Creation, writes Paul, has been subjected to futility (Romans 8.20). Don’t we know it: the tree reaches its full fruitfulness and then becomes bleak and bare. Summer reaches its height and at once the days begin to shorten. Human lives, full of promise and beauty, laughter and love, are cut short by illness and death. Creation as we know it bears witness to God’s power and glory (Romans 1:19-20) but also to the present state of futility to which it has been enslaved.
Read that quotation slowly and carefully and consider what it actually says. but first the Four Seasons by camera and not Vivaldi. I am puzzled by how the fact that “Summer reaches its height and at once the days begin to shorten.” show creation has been subjected to futility. Thus the four seasons are a result of creation being subject to futility. Until I read this the thought hadn’t crossed my mind and ten years on I am still baffled how anyone could write it. I thoroughly enjoy the changing seasons and never thought them futile.
But before considering the reasoning and theology behind it, I will take you through the fours seasons remaining 30 miles from our home in lancashire. (I have a small waterproof camera, which I always take when out on my bike or walking.) I will show that the seasons are not futility but utterly glorious and reflect the wonder of God the Creator.
On the 23rd March we are now officially in spring and everything is coming to life. I am waiting to see my first primrose, cowslip, bluebell and frogspawn. just today, despite battling a headwind, all the hawthorn hedges were developing an emerald sheen.
A favorite spot for bluebells is up by Abbeystead, but I will have to wait a few weeks. Bluebells are one of the finest British flowers. I love that steep lane, either to whizz down or struggle up.
Here are a clump of daffs by the River Wyre and then a swan on her nest on the canal two miles from home as seen from a bridge over the canal.
Soon, almost too soon, spring turns to summer and trees are in full leaf.
This is by Sykes in the Forest of Bowland (my car is just visible). I often park here for a long walk or cycle past six times a year or so on a hilly bike ride. It is in full summer (July) glory here but I love it in all seasons and once cycled it in snow. I’ve walked the ridge in the distance many times and have a variety of routes depending on mood. Purple Loosestrife is my favourite summer flower which loves the wet, has square stems and has sex in three different ways which enthralled Darwin.
I tend to go high on the fells. Here is a peat bog with cotton grass and sphagnum in the pool and next is one of the little falls found all over the Bowland fells. I had my lunch listening to the music of the water.
And so to autumn as the colours turn and nights are nippy.
Back to Bowland; here is a remote valley hemmed in by ancient landslips and the heather in full bloom. The path IS marked on the map. On a bike ride I always stop at the same place and look up Langdon Brook. This is september with the bracken turning colour.
There is something glorious about this tired old oak and the leaves turning in Nicky Nook.
And so the leaves have gone and everything is “bleak and bare”. No, it is not, it has a unique beauty of its own.
Here is Ingleborough, my favourite mountain in the Yorkshire Dales. I first climbed it in 2001 and climb it several times a year. It is gorgeous under snow, but last month I nearly turn back because of ice! Next is a frozen pool on the Howgill Fells.
One of my favourite views is Fairsnape Fell, whether in summer or winter. Shortly before taking that shot I was in a total white-out. Great fun! In January we get the portent of spring – snowdrops. These are on the banks of the River Wyre. Who would have thought that a month before the river flooded and deposited four inches of sand over the snowdrops. And so back to spring and soon that bank will be covered with ramsons reeking of garlic.
This is a snapshot of Lancashire in four seasons. It is glorious rather than subject to futility, and I think it is a perverse perspective on the natural world to say that the seasons show that creation has been subject to futility
Many think that only Young Earth Creationists have this idea of creation not being now as god intended, but some others agree!! YECs often argue that creation was perfect with a perfect climate with no frosts or hail or storms. To some this carried on until the flood when the Water Vapour canopy collapsed and we started to have our terrible weathers and seasons which mark god’s displeasure.
The ideas come out in John Milton’s Paradise Lost of the 1650s where he weaved a fantastic poetic drama of creation, fall and flood. Or was it fantabulisation?
Here is Milton on how the flood caused (or was it the Devil and his minions?) shifted the axis of the Poles when Adam took a bite out the apple (or unzipped a banana).
Paradise Lost book x; 668-79
Some say, he bid his Angels turn ascanse
The poles of earth, twice ten degrees and more,
From the sun’s axle; they with labour pushed
Oblique the centrick globe: Some say, the sun
Was bid turn reins from the equinoctial road
Like distant breadth to Taurus with the seven
Atlantick Sisters, and the Spartan Twins,
Up to the Tropick Crab: thence down amain
By Leo, and the Virgin, and the Scales,
As deep as Capricorn; to bring in change
Of seasons to each clime; else had the spring
Perpetual smiled on earth with vernant flowers,
Equal in days and nights, except to those
Beyond the polar circles; to them day
Had unbenighted shone, while the low sun,
To recompense his distance, in their sight
Had rounded still the horizon, and not known
Or east or west; which had forbid the snow
From cold Estotiland, and south as far
Beneath Magellan. At that tasted fruit
The sun, as from Thyestean banquet, turned
His course intended; else, how had the world
Inhabited, though sinless, more than now,
Avoided pinching cold and scorching heat?
These changes in the Heavens, though slow, produced
Like change on sea and land; sideral blast,
Vapour, and mist, and exhalation hot,
Corrupt and pestilent: Now from the north
Of Norumbega, and the Samoed shore,
Bursting their brazen dungeon, armed with ice,
And snow, and hail, and stormy gust and flaw,
Boreas, and Caecias, and Argestes loud,
And Thrascias, rend the woods, and seas upturn;
With adverse blast upturns them from the south
Notus, and Afer black with thunderous clouds
From Serraliona; thwart of these, as fierce,
Forth rush the Levant and the Ponent winds,
Eurus and Zephyr, with their lateral noise,
Sirocco and Libecchio. Thus began
Outrage from lifeless things; but Discord first,
Daughter of Sin, among the irrational
Death introduced, through fierce antipathy:
Beast now with beast ‘gan war, and fowl with fowl,
And fish with fish; to graze the herb all leaving,
Devoured each other; nor stood much in awe
Of Man, but fled him; or, with countenance grim,
Glared on him passing. These were from without
The growing miseries, which Adam saw
Already in part, though hid in gloomiest shade,
To sorrow abandoned, but worse felt within;
And, in a troubled sea of passion tost,
Thus to disburden sought with sad complaint.
So we have the 20 degree tilt on the axis Thus causing seasons hence futility and then predation began “Beast now with beast ‘gan war, and fowl with fowl,”
Now one would expect Answers in Genesis and other Young Earthers to follow Milton, but these comments from a leading theologian are not from that stable. They are not from John Piper or Albert Mohler or those of a similar ilk.
While I leave you to guess his identity I will give another quote
The height of satan’s aim , in other words, is death; the death of humans and the death of creation itself
And I suppose the seasons reflect just that.
Lastly, another quote which gives some interesting insights into induced earthquakes, but leaves me somewhat overwhelmed by a theological tsunami
What then about the tsunami? There is of course no straightforward answer. But there are small clues.
We are not to suppose that the world as it currently is, is the way God intends it to be at the last. Some serious thinkers, including some contemporary physicists, would actually link the convulsions which still happen in the world to evil perpetrated by humans; and it is indeed fair enough to probe for deeper connections than modernist science has imagined between human behavior and the total environment of our world, including tectonic plates. But I find it somewhat easier to suppose that the project of creation, the good world which God made at the beginning, was supposed to go forward under the wise stewardship of the human race, God’s vice-gerents, God’s image-bearers; and that, when the human race turned to worship creation instead of God, the project could not proceed in the intended manner, but instead bore thorns and thistles, volcanoes and tsunamis, the terrifying wrath of the creation which we humans had treated as if it were divine.