Do you understand the universe to be over 15 billion years old? Or that it was created in 6 days less than 10,000 years ago? If you believe the latter, was the light that appears to have traveled millions of light-years created in transit? Were aging factors "built-in"? Were the "days" of Genesis actually geologic ages?
The Nature of Time
The age of the universe hangs on the very nature of the dimension of time, which we are just beginning to understand. Einstein's Theory of General Relativity states that we exist in more than three dimensions; time itself is a physical property and actually varies with mass, acceleration, and gravity.1
There are atomic clocks installed at both the National Bureau of Standards at Boulder, Colorado, and at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, England. Both are considered accurate to better than one-millionth of a second per year. However, the clock at Boulder ticks five microseconds faster per year than the one at Greenwich, England. Which one is correct? They both are! The one at Boulder is at an altitude of 5400 ft. above sea level. The one at Greenwich is only 80 ft. above sea level. The difference is caused by the fact that time is different due to the change in gravity. In 1971, J. C. Hafele and Richard Keating sent four cesium clocks around the world. The clocks on the eastward trip returned 59 nanoseconds behind the ones remaining at rest at the U.S. Naval Observatory. The clocks on the westward trip were 273 nanoseconds ahead. Accounting for the Earth's rotation and other gravitational effects, this was precisely what Einstein's formulas predicted.
Our problem with the "six days" of creation is not confined to Genesis Chapter 1. (Many have tried to manipulate the translation of yom to accommodate our understanding of modern astrophysical perspectives.) Our real problem is highlighted in Exodus 20:11:
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Clearly, the Lord intends us to understand the Creation Week to be comprised of six days as we understand them. The Scripture is very explicit on its forthrightness:
All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them. They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge. - Proverbs 8:8, 9
The word translated "plain" isnakoach, which means straightforward.
The Stretch Factor
Cosmologists readily acknowledge that the universe had a beginning: a "singularity" from which matter, energy, time, and space all had their beginning. The various mathematical models attempting to compile what we think we know about physical laws are assembled under the various Big Bang theories: "First there was nothing - and then it exploded."
It is the incredible expanse that leads to the difficulties in reconciling the astronomical distances with time as we know it here on the earth. Gerald Schroeder2 has suggested that the expansion factor is well known from a number of quantum physics considerations 3 as approximately 1012. Sixteen billion years (a commonly suggested age of the universe) is about 6,000,000,000,000 days: applying the 1012 expansion factor results in about 6 days! 4 It all depends on whose clock you're looking at! (There are increasing difficulties with the traditional "Big Bang" theories. Some of these will be explored in subsequent articles.)
The Laws of Thermodynamics
The 1st Law, the Law of Conservation of matter and energy, is alluded to in Scripture.5 It is the 2nd Law, the Law of Entropy, which is especially profound since it, among other things, establishes the direction of time. It also appears to pervade the Scriptures. 6 It is also evidence that the universe had a definite beginning. Heat always flows from hot bodies to cold bodies. If the universe was infinitely old, the temperature throughout the universe would be uniform. It isn't; therefore, it isn't infinitely old. It had a beginning. And it is destined for an ending.
It is interesting that the "evening and the morning" are said to bracket each day.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. -Genesis 1:5.
The term erev fundamentally depicts chaos or disorder. Since our ability to discern order tends to diminish as darkness approaches, this becomes a synonym for evening in present usage; boker depicts the emergence of order, and since our ability to discern the order of things increases at dawn, it has become synonymous with morning. It would seem that each day is characterized by a specific decrease in entropy. See diagram . It is distinctive that there was no decrease in entropy on the seventh day; yet, it certainly must have had an "evening and a morning" in the sense that we think of it. There is also a distinctive construction in the designation of the days themselves. Yom echad, "Day One," is distinct as an absolute, standing on its own. It was here that time was created. The rest of the days are designated in relative designations: "Second day," "Third day," etc.
Stretching the Heavens
There are, of course, many other provocative issues. Is the vacuum of space really empty? What is the firmness of the "firmament"?
The term "stretching the heavens" appears at least 17 times in the Bible.7 According to the Scriptures, the heavens can be "torn,"8 "worn out" like a garment,9 "shaken,"10 "burnt up,"11 "split apart" like a scroll, 12 and "rolled up" like a mantle13 or a scroll.14 The concept of being "rolled up" carries some additional insights. There must be some dimension in which space is "thin." If space can be "bent," there must be a direction it can be bent toward . Thus, this tells us that there must be additional dimensions beyond those of space itself. And what about the velocity of light-is it really a constant as most physicists have been taught to presume? Or has it, too, been changing as a result of Genesis 3? (The properties of free space-an "absolute vacuum"-will be explored in next month's article, along with some startling discoveries which may alter our perceptions of this universe in which we live and move and have our being.)
* * *
This article was excerpted from our featured briefing package, Stretching the Heavens and the Dilation of Time.