take the pen and you adjust the values so that they match the theory. Ok—that’s called dry-labbing. That’s essentially what Einstein, one of the greatest physicists in the history of the world, that’s essentially what he did. He fudged. He fudged, because he had a preconceived idea that the universe must be eternal. And that was such a strong philosophical predilection that he adjusted the science to try to meet with that.

Then Hubble comes along and discovers that the universe actually is expanding; there must have been a beginning. And so he invites Einstein out to California to view the evidence that he’d been viewing through this grand telescope. And there’s some famous newsreel footage where Einstein comes out and he looks through the telescope with Hubble in the background smoking his pipe, and he comes out and meets the media and says, “I now see the necessity of a beginning.”

In any case, Einstein gets it, and later says that his cosmological constant, his little fudge factor, was the greatest mistake of his scientific career. In essence, the heavens talked back. And the testimony of the sky was that there was a beginning to the universe.

Without Excuse

Romans 1: 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools…

Why are we here? Literally. The latest science says we shouldn’t be. It says that the chance life exists at all is less than zero. So, is science the greatest threat to the idea of Intelligent Design or is science its greatest advocate? Best-selling author and lecturer, Eric Metaxas, poses this intriguing question:

The Sun

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, 2015 marks five years in space for NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which provides incredibly detailed images of the whole sun 24 hours a day. Capturing an image more than once per second, SDO has provided an unprecedentedly clear picture of how massive explosions on the sun grow and erupt ever since its launch on Feb. 11, 2010. The imagery is also captivating, allowing one to watch the constant ballet of solar material through the sun’s atmosphere, the corona.

In honor of SDO’s fifth anniversary, NASA has released a video showcasing highlights from the last five years of sun watching. Watch the movie to see giant clouds of solar material hurled out into space, the dance of giant loops hovering in the corona, and huge sunspots growing and shrinking on the sun’s surface.