Category Archives: Worldview

The Greatest Showman: The God Who Is a Dreamer of a Million Dreams

The-Greatest-Showman worship4

All truth is God’s truth.  Great Christian thinkers like Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, all believed it.  Whether it is spoken in Scripture or found in a Hollywood movie, truth is from God.

Recently I learned some truth from Hollywood.  I have to admit, I absolutely love the movie The Greatest Showman.  This soundtrack has replaced the Rocky IV soundtrack as my favorite.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about why I made such an emotional connection with this musical.  I’m the kind of guy who would rather watch Die Hard, American Sniper, and baseball than musicals.  Yet, I cannot remember any other movie that I paid money to see in the theaters three times!  What is it about The Greatest Showman that makes me want to see it again and again?  Is it the tremendous vocals, the catchy tunes, the inspirational songs?  Is it the storyline and characters with which I identified?  Is it the triumph of love over tyranny?

Yes, yes, and yes.  But, my fascination with this movie goes beyond all that, beyond the celebration of the human experience that Hollywood was offering with this film.

Believe it or not, this movie, this product of Hollywood, an industry that is committed to secular humanism, helped me see God in a million ways, the Greatest Showman who created the greatest show just by speaking it into existence (Genesis 1:3) and breathing life into His dreams (Genesis 2:7).  Though it was probably not the intention of the director or producers, in each scene I found a little piece of an infinite God, a God of endless possibilities, a God who is a Dreamer of a million dreams.

ecclesiastes-3-11“He made everything beautiful in its time.  Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
-Ecclesiastes 3:11

I know there will be some super spiritual theologians who will point out the humanistic messages in this movie, like family is most important, or we can create our own worlds and improve ourselves through our own efforts, or that my comparisons of some of the characters to God breaks down.  I certainly do not elevate this movie to the level of Scripture.  But, even God used a donkey to convey a message (Numbers 22:22-35), and a wicked king to prophesy (1 Samuel 19:18-24), so He can certainly use Hollywood to speak His word.

Even the parables Jesus used broke down theologically at some level. For example, in the prodigal son, God is represented by the father who is a man, but a man is a singularity, not a Trinity (Luke 15:11-32).  So, the image of God in the parable of the prodigal son is incomplete.  Like Paul did at the Areopagus (Acts 17:16-34) in using creations of men to point to God, with this article I am gleaning truth from Hollywood to point to God.

We were created in God’s image with the ability to “create” as well, and we were given a cultural mandate to take dominion over creation. So, in a sense, we do get to live in a world we design, under God’s sovereignty of course (Genesis 1:27-31).  Unfortunately, the dreams mankind has dreamed for himself has created an ugly, selfish world.  We no longer dream God’s dreams.

A Million Dreams
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be (Genesis 1:1-2)
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make (Genesis 1:26)

In the scene where the young Phineas dreams of a life beyond his poverty, he sings my favorite song from the movie “A Million Dreams.”  (To get the full effect of the impact this movie had on me you have to read this article while listening to the movie soundtrack.)  Ithe greatest showman young barnum imagined God singing these lines as a child who is excited about the possibilities of the future.  Before you think I’ve fallen into the heresy of “open theism,” hear me out.  I know God is infinite and that He knows the outcome of every possibility.  Yet, like a child, He still exults in an outcome He already knows is certain!  In Orthodoxy G.K. Chesterton wrote

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, G_K_Chesterton-208x300therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.  The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.[1]

I connected with this film in a million ways because I identified with several of the characters.  With the older Phineas Barnum because I have been pursuing my own dreams for my own sake, and the dreams that came true in front of me were never enough.  With Phillip Carlyle because I am conflicted between wanting the comforts of my own world, but yet wanting something that brings joy.  With theatre critic James Gordon Bennett because I cannot seem to find joy in the role that I play in this life.  With the freaks and oddities of the Barnum Circus because I feel ignored and kept at a distance, not invited to the party.  With Mr. Hallett, Phineas’s father-in-law, because I tend to be someone who is interested in killing people’s dreams instead of being a dreamer myself.

amilliondreamscharity.jpgI am a cynic. A realist.  A pessimist.  Even, perhaps, a fatalist.  I tend to just resign myself to endure God’s will rather than embrace it with joy because it is the best thing for me.  But, every time I watched this movie I found myself wanting to be like Charity who longs for the dreamer to carry her along with his dreams.  This movie drew me to the Dreamer whose plans were for Israel’s good (Jeremiah 29:11), whose dreams are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), who can do anything (Matthew 19:23-30).

However big, however small
Let me be part of it all
Share your dreams with me
You may be right, you may be wrong
But say that you’ll bring me along
To the world you see
To the world I close my eyes to see
I close my eyes to see

These few lines from “A Million Dreams” have become my prayer.  They sum up why I so emotionally connect with this movie.  I want to be swept up in God’s dreams.  I want to share in them, whether my part in it all is big or small.  My realism does not seem to be real anymore.  I have been living in a gloomy fantasy world of my own design.  This movie helped me see that I am tired of my pessimism and now I long for something real.  Just like Phineas, I have been dreaming my own dreams for my own glory.  I am finding out, like Phineas, that these dreams will never be enough for me because I’m dreaming the wrong dreams.

I want to hope in something bigger than my own dreams.

The kind of faith found in Hebrews 11 is about an irrepressible hope in God’s dreams for a world that right now we close our eyes to see!  I may not know what God is doing. (You may be right, you may be wrong.)  What he does may seem right or wrong to me, but I trust that His dreams are the best, and that He never makes mistakes.  I want to be likehebrews11-6-1 those listed in the Hall of Faith, trusting that God will fulfill all that He promised even though I cannot see it. (To the world I close my eyes to see.)  “…for we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7.  Walking by faith is not about blindly going through life avoiding evidence.  Faith is about trusting in Someone who is trustworthy, who will do all that He promised.  With man, salvation is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

For fame and fortune, Phineas creates a show to shock his customers, something that’s hyperbolic.  A show that isn’t real but brings joy to the dull, even banal lower class life.

The Greatest Show
Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for
Been searching in the dark, your sweat soaking through the floor
And buried in your bones there’s an ache that you can’t ignore
Taking your breath, stealing your mind
And all that was real is left behind

He even compares himself with a preacher who hoodwinks congregants to believe in something not real.  The comparison of religion to fantasy is troubling, but it doesn’t ruin the movie.

It’s fire, it’s freedom, it’s flooding open
It’s a preacher in the pulpit and you’ll find devotion
There’s something breaking at the brick of every wall it’s holding I’ll let you now, so tell me do you wanna go?

Phineas succeeds, but his success is not enough.  He wants to gain acceptance in the upper crust of society.  The only way to do that is to bring the social elite something phineas jenny share stage“real.”  He pursues this dream of joining the upper class, but he walks over all those who helped him succeed.  Phineas ultimately discovers, after all his success burns to the ground, that family is all that is true.  This “truth,” however is incomplete.  We might find contentment in family, but family will never satisfy us because God has placed eternity in our hearts.  We will never be satisfied until we become part of His family.  C.S. Lewis affirmed this principle when he said in Mere Christianity “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”[2]

I saw a song of redemption and reconciliation in “Rewrite the Stars.”  The Groom wooingrewritethestars His bride, declaring His desire for her.  The bride feeling hopeless and unworthy.  The Groom gently reassuring His bride that she is His destiny if only she would believe in Him.  He has given His all for her, and wants nothing less than all of her.

Rewrite the Stars
All I want is to fly with you
All I want is to fall with you
So just give me all of you
[Bride] It feels impossible
[Groom] It’s not impossible
[Bride] Is it impossible?
[Singing together][Bride sings] Say that it’s possible [Groom sings] See that it’s possible

This movie awoke something in me that made me come alive.  Dare I say “resurrected” something in me?  After years of praying for a tender heart, watching this movie made me realize how long I have been living for my own dreams.  Chasing accolades from my vocation and my writing, estimating my value on the number of Facebook “likes” and favorable blog stats.  I’ve always lived in the future, always seeing my life as a stepping stone to something else.  Never satisfied with where I am at.  Never giving all of me in the moment because I have been saving some of me for the future version of me.

My dreams for me, I realize now, will never be enough.  These temporal dreams cannot fill the longing for eternity.

From Now On
For years and years
I chased their cheers
The crazy speed of always needing more
But when I stop
And see you here
I remember who all this was for

My pessimism made me believe that everything I wanted for my life would satisfy.  I just had to keep worshiping myself, reaching for more for me.  This movie made me “remember who all this was for.”  And from now on, I want to be all in, through the highest heights to the lowest lows.  I want to give my all to God because He has given all to me.

And from now on
These eyes will not be blinded by the lights
From now on
What’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight
It starts tonight
And let this promise in me start
Like an anthem in my heart
From now on

God’s dreams come true over and over again (Lamentations 3:22-23).  This theatrical encore of God’s dreams makes me want to stand and applaud, wanting more.  This movie drew me towards this Greatest Showman that I just can’t help but worship.

We were all created to worship.  All of us.  The secular humanist along with the most devoted Christian.  All of us have eternity inside of us, a longing for Someone that nothing in this life can satisfy.  The following video is a good illustration of this point:

We were all created to worship.  When the music picks up in the video above, the ensemble in the room couldn’t help but do what they were created for.  Something in them was stirred when they sang about coming back “home.”  Worship is infectious!  Didfromnowonworship you see how even those who were not there to sing this song just wanted to be part of it too?  Did you wish you could have been there, too?  They all may not have known that they were worshiping or whom they were worshiping. They may not have realized that the “eternity” God has placed in their hearts was yearning to worship the Greatest Showman who dreamed each one of them into existence.  But, they worshiped with gusto, longing to “come back home again.”  Deep was crying out to Deep, longing for the world for which they were made.

How much more, we who are redeemed should worship because we know of whom we worship and why we worship!  We know of the world we were created for that is promised to us, made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We know where home is, and we know He is enough!

Like a child that exults in the monotonous, I want to watch this movie and listen to this soundtrack over and over again.  Never tiring of dreaming of God’s dreams that keep me awake!  So, thanks to Hollywood, I have awoken to the dreams God has for His world, a world more real than the one we see with our eyes, and His dreams include me.  I’ve renewed my covenant with God and it sings like an anthem in my heart.  From now on I want to exult in the million dreams God has for me.childexultinmonotony

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (London: John Lane Company, 1908), reprinted (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 65-66.

[2] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (London: C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd., 1952), reprinted (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), 136-37.


The Illogic of Atheism

What is more illogical, the existence of free will, or a determinist who is open to having his choice to believe in determinism changed by the evidence?

But, if determinism is true then I guess George had no choice but to hold an illogical position.

The Brick Bible: Subtly Deceptive

brickbibleThe Brick Bible, which comes in several books (such as The Old Testament, The New Testament, The Brick Bible for Kids: Six Classic Bible Stories, The Christmas Story: The Brick Bible for Kids, as a complete set, etc.) claims to be “an original, modern interpretation of the Bible, based on older public domain translations such as the King James VersionDarby’s Bible, and Young’s Literal Bible.  In addition, modern English Bible translations were used as references, and the author consulted the original Hebrew for certain passages.”  After one reads (views) The Brick Bible, he should come to realize that it is not a Bible at all.

Up front note that the LEGO Group does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse the publication or content of these books.  

The Brick Bible attempts to illustrate the stories of the Bible using LEGO bricks in various dioramas.  The author states on his website “For ease of understanding and avoidance of bpsmith lego bible2copyright issues, The Brick Bible uses its own wording of the Bible’s text.  But chapter and verse numbers are always cited and also act as clickable links to the rendering of the same verses in the King James Version, the New International Version, the New Revised Standard Version, the New Living Translation, and the Easy-to-Read Version.”  The author is simply trying to appear to give a fair rendering of Scripture while using his own wording to create the impressions and emotions of the Biblical text that he wants regardless of whether it is faithful to the original text. 

The Brick Bible does not contain the Bible in its entirety.  Through selective editing, the author creates his own (mis)interpretation of Scripture.  Small, almost imperceptible edits turn a reasonable Biblical story into something suitable for mockery.  For example, brickbiblenoaharkthe author portrays on page 27 of The Brick Bible: The Old Testament an ark crammed with Noah’s family and the animals, which perpetuates the skeptics tactic of debunking the historicity of Noah’s flood by showing how the ark could not possibly have contained all the animals as claimed. 

He portrays Yahweh as a singular being, instead of a Trinity.  See page 20 where Yahweh is depicted as talking to the angels instead of the other members of the Trinity when he said “The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil….”  The author’s God-caricature is always as an angry, vengeful, human-killing monster.  As an example of this type of portrait, page 29 shows skeletons everywhere when God is brickbiblefallmaking his covenant with Noah.  Instead of emphasizing the promise of a new start, the author subtly reminds us that God (unjustly) killed everyone else in the world.  Every single facial expression of Smith’s chosen LEGO character for God is with furrowed brow and angry eyes.

In going through the Ten Commandments, and the punishments for violations, he depicts the punishments (death) to be carried out at the scene of the “crime” instead of after a trial and the testimony of at least two witnesses.  He creates two misconceptions in the mind of the reader.  First, that the punishments are disproportionate to the wrong, and secondly that the punishments are administered on the spot instead of after careful deliberation based on the evidence.  This strategy is to make God’s justice to be unreasonable, if not immoral.  The author chose to illustrate the more violent passages of the Bible, and failed to provide these passages in context.  The theme of his illustrations is simply God’s wrath. 

Depictions of the events in the New Testament are similarly flawed.  Matthew 27:52-53 describes the opening of graves and many who were dead came back to life after the brickbiblezombiesresurrection of Jesus.  On page 134 of The Brick Bible: The New Testament, the author states “At [the moment of Christ’s death] the tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who died were raised to life.”  The author shows zombies leaving the tombs instead of resurrected bodies.  This alone is problematic.  He also misunderstood Scripture because the resurrection of these people occurred after Jesus’ resurrection, and not at his death.  This point is important because Colossians 1:18 and 1 Corinthians 15:20 state that Jesus is the firstborn of the resurrection, not these people who are mentioned in Matthew.  Downplaying the miracles, the author shows the Apostles performing “many signs and wonders” as if they were conducting mere magic tricks.  By doing this, the author turns brickbibleapostlesthese accounts into goofy legends and undermines the evidence of the Apostles’ authority as eyewitnesses to the resurrection.

The use of LEGO toys to depict Bible stories does not allow for a clear understanding of Scripture.  The depictions are often silly, and limited by the “brick” nature of the medium.  The limitations of the medium, combined with the likely nefarious aim of the author, turn the serious nature of the Biblical accounts into silly stories akin to the absurd tales of Norse or Greek mythology.  Through his Brick Bible the author would have us believe that God is hateful and vengeful.  He makes no attempt to portray the real theme of the Bible: redemption.

Though marketed to children, The Brick Bible is not suitable for children with its cartoonish depictions of killing and sex.  The Bible itself with its adult themes, may be unsuitable for children without their parents close supervision.  Parents need to explain the hard passages of the Bible to children, and not just assume kids are going to get the right impressions from descriptions of killings and rapes that are recorded in Scripture.

The content of this “Bible” is not accurate or theologically sound.  But now I want to discuss the author.  His name is, Brendan Powell Smith, or at least that is what his

bpsmith trans

Brendan P. Smith, a.k.a. Elbe Spurling

name was until he legally changed it to Elbe Spurling after he announced that he is a “transgendered lesbian atheist.”  What he has told us is that he is a man who likes women, and that he doesn’t believe in God.  So, he is in denial about his gender, in denial about his sexual preference, and is in denial about his creator.  Such a person is not in a good position to offer spiritual guidance to our children.  Yet, some parents still think giving his books as gifts to children is a good idea.  After reading some customer reviews on Amazon, clearly some parents have no discretion.  Here are some examples:

Someone whose screen name is 250xGirl stated “Bought for my step son who is autistic and here (sic) loves Legos. This is perfect for him to relate to the Bible.”  Another customer identified as Janyre said “My little guy (who’s 8) LOVES this. Not only is it super creative, but the stories are quite accurate too. I’d recommend it to any other boy mom out there.” “Sombrero” exclaimed “My Kids (5 and 3) will not go a day without reading this bible. What can I say to the author besides THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for such a wonderful work of art that gets my kids to read their bible daily!!! Its beyond imagination how amazing this work is. God bless.”

Another Amazon customer gave the product five stars, stating “This was a huge hit as a gift as a confirmation gift.”  Confirmation of what?  That parents who do not read the actual Bible really have no discernment when choosing illustrated Bibles for their children?  The Brick Bible is not a gift to give to children for their spiritual growth.  Parents who give these books to their children are giving them a completely wrong understanding of God.

On his website Brendan Smith, a.k.a. Elbe Spurling, uses the imagery of his LEGO photos to misinterpret Scripture and cast the Word of God in a bad light.  For example, in brickbiblenazi1interpreting the source for governmental authority, Smith insists Romans 13:1 (“Everyone must submit to governing authorities, for those in positions of authority have been placed there by God”) required unquestioned devotion to Hitler and his Nazi government, and that the American War for Independence was also rebellion against God.  Smith also plays fast and loose with enemies, slavery, women, marriage, wealth, wisdom, those who will never inherit the Kingdom of God, justice, and the Jews.  He simply parrots how atheists characterize what Scripture says about these issues without bothering to understand context or nuance.

In his desultory, disconnected spirituality, Smith has drafted up something called “The New Morality: Living on the Right Side of History.”  He condensed this “new morality” into 10 “New Commandments” which are more like guidelines than commands.  These new guidelines, however, are a mishmash of some of the “Old Commandments” and some brickbibleguidelinesprogressive platitudes, like do not alter the environment, and minimize the suffering of “sentient animals” which presumably means we should protect the animals, but not babies in utero.  But, I will discuss this “New Morality” in another article.

Brendan Powell Smith is a troubled man.  That he is an atheist should lead us to question his motives for illustrating the Bible.  That he is mentally disturbed by his pretending to be a woman also raises concerns of whether we can trust his perceptions of Scripture.  Do not mistake my review of these books to be a call for burning them.  I believe God has given us liberty, even liberty to choose what is wrong.  Though, with wrong choices certainly comes consequences.  I also believe that truth will prevail in the ultimate sense over lies like those promoted in The Brick Bible.  But, until truth triumphs, lies may deceive many into forgoing eternal life offered to us by Jesus.

Also, do not think by my evaluating the author that I do not care about him.  We should pray for him.  He is deeply disturbed.  Atheism is currently being studied either as a cause of mental illness, or a mental illness itself.  His transgenderism is also a mental illness.  I am not saying this to insult him.  As a man created in the image of God, he is of inestimable worth.  But, we still need to be discerning in what we allow our children to consume.  Like the lie the serpent told Eve in the Garden of Eden, The Brick Bible is subtly deceptive.  It pretends to be a fair rendering of Scripture, but it paints a distorted portrait of who God is.  We should not let Brendan Smith’s fun, and somewhat funny, misinterpretation of the Bible put another brick in the wall that separates our children from God.