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What is the problem with starlight in transit?

Published: 2 July 2016 (GMT+10)

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William M., United States, asks:

I had a question regarding the article How can distant starlight reach us in just 6,000 years?. My basic question is: Why does it seem inconsistent with God’s nature to create the light from a supernova that never existed? It seem the Bible has the same “problem” when it speaks of Christ creating wine from grapes that never existed. Or bread from wheat that never existed, or fish too for that matter. I just wondered if anyone from your organization had ever been asked this question? Has it ever been asked? (I did try to find it) Do you have a response? Blessings to you and thanks in advance.
iStockphoto space

, CMI-US responds:

Dear William,

Thanks for this very interesting question. The fundamental reason why God would not have created light in transit is that it implies a history that never existed. If we look at Star X’s light, we can tell how much hydrogen, helium, etc. is in the star. If we see its supernova, that’s an implied historical event. But if Star X never existed, and God simply created light in transit, that would mean that we could do scientific testing on a star that never actually existed.

To see how this differs from the creative miracles of Christ (and even events such as the virginal conception and Resurrection of Christ), we have to look at this idea of implied history. On Day 6, Adam was created as a fully-grown human man. If you or I were to go back in a time machine and see Adam, we might think he looked like a 20-something year old man, when in fact he was only hours old. Is this the same sort of implied history? Actually, it’s simply created maturity; when God created the universe, He did so in such a way that it could function with ecosystems, etc. See God created with functional maturity, not ‘appearance of age’ for more information. But if, for instance, Adam had been programmed with memories of a childhood that never happened, and had scars from knee scrapes that never happened, that would be the sort of unacceptable implied history that we’re talking about.

So what about the miracles of Jesus? There are a couple obvious differences. First, the miracles were on a much smaller scale, and there were witnesses who knew them to be miracles. No woman at the feeding of the 5,000 would have been asking for the recipe for the multiplying loaves, for instance. And the miracles were intended as signs. I.e. the miracles were clearly extraordinary events intended to require a response of either belief or unbelief.

We know that God is always at work providentially upholding the universe; if He weren’t we would all cease to exist. But because of His own nature, He does so in ways that are usually able to be described as physical laws—the speed of light is the same today as it was yesterday, and God isn’t going to speed it up tomorrow just for laughs. But He reserves the right to intervene in what we consider to be ‘the natural order’ at whatever scale He desires.

I hope this helps.

Readers’ comments

Austin C.
This was an excellent article very thought provoking!

Thank you
W. M.
To me, the question wasn't adequately answered. The asker's analogies stand in my mind. Baked bread does indeed imply history, as does fermented wine. It seems possible to me that the effect/energy/mass from implied supernova's, etc., were necessary for the order and balance of God's design of our universe. I do love your articles and your responses. You do a great work of and for our Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom, and a great service for all.
David (Greg) A.
CMI is one of the most wonderful ministries I know; I love you all very much. Back in 2013, Dr. Danny Faulkner at AiG suggested what is probably the best solution to the "Starlight time" problem (since God operated in this general way as He created). Faulkner essentially treats it (the speed of light) like God creating Adam and Eve and plants fully formed. Your article would seem to imply that his idea "...implies a history that never existed."; but this is false. It is possible God wanted vast distances to exist after He started this time-space-matter continuum we live in but still wanted light to travel at a certain speed and so made everything start this way-just as He apparently wanted Adam and Eve to be fully grown physically when He started their lives and so He simply made them that way. If He wanted those results, God could have "grabbed" the light from a truly exploding supernova and "super-pulled" it across the universe to Earth in order to accomplish what He desired. In fact, the scriptures speaking of God unfolding the universe like a curtain makes me think of an accordion being opened up-when you start, everything is compressed close together but when you pull it apart there suddenly would be great distances. I think it is fine for Dr.'s Hartnett and Humphreys to develop these fascinating theories about how light could physically stretch so far in 6,000 years, but I see nothing wrong with ideas like Dr. Faulkner's either.
Ronald M.
The logic in the answer is not very tight. "If you or I were to go back in a time machine and see Adam, we might think he looked like a 20-something year old man, when in fact he was only hours old. Is this the same sort of implied history? Actually, it’s simply created maturity"
There are several things that could be said here. for example, Adam's muscles would be healthy as if he had be been eating well and exercising regularly - even though he did not exist. I am not saying you are wrong and that the "maturity" theory is wrong, but it certainly is not as clear as we would like (I like that view). Also, I would not say "God would not" do things this way or that way. I do not think either view (the appearance of age view and the maturity view) is a challenge to the character of God.
Raymond H.
Is it possible that we are asking the wrong question? Perhaps in some way that we don't understand "existent light" is part of the fabric of the cosmos, created with its "parent" star? (I write as is evident not having any astronomical expertise!)
phil S.
If we see light in the universe then it comes from a source. Light does not exist otherwise. A supernova gives light that is brighter than other stars, which is why we know it is a supernova. Christ turned water into wine, without the vine or the grapes or the fermentation and that was a miracle. Ordinarily grapes take months to grow, and that is no less a miracle because the growth is from God. The fermentation is a miracle. Jesus is the vine, we are the branches. Grains of wheat fall to the ground in the autumn, dead. But in the spring God gives them life and God gives them growth. At harvest the wheat is harvested and turned into bread and this, also is a miracle.
When the Israelites were in the desert, there was no food, so God gave them bread from heaven, manna, and thas also was a miracle. Exodus 16.1-5. Jesus is the True Bread from heaven.
Hans G.
What a beautiful fruit Lita's tree produced.
Les G.
Lita is certainly one of the many really bright stars in the CMI galaxy. Congratulations on such a clear and thoughtful answer to a thoughtful question.

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