If the universe is only 6000 years old according to Moses (Genesis chapters 5 and 11) then biblical creationists have a starlight-travel-time problem. The universe is tens of billions of light-years across. There are good scientific grounds to believe that is the case. So shouldn’t it take at least billions of years for light to reach us from the distant galaxies? How do you reconcile the size of the Universe with only the 6000 years or so available since the Creation, according to Genesis chapter 1 in the Bible? I once listed five possible areas that we might find a solution.1
I believe that within the following options or categories explanations may be found that are consistent with the text of Genesis and so maintain the interpretation of 6 × 24-hour literal earth-rotation days of creation, about 6000 years ago. They are briefly discussed here in no particular order.
1. A timing convention
One possibility is that the language of Genesis is phenomenological language (describing appearance). In this case, stars were made billions of years before Day 4,2 but in such a manner that the light from all stars (and galaxies), no matter how far away, all arrived at the earth on Day 4 and so their light could have been seen first at that moment. This is reference frame ‘time-stamping’ events from the moment they are seen on Earth.
Lisle’s timing or clock synchrony convention3,4 describes this idea. He presented two possible interpretations: One is phenomenological language and the second has to do with the physical nature of the created universe.
In 2002 I commented that Lisle’s physical interpretation is questionable and I elaborated on that in published correspondence.5 That was that Lisle was suggesting that it was not a phenomenological convention but that the one-way speed of light towards the observer at the earth was in fact the real physical nature of the universe. The idea itself is irrefutable because the one-way speed of light is not measurable and therefore has no physical meaning in nature. As a result we are free to choose its value. But Lisle suggests that that it is inherent to this universe.3
In 2007 I wrote: the long-term survival of his model, in my opinion, lies with scriptural interpretation; for example, whether the phenomenological view is consistent with Exodus 20:9,11, which reads:
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: … For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day:
I wrote that it seemed to me that the word ‘all’ in that verse (Exodus 20:9) seems to restrict the work being done in creating things to the Creation Week period, where six 24-hour days pass on Earth. The phenomenological interpretation puts the actual physical creation of the stars and galaxies before the six Creation days begin and is ‘seen’ as happening on the fourth day on Earth. However I now realise that my criticism implicitly assumed the Einstein Simultaneity (or Synchrony) Convention (ESC). So my argument is invalid because it is the same as assuming one convention to be some sort of absolute convention for the universe, over any other. But that is absurd, because it is only a convention.
I have now come to the conclusion that my earlier reservations were ill-founded. They were based on my own (incorrect) assumptions. The concept of time-stamping the days of Creation by when the events were first seen from an earth-observer perspective, I now believe is consistent with the language of the Bible.6,7 Under Lisle’s Anisotropic Synchrony Convention (ASC) model the timing of all events by when the light of those events arrives at the earth is consistent with a biblical creationist interpretation of Genesis history. The six 24-hour days of creation started and ended by the timing of when those events were or could have been observed by an earth observer.
I am currently pursuing a line of development of a cosmogony assuming ASC Lisle model. The first paper that lays the groundwork for that is Expansion of Space–A Dark Science. Stay tuned.
2. Clocks faster ‘out there’ than here
The second possibility is that clocks in the cosmos in the past have run at much higher rates than clocks on Earth. Especially during Creation Week, clocks of the exact same type on the edge of the universe would have run something like 10 trillion times faster than clocks on Earth. Therefore light from such regions had plenty of time to get to Earth in a matter of days, not millions or billions of years.
Burgess8 describes a rapid aging process for stars and a faster speed of light. It was all accelerated, like fast-forwarding a video tape. And, after all the light information reached the earth, the rates were reduced to what we now measure. The problem with this model, as we have already hinted at earlier, is that the stars would disappear from view as the light slowed down, and then subsequently take millions and billions of years to get here. Also, such light arriving at the earth should show enormous observable blueshifts.9 But massive blueshifts are not observed. Only a few galaxies, including Andromeda (M31), have blueshifts which is attributed to proper motion towards us within the local cluster. A more ingenious mechanism is needed to overcome the obvious objection of blueshifts if the model is to be credible.
Faulkner’s new model10 has some similarities to this and in my opinion suffers similar problems. He says the Lord does it by a miracle and we don’t know how God gets the light here. Faulkner uses the term ‘shoots’ for God translating the light to Earth. In such a case it really falls under category number 5 below.
This type of hypothesis is not as simple as it first seems, and the light coming from the cosmos carries information that makes the model testable. We can compare clock rates on Earth today with clock rates in source galaxies. If God did it this way we should still see a difference. Light from those sources that have faster clock rates should be blue-shifted compared to Earth clocks from what we know about standard General Relativity. But it is not observed.
However, if the model is the correct idea, we would need to find a physical explanation that could support it but at the same time it should produce redshifts for nearly all galaxies in the universe. What we do see are redshifts almost throughout the entire universe.
Besides the anomalous quasar redshifts, there does seem to be merit to a systematic trend that at least at low redshifts is characterised by the Hubble law.11 The Hubble law describes a proportionality of galaxy redshifts with their distance from us.
The Hartnett-Carmeli model I suggested in my book Starlight Time and the New Physics1 is of this type. I argued though that because of the new velocity dimension the cosmos we actually observe does not suffer from the blueshift problem. This new cosmology describes an expanding universe but not in spacetime (with dimensions of space and time) but in spacevelocity (with dimensions of space and velocity).
I found that Carmeli’s cosmology tested very well against high-redshift supernova measurements, without the need for dark matter and dark energy. But it is a big bang cosmology. So I borrowed from that model with certain additional speculations.
Based on biblical assumptions I proposed that God supernaturally expanded the universe very rapidly on Day 4 of Creation week. This accelerated expansion (not the same as Carmeli’s acceleration of the universal expansion over Hubble distances) had the effect of causing a relativistic time dilation between Earth frame and all cosmic frames of reference. This results from the need to maintain causal contact between all galaxies and Earth as the universe expanded.
What about the blueshift problem? Carmeli’s cosmology has no time dimension, but instead uses spacevelocity, where the velocity dimension (represented by redshift space) encodes the expansion of the universe. Now Carmeli’s spacevelocity description (cosmological general relativity) agrees with observations on the cosmological scale and Einstein’s spacetime description (special and general relativity) agree with observations on the local scale (i.e. in the solar system), I speculated that there exists a 5D cosmology that, in principle, combines these theories over all scales. Though let it be said, neither myself nor Carmeli ever found such a combined theory.
My speculation was that this 5D cosmology meant that for the 4D spacevelocity to be true that the time dimension must be sort of cancelled out when we look at the large scale universe, and therefore spacetime is not really relevant to it. It does not have any physical meaning to speak of. Or we could say time is a local phenomenon. This means that we essentially see the Universe in real-time, our time, but via the velocity dimension, which is essentially redshift space.
This type of description, though hard to understand, has a strong similarity to option 1, the timing convention. It is almost equivalent to assuming an infinite one-way speed of light towards the observer.
However, in recent years I have found several inconsistencies with the Carmeli theory and one of them is to do with Carmeli’s 5D solution of Einstein’s field equations for gravitational bound systems, i.e. galaxies. That solution lead its application to the galaxy rotation curves. But if the underlying theory is invalid then so is also fits tot he observed data.
Last but not least in this is the fact that I do not understand what a velocity dimension is. It would be far more understandable as a time dimension or some sort. One colleague is investigating time as having higher dimensions, like a vector, rather than a scalar, which might have some relevance. We’ll see.
3. Clocks slower here than ‘out there’
The third possibility is that clocks on Earth in the past ran at much slower rates than clocks in the cosmos. Especially if, during the Creation Week, clocks of the exact same type on Earth ran about ten trillion times slower than clocks at the edge of the universe; then light from the edge of the universe would have had plenty of time to get to Earth in a matter of days, as recorded by Earth clocks, not millions or billions of years. Humphreys’ model is generally of this type.12,13
Humphreys’s models (starting with his book Starlight and Time (1994) and his new model (2007, 2008)) are essentially white-hole cosmologies, with Earth somewhere near the centre, and fit into this category. The Hartnett-Carmeli model has some similarity to this also. but Humphreys uses standard General Relativity, and in his second model found a general Schwarzschild solution for a finite bounded universe. He employs “timeless” Euclidean zones to get the necessary time dilation happening between the Earth and the rest of the Universe. This occurs under spacial conditions on the gravitational potential of the whole universe. Clocks remained stopped for a considerable period measured by the expansion (really change in the gravitational potential) at the centre of the universe where the Earth is during Creation Day 4. Clocks in the cosmos are not stopped and hence much more time passes out these.
Humphreys moved from his first model to a new model, which was well-developed by 2008. Many people have not realised this and still rely on his first model, which I showed was flawed in 2003.14 The first model had a very shallow gravitational potential, which meant locally time-dilation was insufficient, and since the required time-dilation was related to that. Also blueshifts were expected but not observed. Somehow one would have to contrive of a massive blueshift cancelled by a massive redshift, so only a redshift was visible, and all the net time-dilation has to come from the ‘timeless’ Euclidean zones, which were not discovered in the model until much later, well after the book’s first publication in 1994. And the ‘timeless’ zones only applied at higher redshifts; not at all at low redshifts which are representative of our local group of galaxies.
In 2003 I proposed a model of this type, but suggested that God supernaturally slowed Earth clock rates as compared to astronomical clocks during Day 4 of Creation week.15 The perception of time to someone on the earth looking at astronomical clocks during this period would be that they are running very quickly. The hypothesis is simpler than the previous one (option 2) and not equivalent. Consider the clock rates at emission and reception. In the former (option 2), clocks in the distant cosmos were running faster than Earth clocks now run at reception. In this case (option 3), at emission, clocks in the distant cosmos were running at the same rate as Earth clocks now run at reception. Only during a day (or two) of Creation Week were Earth clocks running slower (or were stopped). In this idea, the light we are seeing now is that which originated during the creation process but from sources in the cosmos where the clock rates were essentially the same as they are now on Earth.
This idea would not expect blueshifts due to the massive difference in clock rate during and after Day 4 of Creation week, provided what we are seeing in the cosmos now came from after the time when clock rates became the same. That would be after the close of Day 4. If this is the case, there is nothing unusual to be expected in the cosmos, and hence makes this notion untestable.
It is important to realize that this description requires that the universe have a preferred frame of reference, as does option 2. There is evidence to suggest that this could be the case. It appears the Earth is cosmologically near the centre of the universe.16 That is, the Galaxy is somewhere near the centre of the millions of galaxies that are arrayed around us with some preferentially located on concentric shells centred on some place in space cosmologically near us. This is not absolute geocentrism with an immovable Earth.
The language of Genesis puts the Earth in a ‘reference frame’ that is special, in the centre of God’s will and plan, so it is quite consistent to find that it is physically in a special location, too. But since the time dilation mechanism in my 2003 model is entirely supernatural, Earth does not need to be geometrically in the centre, only that its clock rates remained constant when those in the cosmos were accelerated.
Humphreys’ models require the Earth to be very close to the centre of the universe because the time-dilation mechanism results from gravity in a spherically symmetric universe.
A fourth possibility is that the speed of light (c) was enormously faster in the past, of the order of a trillion times its current value. This is the measurable two-way speed of light. This idea proposes that that may have been the case during Creation Week and then the light slowed enormously to the present value. Such a model is testable, especially with astronomical observations, for example, measurements of the fine structure constant (α).17
This hypothesis was once advanced by creationists, Setterfield and Norman,18 who placed considerable weight on the precision of a few historical astronomical determinations of the speed of light. The idea that the two-way speed of light c was originally faster is now used by the secular community,19 but they are not dealing with timescales on Earth of only six thousand years. Also, the secular advocates of past higher c rely on an apparent change in a constant which the Setterfield/Norman theory predicts should not change.20 In short, the observational evidence available to us today clearly precludes this model.17,21 It is absolutely not viable, unless there is, and has been, a complicated balance of changes in many ‘so-called’ constants over observable history. For example, Setterfield uses a contrivance to keep the product of h.c constant (where h is Planck’s constant). But Occam’s razor22 would tell us that this is not likely.
Setterfield however clings to his hypothesis. My understanding is that he believes that he received this ‘truth’ by revelation from God. But physics of the distant cosmos, even in the Galaxy, should easily give us tell-tale evidence of a change in the universal constant (c). But, there are no such suggestions.
5. Light created ‘on its way’
The fifth option results from the understanding that the Creator God revealed in the Bible is a God of miracles. This category involves God creating the light beam along it path, often called ‘created in transit.’
It is probably true that if we were looking a miracle in the face we might try to reason a naturalistic mechanism for it. God does intervene in the physical world, and during those times the laws of physics are obviously ‘put on hold’. However, I don’t believe God engages in deception, and as we will see, the idea that He created all the light beams ‘in place’ involves that. This is because a beam of light also carries information. When a supernova occurs (a star explodes), for instance, we see a whole series of events take place—the information is transmitted by the light beams coming from the source. If God created the beams of light along with their information, then if the supernova occurred more than 6,000 light-years away, that would mean that all that information we see, giving evidence of things happening, would have to be fraudulent—it never happened. It would mean that God had created a gigantic phony light-show of things that are not real.
There is a way around this issue, a really complex and ad hoc miracle that would enable the creation of a beam of light from source to observer so that the observer appears to see current information. For example, when the supernova named 1987a occurred in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is about 170,000 light-years distant, God could have miraculously translated the light across 170,000 light-years’ distance of space instantly (as if the photons had passed through a wormhole) and then just outside the solar system let it move at the usual speed of light. This hypothesis is untestable and, though not impossible, seems implausible, to put it mildly. Miracles in the Bible are rare and special events, the purpose of which is clearly understood and/or revealed. This does not fit that category; it looks more like a convenient set of miracles invented ad hoc to overcome a difficulty.
As mentioned above D.R. Faulkner proposed a idea10 along this line in 2014. I critiqued it23 and he responded to my critique.24 Faulkner argues that Creation week means the laws of physics are suspended. I agree, after all God was creating ex nihilo at that time. But at some point He sets the stationary laws in place that we know.
If God accelerated the light across the cosmos only during Creation Week when He has suspended the laws of physics and stopped that miraculous process at the end of Creation Week or even end of Day 4, then the light from sources way out there in the cosmos would still take billions of years to get here. The moment the miraculous translation stopped the photons would travel at constant speed c and for the Earth observers in such a universe the lights would all go out.
Of course, God is omnipotent and could have created some way where we cannot differentiate the light translated across the vast cosmos miraculously from that appearing as it is travelled across the vast expanse taking billions of years. But I believe we will not be led astray if we seek and trust God’s laws. We, in principle, should be able to understand the universe. Miracles do happen but God has told us they are the exception and we generally know when they have occurred because God has said so.
- Hartnett, J.G., Starlight Time and the New Physics, Creation Book Publishers, 2nd Ed., pages 21-27, 2010.
- This statement implicitly assumes the Einstein Simultaneity Convention (ESC). See How do we see distant galaxies in a 6000 year old universe?
- Newton, R. (authored under this pen-name by Jason Lisle), Distant starlight and Genesis: conventions of time
measurement, Journal of Creation 15(1):80–85, 2001.
- Lisle, J.P., Anisotropic synchrony convention—A solution to the distant starlight problem, Answers Research Journal 3:191–207, 2010.
- Hartnett, J.G., Distant starlight and Genesis: is ‘observed time’ a physical reality? J. of Creation, Letters 16(3):65–68, 2002.
- Hartnett, J.G., The Anisotropic Synchrony Convention model as a solution to the creationist starlight-travel-time-problem — PART I
- Hartnett, J.G., The Anisotropic Synchrony Convention model as a solution to the creationist starlight-travel-time-problem — PART II
- Burgess, S., He Made the Stars Also, Day One Publications, Surrey, England, 2001.
- If the light speed was much greater in the past, either the frequencies are now higher due to higher excitation energies of the sources or the received wavelengths are shortened by the Doppler effect. In either case, referenced against standard sources on Earth, such light would appear blue-shifted.
- Faulkner, D.R., A Proposal for a New Solution to the Light Travel Time Problem, Answers Research Journal 6 (2013):279–284
- Three part series on redshifts: Part 1. Redshifts and the Universe; Part 2. Redshifts burst big bang bubble; Part 3 Quasar redshifts blast big bang.
- Humphreys, D.R., Creationist cosmologies explain the anomalous acceleration of Pioneer spacecraft, Journal of Creation 21, no. 2: 61-70, 2007.
- Humphreys, D.R., New time dilation helps creation cosmology, Journal of Creation 22, no. 3: 84-92, 2008.
- Hartnett, J.G., Look-back time in our galactic neighbourhood leads to a new cosmogony, Journal of Creation 17(1):73–79, 2003.
- Hartnett, J.G., A new cosmology: solution to the starlight travel time problem, Journal of Creation 17(2):98–102, 2003.
- Not to be confused with geocentrism, the idea that the earth is stationary and provides an absolute reference frame, and all other bodies move around it. See The Cosmological Principle and geocentrism.
- See creation.com/cdk in regard to the fine structure constant.
- Norman, T. and Setterfield, B., The atomic constants, light and time, SRI International Invited Research Report, Menlo Park, CA, 1986.
- Cho, A., Light may have slowed down, Newscientist.com; www.newscientist.com/article/dn1158-light-may-haveslowed-down.html, 2001.
- Hartnett, J.G., Is there any evidence for a change in c? Journal of Creation 16(3): 89–94, 2002.
- Also, the rate of energy loss due to gravitational radiation would be proportional to c, yet the observed loss from a distant binary pulsar is consistent with c at current rates, not with the much faster c proposed by Setterfield at the time that radiation was emitted from the pulsars. Wanser, K., Radioactive Decay Update: Breaking Down the Old-Age Paradigm (DVD recorded at the Creation 2003 conference in West Harrison, Indiana).
- Occam, William of Occam, or Ockham (1284–1347), was an English philosopher and theologian. His work on knowledge, logic and scientific inquiry played a major role in the transition from medieval to modern thought. He based scientific knowledge on experience and self-evident truths, and on logical propositions resulting from those two sources. In his writings, Occam stressed the Aristotelian principle that entities must not be multiplied beyond what is necessary. This principle became known as Occam’s (or Ockham’s) Razor or the law of parsimony. A problem should be stated in its most basic and simplest terms. In science, the simplest theory that fits the facts of a problem is the one that should be selected; http://www.2think.org/occams_razor.shtml.
- Hartnett, J.G., Critique: Faulkner’s Miraculous Translation of Light Model Would Leave Evidence, Answers Research Journal 7 :459–460, 2014.
- Faulkner, D.R., Response to: “Critique: Faulkner’s Miraculous Translation of Light Model Would Leave Evidence,” Answers Research Journal 7 :461–462, 2014.
10 replies on “Solutions to the biblical creationist starlight-travel-time problem”
A question about terminology: You mention that Lisle presented two possible interpretations: One involving phenomenological language, and the other describing the physical nature of the cosmos. Does “Asynchronous Simultaneity Convention” refer to the phenomenological interpretation (i.e. stars created earlier, but their light arriving at Earth on Day 4) and “Anisotropic Synchrony Convention” refer to the physical nature interpretation (i.e. the one-way speed of light is different for light directed to the Earth vs light directed away from Earth)? In any case, Einstein showed us that two events that are simultaneous in one inertial frame need not be simultaneous in a different inertial frame—is this the crux of Lisle’s explanations?
The two labels used for ASC mean the same thing. They both describe the same Anisotropic Synchrony Convention. They both mean the same thing. Actually the choice of simultaneity convention occurs earlier in the logic. Einstein’s choice of a simultaneity convention forces you to use the two-way speed of light as the standard where the speed in both directions is the same value c. That means the speed of light is isotropic. The choice of the Anisotropic Synchrony (or Simultaneity) Convention means you are free to choose an asynchronous speed of light (one-way speeds toward and away from observer are not equal). Read THE ANISOTROPIC SYNCHRONY CONVENTION MODEL AS A SOLUTION TO THE CREATIONIST STARLIGHT-TRAVEL-TIME PROBLEM — PART I and THE ANISOTROPIC SYNCHRONY CONVENTION MODEL AS A SOLUTION TO THE CREATIONIST STARLIGHT-TRAVEL-TIME PROBLEM — PART II
I remember being surprised when I first came across ASC because it really took away the “problem” of starlight; the problem was just us trying to fit God actions into our own little reference frame. It is my preferred explanation these days, but I maintain interest in whether other theories are also viable.
Regarding the on-its-way theory, while it is not my preferred theory, I think it’s a straw man to say that it would involve “deception” on God’s part. When God created each part of the heavens and earth, things had an appearance of age, and that necessarily entails inference to events which never actually happened; does that make God deceptive? Not in my opinion. For example, if Adam and Eve had features like fingerprints or freckles, this would have implied prior events that never could have happened. If the created trees had growth rings, it would have implied seasons of high growth and low growth which never happened. Tree branches favouring one direction would have implied prior weather patterns and prevailing winds which had never blown. Saplings growing on the ground would have implied seeds being dropped from trees which never existed.
Why isn’t this a problem? God created the world not in some kind of infancy, but in a very good state of how it was to be and continue being. God created in such a way that even from our first day we could learn and understand things about the world around us. God thus created a world in which science was possible. I feel that those who object to seeing supernova of stars that could never have existed are not being consistent in their treatment of a creation with appearance of age. I think it is a valid argument to say that like other features of age which God created, God allowing us to see supernova is not deceptive but in fact generous in that it allows us to understand things about the world we live in; features we would not have seen otherwise until millions or billions of years later. It seems ungrateful for us to complain that being shown these things about the universe makes God deceptive.
I believe there is a difference between the features on mature created trees in the Garden of Eden and all sources of lights in the cosmos being seen because God created all the light beams connecting us to them. God did tell us He made trees with the fruit in them, i.e. fully mature. The signs of maturity could involve features on their bark etc but no growth rings. The latter would be deception, because it implies a false history. I know you could start arguing fine details on this. But creating light connecting all objects in the Universe to Earth is creating a total false history for the whole Universe. Of course, it is impossible to rule it out categorically but I think it is unlikely to be correct.
That’s a good answer. Thanks for the response.
Hi, it’s interesting that you are reconsidering ASC. I agree that the Bible uses phenomenological language, which refutes those liberal, low-view Scripture proponents that say the Bible is unscientific, therefore we need to reject the History. What I’m concerned with is if we admit Stars were created billions of years before Creation Week, what kind of can of worms would that open up to, such as saying, well, maybe the Earth is billions of years old, and God didn’t start using it until Day 1 or so. I guess the fact that the land definitely was created on Day 3, should refute radiometric dating of billions and millions, and of course there is plenty of evidence that radiometric dating assumptions have been disproved with various incongruity even within evolution’s timescale, like C-14 shouldn’t be present in Dinosaurs, or recent dating of Mt. St Helen’s shouldn’t give 2 million year old readings.
Also, it seems a bit odd that God would need to create Stars prior just for the purpose of light travel. Surely, He has other means to fit everything within Six Days. You would think the Star from which the light proceeds, is the greater creation, and He would want that included in Creation Week, in which everything else was made.
I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing that God would use miracles to get starlight routinely arriving within our local area of the Universe, if that is what needs to be done. God sustains the Universe in his normal way of operating, why can’t that include Starlight? When God judges the World, He works with starlight quite often during the Day of the Lord, which is longer than 24-hours, by the way.
Anyway, just some thoughts.
I do not think it opens any can of worms. It is because under ESC Earth was still created on day 1, dry land day 3 etc, only light arrived on day 4 from the stars, which includes the sun. It was not created before day 4 because it is only a 8.3 minute journey for the photons. But the sun must have been created mature, like the stars.
The planet Earth is only 6000 years old with this idea, under ASC but even under ESC. It is just the same as before without considering ASC.
I have a new paper being published on January 7th in Answers Research Journal (online) which takes a fresh look at this and explains how this is consistent with an understanding of what the universe is. On your second query, why God would do this; maybe it is a problem with our definition of what the universe is.
It is like assuming that the ESC is the absolute and correct timing convention for the biblical language and saying all other conventions are only alternative, not the true one. But physics or the cosmos does not tell us what the true one is. The biblical language then could well be written under the ASC: God writing everything from a human perspective. Through all history bar the last 300 years mankind did not know the (two-way) speed of light was not infinite.
Thanks for your thoughts on this. They are much appreciated.
“The phenomenological interpretation puts the actual physical creation of the stars and galaxies before the six Creation days begin and is ‘seen’ as happening on the fourth day on Earth…The concept of time-stamping the days of Creation by when the events were first seen from an earth-observer perspective, I now believe is consistent with the language of the Bible.” –If this means that the formation of the celestial bodies preceded Day 1 of creation, then I don’t understand and I don’t think this explanation squares with the text of Genesis. The text says God made the sun & moon” (v. 16) just like God made (same verb) the expanse of the sky (v. 7). If we resort to a phenomenological language explanation, it sounds like special pleading. If we can assign a different meaning to the verb in v. 16, why not in v. 7? Have I misunderstood?
The key to timing of events of Genesis 1 verse 16 is found in verse 19: “And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.” All events described in verses 14-18 are time-stamped by verse 19, the fourth day but nowhere does the Bible define timing conventions. Same for verse 7 when God made the firmament of heaven (sky and all space outside the Earth’s atmosphere) He time-stamped the event via verse 8, the second day. How were those days measured? What convention did God inspire the author to use (I believe it was Adam in this case)? All other events in the Bible are implicitly time-stamped by the moment they are observed. Please read this How do we see distant galaxies in a 6000 year old universe?
I’m not totally convinced it would be “deception” on God’s part to create a universe that looks much older than it actually is (i.e. complete with supernova remnants, etc.). I think we need to question the assumptions and expectations that lead to the conclusion that this would be deception.
Consider, for example, when we go to see a movie, we see people and places that don’t actually exist and events that didn’t actually occur. The movie assumes the existence of these people, places and events without attempting to trace their ancestry or causality all the way back to the beginning of time. What we see on the movie screen looks quite real, but it is simply a sequence of projected images of a snapshot in time, typically of a fictitious world of fictitious people and events.
However, we don’t normally get angry with the producer and accuse him of deception or fraud, because we understand that the purpose of the movie is not to make us believe (i.e. truly believe) in a deception, but simply to tell a story–usually for the sake of entertainment or education. We would only get angry if he was trying to deceive us into thinking that the events of the story actually happened–e.g. to rewrite history or to falsely accuse someone of a horrible crime.
In the same way, the heavens exist to declare the glory of God, and to mark off times and seasons. They add beauty to the world in which we live. But are we justified in assuming that, what appears to us as the remnants of a supernova are actually that? Are we justified in extrapolating back in time millions of years when God, in scripture, tells us that he created it all in just six days, about 6000 years ago?
The only way that the creation of a mature universe would be deceptive would be if God was trying to trick us. But I think we tend to trick ourselves with unjustified expectations–assuming that it is valid to extrapolate astronomical observations into the distant past. God never said that he gave us the stars and galaxies as a way of determining the age of the universe, so why do we assume that we have the right to make such extrapolations and to charge him with deception if, in fact, he created the universe much as we see it today?
Of course, it is one thing to say that God created a universe with the appearance of age, and quite a different thing to say that he created a universe with the appearance of death or suffering. It is an open question whether exploding stars could have occurred in God’s “very good” universe, prior to the Fall, but it is certain that, in a very good universe, we would find no sin, death or suffering–either real or apparent.