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Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl

Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World
by N. D. Wilson
2009 / 203 pages

The world is a wild ride, isn’t it?

The fun starts already in the title of N. D. Wilson’s book. Those of you who have ridden the Tilt-a-Whirl will recognize the analogy to our own spinning planet with an axis that is 23.5 degrees off the vertical.

Of course, the world is not just physically askew; it is off-kilter in just about every way you can think of. The presence of evil in the world is the argument that is typically thrown at Christians whenever we affirm God’s claims on all of us. Wilson makes some important points throughout his book that undo (or cut through) this Gordian knot.

First, he asserts that evil is not a “thing,” not a noun; rather, it is an adjective describing that which displeases God. Because He is good, whatever displeases Him is evil. Secondly, in response to those who then wonder why the world is still such an unpleasant place, Wilson does not use the oft-quoted answer that this is the best of all possible worlds; rather, he says, this is the best of all possible masterpieces, the best of all possible stories – and we are not, in our egocentricity, the best of all possible critics.

Rather than setting ourselves up as critics of God’s story, Wilson insists, we need to learn to be good characters – to approach life with wonder, to laugh at ourselves and our often gloriously ridiculous place in the story – to glorify the Author, rather than to try to rewrite His work.

What makes Wilson’s work so amusing is that he is willing to follow his own advice. To give just two examples:

  1. When Wilson’s son gets his wish of having a butterfly land on him, but Wilson warns him that “lightning does not strike twice” – that the butterfly will not be coming back, Wilson enjoys how God makes a fool of him by sending the butterfly to land on his son’s shoulder a second time.
  2. Wilson laughs just as much when he trips over the step that he is sure must have moved as he does when the seeming squashed frog inexplicably springs back to life.
In the end, Wilson reminds us that it is the end that we have to cope with – our own earthly end, and the end of all current earthly things when the Author (the same one who became a Word in His own story) returns to wrap up the current chapter with His judgments on His cast of characters.
This is far too brief a look at a book that spends as much time mocking Christian sentimentality as it does attacking atheist defiance of our Author, but if Wilson helps you better understand and cope with our crazy, tilted world, you’ll want to check out his documentary of the same name!
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Documentary, Movie Reviews

Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl

Documentary 51 minutes / 2011 Rating: 11/10 You are going to like this. I haven't met anyone yet who has seen this and hasn't been impacted by it. Now at first look, this might seem a pretty random collection of thoughts put to film with moments of poetry, philosophy, biography, musical artistry, and nature documentary. But there is method to the seeming madness, and one clear overarching thought that unites all the chapters in this film – that God is great! That God is great is hardly a new thought, but getting excited about His greatness is a somewhat recent development. Martin Luther, for example, always knew God was great, but that was a fearsome thought for him in his early years. It was something that filled him with dread as he considered how great God was and what a wretched man he was. God’s greatness left Luther despairing of what he could do to ever earn a place before his Creator. After the Reformation, when we relearned that faith was a gift, that our great, holy, awesome God was also loving, merciful, and willing to humble Himself to become like us, to save us, well, His greatness is still fearsome, but now it is also something for us to explore – we can come near. He has invited us to enjoy Him forever. In this film, Nate Wilson teaches us to see again this greatness of God. Today we so often overlook the wonder around us - we think it unremarkable that we are sitting here, on a lump of spinning dirt, hurtling through space at an unimaginable rate of speed. Wilson, more in tune with the wonderous nature of our frenetic journey round the Sun, will, on a semi-regular basis, fall to the ground and get a solid grip on the grass just to ensure he doesn't go hurtling off into space. This film is about making us see the wonder that is really there, but which we have grown too cynical to see. Occasionally an "ordinary" miracle still impact us – parents, watching their child be born, will be awe-struck, even though this is an event much like what has happened literally billions of times before in the history of Man. Our awe is rekindled. In Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl Wilson helps us understand – helps us feel again – the wonder of God's creative genius. God is great! And while trembling remains an appropriate response, wonder is certainly another. You can watch a "chapter" below. And be sure to check out the book of the same title. ...