A question that stumped me in the beginning of my Christian journey was "If God created the universe 6000 year ago, how do we have visible stars 16 billion light years away?" The argument here is that when God created the universe, if He created the stars at that distance, it would take 16 billion years for the light to travel from the stars origin to the earth, and be visible to observers. I have to say, this is a very intelligent and logical argument against a young earth, as taught in the bible.
If you add up all the genealogies in scripture, going all the way back to Adam, the first man, it would give you an estimate of 6000 years ago as the creation of the world. So how is it possible that we have visible stars so far away? Most athiests believe they have the bible believing creationist backed into a inescapable and embarrassing corner with this question. But that really isn't the case. In fact, Christians should have several questions of their own to ask in return.
There are a few assumptions that have to be made to support the idea that light took 16 billion light years to reach earth from it's source. One assumption is that the speed of light is a perfect constant. However, in 1999 Harvard physicist Lene Hau was able to slow light down to common road speeds!
"Such an exotic medium can be engineered to slow a light beam 20 million-fold from 186,282 miles a second to a pokey 38 miles an hour."
"'In this odd state of matter, light takes on a more human dimension; you can almost touch it,' says Lene Hau, a Harvard University physicist."
- The Harvard Gazette, Physicists Slow Speed of Light
Not long after that, in 2001, a team at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) was able to actually STOP light in it's tracks! Knowing this, Hau was able to duplicate the results.
"She and her team continued to tweak their system until they finally brought light to a complete stop. The light dims as it slows down, so you think that it's being turned out."
- The Harvard Gazette, Researchers Now Able to Stop, Restart Light
Admittedly, in these articles it's stated that they were unable to speed up light, only slow it down. The point here is simply this, light isn't really a true constant. Just something to chew on for a moment.
Many times in scripture, it is stated that God stretched, or spread out the heavens. Often, in the same verse, it's is also speaking of creation of the heavens AND earth. Is it possible that God created the sky and stars much closer to Earth, and then "stretched" out space so that the stars ended up far from us? If that is the case, wouldn't the light from the stars be traveling back to their source from Earth instead of the other way around? If God stretched the heavens on day 4 of creation week, that would mean He stretched the heavens 32 billion light years across in a matter of perhaps SECONDS! If light only travels 186,282 miles per second, how long would it take the light from the stars, after God stretched the heavens in an instant, to get back to the source? The big question here is, is the light traveling from the stars to the Earth; or actually from a place closer to the Earth back to the stars?
Here are just 11 verses that I found showing how God stretched the heavens. Remember, notice it's often referring to "creation" as well.
"Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; ... who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:"
- Psalm 104:1-2 KJV
"It is he [God] that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, ... that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, ... "
- Isaiah 40:22 KJV
"Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, ... "
- Isaiah 42:5 KJV
"Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;"
- Isaiah 44:24 KJV
"I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host [stars/planets] have I commanded."
- Isaiah 45:12 KJV
"Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together."
- Isaiah 48:13 KJV
"And forgettest the LORD thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; ... "
- Isaiah 51:13 KJV
"He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion."
- Jeremiah 10:12 KJV
"He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heaven by his understanding."
- Jeremiah 51:15 KJV
"And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above."
- Ezekiel 1:22 KJV
"The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him."
- Zechariah 12:1 KJV
A point that I would like to make here is, when God created the moon and stars, did He not make them to be visible lights in the sky, that VERY DAY and moving forward?
"And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,"
- Genesis 1:15-17 KJV
Is God able to make an entire universe, but then unable to create stars 16 billion light years away with their light visible before having to wait 16 billion years? Even if God had not stretched the heavens, He is powerful enough to speak the universe into existence with any mechanics He chooses; and He did. Even the word "universe" can be broke into 2 words, "uni" (which means single), and "verse" (which means spoken sentence). You literally live in a single spoken sentence!
"And God said, Let there be ..."
- Genesis 1:3 KJV
Something further to consider, what would the effects on our Earth be if the stars were closer? Our sun is only 96 million miles away, and it will burn your skin if you are in it for too long. Or fry your eggs on a sidewalk in Phoenix on a hot day. There are billions of stars that are millions of times bigger than our sun. Maybe God knew what He was doing by placing them at the distance they are?
Lastly, I want to refer back to the second quote in this article, "The light dims as it slows down, so you think that it's being turned out." It makes me wonder, if light traveled faster, would it get brighter? Would the light be too bright for us?
I believe God put the stars 16 billion light years away because He deemed that as a safe distance. I also believe God made the speed of light no faster than 186,282 miles per second, deeming that a safe brightness (if brightness is possibly determined by the speed). Should we not trust God knows what's best for us? After all, God, in His infinite wisdom, did create this place. God also said that it was "GOOD" after every day of creation. And if God thinks it's good, who is going to argue with Him?
In summary, I believe God must have first made the stars in close proximity to the Earth, and then "stretched out the heavens" so the stars were 16 billion light years away, making them still visible on Earth. Is God capable of this? How big is your God?
It has been brought to my attention that in 2019 researchers at the University of Florida have discovered a way to completely control a pulse of light in an open space!
"Abouraddy and study co-author Esat Kondakci demonstrated they could speed a pulse of light up to 30 times the speed of light, slow it down to half the speed of light, and also make the pulse travel backward."
"The researchers were able to develop the technique by using a special device known as a spatial light modulator to mix the space and time properties of light, thereby allowing them to control the velocity of the pulse of light. The mixing of the two properties was key to the technique's success."
- Phys.org, by University of Central Florida
Honestly speaking, knowing this updated information, this doesn't really change the case made in the original authorship of this article. It rather strengthens it, at least on a humanistic level. Regardless, even if man could do NOTHING to change the speed of light, would that mean God is unable as well? Wouldn't that be equivalent to making God more like us, giving God our own limitations; limiting God to the laws and properties of our own universe? How would that be possible if God ESTABLISHED those laws and properties? Again, it comes back to putting restraints on God's power. If God can create the entire universe, how would He be unable to increase the speed of light to serve His purposes? If this universe is God's creation, then He has no limits within it, or outside of it for that matter. We do not have to understand God's power, but we should refrain from applying naturalistic limitations on it.
Written by: Joshua Berry
Article: Physicists Slow Speed of Light, The Harvard Gazette - by William Cromie https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/1999/02/physicists-slow-speed-of-light/
Article: Researchers now able to stop, restart light, The Harvard Gazette - by William Cromie https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2001/01/researchers-now-able-to-stop-restart-light/
Article: Researchers Develop Way to Control Speed of Light, Send it Backwards, University of Central Florida - https://phys.org/news/2019-04-researchers-develop-way-to-control.html
Article: Optical Space-Time Wave Packets Having Arbitrary Group Velocities in Free Space, H. Esat Kondakci & Ayman F. Abouraddy - https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-08735-8