One of the main insights I’ve had while reading N.D. Wilson’s one-of-a-kind book, Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World, is that I didn’t know that we could write this way.
Not to say that even if I felt like I was “allowed” to write such a book then I would have, but the greatest value of this book so far has been the way Nathan David has put some of my own thoughts into words so simple, beautiful, powerful, and witty that I could never come up with them. He puts into expression some of my deepest thoughts and feelings. It makes for a very satisfying piece of art.
So, use the following paragraph to get to know him a little bit. His question in this book is what the world is, and what it’s for.
Just to be clear, I live on a near perfect sphere hurtling through space at around 67,000 miles per hour. Mach 86 to pilots. Of course, this sphere of mine is also spinning while it hurtles, so tack on an extra 1,000 miles per hour at the fat parts. And it’s all tucked into this giant hurricane of stars. Yes, it can be freaky. Once a month or so, my wife will find me lying in the lawn, burrowing white knuckles into the grass, trying not to fly away. But most of the time I manage to keep my balance despite the speed, and I don’t have to hold on with anything more than my toes.
It was six or seven times that I kept coming back to this paragraph and laughed every time before I went much farther with the book. It’s only on page two.
Now that you’ve been introduced to him, I’d like you to read how he articulates that all of us have faith. It’s not a question of religious affiliation or rejection of anything having to do with God; everyone lives in faith.
On pp. 22-23, he provides three options that have been put forward to explain just where it all came from. And all of them have been called Sophia at some point in human history. “Wisdom.” N.D. says, let them walk the runway. “Which is the most beautiful and has the best birthing hips? Which could have mothered such a world as ours?”
Sophia 1: Matter is actually infinite. Where the regress stops, there is some physical element that is made from nothing else and … has always had existence.
This is the atheistic evolutionary story. The universe consists only of time and chance acting on matter. At some point, the ancient matter blew up, and now here we are.
Sophia 2: Something immaterial is infinite, has always had existence, and at some point created the material world.
Ooh, I like her. Every little thing she does is magic.
Sophia 3: Blend. There is some material in the world that has always had existence, and there is something immaterial that has always had existence.
This is actually the creation story of most theistic and polytheistic religions. A god grabs hold of fluxing chaos, or their offspring, or their own thigh, or something with prior existence and reshapes it into the world around us. Norse, Greek, Aztec, and even Muslim creations begin this way.
Of course, any number of flavors and stories fit into these categories, particularly the last one. People and peoples have watched the stars and made their choice, shaping themselves and their cultures in doing so. The choice is not a question of logic, though we may make it logically. We cannot boost logic to the level of a transcendent arbiter here. It cannot whisper the answer in our ear. Any knowledge at this level, at this fundamental question of origins and ultimate metaphysics, must come through something else.
Welcome to the world of faith.