How old is the universe? Scientists and Christians have debated about that question for the past two hundred years or so. Scientists estimate that the universe is approximately fifteen-billion years old while many Christians believe that the Bible indicates it to be almost seven-thousand years old. So, who’s right?
As far as I can tell, empirical observations demonstrate that we live in an old universe. Since the laws of physics operate throughout space in the same way, we can deduce through starlight how far away those light-emitting bodies are. If the Christians who hold to the young universe paradigm are right, there shouldn’t be any stars further away than seven-thousand light years from us. The data gathered by astronomers demonstrates that there are stars which are billions of light years from our planet.
Does that mean then that the Bible is wrong about the age of the universe? Absolutely not. Scripture was written to instruct people on the character of God and his redemptive plan for humanity. It wasn’t designed to tell us the methodology of how God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis also must be read in a literary, not literalistic, fashion. The days of creation are a mnemonic device to show the increasing complexity and importance in the created order of things. The first three days were for the forming of the heavens and the earth and the last three days show the filling of both. This explains why, for example, there is light on the first day but the sun, moon, and stars were created on the fourth.
Those who insist on holding to the young universe paradigm have to use some fancy footwork to get around the paradoxes of an apparently old creation. If everything just looks old, it makes God out to be playing a trick on us. After all, what about supernova 1987A? That star exploded one-hundred-and-sixty-thousand years ago but we only saw its brilliant flash on February 23, 1987. If the universe was only seven-thousand years old, it would indicate that the laws of physics don’t work way out there like they do here. Furthermore, God would be at best a prankster and at worst a liar for presenting to us a fake universe. Our observations actually show that light does indeed travel at a constant speed, though it’s frequency can be changed by the emitter of the light moving toward or away from us. Light can also be bent by strong gravitational fields but it never slows its speed.
I believe that the reason Christians cling tenaciously to the young universe theory is because they assume that all science is evolutionary in nature and therefore tainted by it. This is most certainly not so. Pure data takes no sides but it just is what it is. Though evolutionary scientists struggle to fit facts into their theory, facts are still facts. When researchers follow where the data leads, rather than trying to mangle it, the truth of an old creation emerges stark and clear.
My thanks go out to Hank Hanegraaff, R. Albert Mohler Jr, John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, and others for teaching me how to read the Bible in its intended fashion. Because of my desire to help others do the same, I wrote How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. It’s a tour of how badly unscrupulous people misled me and how God rescued me from their wicked doctrines. Please visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s Books for more information.