by Mike Stallard
– Before I took the turn in my life into Christian ministry as a pastor and seminary educator, I was an aerospace engineer. I worked on the space shuttle briefly as an intern as a senior in college (back before they built it). I did most of my work on missile defense systems and especially the F-16 jet fighter. I have a largely intellectual approach to my faith and have never relinquished my love for scientific method and the field of the sciences in particular. Early on in my Christian life I became convinced of the young earth approach to harmonizing the Bible and so-called scientific discoveries and teachings. I have always believed that I can do that with a clear conscience and without surrendering my mind and rational thought.
While I was a seminary student at Liberty Baptist Seminary in the late 1970s, I had a conversation with Dr. Lane Lester, who had come to teach at Liberty Baptist College (now Liberty University) about the problem of God’s deception. If God made the universe with apparent age (stretched out the light rays, etc.), then the things that we discover through our telescopes right now bring a dilemma to our attention. The mechanics of the universe (speed of light, etc.) point to what we are seeing as having happened billions of years ago. The young earth position says that what we are seeing did not exist billions of years ago since the earth is only 6000 to 10,000 years old. Thus, God actually is deceiving us by the way that he designed things and perhaps the deception is ongoing. Dr. Lester raised this question to me. I am not sure that I had ever thought about it seriously before that time. My initial thought was that God did not have to reveal all of his “mechanics” to us naturally. He has communicated to us in other ways of special revelation. If we accept the other ways God is communcating to us, we should not have a problem of God creating the universe with apparent age.
I recently read through the two books — Starlight and Time: Solving the Puzzle of Distant Starlight in a Young Universe by Russell Humphreys (1994) and Starlight, Time, and the New Physics by John Hartnett (2007). Both of these men are trying to use what we know about physics and astronomy to present a case for how to solve the dilemma mentioned above. It seems to me that they consider that to be a true dilemma. However, I am not yet convinced that there is a “deception dilemma” for the apparent age view even if their cosmology is correct.
Dr. Stallard, thank you for posting this perspective. Like you, I have a technical background, and in fact I am still a practicing research scientist. I agree with you that we (believers) often give too much credence to alleged “dilemmas” and “difficulties” raised by skeptics, and in attempting to quickly respond to each one we can fall into a futile attempt to “answer a fool according to his folly” (Proverbs 26:4).
Relative to this issue of starlight and the implication that the “information” it contains is a deception on the part of God, I would make one (non-scientific) observation. Namely, that God has given man His Word, which very clearly reveals that His work of creation was undertaken over a period of 6 ordinary days, about 6,000 years ago. How can we possibly charge God with deception, when He has given us a written testimony regarding His work of creation? For man to suggest that there is a deception on the part of God associated with starlight, he must first reject God’s Word.
That being said, for an even better (IMO) scientific treatment of the starlight issue, I recommend: Jason Lisle, “Anisotropic Synchrony Convention—A Solution to the Distant Starlight Problem”, https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/starlight/anisotropic-synchrony-convention-distant-starlight-problem/.