Do creationists agree with established science on the speed of light and the existence of stars billions of light years away?
Most Creationists have no problem with the speed of light. Only the "young Earth" or "young universe" branch have to deal with the issues of light sources "billions of light-years" away. Some have rather interesting ideas about how to reconcile the two ideas, ranging from "God started the universe with everything already in place, including forces that act at light-speed" to invoking space-time dialation due to the excessive mass postulated at the start of the universe.
Some do and some don't. Almost all do. And not surprisingly. Creationists are, in general, those who believe God created life on earth and also created the heavens and all we see in the universe. There isn't one shred of physical evidence to hold up that says He didn't. God is not disproved by anything man has learned, has discovered, about life on earth of about the universe as a whole. Nothing anyone can hold up disproves God. Creationists believe science and (most of) the facts about creation that have been illuminated by Man's understanding. There is no conflict between science and belief for most Christians. But there are a few who do not believe. They are the followers after Young Earth Creation (YEC). Let's look at them.
Young Earth Creationists believe that earth and life on it have only been around a few thousand years. They believe the universe as a whole has only been about for a little longer than that. Can anything more absurd be considered? If galaxies exist (which they do) and they are billions of light years away (which they are), how could the light have gotten to earth in a few thousand or a few tens of thousands of years? The answer is simple: it couldn't have. These few followers of YEC represent a small minority of Christians, and their illogical attachment to the ideas YEC presents. Man's mind could, in a way, be considered to be a reflection of God's. Are we not, after all, created in His image? If so, then why would anyone dishonor (defile?) His creation by not using it? It is unconscionable to do so, to set aside this fine(st) gift from Him and, instead, assert flawed (man-made) ideology for the clear evidence presented by what science has discovered. The truth is that He has given them eyes, but they cannot see.
Old Earth and Genesis
According to Progressive Creationists who espouse this view Genesis Chapter 1 may be read as: "In the beginning," (before "day" 1) God created the universe--the stars, planets and other heavenly bodies over billions of years. In verse 2, perspective shifts to the earth's surface. On the first "day," the earth started out dark, covered by clouds, and then God created sunlight to penetrate the darkness. (v. 3-5). On the fourth "day," v. 16, God caused the Sun, Moon and stars to become visible on earth, having made them earlier. Also at this point God commanded these heavenly bodies to mark off time. In this view, each "day" of creation week may represent billions of years.
Another point PCs make indicate that the phrase "And it was so" e.g. verse 11 might be better understood as "and it came to pass," which may have happened over an unspecified amount of time.
However, this view cannot reconciled with Exodus 20:11: "For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is,..."
Young Earth and Distance to the Stars
Some Christians who adhere to the Genesis account of creation propose that the distance to the stars may not actually be as great as scientists believe. But that is not a theory accepted by Creationists. The measurement of distances appears to be quite sound. So the conclusion must be that the universe really is very, very big.
Other Christians suggest that God may have created starlight in transit, something like the creation of Adam as a mature man. Yet it seems uncharacteristic of the Christian God to create such illusion. After all, we see stars changing, sometimes even exploding. If this theory were correct, starlight would be more like a painting than a visual record. So Creationists generally reject this view, as well.
Of course, any theory relies on some assumptions, and Creationists are determined to carefully examine them. The usual assumption is that the speed of light is constant regardless of the inertial reference frame of the observer. By current measurements it is calculated that light in a vacuum travels about 6 trillion miles in a year. But can we assume that it has always traveled at the same rate? Such an assumption could be right or wrong. So some Creationists propose that the rate of speed of light was much faster in the past. However, the impact of a changing lightspeed on the universe is not known.
Speed of Time
Albert Einstein discovered that the rate at which time passes is not a universal constant, but is dependent on motion and gravity. For example, a clock traveling at near the speed of light relative to us would tick very slowly if we could observe the clock. Astronauts observing the clock directly would observe the clock ticking perfectly normally. This is called time dilation. A clock at sea-level, nearer to the source of gravity, ticks more slowly than a clock on a mountain top. Atomic clocks have measured the effects of time dilation.
Some Creationists say, if we assume that the universe is finite, and that our solar system is near the center (which is scientifically plausible) the earth would be in what is called a gravitational well. While the effect appears to be small today, if the universe is expanding as astronomers believe, the effect would have been greater in the past. Thus time on earth would have passed more slowly than elsewhere in the universe as measured by observers elsewhere in the universe, due to the effect of gravity. Thus the stars may be billions of years old, while the earth is young. This possibility is intriguing.
Relativity and Synchronization
Just as 12 Noon in one part of the earth happens at a different relative time in another part of the earth, time may measure differently in different parts of the universe. You can in fact travel West to another time zone on earth, and arrive at the same time, or earlier, than when you left the first time zone! This is illustrative; it is clear that time zone differences are not relativistic affects.
While today astronomers use what is called Cosmic Universal Time, long ago Cosmic Local Time was used. If the description of cosmic events in Genesis was in Cosmic Local Time, which is entirely plausible, then starlight would have been created on day 4 in its own locality and arrived on day 4 locally on earth. Since the passage of time reduces to zero at the speed of light according to Einstein, the light itself would arrive instantaneously from its own perspective, that is, if the photons themselves could experience the trip. Observers from earth would still measure the light as traveling at c. This is another intriguing, if perplexing, possibility.
Natural Law versus The Supernatural
When studying astronomy, a frequently unnoticed assumption is that of naturalism, the assumption that nature is all that there is, and that everything must occur in accordance with the laws of nature. This is certainly in direct conflict with the Bible, which consistently asserts that God is not bound by natural laws. While He usually allows things to progress according to natural law, he does not always. The times when He does not are called miracles. All of creation week would fit that definition. The apparent lack of a natural mechanism to deliver starlight cannot be used to discredit what would in any case be a supernatural creation.
To claim that distant starlight is impossible to reconcile with a young earth, and that therefore, the literal biblical timetable (as understood by young earth creationists) is impossible is really circular reasoning. That argument begins with the assumption that nature is all there is, and concludes that therefore what we can observe by natural means is all there is.