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R. C. Sproul looks at the some of the “unparalleled theological symbolism” in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, focusing on the central (though disputed) symbol of the whale.

Sproul rejects the interpretation that Moby Dick is a symbol of monstrous evil and argues instead that it is a symbol of God himself. “In this interpretation, Ahab's pursuit of the whale is not a righteous pursuit of God but natural man's futile attempt in his hatred of God to destroy the omnipotent deity.”

He concludes:

If the whale embodies everything that is symbolized by whiteness -- that which is terrifying; that which is pure; that which is excellent; that which is horrible and ghastly; that which is mysterious and incomprehensible -- does he not embody those traits that are found in the fullness of the perfections in the being of God Himself?

Who can survive the pursuit of such a being if the pursuit is driven by hostility? Only those who have experienced the sweetness of reconciling grace can look at the overwhelming power, sovereignty, and immutability of a transcendent God and find there peace rather than a drive for vengeance. Read Moby Dick, and then read it again.

You can read the whole Tabletalk article here.


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4 thoughts on “The Unholy Pursuit of God in Moby Dick”

  1. donsands says:

    Only RC could say read it and read it again. The man is impeccable in his mind and brain. I read this, and actually put it on my facebook. Dr. Sproul is my favorite teacher and pastor, other than my local pastors, of which I have a few.

    So, I’m more than likely never to read this book, but instead of waiting for the book, I have seen the DVD. Peck is incredible as Ahab. Nice pic on your post BTW.

  2. Travis says:

    I’m a public high school American Literature teacher and this is fascinating to me. I am always looking for Christian literary criticism on classic literature.

    I always start with “The Crucible”, but have found it hard to introduce the Puritans to my 11th graders in a way that doesn’t make them sound like a teenager’s nightmare. The intro in the text just talks about how they were hard-working people who liked to read and didn’t dance.

    Last year we read some pieces from “Valley of Vision” to understand the humility that went along with their understanding of original sin and election.

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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