I just got off the phone with a friend living in North Dakota near the Canadian Border. She said that since early this morning the snow has been coming down, it is nearly waist high and is still falling. The temperature is dropping way below zero and the north wind is increasing to near gale force. Her husband has done nothing but look through the kitchen window and just stare. She says that if it gets much worse, she may have to let him in.
If that be the case, I’m sure glad I’m not in the Dakotas! Still, we have had our share of windy weather and precipitation right here in eastern Tennessee over the last few days. The wind has blown one tree completely over down by the creek near our house. It has also littered the better part of our yard with sticks and limbs aplenty. If we can ever get a day or two of sunshine to dry out the yard, we will then spend the better part of a morning picking up nature’s debris.
Of course, this was all to be expected. As a child, I was taught that the month of March would either come in roaring like a lion and then go out like a lamb or else it would come in like a lamb and go out like a lion. It seems likely, therefore, that the lion simply showed up a week early at the last of the month of February this year.
How is it that we tend to get these winds each spring? While I readily admit that I am no meteorologist, I do recall being taught in school that it all has to do with the fact that the old earth is just shifting on its axis. Scientists tell us that our planet does not just spin on its axis. It also wobbles as it rotates. For this reason, here in the northern hemisphere, daylight hours are shorter in the winter and longer in the summer. Conversely darkness lasts longer in the winter and shorter in the summer.
The two extremes are of this planetary wobble are called the summer and winter solstices, with summer’s, usually falling on June 21, having the most daylight and winter’s, usually falling on December 21, having the least. (Naturally, these solstices are exactly the opposite in the southern hemisphere.)
Halfway between the two annual solstices are the two annual equinoxes. On a given day in the spring (usually March 21), the vernal equinox occurs, wherein the amounts of light and darkness are equal in a 24 hour period. The same happens in the fall of the year at the autumnal equinox, around September 21.
(So much for my summation of seventh grade earth sciences, aptly demonstrated to our class by a gifted teacher with a flashlight and a basketball. But I digress.)
All of this is to say that these annual rhythms of adjustment in the earth’s wobble continually impact the weather as the shifts in temperature either heat up or cool down the air, inevitably affecting its flow over land and sea.
Of course, figuring out how something happens and understanding why it happens are two entirely different things. As I ponder the natural world, I am reminded that the why of it all is a far weightier matter than just the how of it all. And while modern science can well address the how, the question of why will always remain above her pay grade.
It is little wonder, then, that theology has traditionally been known as the queen of the sciences. For only she can properly address the questions of why. If we ask why we have day and night, we posit that it is because the earth rotates on its axis. If we ask why we have seasons, we posit that it is because the earth wobbles as it spins. But what if we go a step further and ask why the earth wobbles. Or what if we ask why it rotates. Better yet, what if we ask why it even exists! For that matter, what if we ask why anything at all even exists?!
After all, the ultimate philosophical question is really quite simple: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” And quite frankly, for all her theories, enlightening as they might be, from that of relativity to the big bang to evolution to quantum physics, etc., science still finds herself only addressing the how and not the why of all things. There are things she simply cannot explain.
With theology, however, it is a different matter. Why does the earth exist? The very first verse in the Bible tells us why. According to Genesis 1:1, the reason the earth exists is because “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Why does earth have light and darkness? Genesis 1 goes on to tell us that God structured the world to have them both. Why does the earth have days and seasons and resultant temperature changes? Genesis 8:22 tells us why: “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”
An even more profound question might be: “Why do I exist?” Why can I even sit here and ponder all these things to begin with? Again, Genesis provides the answer (chapter 1, verse 22) to that fundamental question: “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
Does science have value? Absolutely. Her role is to pursue the questions of how, and to use the knowledge she gains in the process for the benefit of us all. And I for one am extremely grateful for these many benefits. This is especially so tonight as I sit inside my well-lighted house all warm and cozy following the radar on my smart phone and typing away on my laptop with a soft drink by my side and music softly playing in the background, while the wind and the rain and the darkness all rage outside.
But when it comes to the greater questions of life, I’m far more thankful for the Word of God. For it is in the Bible, and in the Bible alone, that I find the answer to the truly great questions of life.