I enjoyed the challenge of this read. There was very little math, and the author Richard Wolfson did a great job of making the concepts simple and understandable. Simply Einstein: Relativity Demystified helped me to grasp better the basic ideas behind special relativity and then general relativity. It explained the concept (and rationale) behind relative time and the notions of potential time travel. It gave me a little better background in trying to grapple with a couple ideas.
First, some people use Einstein’s General Relativity as an argument that time was created by God and therefore God must either be “outside” of time or that there could not have been any time before creation. I am of the opinion that this argument is a confusion of definitions. I think there is a difference between the measurement of time (which is the concern of General Relativity) and the sequence of events (one thing happens before something else) which is what I refer to when I believe that God works in time. In other words, Scripture says that God does certain things before he does other things. God walked with Adam before he walked with Abraham. God planned for us to be saved before he created the world, and Jesus appeared to Gideon before he became a man and was born of Mary. According to Wolfson, General Relativity shows that there is a clear sequence of time for most events. Because of the limits of our ability to measure and observe (that is, the speed of light) certain events may be so far distant from each other that the question of which happened first is unknowable. If God can move faster than the speed of light (of course, he can!) then these limits don’t pertain to him.
Second, Dr. Russell Humphries is a Christian retired Professor of Physics. He has developed a view of cosmology that explains how God could have created the universe about 6,000 years ago (the recent creation view) yet we can see stars whose light would have taken millions of years to get to earth. Humphries’ view was published in 2010 (Vardiman, L. and D. R. Humphreys. “A New Creationist Cosmology: In No Time at All Part 1.” in Acts & Facts. 39 (11): 12-15). Reading Simply Einstein: Relativity Demystified helped me try to understand what Humphries is saying. To grossly simplify his view, as I am trying to understand it, Humphries takes the many statements in Scripture where God “stretches the heavens.” Taking the math of General Relativity, combined with a literal “stretching” of space at or near the speed of light, the result is that on the 4th day of creation only minutes could have passed on the earth during the time that God stretched the heavens billions of light years. When God was finished stretching, stars would be in distant space and their light would be seen on earth. Physical observations that we should find if this view is correct would be the “red shift” that is seen when distant stars move quickly away from us (check!) and our Solar System or Galaxy would probably be about the center of the universe (remarkably there is evidence of this also).
Hmmmm. It makes a guy think! And God is glorified when we work to try to understand his amazing creation!