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O me of little faith

While I was feeding the cats I caught myself thinking these kinds of thoughts:

- "Silly cats.  Probably don't know what time it is, seeing as how the days are lengthening and everything.  They probably have no idea why the seasons change like this.  Not like me.  Ha!"

Then another thought cleared its throat:

- "Ahem.  Glen, please do enlighten us, in your superior wisdom.  Why do the seasons change like this?"

Now I'd dealt with myself before, so I had a pretty good idea what I was up against.  There was sure to be a cunning trap laid ahead.  So cautiously I proffered...

- "Well isn't it to do with the tilt of the earth and the orbit of the sun?"

There was a pause.  Drat.  I know I've thought something dumb when there's a pause...

- "... Hmmm.  And that is why the seasons change is it??"

Dagnammit!  He's always outwitting me.

- "No" I groaned "I suppose it's not why the seasons change."

- "Well then, do tell me why the seasons change."

- [Sigh] "Because they witness the progression of the gospel from Fall, through Death, to Firstfruits and then Summer."

- "Bravo Glen!  Bravo!" (honestly I'm so condescending sometimes.  It's like I'm constantly being talked down to.  By myself.  I wish someone would take me down a peg or two!  Anyway, I drone on...)  "And yet your instinctive explanation for the significance of the seasons was the tilt of the earth??  Well you're right, the cats  may not "know" such exalted mysteries, but I wonder whether their view of reality is as faithless as yours.  Glen, pray tell, is the gospel a gloss on "the natural world" or is it its heart and soul?"

- "Shut up and feed the cats"

Smug git.

0 thoughts on “O me of little faith

  1. John B

    Would your alter ego consider that astronomical explanations of the seasons are true and consistent with Scripture, e.g., "He appointed the moon for seasons"?

    Is he concerned about the kind of knowledge that he asserts of the seasons in light of Jesus' admonishment to the apostles in Acts 1:7?

    Does he think that you need to be informed about the seasons, when Paul wrote to the church of the Thessalonians that they didn't need to be instructed by him on this matter (1Th5:1)?

    Does your other self believe that the seasons "witness the progression of the gospel" even before Christ's advent?

  2. Glen

    Hi John,

    To 1) Yes, absolutely. But to the questions "Why do the animals die at the tabernacle?" it's a woefully inadequate response to reply, "Because their throats are slit." Astronomical explanations are fine, but so often my mind runs to them as though they are the bedrock of reality and the gospel meaning is a gloss.

    To 2) That's a bit different, but it's interesting that understanding the seasons in Acts 1 would not be a matter of studying astronomy either.

    To 3) Similar to 2. No you don't need to know the seasons in the sense of predicting the time of Christ's return - but it's interesting that seasons and gospel reality are so closely linked here, isn't it?

    To 4) Absolutely. Just as the day, the seed, marriage, etc all witness the gospel even before the fall so do seasons.

  3. Matthew Weston

    What about countries where there's no summer or winter, merely wet and dry seasons with the same day length and temperature all year round?

    (Serious question. I've realised that a lot of the specifics of seeing the gospel as the "heart and soul" of the universe are very ethnocentric, and was wondering what people thought about that.)

  4. Rich Owen

    Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
    Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above,
    Join with all nature in manifold witness
    To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

  5. Glen

    Hi Matthew,

    On culture-specific stuff we are helped by the fact the Scriptures give us a God-given culture - Israel. Certainly they differentiate between firstfruits and harvest and that kind of thing.

    But once I've learnt to see the gospel through the lens of their culture, I'm ready to see it in other places too.

    So I don't need the Scriptures (nor a degree in biblical symbology) to tell me that a caterpillar to a butterfly preaches the gospel. With bible-goggles on I can see lots of gospel-stuff that's not explicitly mentioned in the Scriptures.

    So I'm happy for those in a wet-season / dry-season climate to read the Scriptures and see how their environment preaches the gospel. And I'm happy for that to reveal riches of understanding that are nowhere explicitly mentioned in the bible and which I'd never have thought of, coming from a four-seasons part of the world.

    Those are the first thoughts off the top...

  6. John B

    Thanks Glen.

    Scripture is very clear that Christ sums up and is the end of all creation. But to say that Jesus sums up His creation, isn't to say the reverse, that the creation in part or even in its totality sums up Him by whom "were all things created". It seems to me that the gospel is foreshadowed in creation; promised in the OT; fulfilled in the NT; and awaiting perfection at the second coming. To say that we see the gospel in its fullness in some aspect of creation such as the seasons, is a view that has often led ultimately to a Brother Sun, Sister Moon kind of gospel message.

    Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
    Look full in His wonderful face,
    And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
    In the light of His glory and grace.

  7. Jacky

    Just to air some thoughts...

    Matthew has raised a question which I've pondered as well - to the extent that Israel's perception of Jesus in material creation is wholly due to its "geo-centricity" (if there is such a word), I think there's a lot of value in seeing the difference between where the sun hits the earth "directly" (i.e. the equator) vs the north and south pole, affecting the timing and length of seasons and so forth (i.e. irregular 'season' patterns where there is hardly any sunlight, perhaps indicating there could be no gospel pattern of death to life without the Light of the Son).

    I am thinking in particular of places like Singapore where it is an all-round summer year, much more tropical "life" - testifying more clearly to the season-less new creation surrounding the "direct" Light of the Lamb.

    Of course, this opens up the implications of a damaged ozone layer and the problem of being exposed to the light without a "protective veil"...hmm.

  8. Tim C

    Just a quick question. Is it appropriate to speak of 'redemptive' realities being evident in a pre-lapsarian order which ostensibly only reveals God's 'benevolent' will (ie. for Adam to pass his probation and attain eschatological fullness) as opposed to his decretal will. Couldn't marriage be pointing (equally and originally) to an eschatological reality that would have been possible apart from redemption (had Adam passed the probation)?

    Of course the redemptive reality was already in place in a decretal sense since before creation, but surely this only became evident within creation after the fall?

    I guess what I have in mind also here are the images of Genesis 1 where chaos is not chaos in a sinful sense, yet these same images are later applied in a post-fall context where God's (re)creative word accomplishes something analogous to what it accomplished in the original creation.

  9. Tim C

    To put it differently, the way I see it, marriage is eschatology both pre- and post-fall and this is the most fundamental category it belongs to. Only post-fall does it 'also' become soteriology (ie. a picture of the gospel), as the eschatological fulness can now only be realised through redemption.

  10. Glen

    Hey Tim,

    If I'm asked to choose between infra and supralapsarianism, I'll always go for the latter. So I don't mind highlighting the death-like nature of the deep-sleep of Adam. Adam is a footnote to Christ (not the other way around) and Christ's glory *is* the cross. Maybe that provokes more questions than it answers but then the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8), so...

  11. Glen

    Hi John,
    I can go along with virtually all you say but I'd just add that nothing is neutral. Even if one says that the bottom line on seasons is *simply* the interaction of heavenly bodies then they've made a theological statement. It's not a matter of whether creation is saying something but what it is saying. And at the very least, the *Christian* ought to understand the "glory of God" in gospel terms (Ps 19:1ff)

  12. Tim Coomar

    Sorry Glen - need a little help here :-) I don't think I was thinking of it in infra- or supra-lapsarian terms at all, since this is something that takes place in eternity.

    I was merely referring to the way in which redemption wouldn't (couldn't?) have been made 'manifest' as a central part of creation if the integrity of God's offer to Adam of eschatological life is to be maintained...? So perhaps we can conceive of the same images in redemptive terms post-fall but in Adam's own (pre-fall) context where there would have been no need for the gospel to be preached, it wouldn't have made much sense, right? I agree that Adam is a footnote to Christ in a decretal sense but in historical terms, Christ is the 'last Adam', meaning he fulfilled through the cross what Adam should have fulfilled through his obedience. Unless of course God's offer to Adam was never genuine... something I cannot accept.

    To put it differently, eschatology is a more primitive theological category than soteriology... but soteriology 'becomes' eschatology in view of the fall, meaning they are co-ordinating decretal realities from the beginning of creation with this only becoming evident 'within' creation after the fall. Of course, more primitive than either is the glory of God which both soteriology and eschatology have as their end.

  13. Tim Coomar

    p.s. really hope I'm not coming across as a pedantic, know-it-all seminary student! I guess if I don't sort this stuff out in my head now, I may very well be too busy/distracted to do it later...

  14. Glen

    Hey Tim,

    I might be wrong but I think the infra / supra thing is pertinent here. One of the key differences to the schemes is the answer to this question: 'Does God decree to save fallen man (infra) or man (supra)?'

    Given that Adam is 'man' then I think the question you are asking goes to the heart of how infra and supra play out.

    Your stuff about "eschatology becoming soteriology" because of the fall is a classic infra/supra issue. Infra says it like you've said it. Supra says it's soteriology all the way down - the Lamb at the centre of the throne, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, etc.

    You rightly draw attention to "the integrity of God’s offer to Adam of eschatological life" - this is infra's best argument.

    On the other hand there's the "primitive... glory of God." - this, when understood as Christ crucified, is supra's best argument.

    Again in the next paragraph, infra and supra are battling it out behind the scenes. You say:

    "Christ is the ‘last Adam’, meaning he fulfilled through the cross what Adam should have fulfilled through his obedience."

    To which supra says "Certainly Christ *did* recapitulate what Adam failed to do, but don't give Adam the power to make Christ redundant!"

    Infra then responds in your next sentence:

    "[Well Mr Supra, if we believed you] God’s offer to Adam was never genuine… something I cannot accept."

    For myself, I don't really know how we'd go about doing counter-factual theology (e.g. What if Adam never sinned, etc). The God I know is the God known in Christ and Him crucifed. I don't know any other God. I don't know how to theologize according to any other Method.

    I realise that this opens up that integrity question. And I certainly want to maintain that the fall was a fall and not a push. But perhaps a parallel is with Israel in Deuteronomy - they are told there are blessings and curses but it becomes very apparent that there will be curses first and blessings afterwards. Moses even teaches them a song to sing when they're in exile, and they haven't even crossed the Jordan yet! Is there something similar in the LORD's command: "Do not eat... on the day you eat of it you will surely die"?

    The way of the LORD always seems to be "evening then morning" - even pre-fall...

    Good to talk :)

  15. Tim Coomar

    Yes, I can see now how the fact that Christ is crucified from before the foundation of the world immediately relegates counter-factual theology to a lower order theological concern. So whatever conclusions I reach on the infra/supra issue, I would always want to maintain that the glory of God is revealed to us supremely in Christ crucified and this is the only way we can know God. (A very non-presbyterian 'Hosanna! Hallelujah!' is in order at this point I think) :-)

    I also agree that pre-fall images of creation and God's interaction with man are hugely reminiscent of Christ, so your argument is very compelling (indeed, this was pretty much what I preached in my recent series on Gen 1-3!).

    I am still wary of flattening out pre- and post-fall distinctions, but at the same time I will always want to maintain the primacy of the eternal decree of redemption as that which God actually ordained for this world as seen in the lamb slain before the foundation of the world.

  16. John B

    Hi Glen,

    Your point on the believer's calling to seek "to understand the “glory of God” in gospel terms" clarifies a lot for me on this. As the psalmist has written, ...your heart shall live that seek God.

    I'm not sure though, that all that's said by us as we seek this understanding needs to be "the bottom line". In the New Jerusalem there's no sun or moon, and the tree of life yields its fruit every month, without seasons. Even the heavenly bodies and seasons aren't ultimate. But a river, and a tree, and kinds of fruit, and the reign of the servants of the Lamb, will be forever and ever.

    Astronomical explanations are good, as we trust in and await the revelation of the perfect.

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