Yeo Teck Thiam studied and specialized in perfumery & olfactory senses. Now retired, he keeps up his unusual life-long interest, studying the stars and physical universe as God’s creation. He has written many articles on this subject, mainly kept in his own collection…“for my grandchildren to read if they are interested.”
We posted him the question: “The stars are many light years away from us, how then can we reconcile this with God creating the universe in 6 days?” Here is his answer. We must admit we do not understand all of what he has written but we know he is a well- informed man who knows his biblical theology.
We invite readers to comment.
Six Days or Billions of Years?
By Yeo Teck Thiam
When we seek to know something about Creation in Scripture, there are inadvertently heated discussions about time and the Genesis account. People seem to take sides about time and Creation. Some insist Creation consists of 7 Days of 24 hours, while others see this is not literal but symbolical of billions of years.
The issue is painful because this controversy is not really about God’s Creation, but it is about time. The debate is focussed on how to squeeze Creation inside our ideas about time as we see fit.
In other words, we want Creation to be decided by the meaning of time that we specify as 24 hours, or billions of years. It is unfortunate!
So we have to consider first whether our idea about time is accurate, or whose idea about time is correct! This also means that we are not really talking about Creation, but about the meaning of time!
It is necessary to clear the air. But I think this is regrettable, as we are not seeking to ask God first about Creation.
So when we look at clear skies at night, we see many stars twinkling brightly against the night darkness. We know the light from these stars did not reach us instantly, but takes time. This time will depend on the specific distance of a star from earth.
We know some stars like Sirius took about 8 years, Rigel in the constellation of Orion takes 800 years, and the cluster called Andromeda takes about a million years. All these figures of time are based on their distances from the earth.
This knowledge has surprises for us also. For one thing, we realize suddenly that the night skies do not tell us the present time only. We see Sirius as it was 8 years ago, and Andromeda as it was a million years ago! We are not seeing stars as they actually are in our time, due to this light and time travel.
If to see is to believe, this fact is saying to us that the present and the past exist together when we look at the skies! We are confronted with the idea that we cannot tell the past from the present.
The notion about time for the past and present is an illusion.
So we have to take a step back to try and understand what time is, or what it means in our lives.
In the last hundred years, our perception of time and what it means underwent a traumatic change. Our understanding of the measure of this life especially when counted in terms of the time of this universe was altered by the presentation of the relativity of time in the context of what Einstein propounded.
We can no longer consider time is an absolute value. We regard time as a dimensional property of this universe, and subject to the forces in this universe, particularly to gravity, and also to the effects of motion. Time has a relative value and can “move” slower or faster.
Time is not something that we can slice into seconds, or minutes or hours. These calibrations are manmade, to help us have a good grasp of the passage of time.
We can only measure time by what we see of events through light. So how we measure time and distance are dependent on the light we see.
The speed of light is the constant for data and calculations, and this is known. Michelson and Morley established this in 1887 in a landmark scientific experiment that conclusively proved that the speed of light is constant. They were awarded the Nobel Prize for this work.
This constant speed of light affects our measurement of time. Because speed is distance over time, we cannot separate distance and time as absolute values. Space and time are interdependent in values.
Naturally, this demands that space-time is the property entity we have to accept because only the speed of light is constant in calculation.
However, we know also that space can be distorted, as volume of a gas or balloon can expand or be compressed. The space of our universe can therefore be curved by gravity and stars. This affects light travelling through space.
We are familiar with such expressions as curved space and other phenomena. This means we cannot state a value for time, unless we also state the conditions affecting space such as gravity, matter and energy in our universe.
Since space-time is the entity we must face, we realize also this universe is like a container of energy-matter wrapped in a space-time fabric. Space and time therefore have an intricate relationship which allows time to have relative values to space, and vice versa.
In an expanding universe which is warped by gravity and other forces, we have to reckon time with a relative value. Therefore, our notion of 24 hours in a day is not an absolute value.
So Scripture tells us time is not absolute. It is written: With the Lord, a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day. 2 Peter 3:8
This brings us to a painful debate with regards to the Creation. Many have taken sides that the day is our 24 hours, while others consider this is symbolical rather than literal. However unfortunately, the reality is that everything and we also, are all moving in this universe. And our motions are at differing speeds.
Due to relative motions, we cannot get absolute values by what we see and measure. This is dependent on light itself. If time has no absolute value, a proposal on a Creation day can be correct and wrong at the same time. It all depends on the clock we are using to measure time, and our position.
One result of accounting for these factors is that time depends on the position where we collect data and figures. From the earth’s position, this is billions of years since Creation. This is the experimental evidence.
However, if God is giving us a view of Creation, this is not from the Earth’s viewpoint. This is because earth was not yet formed on the first day of Creation. There was no solar system to tell us that a day is 24 hours as well!
Hence, if we are to view Creation as Scripture tells us, we must ask God where He took the vantage point for the 7 Days of Creation. For example, where did Scripture view the scene when it is written: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” in Genesis 1:1?
To this end, the Christian must not insist on Creation is 7 days or billions of years without asking God where He made this revelation to us. The meaning of evening and morning need to be discussed, but this is for another occasion.
We see that it is futile to argue that Creation consists of 7 Days of 24 hours, or that it took billions of years. Those who see billions of years are looking at a position taken from earth, whereas those with faith in God knows He is in heaven and does not measure time, like we do on earth.
It is important to note that Creation as given in Genesis is not about time. Rather, Scripture sets out the purpose and plan God has in creating it. So we are climbing the wrong tree when we think only of time in Creation.
Much as people like to grasp, time cannot be cut up and sliced into seconds, hours and years. The calibration of time is a man made idea, and the past and the present are illusions of time. We have already seen this in the night skies.
It is futile to debate Creation in terms of time. It is better to seek God’s purpose in Creation.
Technical explanations are boring. So I want to leave it aside. For those interested, this motion effect is seen in the twins’ paradox that is often discussed for the relativity of time. (Please skip this topical discussion here, if you wish.)
It considers that when one twin takes a space trip into regions beyond, and travels at speeds almost that of light, he would be much younger than the earth twin who stayed behind on earth — when they meet again.
This paradox in motion is intriguing. For we can imagine a person travelling at the speed of light, (or perhaps if possible, greater than the speed of light) and wonder about the time ‘future’ this implies. The astronaut twin obviously has this opportunity. For he has arrived into the ‘future’ time of his aged earthly twin, since he is still younger!
We are naturally uncomfortable because this has a scientific explanation. Time does slow down for an object in motion. In fact, this happens even in everyday travel around the world of our Earth, except that it is hardly noticed. It can be measured by high precision clocks.
Nonetheless, there is also a relationship in billions of years and the 7 Days of Creation. (Please skip this topical discussion here, if preferred.)
A simplistic beginners’ explanation is to consider and take account of the expanding universe. We know Creation resulted in the Big Bang and this ushered in the expanding universe.
The Big Bang describes the development of the universe from its explosive birth of immense energy and force. Here, I must leave out a discussion on the Big Bang. However, I do hope also, that those knowledgeable of these events accept my apologies for a simplistic presentation here.
The Big Bang mathematically accounts for the explosive dispersion of energy bundles that were ushered in at Creation. These energy bundles had intense heat and therefore dispersed in all directions, resulting in an enormous expansion in size, and volume of space.
Overtime, the energy bundles cooled sufficiently, so that through epochs of transition, the energy transformed into the particle matter and light we know in our universe.
Now, since the universe is expanding, its size, volume and diameter are increasing. The result of this expansion is that distance is doubling at a certain rate. Since we need to take account of space-time, the rate of increase in the universe’s size (that is from its matter motion) will slow time when measured on earth. Hence we expect that time as measured today on earth has slowed to billions of years.
This may be mathematically worked out, for example, in a simplified form, taking into account the half–life calculations needed in size doubling. We work this out by retracing or reversing the universe’s expansion in calculations (that is, halving size so as to return to Creation’s beginning by integrating its inverse exponential). Also, the red shift and gravitational effects from Einstein’s equations known as the z factor are taken into account. I leave to rocket scientists and those better qualified to explain and educate us all.
This may set some to wonder how God worked the time program. However, I think it is better to see what God has to tell us concerning the time of our lives. So I leave these musings behind.
The enquiry into time shocks us that this world does not have an absolute time value. God deliberately created this world with a temporary time equation, if we may call it. Life in this world is not set for eternity, but it is for the better of 100 years for all mankind.
Everything we have in this world is temporary. It was not designed for a permanent home for us, or for the creatures of this world. We do not know what lies beyond this physical frame, except that God has a hope for us beyond this life on earth.
Certainly, God will close this universe at His appointed time.
And also in 2 Peter 3:10:
Thankfully, our time on earth is short. We must die, and when we exit this body in this universe, we must meet our Creator. If it is in heaven, it is in the spirit because God is Spirit. The eternal home is a spiritual place where flesh and blood has no function.
Heaven is God’s throne, but it is not in this universe. God’s kingdom is in another world, without time, and in the spirit. When we leave this world, we must leave time behind — for we are entering eternity.
Hence it is written: