I’ll be honest, the fact that light at its current speed could not have reached earth in the 6000 odd years since the creation of the world never bothered me very much. I was always much more interested in questions of biology. However, this issue seems to trouble many people. Therefore, we shall examine the issue in play here and attempt to describe a Biblical answer to the problem.
First of all, we need to define what the light travel problem is. Essentially, due to the known speed of light and the estimated distance of stars from earth, scientists have calculated that it would take light millions of years to reach earth from some of the more distant stars. If uniformitarianism is assumed, this would seem to argue against a six thousand-year-old earth. However, this does require some assumptions and ignores the problems with the secular big bang model which will be covered in a future post.
Christians have dealt with this problem in a number of ways. Some have just surrendered and claimed that the earth must be millions of years old. The Biblical text does not support such a surrender however, so many Christians believe that God created light “in transit”. In other words, when God made the world, He created the light from distant stars already in route to earth, thereby ensuring that Adam saw stars on day six. There is, however, a few problems with this. The primary one is novas and supernovas. Because the stars are millions of light-years away, and we observe supernovas and novas, in a six thousand-year-old universe, God would have had to have created light with no source. In other words, He would have been having to show us false pictures until the alleged supernova or nova happened. In other words, this would make God dishonest.
However, a couple other proposals have been put forward by creation scientists to explain this phenomenon. There are three or four out there but this article will focus on just two which, we believe, are perhaps the best, though other evidence may change this in future. The first proposal comes from Dr. Russell Humphries. Dr. Humphries put forward an idea which he derived from the Scriptures. Humphries observed that the Scripture repeatedly talks about the heavens being stretched out like a scroll or a garment. As Humphries noticed this, he developed an idea that as God created the universe, He stretched it out. In other words, when God made the heavenly bodies, He stretched them out, which caused the light from stars to be stretched as they were formed. This would allow starlight to be visible to Adam and Eve on day six.
Alternatively, Dr. Jason Lisle has proposed a completely different approach based on the one way speed of light being a convention. See, the speed of light can only be measured as a round trip speed. What that means is, you cannot measure the time it takes for light to go from point A to point B. You can only measure it from point A to point B and back to point A. Based on that, we divide by two to determine the one way speed of light. However, that is a convention. It is not something we know to be a fact. We assume it but it is possible that light travels one way instantaneously and travels twice as long on the way back. This sounds weird and unorthodox but according to Einstein’s relativity physics, it is possible.
Either of these options is possible. I like the simplicity of Dr. Humpries’ idea, along with the fact he drew it directly from Scripture. However, elements of Dr. Lisle’s idea appeal to me as well, particularly how clever it is. It makes use of elements of physics that the secularists cannot deny exist and essentially flips their script back at them. Ultimately, there is no way to determine from Scripture which of these two, or other ideas I did not mention directly from Scripture. Until such time as we are able to scientifically demonstrate the ideas, it does not matter which you choose to hold to. Dr. Humphries idea does have the advantage of having predicted the magnetic field of Uranus before it was known, but it is possible Lisle’s model could also make successful predictions. Either way, distant starlight can certainly be explained within a young earth model and thus should be no hindrance to the faith on anyone.