“In the beginning was the Word…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” -John 1:1, 14.
“I look around at the stuff of the world, and I ask myself what it is made of. Words. Magic words. Words spoken by the Infinite, word so potent that they have weight and mass and flavor. They are real. They have taken on flesh and dwelt among us.” –N.D. Wilson, Notes from a Tilt-A-Whirl
At the foundation of the Christian faith is a fairly basic proposition: God spoke, and it was. God speaks reality into existence in Genesis 1, his Word becomes the incarnate Christ, and it is in this Word that we “live, move and have our being.” The ancient Greeks got the message pretty early on. Heraclitus referenced a Word that undergirded all of reality, an idea that “all things come to pass in accordance with this Logos” (Logos being Greek for “Word”). Chinese philosopher Laozi had a similar idea, except he called it the Tao, a term that C.S. Lewis would later use to refer to nature itself. The problem is that Heraclitus believed his Logos was unreachable by humanity, and Laozi’s Tao was completely shrouded in mystery. As Christians, we have a different story. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He became knowable.
In his Notes from a Tilt-A-Whirl, N.D. Wilson starts with this basic proposition: God, the author of all reality, is just that -- an author. But this divine, infinite Author’s words did not stay words. They became real. His Word is what defines snowflakes, galaxies, mountains, ant colonies, sunny days, people, and, most profoundly, Christ himself. Philosophers have tried for generations to find the high and lofty “truths” about reality, collapsing God into various philosophical and logical systems. But they miss the crucial part. God is an author, he is an artist, and he loves to create.
Here Wilson begins his whirlwind journey through the story of reality. We live on a massive rock (a tilt-a-whirl, if you will), hurtling through space at approximately 67,000 miles per hour around a faster moving sun, which is journeying through galaxies upon galaxies. Wilson takes the reader through one full cycle of this massive rotating rock, covering the four seasons of the earth.
Beginning with winter, Wilson comes face to face with the beauty and might of God’s artistry. He tells of crashing Pacific waves in winter and the intricate designs of falling snowflakes, attempting to capture an adequate definition of art. Spring comes, and he finds himself picnicking near a graveyard, a reminder of the death, disease, and disaster in the world. Here he confronts the problem of evil -- how can God let bad things happen to good people? With the advent of summer, he considers the beauty of the natural world and probes the question of origins. Does Christianity or evolution best explain the beauty we see in this world? Finally, as the books winds down with fall and the seasons come to a close, he takes a look at death and hell. How can a loving God send people to hell?
The book’s prose style is at times a bit jarring (Wilson is a big fan of sentence fragments), and he uses some language that is unconventional for many Christians (younger readers may want their parents to take a look at it first), but overall, the book is an excellent basic apologetic for Christianity. It doesn’t contain many new propositions for those familiar with Christian orthodoxy (though he does have an innovative approach to the problem of evil), but Wilson has a way of presenting those familiar truths in a fresh and engaging way. For the non-believer, there are some hard questions that need to be answered, and for Christians, he issues a powerful call to marvel in the glory of God’s spoken Word.
By Nick Barden