book report: Notes from the Tilt-a-whirl by N.D. Wilson

Notes from the Tilt-a-whirl by N.D. Wilson read like the carnival ride to me. It started off slow and

A Tilt-A-Whirl.Image via Wikipedia

bumpy then picked up speed and I lost myself in it then it bumpily delivered me to the end, longing for the enjoyable middle part. Wilson uses the imagery of the earth circling the sun and the changing seasons as the inspiration for the Tilt-a-whirl approach to theology in general and the problem of evil in particular. Just as William Young tackled the issue through prose in the The Shack, see my review, so also Wilson uses his first person narrative to touch on aspects of this monstrous theological elephant. Unlike Young, Wilson's writing did not bog down, which is an impressive feat. Wilson is, in fact a very good writer, practically a poet in spots trapped in a narrator's job. His imagery is usually fresh and his turns of phrase often coerced me into re-reading. I'm not claiming omniscience, so if he is a good plagiarizer, so be it, but I liked parts like these. I'm eating my lunch in a graveyard. Human seeds have been planted in neat little rows. Stone stakes label the crop. p.61 His chapters are full of such imagery. He identifies with God as an artist who sets up scenes and creates drama to convey truth. He is an unashamed Calvinist who understands that all of us in creation have a role written for us by the Director. Wilson is also a nature lover and a critic of philosophers, not as one unstudied by them, but as a student who read them. He quotes liberally from them, or summarizes them broadly, in their tussles with evil. He is fond of Nietzsche but not as a guide, but as a clown who makes him laugh. It's not until the end that he acknowledges his debt to G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis.

I don't think his portrayal of the problem of evil was made of straw, yet it was incomplete. I can agree with everything he portrayed and all of his solutions, predestination of a sort, but he avoided the issue of double predestination. Perhaps, that chapter was too bogged down to maintain the whimsical feel of the book and was mercifully edited out, unlike some of Young's chapters in The Shack.

I was happy to come to the Hell chapter near the end of the book. It was here the ride got bumpy again and less enjoyable. He quoted and referred to many, including Lewis, Dante, and Donne, but not Christ. Weird. But I think Wilson prefers Lewis's take in The Great Divorce as opposed to Jesus's "weeping and gnashing of teeth." He had an opportunity to swing for the fences but chose to bunt. Also the imagery of casting in the great drama of the universe was no longer used, but referrals to choice. I would hope he would have at least mentioned election.

Part of my initial bumpiness consisted of his love of the sciences, both terrestrial and astronomical. He's not a scientist, but he loves science, and nature shows. He is enthralled that the moon is the perfect distance between the sun and the earth for total eclipses. However, he is also thrilled that the earth "also would be perfectly sized to brown the moonlight." p. 3. I presume he is speaking of a lunar eclipse. Learn why the moon turns red here. Actually the earth only needs to be bigger than the moon. Little things like this take my trust away from an author. I worried about his grasp of the philosophers. Eventually, I felt at ease with him and joined him on his ride. It can be read in one long sitting like The Shack and it will give you some new metaphors to approach the problem of evil. It's worth the small investment of your time.


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