Let the glory of the LORD endure forever;
Let the LORD be glad in His works
One interesting facet of the debate between Old-Earth Creationists and Young-Earth Creationists has to do with the age of light (not like "the Internet age" or "the Gilded Age," but like "What do you think is the age of that tree over there?"). Old-Earth Creationists point out that we see galaxies that are many millions of light-years away from the earth. Since a light-year is, by definition, the distance that a particle of light travels in the span of a year, the necessary implication is that events seen from many millions of light-years away must be events that happened many millions of years ago (which is when the journey of many millions of light-years must have been begun in order to be completed now).
Young Earth Creationists uniformly take refuge in the idea that the photons only appear to be that old but are not actually that old (not that photons in any way exhibit signs of age internally, but that the relative paths of protons from the same apparent source give the appearance of their having come a certain distance which implies that they are of a certain age). Theories advanced to reconcile this phenomenon with a young earth include the highly imaginative C-Decay theory and the idea that God created light already in-transit from galaxies far, far away.
I favor the latter explanation. One difficulty asserted against my position is that of God's motivation for such a thing. Why, the Old-Earth Creationist asks (as, indeed, do the non-Creationist and the C-Decay Theorist as well), would God create a deliberately deceptive universe? After all, the light-on-the-way created by divine word does not consist solely of static points of light. This is not just a Lite-Brite set. The light en route to Earth is depicting events in the Cosmos—explosions and implosions and astrophysical activity—that, if the light-on-the-way theory is correct, never really happened. Is God pulling a prank on us? Did He, foreseeing the birth of atheistic scientists, decide to dupe them with a little divine legerdemain? That seems out of God's character does it not?
I believe that this objection is really not a strong one at all, for I find it quite simple to imagine God's motivation in creating the Universe as He did—Beauty. The purpose given in Genesis for the creation of the stars is to provide light and to give a marking for seasons. The constellations only accomplish their seasonal tasks by their projection of an astrophysical drama upon the Earth—fixed and immutable stars simply do not mark seasons very well. But beyond that utilitarian perspective, fixed and immutable shafts of light from stars also are not very compelling visually. Is it possible that God just didn't like the way that would look?
A brief perusal of the pictures showcased from the Hubble Space Telescope (see link in the photo caption above) evidences few close-ups of individual burning balls of gas. Our predilection is for dramatic pictures of stars in motion. In our stargazing we have a penchant for verbs rather than nouns, desiring to gaze upon actions rather than upon mere objects. Even our scientists, hardnosed data sifters that they ostensibly are, seem to recognize what is beautiful in the nightly heavens.
Theologians have a tendency to minimize the topic of aesthetics in our treatments of God. Creationists, it seems, are vulnerable to the same weakness. Paley's watchmaker notwithstanding, we must allow for a God who is as much artist as artisan. For artists, illusion is not at all a bad thing; it is, as a matter of course, the objective.