“When we look at the farthest visible star, we are looking 4 billion years into the past; the light from that star, traveling at 186,000 miles a second, has taken many years to reach us. How would you explain this as it relates to creation?”
First of all, I would dispute the chronological theory which suggests that the Universe dates at billions of years. I do not believe there is indisputable scientific evidence for that view, and I believe there is much evidence against it. I have discussed this briefly in my little book, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth.
The simplest answer for the “distant light” phenomenon, however, from a biblical standpoint, is that God created the luminary system fully functional from the very beginning, so that “time” was not required for light to reach the earth initially.
The book of Genesis states:
“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years: and let them be for lights in the firmament of heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so” (1:14-15).
From the very nature of the case, any supernatural creation would have the appearance of some degree of maturity. The trees that were fashioned on the third day of the creation week would give the appearance of having been around for a while inasmuch as they were “fruit-bearing” and provided “food” from the beginning (Gen. 1:11,29). Adam and Eve, on the very day of their origin, would have appeared as mature adults.
So, similarly, it is only reasonable to conclude that the light from distant stars was observable on earth from the fourth day of the creation week onward.
Abraham, not many millennia removed from the creation event, was challenged by the Lord to:
Look now toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them: and [God] said unto him, So shall your seed be (Gen. 15:5).
This clearly indicates that the millions of stars that adorn the expanse of heaven were visible from earth at the beginning.
Here is another thought. If the heavens (which would include the stars – Psa. 8:3) were designed, at least in part, to declared the glory of God (Psa. 19:1), and if these “lights” existed for billions of years before man’s genesis, to whom did they testify of Jehovah’s “glory”? Certainly the Godhead did not need to be convinced of that truth. And the angels cannot be in view for they were created within the same week as man (Ex. 20:11).
With our extremely limited knowledge of time, distance, space, etc., which is radically speculatory and ever-changing, it is impossible for us set forth hard data that contradict the testimony of the Bible relative to matters of creation. Since the Scriptures have been established as credible by a wide variety of evidences, we are acting quite responsibly when we accept their record as factual.
For those who are interested in a more scientific discussion of this matter, I would recommend the book, “Starlight and Time” by D. Russell Humphreys (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1994).