Why Does the Universe Look So Old? (Tim Challies blog post)

But why, then, if the universe is so young, does it look so old? His first answer is this:
The universe looks old because the Creator made it whole

My YEC/conservative Reformed friends are sharing this a lot on social media. I can’t remember the last time I facepalmed this hard.

There’s an epic Brad rant brewing here. Don’t have time this morning to write out my rant, but trust me, it’s coming.

Others have thoughts on this line of YEC logic? @Joel_Duff @Socratic.Fanatic ?


It’s not just that the universe looks old, it’s that it has the appearance of a very specific age, and that it also contains the appearance of having a very specific history. Al Mohler and Tim Challies both completely overlook this point, and don’t even attempt to address it.

You’d be surprised at how many YECs have the impression that figuring these things out is “guessing at best” and aren’t even aware that it involves measuring things. Another argument that you hear along these lines is “rocks don’t come with timestamps.”

I addressed this in the very first point in this blog post. It’s the most important fundamental points that YECs need to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest before they say another word on the subject.


I think the countless forms of evidence of event histories in Creation (showing specific events across millions and billions of years) straightforwardly refute the “mature creation argument”. If people are willing to view God as creating “missiles”, (i.e., relativistic jets) and their “launching platforms” (i.e., neighborhoods of supermassive black holes) with the mere illusion of having a causal connection… then I really don’t know anymore what kind of logic does or does not apply.

Only thing left to do is to lift my palm up and plant it on my forehead with a look of despair on my face.

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So many misconceptions, so little time to comment.

There is our first answer, that the universe looks old because God created it to look old. This was design, not deception, just as was the case for Adam, the human being who had no history, no parents, no infancy, no childhood.

I’m glad that Mohler/Challies equated the young earth to the literal Adam. At the risk of repeating myself, both suffer the same logical problem. The special creation of Adam requires that all of the basic knowledge that makes us “human” be implanted in Adam and Eve’s heads directly by God.

As far as this goes …

Paul says in Romans 8 that the world is groaning, “And in its groaning it does look old. It gives us empirical evidence of the reality of sin.” The universe looks old rather than young to display the evidence and consequences of sin, for once we see this we are but a short distance from considering the joy, necessity, and beauty of redemption.

… I don’t know what to say. The reason that the universe looks old is to display “empirical evidence of the reality of sin”? Really?! So, the vast distances that give the appearance of great age to the universe are somehow “evidence of the consequences of sin.” The Grand Canyon appears old in order to bear witness to sin. This would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. What sort of silly, twisted logic is this?

I’ve tried three times now to come up with something longer to say about this, but I’m struggling to be charitable, because this article is just so frustrating on so many levels.

It’s so weird and mind-bending that Challies (echoing Sproul) affirms that the world “looks old” even though it isn’t. I’m not aware of anyone in church history that held this sort of perspective. Even most YECs wouldn’t say it that way. The weirdest part is how they ascribe it to sin. So the world “looked young” before the Fall but now “looks old”? What does that even mean?

I also feel like it would be harder to make those same points if you understood the level of detail at which scientists study past events (see: @Casper_Hesp’s comment above) . I’ve used this analogy before, but it’s one thing to say that God supernaturally put a rock at the bottom of a hill, and it’s quite another to say that he also supernaturally created a path down the hill which exactly matches the route the rock would have taken if it had rolled down. I would actually respect Challies and Sproul more if they would just come out and say, “I am totally OK with God creating an elaborate and detailed illusion of millions of past events which never happened.”

It’s almost as if they are making a show of “solving” the intersection of faith and mainstream science by simply waving around a couple of Bible verses, along with some bits of Reformed theology. Which says quite a bit about their approach angle.


I think that’s at least part of the problem here. Most people with no scientific training simply aren’t aware of the level of detail involved in scientific studies, nor the level of rigour and quality control to which scientific findings have to be subjected.

It’s amazing how many YECs don’t even seem to realise that the age of the earth is determined by measuring things.

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Yeah, not off to a good start as he writes:

At least, those Christians do who hold to a traditional interpretation of the first two chapters of Genesis

I wish we could move beyond this point, affirming that our method is the ‘original interpretation of Genesis.’ Maybe this is where one begins illustrating how YEC think about it is definitely not how anyone living in the B.C times would have ‘traditionally interpreted it.’

The problems for the Old Earth camp in his opinion are pretty easy to deal with…

a) death before the fall and b) the creation account is clearly laid out as if it takes place in six literal days.

But the real problem is most Christians have no idea how science is done or works as others have already mentioned in this post. If I had a dollar for every student that tells me ‘evolution is just a theory, not a fact’ I’d have to pay some serious taxes each year in extra revenue. Not that we needed any more evidence, but Mohler also seems confused about how science works. He says:

Remember first of all that science has changed and has gone through many transformations. The assured results of modern science today may very well not be the assured results of modern science tomorrow. And, I can promise you, are not the assured results of science yesterday.

I thought @Joel_Duff (I think) made a good point in one of the prior discussions of the Is Genesis History movie on this issue of the earth bearing the scars of sin and judgment and that is what makes it look old. He pointed out that as humans our intuitive response to the natural objects that give testimony to the vast age of the earth (like the Grand Canyon, the white cliffs of Dover, the Blue Ridge mountains) is not one of repulsion or sorrow or conviction (as one would expect when faced with the scars of sin- the feeling one might get when touring a Nazi concentration camp, or Hiroshima museum), it is a feeling of encountering splendor, majesty, beauty. It is an awe-inspiring experience. If these things that look so old are supposed to be a testimony of God’s judgment, shouldn’t they make the spiritually sensitive feel bad in some way? But that isn’t how anyone, not even ardent YECs describe their experiences beholding creation.


Young = beautiful, old = unattractive is one of the most harmful myths in our culture. So why are Mohler and Challies relying on it?


This just made me think of a great advertising campaign for Christian skin cream for women of a certain age. Is your face showing signs of sin and judgment?..


I agree. This just shows the backwards emphasis of their understanding of creation. Not just the spiritually sensitive, but all of mankind is awestruck by the majesty and beauty of God’s creation. The creation reveals something of God, its Creator, not man.

And yet time and time again the Bible talks about being “old and full of years” — long life — as a blessing from God.


From Psalm 92

How great are your works, O Lord!
Your plans are very intricate!
The spiritually insensitive do not recognize this;
the fool does not understand this.
When the wicked sprout up like grass,
and all the evildoers glisten,
it is so that they may be annihilated.

(In contrast …)

The godly grow like a palm tree;
they grow high like a cedar in Lebanon.
Planted in the Lord’s house,
they grow in the courts of our God.
They bear fruit even when they are old;
they are filled with vitality and have many leaves.
So they proclaim that the Lord, my protector,
is just and never unfair.

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A post was merged into an existing topic: Change and Time in Genesis

I never really liked in-transit-starlight but I didn’t see it as insurmountable until someone pointed out the problem of in-transit-supernova (explosions from stars that never existed?)

The simplest description I’ve heard contrasts appearance of “age” with appearance of “story”, or the difference between Adam being an adult and also having a bunch of pre-created footprints from when he was a child.

I think it’s helpful to not just contrast “age” with “story” but to show how the specific sequence of events in the story enhances our appreciation of “the vast plans of Jehovah,” as 19th century old-earth creationist Edward Hitchcock put it (ex. generations of stars to produce complex elements, an object hitting earth at the right properties to create the moon, the great oxygenation event preparing the way for us, etc) IMO, positive remarks on an alternate theology can help cushion the blow against something that would be seen as a negative attack on the theology that is genuinely believed to be the only viable one.