TCQ Week 5: Astronomy and the Bible

Jul 10, 2024 | Creation, Manuscripts/Outlines

Until now, we’ve looked at the big picture of science and the Bible. We’ve discussed why Christians should care about science, what science is, how science fits with a supernatural worldview, and the age of the earth.

Starting this week, we’ll explore different areas of science in more detail. First up, astronomy. We’ll explore:

  1. Why I don’t think the Big Bang happened
  2. If the earth is young, how can we see light from distant stars?
  3. How God uses astronomy to show his glory and plan

Before diving deeper, let’s first ask a more basic question: How could modern astronomy relate to an ancient book like the Bible?

The Heavens and the Ancient World

Mankind has been fascinated by the stars since the beginning of time. The oldest cultures we know of even worshipped the sun and moon like they were gods. In the ancient mindset, there is a close connection between stars and angels.

But we no longer live in the ancient world—we live in the modern world. In our world, we know that stars are balls of gas. We know that the night sky has far more stars than the roughly 3,000 visible to the naked eye in biblical times.

Yet, historians often mistakenly refer to ancient people as “pre-scientific.” While they did not have some of the beliefs and processes we have today, they still cared about the natural world and attempted to understand it. They did not “do science” the same way we do, but they still did it!

For example:

  1. Archeoastronomy: The Great Pyramid in Egypt (along with the other two pyramids at Giza) is astronomically aligned with the constellation Orion. Also: “The amazing henge of stones located in Wiltshire County, England, was evidently built in stages sometime after the dispersion from Babel, probably around 2000 b.c.31 It is one of the most famous examples of archaeoastronomy, by which structures were built with the intent of aligning them with objects of astronomical significance. Though its original purpose is still debated, Stonehenge is remarkable for its display of ancient intelligence. It was aligned to the summer and winter solstices as well as the spring and fall equinoxes and lunar movements.” — Don Landis
  2. Measuring the earth: Many believe that everyone thought the earth was flat up until the time of Christopher Columbus! In reality, the first experiment to successfully predict the earth’s circumference predates the time of Christ! Danny Faulkner writes:
    1. “A lunar eclipse obviously must happen simultaneously for everyone on earth, but it will be at different times at different locations. For instance, a lunar eclipse may start shortly after sunset in the eastern Mediterranean, such as in Greece. However, in the western Mediterranean, such as in Spain, the moon might already be in eclipse when the moon rose that night. This means that the lunar eclipse began before sunset/moonrise in Spain, but after sunset/moonrise in Greece. While communication was much slower in the ancient world than it is today, people did record and share their observations, so people in the ancient world were aware of this effect. This shows that the earth is curved in the east-west direction. If the earth is curved in both the north-south and east-west direction, the most likely shape of the earth is a sphere.”
    2. Eratosthenes, a Greek mathematician, accurately estimated the Earth’s circumference around 240 B.C. He used a clever method involving the angles of shadows in two different locations, Syene (now Aswan) and Alexandria, both in Egypt, on the summer solstice. By measuring the angle of the shadow in Alexandria and knowing the distance between the two cities, he was able to calculate the Earth’s circumference with remarkable accuracy. His estimate was about 40,000 kilometers, which is very close to the modern measurement of approximately 40,075 kilometers.

There are about 60 verses in the Bible that speak specifically about astronomical ideas. For example:

  1. Job 38:31-33Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?
  2. Psalm 8:3-4When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
  3. Psalm 19:1The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
  4. Jeremiah 31:35Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name:
  5. Amos 5:8Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name:

For an ancient book, the Bible seems to mention astronomy a lot. This raises an important question that is still debated among scholars: How closely does the Bible map to the real world?

We talked about this last week with the idea of “phenomenological language”—the biblical writers wrote what they saw, heard, and experienced. They were never attempting to “do” science. This means we sometimes get mixed results when trying to map the Bible to scientific models.

If you’ll remember, we landed on the fact that the Bible matters for history even though it’s not a science textbook. It may touch on things that matter for science from time to time, but it’s never trying to teach you science.

That’s the approach I take. There is much we can learn from the Bible about astronomy, but much more that we can’t!

We can, however, use it to form guidelines that help us think about modern science and astronomy. This is helpful because astronomy is one of the things people use to attack the Bible—especially a young-age creationist position like we assume in this class. The attack centers around two ideas: the Big Bang model and the “distant starlight problem.” We’ll talk about these next.

What About the Big Bang?

In the past three decades, the landscape of Christian beliefs about science has changed dramatically. Before the 1990s, it would be difficult to find many Christians who believed in an old earth or universe, and virtually impossible to find those who believed in Darwinian evolution.

While many have come to accept evolution, the opposition remains strong. However, the opposition against believing in an old earth or universe is not as strong. The primary reason for this shift is the supposed overwhelming evidence for the Big Bang.

What is (and Isn’t) the Big Bang?

Contrary to popular belief, the Big Bang is not an explosion of any kind. Here’s an attempt at a simple explanation:

“The Big Bang theory suggests that the universe started as an extremely hot and dense point about 13.8 billion years ago. This point then expanded rapidly and continues to expand today. As it expanded, the universe cooled down, allowing particles to form atoms. These atoms eventually came together to form stars and galaxies. The theory is supported by several key observations, including the cosmic microwave background radiation, the abundance of light elements, and the redshift of galaxies, which shows that the universe is still expanding.”

Before this theory was suggested, most scientists believed in an eternal universe model. The BBT was initially rejected because it sounded too much like Genesis 1:1! In fact, even the name Big Bang—which caught on—was originally used by Sir Fred Hoyle to make fun of the theory during a BBC radio broadcast.

Here’s a closer look at the reasons why almost every scientist agrees with this model today:

Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation:

After the Big Bang, the universe was incredibly hot and filled with energy. As it expanded, it cooled down. About 380,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe had cooled enough for protons and electrons to combine and form neutral hydrogen atoms.

This process released a huge amount of light, which has been traveling through the universe ever since. Today, this light is very faint and spread out, but it can still be detected as microwave radiation.

Scientists use special instruments to measure this radiation, called the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The CMB supposedly gives us a picture of what the universe looked like when it was very young, and it matches the predictions made by the Big Bang theory.

Abundance of Light Elements:

In the first few minutes after the Big Bang, the universe was extremely hot and dense. During this time, nuclear reactions occurred, similar to those that happen in the core of stars today. These reactions produced the simplest and lightest elements: hydrogen, helium, and small amounts of lithium.

As the universe expanded, it cooled down, and these nuclear reactions slowed and eventually stopped. The result was that the universe was left with a lot of hydrogen and helium, which are still the most common elements we see in the universe today.

Scientists have measured the amounts of these light elements in the oldest stars and in interstellar gas clouds. They find that the proportions of hydrogen, helium, and lithium generally match the “predictions” made by the Big Bang theory. It suggests that the early universe went through a hot, dense phase that created these elements.

Redshift of Galaxies:

When we observe distant galaxies, we notice that their light is stretched out, making it appear more red. This effect is called redshift, and it occurs because the galaxies are moving away from us as the universe expands.

The greater the distance to a galaxy, the faster it seems to be moving away. This relationship is known as Hubble’s Law. The redshift of galaxies supports the idea that the universe is expanding from an initial point, as described by the Big Bang theory.

By measuring the redshift of many galaxies, scientists have determined that the universe has been expanding for about 13.8 billion years. This expanding universe fits the Big Bang model, where everything started from a single, incredibly hot and dense point.

Problems and Alternatives

In the beginning of this class, I was careful to tell you we’d be taking a positive approach to the question of whether science can prove the Bible wrong, not a negative one. It’s time to put my money where my mouth is and explain why.

As Christians, we tend to get frustrated when we see the world sinning. But pastors and teachers are quick to remind us that we should expect the world to sin—they’re sinners! When mainstream scientists come up with ideas like the Big Bang, they are simply doing what is natural. They follow unbiblical thinking to its logical conclusion and end up with results that—surprise!—don’t align with the Bible.

So when a scientist comes to believe in the Big Bang or evolution, for example, it’s not without evidence. There is evidence! The big question is whether their explanation is the correct explanation of the evidence.

Is it possible to understand the evidence for the Big Bang another way? Yes.

Here are two general problems with their use of this evidence for the Big Bang:


Remember last time we talked about uniformitarianism? This is the idea that the processes we observe in the universe today have always been operating in the same way throughout the past.

While it originated in the earth sciences, Big Bang proponents use this principle to support their conclusions by assuming that the same physical laws and processes, such as gravity and the speed of light, have always been constant. They look at the current expansion of the universe, as evidenced by the redshift of galaxies, and extrapolate backwards in time to a point where all matter and energy were concentrated in a single, incredibly dense and hot point.

By applying the principle of uniformitarianism, they conclude that the universe has been expanding over the past 13.8 billion years, leading to the Big Bang theory as the best explanation for the origin and development of the universe.

Remember—for them, everything must happen in a naturalistic way absent of supernatural creation. If this assumption is wrong, their conclusion is not reliable.

Explanations vs. Predictions

A scientific theory is judged by how well it explains existing data and predicts new data. If a theory explains most of what we know, it has good explanatory power. If it doesn’t, it should be modified or replaced. When predictions made by a theory match experimental results, the theory is confirmed. If they don’t match, the theory is disproved and needs to be adjusted or discarded.

In other words, a great theory can explain and predict.

The only clear prediction of the Big Bang model is the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation. The other two evidences, the expansion of the universe and abundance of light elements, are explanations—not predictions.

The expansion of the universe was an observation that needed to be explained. the Big Bang was developed to help explain this. Similarly, with the light elements, knowledge of their abundance was input into the model. Dr. Danny Faulkner writes:

“The big-bang cosmology does predict the abundances of the light elements, but most people fail to realize that information concerning elemental abundances was input in creating the model. Knowledge of the light element abundances was required in constraining which subset of possible models was viable. In fact, small changes in our understanding of these abundances have allowed cosmologists to fine-tune their models. It would be most strange if a model did not “predict” the parameters that were input for the theory.”

I have a simple point here: For an unbeliever, the Big Bang model is the only game in town. It’s the only thing that even comes close to a reasonable explanation for the origin of the universe. And with that, it has all these challenges:

  1. It doesn’t make sense that something could come from nothing
  2. It requires uniformitarian assumptions
  3. It has only three main “evidences” to stand on
  4. It has only ONE successful prediction (which has alternative explanations)
  5. It is constantly being revised and updated to match and explain observations

But the problems run even deeper. For example, its only prediction, the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, could be explained by other models. Depending on your view of the firmament in Genesis 1, you could even make a case that the Bible predicted the CMBR long before the Big Bang theory did (a bit too advanced for right now, but you can ask me about this later).

Further, the Big Bang has “The Horizon Problem” to deal with. The horizon problem arises because the Big Bang theory predicts that different regions of the universe shouldn’t have had time to interact and reach the same temperature. When we look at the cosmic microwave background radiation, we see that it is almost uniform in temperature across the entire sky. Given the vast distances between these regions, they should have been outside each other’s “horizon” and unable to share information or heat.

The theory of cosmic inflation offers a solution. Inflation proposes that, very early in the universe’s history, there was a brief period of extremely rapid expansion. During this time, all parts of the universe were close enough to interact and reach a uniform temperature. After this inflationary period, the universe continued to expand at a slower rate, but the uniformity was already established.

However—the inflation theory is a “rescuing device” invented by Big Bang proponents to solve a problem. But there’s no mechanism for such an inflation theory inherent in the Big Bang model. There is room for such a thing, however, on the creationist view, if God wanted to create a vast universe within a short period of time.

As that quickly moves us into the question of how we can see light from distant stars, we’ll go into more detail in our next main section.

Is the Big Bang Biblical?

Regardless of science, the Bible is our final authority. Since it matters for history and speaks about the origin of the universe, we must consider what the Bible allows for. This is crucial because many Christians now believe in the Big Bang, not just secularists.

Last week, we discussed how the Bible seems to teach a young age for the earth and universe. Since the Big Bang assumes an old age for the universe, it’s clear the Bible does not support it. The mistake many well-meaning Christians make is to equate “general revelation” with “modern science,” as we talked about in Lesson 2. They assume the Big Bang can be easily compared to Genesis 1:1 (“In the beginning, God”).

But that’s where the comparison ends. The unfolding of life in the biblical account is very different from the Big Bang storyline. In the Bible, the earth is created before the sun, plants before animals, and all land animals together. The Big Bang model has the sun before the earth, plant life after animal life, and animal life emerging over billions of years.

This isn’t just a difference between two models; it’s a difference between two worldviews. Unfortunately, some have confused these worldviews and mixed them together, which I believe is a serious mistake.

The Bible and Distant Starlight

Of all the issues in the debate of “science vs the Bible,” the biggest one normally raised is the “light travel time problem.” This problem arises because of how scientists view (1) the size of the universe and (2) the relationship between distance and time.

Suppose the universe were to “freeze” in its current state, with no more expansion taking place. The furthest distance we can observe in the universe is 13.8 billion light-years. If the Big Bang theory and its assumptions are correct, light from the furthest observable objects has taken 13.8 billion years to reach us. Therefore, if we could travel at the speed of light, it would take us about 13.8 billion years to reach those distant objects.

This is a major problem if, as creationists propose, the universe is only about 6-7,000 years old. As with the Big Bang, it is important to consider what this state of affairs assumes and how it could be understood differently.

First, it assumes—no surprise—uniformitarianism. And with uniformitarianism, it assumes a natural creation instead of a supernatural creation. By now it probably seems uniformitarianism is the “big bad belief” driving so much of the scientific attack against the Bible.

And you’d be right. But not because of my opinion—the Bible has something to say about this, too. Consider 2 Peter 3:1-7:

This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: 2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: 3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

If I could paraphrase, Peter is saying that in the last days, people will believe that since the beginning of time, there has been no intervention from God. God had nothing to do with it. They deny creation, they deny the flood, and they’ll deny the coming judgment. This is the uniformitarian mindset. And this is why you’ll find this assumption at the heart of almost every scientific endeavor to disprove the Bible.

Once you shed this assumption and adopt a new one: That God supernaturally created everything and that biblical history does not necessarily conform to the mainstream scientific storyline, there are new possibilities.

Many creation models to solve the light travel time problem have been offered over the years. There is no consensus in creation astronomy around any one model, meaning we are still actively working on the best explanation.

The most common that have been offered in recent years include:

  1. Dr. Russ Humphrey’s White Hole Cosmology
  2. Dr. Jason Lisle’s Anisotropic Synchrony Convention (ASC)
  3. Dr. Danny Faulkner’s Dasha Theory

Humphreys’ model argues that a phenomenon called “gravitational time dilation” is responsible for the huge disparity in the perceived age of the universe. If you’ve seen the movie “Interstellar,” you’re familiar with this concept. Essentially, it comes down to the real observation that time moves differently across great distances where gravity is involved. He claims that the initial creation event featured a white hole event. A black hole pulls in everything around it, even light, due to its immense gravity. A white hole, on the other hand, expels matter and light, and nothing can penetrate it from outside.

This resulted in a universe that experienced a tremendous amount of time (and therefore age) during its rapid early expansion, while Earth—arguably at the center of God’s created order—experienced only the 6-7,000 years we can account for in the Bible. This model has faced much criticism, most notably because of the built-in assumption that the universe is actually 13.8 billion years old. On this model, only Earth is young—not the universe—but I think the Bible would disagree.

Jason Lisle’s ASC model is the most popular of the last decade or so. It suggests that how we view the speed of light is not dictated by reality but rather chosen by convention. The Einstein Synchrony Convention (ESC) measures light traveling in both directions, assuming that each direction is 1/2 C (where C is the speed of light). Lisle’s ASC suggests that light is anisotropic, meaning it has a different value when measured in different directions.

According to Lisle, we can simply “choose” how to measure light. We could say that the speed of light is virtually infinite coming towards us but extremely slow moving away from us. (This would supposedly allow us to claim that light from distant stars reaches us immediately, but if you were on those distant stars, you wouldn’t see the light from earth until it traveled all those light-years.)

The problem with this approach is that we have experimental evidence of the one-way speed of light. Plus, all radio towers, satellite communications, and even the GPS on your cell phone assume a knowable one-way speed of light. Lisle claims the Bible uses the ASC, but I think there are many problems with that statement. This solution is not all it’s cracked up to be.

The final—and newest—solution is the Dasha Theory. The word “Dasha” is Hebrew for “spring forth” or “sprout.” If you imagine the initial creation like a time-lapse video, the word Dasha captures it nicely. Dr. Faulkner has applied this idea to astronomy, suggesting that God initially stretched out the heavens during creation week. It’s not a perfect illustration, but think of the early universe as a compressed slinky that God stretched out on Day 4.

This concept is biblically sound, but Faulkner was concerned there would not be a way to explain it scientifically. To be clear, that’s not necessary, as it was a supernatural creation event. My friend Dr. Phil Dennis, a leading expert on General Relativity, has a creative solution forthcoming that could provide the physical explanation needed to make Faulkner’s theory both supernaturally consistent and physically understandable. The best of both worlds.

The point? The dust has not settled on these big issues with astronomy. Creationists are making exciting advances every day, and the evidence for the Big Bang and distant starlight is not strong enough to dissuade anyone from the biblical explanation.

How Astronomy Reveals the Glory and Plan of God

Despite the attacks, the purpose of astronomy (and every area of science) is ultimately to bring glory to God. By studying more about the natural world, we learn more about the God who created it.

Here’s just a small sampling of the many ways in which God’s glory and plan are revealed through astronomy.

The Heavens Belong to God

Genesis 1:1 (KJV)

“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.”

Psalm 19:1 (KJV)

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”

Psalm 8:3-4 (KJV)

“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”

Isaiah 40:22 (KJV)

“It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.”

Job 26:7 (KJV)

“He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.”

Jeremiah 10:12 (KJV)

“He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.”

Psalm 33:6 (KJV)

“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.”

Nehemiah 9:6 (KJV)

“Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.”

The Bible is very clear on this point. The heavens—the sun, moon, stars, and all the planets—are his.

God Uses Astronomy to Draw People to Him

It is hard to look at the night sky and not be in awe of the God who created it. It is one of the areas that helps me understand verses like Psalm 14:1, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” But Scripture has even more treasures showing God uses astronomy to draw people to himself.

The Hebrews (and many other ancient cultures) used a lunar calendar, confirming Genesis 1:16. In Romans 10, there’s a popular passage where Paul asks, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” It’s common for folks to take this out of context. They often fail to read further in the passage down to verse 18, where it says: “But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.”

It’s cryptic in English, but this verse is referencing the Greek Old Testament’s version of Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, And night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, Where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world…

Paul’s not saying the gospel is written in the stars, but he is saying the heavens are a silent—yet loud—witness to the whole world about the Savior.

Some scholars have even extended this thinking to Revelation 12, which seems to be a Messianic Astral Prophecy dealing with the birth of the Messiah.

And of course, the star that led the Magi to Christ.

God uses the heavens to draw people to himself.

The Stars Were Important in Biblical Times

Beyond that we’ve just mentioned, we saw some verses earlier where even specific constellations and star arrangements are mentioned in the Bible.

Stars also had an association with angels and divine beings in the ancient world. In Job, the “morning stars” sang together at the creation of the world. Hebrew parallelism indicates the “morning stars” are the same as “the sons of God,” which are members of God’s divine council.

God’s Ultimate Plan for the Universe is Awe-Inspiring

With God, no detail is left out. No stone left unturned. No avenue left unexplored. God has given us “wonders without number” in the heavens to be grateful for.

Christians need not be fearful of the mainstream narrative when it comes to astronomy and the Bible. Far from proving the Bible wrong, astronomy holds some of the best evidence that God is not only real, but obvious, and that the Bible is not only true, but worth staking your life on.

Meet Steve

Meet Steve

Hi, I’m Steve, an author, speaker, and Bible teacher with a heart for exploring God’s Word and God’s world.

I’m interested in the surprising connection between creation, theology, business, and storytelling. We explore those themes and more on this blog.

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