Cultural Contemplation from Autumnal Reflection
I am reflecting on autumn. The corn has turned brown in the fields. The pumpkins have turned bright orange. The leaves on the trees have changed into their autumn dress. In an 1856 four volume set, Sacred Philosophy of the Seasons, rich in apologetics, Henry Duncan showed the value of natural theology through his marvelous study—more than 1500 pages—of how the four seasons are “a beautiful and striking exhibition of the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Creator” (Winter iii). Although it is dated more than 150 years ago, Duncan’s work is unique.
I have often in my study of natural theology consulted these rare and rich volumes. Recently, while reading again from Duncan’s volume on Autumn, I was reminded of the works, warning, and witness of the autumnal quarter which Duncan averred is “more various in its character than any of the other seasons of the year. . . . [A]utumn has a remarkable character of its own, which distinguishes it from all the other seasons” (9). Autumn is “peculiarly the season of ripeness. . . . [T]he vegetable productions capable of being stored for use, have been chiefly reserved for the autumnal season” (11). As the autumnal “season advances, its character changes . . . serenity and beauty is in the bright blue sky; the fields chequered with gold and lively green, speak of plenty and enjoyment; every living thing is glad . . . all partake of the general joy of Nature in its most joyous season. Towards the close of autumn, however, a deeper sentiment occupies the mind. . . . [I]t is a melancholy not unmixed with enjoyment, and nearly allied to deep moral and religious feeling. The decay of nature reminds us of our own” (12-13).
As I reflect on autumn, its changes (divinely appointed) display infinite power and beauty, and such becomes the occasion for deeper reflection. The haze of Indian Summer will fade from the fields. The November wind will strip the leaves from the trees. The meadow brook will be turned to ice. Jeremiah used this autumnal reflection to challenge a generation whose departure from God spelled, as it always does, disaster. He cried, “Harvest is past, summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jeremiah 8:20).
Have you given much thought recently to the changes that defy exaggeration which are occurring in the moral and intellectual culture of Western civilization? I am confident that far too many of us are missing it—this monumental shift in morality and worldview—taking place before our very eyes. Unlike the remarkable and divinely appointed autumnal changes that occur (cf. Genesis 8:22), this Western culture revolution, with the United States as the lead society in this great and grave moral revolution, is induced by Western cultural elites who have disregarded God for more than two centuries. Now their denial of God has gone mainstream.
Os Guinness, in a 2014 book, Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times, sounds the warning: “[I]s this the hour for the final triumph of atheism, or for a victorious thrust in the resurgence of Islam? . . . [I]t is a point of fact that in many, if not most parts of the Western world, what was still left of the Christian foundations of the West have collapsed or are collapsing. . . . The Christian faith is derided among the thought leaders of our societies, and now we are being told it is being abandoned in droves—even if many of the defectors are not really atheists or agnostics. . . . Soon, as the legalization and then normalization of polyamory, polygamy, pedophilia and incest follow the same logic as that of abortion and homosexuality, the socially destructive consequences of these trends will reverberate throughout society until the social chaos is beyond recovery. We can only pray there will be a return to God and sanity before the terrible sentence is pronounced: ‘God has given them over’ to the consequences of their own settled choices” (14, 18, 20).
The Catholic novelist Flannery O’Conner was right when she said: “You have to push as hard as the age that pushes against you” (The Habit of Being 229). I have a settled conviction that “for such a time as this” good works like Warren Apologetics Center are of inestimable value to help push hard against this age that is pressing so hard against us.
The beauty of autumn, as well as all of the seasons, before our eyes is evidence that “He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). However, also before our eyes is a cultural war waging— moral, intellectual, and spiritual revolution–on a scale that we have not experienced to this point in our life. Edmund Burke said “When bad men combine, the good must associate, else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle” (Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents 106). The good must associate to push hard against the age that presses so hard against us. We must push hard and we must push together! The Warren Center is pushing hard against the age that is pressing hard against the Christian worldview. Please push with us. Faith is the victory!