If the universe was created almost 7,500 years ago, why can we see galaxies that are billions of light years away?
What a clever question! I’ll be happy if the smart boy who asked it reads my answer.
In fact, the question is catchy. I like questions like that very much because I have to respond without equivocation. The trick is: If the universe is so young, according to the Bible, and it doesn’t jibe with empirical scientific discoveries that point at a much older universe, the conclusion is evident: there’s something wrong with the Bible.
Answer No. 1 (a tongue-in-cheek one): God can easily create stars with light already turned on, or a huge yet young universe in which the distance that the light from the farthest stars has to travel before reaching the Earth is greater than the age of the universe. Are there stars that are too far for their light not to reach us in 7,500 years? Relax: God simply created stars with light rays extended millions of light years in all directions. They had only a couple of thousand light years to go to reach the Earth – and here they are.
Answer No.2 (the honest one): I respect fundamentalist Christians (that is, those scientists who try to build their worldview solely on foundational sources, such as the Bible). It is they who count the age of the Universe as the sum of the durations of events described in the Bible. Indeed, you can add all those events up and get 6,500–7,500 years.
Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure that the Lord God, the author of the Bible, provided us with that book not as a basis for chronological calculations and not as an encyclopedia of all sciences. Instead, it is our textbook on exactly one subject, which is called How to Build Your Relationship with God. So we cannot perceive it as a literal chronicle of human history. Chronicles typically omit some events because they are irrelevant for the main narrative. Similarly, the Bible also focuses on the main subject, and not everything. Thus, even according to the Bible, the age of the universe is a convention. By the way, scholars’ estimations vary so much (ranging from 13bn to 20bn years), that they cannot claim that they know the precise age of the Universe, either!
There is no article of the Orthodox faith concerning the exact age of the Universe. It doesn’t matter to us. What does matter is how we overcome death and meet the living God. We will have the chance to ask the Lord about the age of the universe when we meet him.
What happened to the Garden of Eden after the expulsion of Adam and Eve?
Here is another question that struck me. It impressed me by its sincerity even more than the previous one. If there are people who sympathize with the Garden of Eden, which is so lonely without us, there is hope for the human race.
The Garden of Eden, the original human couple, the Tree of eternal life – these are the true issues a theologian must investigate. These are the questions of a person who wants to return there or at least understand how it all happened in reality.
In fact, the Garden of Eden was created specially for the humans, and there can be no Garden of Eden without us. If that Garden a special place where people can meet God and dwell with him, God doesn’t need it without us, either. The Garden of Eden isn’t the place where God dwells: God is omnipresent and there is no place that can limit him.
We can speak about the Garden of Eden in the same way that we speak about the mirror. Do you know the riddle about a mirror? What does a mirror reflect when no one is looking into it? The answer is, Nothing. A reflection appears when there is someone who is looking into the mirror because a reflection is produced by our eyes. A cupboard has no eyes, so it isn’t reflected in the mirror. It is reflected in the mirror only when there is someone looking into the mirror and seeing the cupboard in it.
The same is true of the Garden of Eden. We could say that it didn’t close after the Fall; rather, it disappeared. We don’t say that it disappeared, though. We know that there is a mystery: it couldn’t disappear for good because the Tree of Eternal Life has been growing there. That Tree stands in the middle of the Garden. It gives fruit every month (or every week, for some people), and its fruit grants eternal life to us people. When we go back to that tree, the Garden of Eden becomes alive and teeming with inhabitants again. Could you guess when and how we can approach that Tree, given that it is possible nowadays? If you can’t guess the answer to this question, ask your mom and dad. They might be able to help you.
Afterword for Parents
Dear parents, when you answer my question together with your kids, help them to understand the meaning of the Holy Eucharist. Help them to experience this key Sacrament of the Church more fully.
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds