Niko Tavernise (photo credit)
I recently had the pleasure of going to see The Greatest Showman. If you are unfamiliar with this movie (POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD), it is the fabled story (albeit not historically accurate to a high degree) of P.T. Barnum. It is an incredible musical, and it tells a story of Barnum’s desire to bring happiness and entertainment to the masses, and the film unfolds a beautiful story in an extraordinary way. The acting is great, the story is stellar, and the music forms what is arguably one of the greatest film soundtracks ever. “Ok great, so what does this have to do with apologetics and theology?” Glad you asked!
[SERIOUSLY, SPOILERS BELOW – YE HATH BEEN WARNED]
The message of the film at first glance is a feel good story about a man with good intentions who in his conquest for entertainment flies too close to the sun and falls, but then regains his bearings, and lives a fulfilled life happily ever after. In this sense film is not unique. Hundreds of films prescribe to this same narrative, but it’s what is beneath the surface that really speaks.
Barnum’s success in the film is tied to a colorful cast of outcast and misfit characters. These are not just quirky people, but they are societal outcasts. They buck the trend of how “normal” is supposed to look. They, for all intents and purposes, are freaks. Ostracized and alone they get a new lease and a second chance on life. They gain a voice and a family. Yet, even this is not the thing that most stands out to me. What stands out the most is how it mirrors in many ways how like Barnum (Jackman), Jesus sees value and worth in the unlikely. As Christians, we are the outcasts, the messy, and the unlovable, and yet the grace of Jesus sings over us like an oasis in the desert in passages like Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (ESV).
Our value, our worth, our lives are merely the products of chance and time. Time and chance in fact cannot answer the question of worth. The reason we have hope, the reason we have worth, the reason, we can empathize, the reason we find value in others in spite of the baggage we all carry is because we were wonderfully made in the Imago Dei. Atheism, naturalism, humanism, etc. cannot give answers on how this occurs apart from a Creator (which is the God of the Bible alone) because pure science cannot answer life’s philosophical questions.
Barnum intercede for the outcasts. God intercedes on our behalf to do what we would never be able to do on our own. Of course, the glaring difference is that unlike Barnum, God intervenes because of His great love and mercy and offers to cover us under the floods of His grace like a great ocean, not because He has need of us or because He wants something in return (other than true and authentic worship). This message should be one that rings in our ears and hearts and fills us with awe, wonder, thankfulness, and a daily reminder of His great faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-24 ESV).