N.D. Wilson, Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009, 197 pp.
Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl, by N.D. Wilson is a fascinating look at God’s creation from a creative perspective.
Several features are worth noting. First, Wilson reminds readers of the importance of a personal Creator: “For those who believe in ex nihilo creation, the world is inevitably art, and it is inevitably art from top to bottom, in every time and in every place. The world cannot exist apart from the voice of God. It is the voicings of God.” The author demonstrates the absurdity of a creation devoid of a personal Creator.
Second, Wilson demonstrates the utter foolishness of atheism, relativism, and Darwinian natural selection. He chides the evolutionist and sets his eyes on God’s good creation. He makes it clear (and rightly so) that he will enjoy God’s good creation.
Third, I appreciate Wilson’s interaction with philosophers like Hume and Kant. But especially noteworthy is his interaction with the German philosopher, Nietzsche. I sense he respects Nietzsche and would have savored the opportunity to sit and visit with him in a German tavern. But Wilson admits a frustration with Nietzsche: “I want to ruffle his hair. I want to take the poor Lutheran boy’s head in my hands and kiss his creased forehead. It is all I can do. I cannot set a bone, let alone a soul.” Wilson continues with an unforgettable line: “He [Nietzsche] moves on, preaching unbelief to an empty street.”
Finally, the author effectively reminds readers of an eternal hell: “Heaven or Hell is about love and hate. Do you love God or do you hate him? Is He foul in your nostrils? Do you see His art and wish your arm was long enough to reach His face? Do you spit and curse like Nietzsche? Would you trade places with the damned thief so that you might see Him die and know that God Himself heard your challenges?” Wilson continues, “Then Hell is for you. Hell is for you because God is kind and reserves a place for those who loathe Him to the end, an eternal exile, a joyless haven for those who would eternally add to their guilt, a place where blasphemy will be new every morning … If you displease Him, He will displease you. He will put you away and remove the grace you have experienced in this world. With the crutches of His goodness gone, He will leave people to themselves, leave them to their own corrupt desires and devices.”
Thankfully, the author does not leave the reader groveling in hopelessness at the prospect of an eternal hell: “If you want to love Him, then He has already begun giving you change. He has already begun unclenching your fists, taking your filth to be laundered on the cross.”
Wilson demonstrates that he is well-read and tuned in theologically and philosophically. For instance, one of my favorite lines in the book is directed Godward: “An infinite God is I AM, and all else must be measured in terms of His nature, His loves, and His loathings.” This is heady, creative writing. In fact, some of this stuff is pure genius! The writing is a strange mixture of Don Miller, Dennis Miller, C.S. Lewis, and G.K Chesterton.
The goodness in Wilson’s work, however, is overshadowed at times by his insistence on using profanity. For instance, the author skillfully demonstrates the foolishness of rejecting transcendent absolute standards and argues against a relativistic worldview: “I look in the atheist’s mirror. I look at his faith in the nonexistence of meaning. I look at his preaching and painting. I see nothing but a shi*-storm.” This kind of banter is totally unnecessary and undercuts the weight of the otherwise legitimate argument.
This growing trend toward the glorification of the profane is an alarming trend in the church, one that needlessly offends and accomplishes absolutely nothing. This kind of writing is clearly not consistent with the Scriptural mandate, especially Paul’s warning to the Ephesian church: “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking which are out-of-place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Eph. 5:4, ESV). Colossians 3:8 makes it clear that Christ-followers are to put away “obscene talk.” For we have been “renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:10, ESV). I can already anticipate the quick response I will receive from postmodern pastors, emergent sympathizers, and enthusiastic bloggers. But I stand with Scripture on my side. For “my conscience is held captive by the Word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe.” Indeed, it is ironic to lay claim to Luther’s words, given his propensity to use vulgarity. However, I argue that Luther should have taken the scrub brush to his mouth as well.
I know some Christ-followers who would toss this book into the ash heap because of the vulgarity. I am not prepared to go that far. I am not ready to toss the baby out with the bathwater. There is too much good in Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl to justify such a knee-jerk reaction.
Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl made me dizzy. But it also made me think. Sometimes it angered me. At the end of the day, I am glad I came to the “carnival.” I am glad I decided to jump on the ride. At times, I felt as if I’d eaten too much cotton candy. But other times, I felt like buying another “ticket” and riding again – and again!