Did God Lie To Us?

There are two groups of Christians who believe that the universe was created by God.  The group that believes He did it in 6 actual days just a few thousand years ago, and the group that believes God did it billions of years ago.  Both groups often claim to interpret the Bible straightforwardly because the Bible never specifically says how old the earth is.  Thus it becomes a question over who has the proper interpretation.  An argument usually ensues over the Hebrew word “yom,” possible gaps of time, how long the seventh day actually lasted, and more.

I am currently a believer in a young earth.  Pretty crazy for a pastor I know, but it’s fun being radical and besides that, I just happen to think those models and theories work pretty well.  Yet if I (or you for that matter) want to hold to a young earth position, we’re going to be faced with a few thought-provoking theological questions.  Like this one:  Did God Lie to Us?

See, if God really did create the universe around 10,000 years ago, then why do all the measurements keeping coming up with old ages?  Why does everything look old?  We look at the stars and find the remnants of a super nova (when a star explodes) that seems to have happened millions of years ago since that’s how long it would have taken the light from these remnants to reach us.  Or we find ourselves looking at stars that are billions of light years away, which of course means the light is billions of years old, which then means we shouldn’t even see them if the universe has only been here for 10,000 years or so.

Some will say God created the universe with apparent age, so it only looks old.  That would mean God must have created what appears to be the left-overs of a super nova, but the star never existed and never exploded. If so, was God lying to us?

A theory I find really interesting says the universe was born in such a way that time passed more quickly for the outer edges of the universe, than it did for the earth, which is near the center.  Thus, parts of the universe are old, and parts are young because time is relative.  Even so, by creating the universe so that it looks old, and yet really isn’t, did God lie to us?

See how it works?  I’m not trying in this post to get you to believe in a young earth or an old earth.  You might have recognized the “apparent age” idea, and you might know that Russell Humphries wrote a book called “Starlight and Time” where he uses the relative properties of time to create a model where the earth is very young, while the outer edges of the universe are very old.  I’m sure you might have your own opinion, good or bad – harsh or polite, on all this. But I’m not trying to argue for Humphries here, or argue for “apparent age.”

I’d just like to ask the question: Does God allow things to look a certain way which then leads people to jump to the wrong conclusion?   Does God always make things clear?  If the universe is young, did God lie through at least some appearances?

The obvious answer (again we like to jump for the obvious don’t we?) is that God would never allow us to be deceived by appearances.  But theologically, is that true?

I wonder.

In Genesis 3, God allowed Satan -in the form of a serpent- to lie to Eve.  He questioned whether God had really told her not to eat the forbidden fruit.  He impugned God’s motives, telling Eve that God was holding back information.  He caused her to doubt God, and so, she looked at the forbidden fruit in a new way.  Suddenly, it seemed to look different. It looked good.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. -Genesis 3:6

I wonder if the same logic that says if God created a universe that “looks” old, it means God was perpetuating a lie, would also ask why God would create a fruit to look good for food, and seem desirable for gaining wisdom, when He knew it would kill anyone who ate it?  Wasn’t the look of the fruit also a lie then?

Or was it just a test?

I think it’s worth considering, whichever view you hold on the age of the earth, that God may have created a deadly fruit that looked good, because He was testing Adam and Eve to believe His word above all else.

Theologically speaking, did God allow the universe to look old, at least in many ways, to test whether we would believe His word above all else?

It’s probably a question that deserves a lot of caffeine.

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13 thoughts on “Did God Lie To Us?

  1. Your post got me rereading verses 66-178 from the eighth book of Paradise Lost:

    To ask or search I blame thee not, for Heav’n
    Is as the Book of God before thee set,
    Wherein to read his wondrous Works, and learn
    His Seasons, Hours, or Days, or Months, or Years:
    This to attain, whether Heav’n move or Earth, [ 70 ]
    Imports not, if thou reckon right, the rest
    From Man or Angel the great Architect
    Did wisely to conceal, and not divulge
    His secrets to be scann’d by them who ought
    Rather admire; or if they list to try
    Conjecture, he his Fabric of the Heav’ns
    Hath left to their disputes, perhaps to move
    His laughter at their quaint Opinions wide
    Hereafter, when they come to model Heav’n. . . .

    God to remove his ways from human sense,
    Plac’d Heav’n from Earth so far, that earthly sight,
    If it presume, might err in things too high,
    And no advantage gain. . . .

    But whether thus these things, or whether not,
    Whether the Sun predominant in Heav’n
    Rise on the Earth, or Earth rise on the Sun. . .
    Solicit not thy thoughts with matters hid,
    Leave them to God above, him serve and fear. . .
    Heav’n is for thee too high
    To know what passes there; be lowly wise:
    Think only what concerns thee and thy being;
    Dream not of other Worlds, what Creatures there
    Live, in what state, condition or degree,
    Contented that thus far hath been reveal’d
    Not of Earth only but of highest Heav’n.

    Milton didn’t want to weigh in on the Galilean controversy — which pitted observable science against the reigning Biblical interpretation of the day. What do you think? Knowing that it appears the earth goes around the sun, despite the problems that posed for the Bible, and therefore urging the religious community to forgo astronomy entirely. . . doesn’t that seem like a cop out? He’s wrestling with the same question you pose, though — would God lie to us? And if so, why? His answer is kind of similar to yours, too; God designed the universe is such a way that it frustrates those who seek things out for themselves. Yet what about Proverbs 25:2 — “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings”?

  2. A friend of mine, who is not a believer although I hope someday he will be, once told me that as soon as we think we’ve got things figured out, mother nature does something we’d never expect. That tells me that even those who are atheists are often humbled in trying to understand the universe, or “mother nature.” (that’s part of the joy of studying it) Perhaps then, we wrongly assume that if God exists, He would never conceal a thing, and everything would be easy and plain. I would agree with Milton in the sense that God does frustrate us, that our opinions are quaint to Him. The Bible does say God frustrates the wisdom of the wise. And like in the verse you just quoted, it says it is to God’s glory to conceal a matter.

    Interestingly, Psalms 19 also says the heavens declare the glory of God. Which, when stacked against the verse you brought up, would indicate there are hidden things. Part of God’s glory may be in the fact that despite all of our theories and models, we still only seem to scratch the surface. We still have to adjust our models, and throw out others. We still run across evidence that seems to contradict everything we think we know. That speaks volumes about the Creator, I think.

    Where I’d disagree with Milton is in the idea of leaving well enough alone. I don’t believe God hid everything so we would never find it, but so we would be forced to look, and be forced to discover our own imperfections along the way. He is the same God who also said if we seek Him, we will find Him, if we seek Him with all of our heart. It’s the glory of kings, of man, to seek out a matter. Besides that, it’s fun.

  3. hey Brian, i used to be a strong believer in the big bang and its consequence, evolution.
    Then i devoted my life to God, and went to Bible college and they taught a young universe, and young earth.
    I have a very scientific mind, and i’m very critical about anything i believe. I have to understand something before i believe it. That has been a small strugle in my Christian walk, but, a healthy one.
    You see, the young earth model does work, and so does the old earth model, because they both require God to fill the holes in the theory.
    So when i learned for the first time about the young earth, it does make sense and that became my belief.
    To be honest with you, recently, i’ve been finding it hard to believe iether of them, and i’ve almost become a sort of agnostic on the issue of our interpretation of creation.
    I reject any model for creation as the absolute model, but i think, if we look at the big bang and the young earth they both require an awesome creative God.
    Anyways, the Bible doesn’t mention when dna was created, or hydrogen, so i think it’s safe to assume that genesis 1 is not exhaustive, and if it were, the Bible would be bigger than the universe.
    What’s interesting is that God never says when he created time, or how, or if it’s even constant.
    Yet, that’s what the creation tug of war is about;
    We are fighting about time.

    7 days or 14 billion years?
    Take what genesis says out of the equation, and take our scientific ideas, the big bang, evolution,
    forget everythin about what you know about the universe and the Bible.
    Then ask yourself this question,
    ”If God is God, what makes more sense, 7 days or 14 billion years?If God is unlimited, all powerful and outside of time, which is more logical, 7??”
    i wonder, if it was 7 days, what took God so long?
    Infact, from this perspective they both seem a bit rediculous.
    I would believe that God created everything the way we see it in an instant, in one split second of time, a few days ago! if the Bible said that. It is on that thought that i think, maybe the days werent refering to time at all? Maybe they signify the time it took for whoever recieved the revelation about the creation to recieve it? It could have been Adam or Moses who God gave the Genesis revelation to first, but maybe, they recieved it over a week?
    That’s just a question, i don’t believe that, but, it is something to think about, #caffiene..
    As a result of my reasoning, and the fact that i don’t realy make a firm stand on the issue of creation on either side, i feel a little bit more relaxed and able to have an inteligent conversation with anyone, regardless of their stand.
    I also realised that regardless of what happened in the begining, a big bang or rather a ‘let there be Light’, or 7 days, it’s not going to affect my life today or tomorow. It would only affect the way i literally interpret Genesis 1.
    By the way, Universe literally means One(uni) Word(verse).
    Interesting name for an entity such as the, uhm, universe.
    Thanks for your blog Brian!
    I know you’re a pastor so i hope my stand isn’t heretical or lukewarm?

  4. Pretty good observations Jadin. Definitely caffeine worthy. One thing I’d throw out there… God seems to have a thing for numbers in the Bible as you’ve probably noticed. He could have created things in an instant, but He uses 6 days and rests on the 7th. Of course, all the way through, from Genesis to Revelation, God seems to have a thing for numbers, and follows an order of sorts, using 7, 12, 14, 70, 40, and other numbers regularly. Then you go to the cosmos and as it turns out it seems the entire universe runs on math. It seems the whole universe can be explained using numbers based on the order of 10. And by chance, that’s how many fingers we have, too. (or maybe not by chance) And even the universe follows an order. The Fibonacci series occurs everywhere for instance. I see all that, and I would actually expect God to create everything using numbers, like 7 days. Seems to be His thing.

  5. Great point about numbers…and it seems that beauty depends on proportions. Created in God’s image, our eyes are most pleased by good proportions.
    I have found that argumentative unbelievers, and argumentative believers, for that matter, will often shift the discussion toward creation and Revelation, and away from the present and their relation to God.
    It is good to bring them back to the locus of the present and eternity with “Are you saved?” and “If you were to die right now, what do you think would happen?” “Let’s get these important things out of the way, and then work on those other subjects, which really don’t matter.”

  6. I totally agree with your comment, Brian; God does want us to look!

    But once we’ve acknowledged that. . . how does it stack up against your original post? Maybe I’m misunderstanding God’s commandment the same way Eve did, but oughtn’t they have just avoided that certain tree as much as possible? If God created a false natural history for the universe, in order to deceive us and test our faith, doesn’t it then follow that we shouldn’t waste our time studying natural history? Wouldn’t that make astronomy a foolish and even perilous pursuit?

    It seems to me that either God wants us to use our senses and our intellect, and therefore challenges us, or He doesn’t, and therefore renders inquiry counterproductive. What do you think?

    Certainly He conceals things; certainly human paradigms of understanding will never even begin to encompass the mystery of His glory (“Dark with excessive bright Thy skirts appear” — Paradise Lost). But that’s not the same thing as saying God deliberately deceives us. I think it’s Solomon’s proverb and not the serpent’s promise that best describes the work of science. Don’t you think so too?

  7. You’re right about the numbers thing Brian,
    I didn’t actually think about it that way,
    If 7 is Gods favourite number why would we expect anything different to show up in the universe?
    I like what Jim said about proportions and beauty!
    I find it fascinating how in music there is a thing called the major scale, which is simply, 7 notes.
    And all music is either completely based on the major scale, or atleast partially.
    There is something intriguing about the number 7, that everyone can identify with.
    Oh, and about the apparent age thing, i don’t think it’s such a problem, i mean, He created Adam fully grown right?
    So maybe He created the universe fully grown, and a part of that might mean some stars would have to be dead.
    That’s not such a bad idea, since new stars are formed in the ashes of a dead star.
    I think God realy wants us to see how diverse and rich our little sandbox is.
    It would be so boring if all the stars were the same age, looked the same, and were distributed evenly.
    I almost get the feeling that the universe is Gods little bag of marbles, and Hes thrown them all out to show us how awesome He is!

  8. The time, times, and half-time of creation are probably like the marble-throwing, too. As far as I know, there were more than one creation-time, for the creation of satan and the angels and the expulsion from heaven seem to have occurred previous to the 6-day creation.

  9. In the case of the universe, I don’t think it was a false natural history that was created. Simply a less obvious one. Eve made the mistake of looking at the fruit with her own desires in mind, while doubting the word of God. I think if she had kept God’s word in mind, she could have seen past the outward appearances to the truth of it. I believe that when we divorce God’s word from our search for truth, it’s a lot easier to miss something. Thus, with the universe, perhaps the outward appearance is true to an extent (the forbidden fruit probably DID taste good) but what are we missing? Radio isotope dating comes back with generally very old ages. Is that the truth, or are we missing something? Did something skew those decay rates at one time? If it turns out to be true that the universe is thousands of years old instead of billions, then certainly we will eventually say yes, we were missing X, Y, or Z. In Eve’s case, it was God’s word that should have led her to question what seemed to be true, in order to understand what was actually true. Is that the same here with the age of the universe? I think so. But that means the real question for me is what does God’s word say exactly.

  10. what does this have to do with God lying to us? I personally don’t care how long it took for the earth to be created. But when I am told that God’s promises are real and yet I am living proof NO they in fact are NOT. that is where I find fault with God’s words being truth. lets take God’s word of no weapon formed against shall prosper. Want to bet EVERY weapon formed against me has prospered especially within the last four years to the point I have lost everything. even my health. Lets take his word that above all else he wants us to be healthy and prosperous. Again I am living proof this is a lie. as I have become both physically and mentally ill from all the stress, misery, pain, suffering. as for prosperous, I have lost my home, my car, my savings, my family, my friends, I am living in a garage! and have been the last 4 years and no signs of it stopping any time soon. Or how about the promise I will not place more on your shoulders than you can bare. LIE! as stated I have suffered so much I have grown ill, mentally stressed, physically ill to the point my body is becoming a total mess. and I have actually begged the Angle of Death to take me as I don’t want to live anymore. I’ve even tried to take my life which God won’t even let me die but continue to suffer in a living hell that is pure torture to me. I have even laid on the floor crying my self both horse and sick begging God to help me as I can’t take anymore and yet every day I wake to the same hell different day week after week, month after month, year after year. untill I just want to die. does this sound like God’s promise of not placing more on your shoulders than you can bare was the truth! I was raised believing what I was told about God. BUt anymore I would have to say there is NO just meriful God up there. but a creul, sadistic one who’s promises and words are no more honest than that of a politician’s. the evidence of my own life shows this to be true. I have begged and pleaded with GOd to help me. and like Cain I have been spit on by God till I can’t even believe in his words anymore. My late mother who went to grave last January believing God would heal her cancer, use to tell us actions speak louder than words. and God’s lack of action in my own life has shown this statement to be true. AS I see the words in a book of God’s promises, but I have seen no action on these words that they are true.

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