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Book Review: Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl
Author: N.D. Wilson
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Have you ever tried to use your sense of smell to describe how a fresh bowl of fruit looks?

What about sight to describe the sound of a two-year-old happily playing in her room?

If so, you understand a little more about the challenge N.D. Wilson faced writing Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl.

This book is downright peculiar. But it’s peculiar in all the right ways. You see, Wilson’s trying to describe the indescribable: God speaking Creation into being, ex nihilo (out of nothing).

Wilson frequently writes in an almost stream-of-consciousness style that, while can be a bit distracting at times, is quite entertaining. His illustrations are hilariously (and appropriately) absurd. And his pace is quick and lively.

Wilson spends a great deal of time deconstructing the absurdity of the idea that our world, in all of it’s beauty and bizarreness happened on a fluke. A random act of chance. But it’s in its seeming randomness, that we see the complexity and intricacy of how this world has been created. And he finds philosophers arguments to the contrary ridiculous, an excuse to sell more books. And that includes, Nietzsche, who Wilson describes as “the only philosopher to ever make me laugh out loud” (p. 199). High praise indeed.

“Marx called religion an opiate, and all to often it is. But philophy is an anesthetic, a shot to keep the wonder away,” writes Wilson (p. 15). “Philosophia—the brotherly love of wisdom—is a perfectly clean pastime for boys and girls alike. But philosophy proper has become a place to hid, a place to pursue immortality (through never going out of print) by being foggy enough that room is always left for discussion—for future dissertations.”

Wilson moves throughout the book, handling questions of absolute truth, creation, the “problem” of evil, and Hell with wit, depth and more than a little bit of a sharp tongue.

And I found his answer to the problem of evil particularly poignant: The answer is pride.

The problem of evil is a genuine problem, an enemy with sharp pointy teeth. But it is not a logical problem. It is an emotional one, an argument from Hamlet’s heartache and from ours. It appeals to our pride and to our nerve endings. We do not want to hear an answer that puts us so low. But the answer is this: we are very small… Nothing in the existence of evil implies that God must not be in control. Nothing implies that He does not exist (exactly the opposite—without Him, the category evil does not exist; all is neutral flux and entropy). The struggle comes when we look at ourselves in the mirror, a carnival mirror, a mirror that stretches our worth in the skies. Given my immense personal value, how could a good God ever allow me to feel pain?

Our emotions balk at omni-benevolence (pp. 109-110).

Read that again. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The only problem in the problem of evil is that we’re too prideful to admit that pain is good for us.

N.D. Wilson reminds us that we live in a world filled with wonder and beauty—and none of it is by accident. It is the work of the Master Artist, the Poet, the Storyteller, by whose Word even now we live and breath and (ironically) rail against him. I think this is something we need to be reminded of more often.

Enjoy the reminder and read Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl”

  1. I just got this book in the mail from Michael Hyatt. Looking froward to reading it. Your review gives me a bit of heads up for what I’m getting myself into. “Peculiar”… good word. Thanks for that. I’ll hold on to it while I read.

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