THE CREATION VERSUS EVOLUTION CONTROVERSY: PART SEVEN
In installment seven of this series, we return to an examination of how old the earth and universe actually are. As already discussed, evolutionists and progressive creationists believe the radio-metric dating methods used to date fossils and rocks have sufficiently proved the earth and heavenly bodies to be billions of years old. Six-day creationists believe the earth and universe are around six to ten thousand years old. In addition to radio-metric/isotope dating, evolutionists point to star light as evidence for a very old earth and universe.
Scientists, using a large variety of techniques to determine distance between heavenly bodies, have determined there to be tremendous amounts of space that separate stars one from another. The techniques used by astronomers and others to measure these distances are generally believed to be reasonably accurate and are accepted by most in both the evolutionist and creationist camps.
The light we see from stars must travel multiple millions of light-year miles to reach planet earth. Since it has been demonstrated that light travels at a constant 186,000 miles per second throughout the universe, scientists can measure the time it takes for light to reach the earth based on the distance between the earth and stars. Based on the measured distances of stars, it has been determined that the star light we see, left such stars millions and, in some cases, billions of years ago. It is argued that if the star light we see left such stars millions of years ago, such stars must be millions and even billions of years old and therefore the universe is billions of years old.
Progressive creationists are in agreement with evolutionists on this point and believe this to be strong evidence for a very old universe. Six day creationists have answered this observation by postulating that when God created the universe, earth and life in six days, He created a mature, fully functioning cosmos where everything was in a fully developed state. It is pointed out that Adam and Eve were created as full grown adults. Animals, trees and other plant life were created fully developed. It is believed trees had tree rings which would have given them the appearance of age but in reality they would have only been a day old, the day after they were created.
The sun, moon and stars are seen as being created on the fourth day of creation week. By and large, creationists believe the stars were created and positioned at vast distances from each other as astronomers have discovered. Therefore, under normal circumstances, light from such stars would not have reached the earth for many years from the creation event. Since, however, it is believed God created the universe in a mature, functional state, light beams from the stars would have been part of that mature state and would have been seen from planet earth as though they had traveled for thousands of years to reach the earth. Therefore, Adam and Eve would have seen the original light given off by the stars and would have seen the stars in their original positions. Based on this approach, we today are seeing light from stars that were created only six to ten thousand years ago and not millions of years ago as evolutionists contend.
Six day creationists, who believe the creation occurred six to ten thousand years ago, contend that light beams must have been part of the six day creation event because star light is stated as being for the purpose of acting as signs to mark seasons, days and years.
Genesis 1:14: And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years.
In summary, this approach says God created the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day to be totally functional for His subsequent creation of man who would need and use these heavenly bodies in the manner that God prescribed. Stars were created at vast distances from the earth but instant light beams were created as well to facilitate useful star light. Creation is thus seen as occurring in six days around six to ten thousand years ago.
A serious challenge to this approach involves supernova (exploding stars). According to the “created light beam” theory, God created light beams in association with the stars he created on the fourth day of creation. There is no reason to believe God created exploding stars on that fourth day of creation since such stars are burned out stars and God had just completed a perfect creation where He pronounced everything as being good. Therefore the exploding stars that are seen must have exploded since the six day creation event and their light would be assumed to be traveling at the normal 186,000 miles per second with no specially created light beams created in advance of the time their light would naturally hit earth. This is where the problem comes in for the young earth creationists.
For example, in July of A.D. 1054, the Chinese reported the sudden appearance of a bright light in the region of the Crab constellation. It was so bright that it could for several weeks be seen in broad daylight. This light lasted for about a year and a half during which time it faded and finally disappeared from sight. Today we see the remains of this event as the Crab Nebula, a cloud of expanding gas and dust, the remains of what was an exploding star. At the center of this nebula is the remains of the original star which is now a dense neutron star sending out pulses of radio signals and thus called a pulsar.
The Crab Nebula is 6,500 light years from earth. For creationists who believe in a 6,000 year old universe this presents a serious problem. Even if this explosion had taken place immediately after creation week of approximately 6,000 years ago, only about 5,000 years would have passed before A.D. 1054. The remaining 1,500 years needed for the light of this exploding star to travel to earth would take us to around A.D. 2,500. Yet the Chinese record seeing it in A.D. 1054 and we see its remains to this very day as the Crab Nebula. This being the case, this star would have exploded 1,500 years before the six day creation which puts its original creation further back yet. In order for this event to fit into a 6,000 year ago creation paradigm, God would have had to create light beams from an exploding star that never existed.
Since some six-day creationists believe the creation could have taken place closer to 10,000 years ago, I will cite a second example to show the difficulties with a 10,000 year perspective. In 1987, astronomers were able to photograph a supernova in the nearby galaxy called Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) which is visible at night near the South Pole. This exploding star is 170,000 light years away which means if it occurred shortly after creation week it should not be seen for another 164,000 years. The original creation of this star would have occurred approximately 160,000 years before a six-day creation that occurred 10,000 years ago.
Young earth creationists do not have a reasonable response to this problem of supernovas. In fact the whole idea of a functional universe being formed with stars positioned at great distances from each other and from the earth and yet having their light beamed to earth contrary to known dynamics of light travel appears very problematical. Seeing there is no real evidence to support this approach, it appears largely speculative and a valiant attempt to maintain a young universe paradigm.
Some creationists have proposed that the speed of light may have been much greater in the past and therefore light from stars reached the earth much sooner. This approach, known as the C-decay theory, while creating initial excitement among creationists, has since been found not to be viable as it would result in a very unstable universe.
RELATIVISTIC TIME DILATION:
Time dilation is the phenomenon whereby an observer finds that another's clock which is physically identical to their own is ticking at a slower rate as measured by their own clock. This is often taken to mean that time has "slowed down" for the other clock, but that is only true in the context of the observer's frame of reference. Locally, time is always passing at the same rate. The time dilation phenomenon applies to any process that manifests change over time.
An aspect of Einstein’s relativity theory is that time slows down in the presence of strong gravitational fields and where high velocity is associated with one object verses another. While we are use to thinking of time as a constant, within relativity theory, both time and space can be stretched and compressed. Only the speed of light remains constant. In relation to the starlight problem, it may be possible that time on earth runs at a slower rate than time in outer space. Earth time is thus seen as possibly being different than space time which could account for stars in outer space being created in one earth day but having much greater age within outer space time. This idea has come under fire, however, because it would result in large blue shifts in light from nearby galaxies which isn’t the case. At present this approach is very theoretical.
The issue of starlight and its apparent indication of an old universe as opposed to a young universe has not been adequately countered by young earth creationists who believe the stars were originally created on the fourth day of creation week and are no older than six to ten thousand years. All the evidence indicates that stars are millions of years old. The presence of supernovas is especially damaging to a young universe perspective. If the stars were not created on the fourth day of creation week and are much older than the six to ten thousand years proposed by young earth creationists, how are we to understand what the scripture is saying happened on the fourth day, as well as, the other days of creation? As discussed earlier in this series, the evening and morning designation would indicate literal twenty-four hour days. Establishment of the Sabbath based on the template of a six day creation week followed by a seventh day rest is also indicative of literal twenty-four days being spoken of in the creation account. Let us take a careful look at the creation account and see if we can draw some practical conclusions.
THE CREATION ACCOUNT:
Genesis 1:1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The writer does not tell us anything about when the beginning was, the nature of the beginning, how long it lasted, or how God did the creating. The word "the," as in "In the beginning," is not in the Hebrew. The writer is simply saying, "In beginning." All that we can conclude from this statement is that in a beginning, whatever and whenever that was, God created the heavens and the earth. The fact that the word heavens is in the plural would indicate that the heavens pertain to something more than just the space above the earth where planes fly. The Psalmist reiterates the same message but gives no definition as to the nature of beginning.
Psalm 102:25: In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.
Here the Psalmist identifies God as the one who created the earth and the heavens in the beginning and speaks in terms of God actually performing work in the creative process. Once again the beginning is not defined. Other scriptures indicate God spoke the universe into existence.
Psalm 33:6-9: By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.
Psalm 148:1-5: Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights above. Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts. Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.
Hebrews 11:3: By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
The writer to the Hebrews says God commanded the universe into existence from what was not visible. We don’t know whether this means not visible in the sense of not existing or not visible in the sense of not being material. The creation account says God rested from His creative work. Did God rest from exercising faith in making the universe or was there more involved in the creative process? We just don’t know.
Genesis 1:2: Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
This account does not tell us if this is how the earth was initially created or if it become this way. As discussed in installment two of this series, those who subscribe to the “the gap” theory point out that Isaiah uses the same Hebrew word translated “without form” in Genesis 1:2 to say God “did not create it ( the earth) to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited.” This doesn’t preclude it being empty (without form) when it was first created or even millions of years after it was created. All we can really conclude from Genesis 1:2 is that at some point in past time the earth was formless and empty and apparently covered with water over which darkness prevailed. This verse does not tell us how long the earth was in this condition. We are not told how or when the waters were created or when or how long God’s spirit hovered over the waters or what that means. The claim by some that the word “was” can be translated “became” is problematical as discussed in installment two of this series.
Genesis 1:3-5: And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day.
Beginning with verse two of the creation account, it can be reasonably determined that God is dealing with the earth and not the universe as a whole. It is therefore reasonable to believe that verses 3-5 is a continuing record of God dealing with the earth only. Therefore, it would be safe to conclude that when God says "Let there be light," He is making light to appear for and on the earth and not creating light for the universe. This being the case, it is unlikely God is creating light for the first time but simply making previously created light available to the earth. The fact that God sees the light as being good would indicate satisfaction with whatever process He had set in motion to facilitate light on the earth.
God separating the light from the darkness would suggest an already created sun and a spinning earth that is half light and half dark at any given time depending on its exposure to the sun. Evening and morning and mention of day and night would certainly suggest a normal twenty-four hour period as we know it.
Genesis 1:6-8: And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse "sky" (heaven in many translations). And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day.
As discussed in installment two of this series, some creationists believe the Hebrew word translated into the English word expanse originally meant something solid or firm that was spread out. It’s therefore believed the writer of the creation account is referring to the earth’s mantle separating water above the earth’s surface from subterranean water below the surface (The hydroplate theory). It is recorded, however, that God called the expanse sky (heaven in KJV and RSV). The Hebrew word for sky/heaven is shamayim. This word is used throughout the Old Testament to signify an area above the earth and by context one determines if it is the immediate space above the earth where clouds form, the space were the sun, moon and planets are located, the space were the stars are positioned or even the space where God resides. Nowhere does shamayim imply something solid or firm. Since God called the expanse “shamayim,” it is apparent that expanse is scripturally defined as sky or heaven.
As also discussed in installment two of this series, some creationists believe the waters above the expanse became a canopy of water which hovered over the earth causing a green house effect and thus facilitated a uniform climate on the earth. While this is a possibility, it doesn’t appear likely in view of the problems associated with this view as discussed in installment two. It is more natural to simply see God creating an expanse (space) between surface water and water that would be contained in clouds. Evening and morning would indicate a normal twenty-four day.
Genesis 1: 9-13: And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good. Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the third day.
This passage is quite straightforward. God gathered the waters on the earth into particular locations and dry ground appeared where the waters had been. Some may question how the ground could have dried in one day. Remember, God is doing this. If He could move multiple billions of gallons of water around in one day, He could certainly facilitate the drying of exposed land in one day. The appearance of vegetation would have been a direct act of creation. God may have worked out the details of this creation before hand and then spoke the vegetation into existence based on the design He had developed. We really don’t know how He did it. There isn’t enough information here to draw any additional conclusions. Some question how vegetation could be created before the sun was created on the fourth day. Remember that light appeared on the first day. That should tell us something about the status of the sun prior to the fourth day.
Genesis 1:14-19: And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. God made two great lights--the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the fourth day.
If we are to conclude, as do six-day creationists, that the sun, moon and stars were first created on the fourth day, you would have to conclude that much of the universe was created after the earth was created since we clearly see the earth already existing in verse two.
The reader is reminded here that the creation account beginning with verse two is dealing with the earth and not the universe. Verse two says darkness was upon the face of the deep. We are not told what caused this darkness. In verse three we see God causing light to appear on the earth. The writer does not record that God created light at that point but that light appeared on the earth and became part of the daily cycle of day and night which we know is caused by the rotation of the earth relative to the sun. Therefore, there is every reason to believe the sun was already created when light was introduced to the earth.
In the beginning part of verses 14-19, we find God ordering that there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate day from night and to serve as signs to mark seasons, days and years and to give light on the earth. God then says “it was so.” The first part of this passage appears to stand on its own as a statement about lights in the expanse of the sky appearing to facilitate certain things on earth. Much of the rest of this passage appears to be a parenthetical phrase which speaks of a past creative act of God relative to the heavenly bodies and/or a positioning of the heavenly bodies already existing in order to accomplish His purpose for the earth. God then, once again, concludes that what He had accomplished was good and we find the fourth day has come and gone.
In view of what we have read of the creation account to this point, it would be reasonable to conclude that we are looking at God transforming the earth from a desolate dark planet to a usable environment for living organisms and the pinnacle of His creation which is man. God began by introducing light to balance the darkness, proceeded to develop an atmosphere, separated the waters, produced dry land, created vegetation and now facilitated the appearance of the sun moon and stars. The earth may simply have been covered with a thick blanket of very low hanging dark clouds which when removed allowed light to penetrate.
At this point the reader may refer to establishment of the Sabbath in Exodus 20:11 as indicative of the entire universe being created in six days.
Exodus 20:11: For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
As already pointed out, the Hebrew word for heavens has broad meaning and any specific meaning must be arrived at by considering the context in which the word is found. The writer of Exodus 20:11 refers to the six day creation account. In Genesis, this account begins with the appearance of light on the first day and ends with the creation of man on the sixth day. The six day creation account does not necessarily include the first two verses of Genesis one.
As already seen, this six day account is focused on development of the earth which includes the creation of an expanse above the earth which is called heaven. This being the case, it is reasonable to conclude that the writer of Exodus 20:11 is reflecting on the making of the earth and the expanse above the earth called heaven and is not addressing the creation of the universe as a whole. The writer of the Exodus account makes no mention of “In the beginning” as is found in Genesis one. The Exodus account appears to be a thumbnail sketch of the six-day development of the earth and space immediately above the earth as only the heavens, earth and sea are mentioned.
It should be noted that in the Exodus account the writer says the Lord made the heavens and the earth whereas in Genesis 1:1, God is seen as creating the heavens and the earth. The Hebrew word translated create (bara) denotes the concept of initiating something new. The Hebrew word translated made (asah) denotes the fashioning of an object already existing and the doing of work. (See Theological Word Book of the Old Testament for an indept explanation of these words). While only the word “create” is used in Genesis 1:1, the word “made” is often used in the six-day account along with the word create. This would indicate God was involved in both creating and fashioning of what was being created or what had been formerly created. In Exodus 20, the word create is not used at all. The Hebrew word asah, translated as made, is used to describe what God was doing with the heavens and the earth. This would indicate a shaping and working of what already existed. This also would present a better template for establishment of the Sabbath which is based on six days of work and a seventh day of rest.