Friday, April 20, 2018

The Greatest Showman, PT Barnum, and True Joy

Last night, Rachelle and I watched The Greatest Showman.

We loved it. 

I'm not a musical kind of guy. I lost all my front teeth playing football, separated my shoulder three times playing softball, and still comprehend manhood through athletic competition.

But oh how I wish I could sing like Hugh Jackman (aka. Wolverine).

As I listened to Hugh sing From Now On, the joy within my heart was almost unspeakable. Rachelle and I could literally feel the music, but the words primarily moved me:
I drank champagne with kings and queens
The politicians praised my name
But those are someone else's dreams
The pitfalls of the man I became
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
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
From now on
From now on
And we will come back home
We will come back home.

One of the blessings (and periodic curse) of being an avocational historian is that you know the real history of people. As I watched The Greatest Showman, I couldn't help but think of the real Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum.

Like my friend, Paul Young, P.T. Barnum was a hopeful Christian universalist.

Paul Young believes, and P.T. Barnum believed, that a loving God will at some point save all sinners through the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

P.T. Barnum even wrote a book entitled Why I Am a Universalist.

In his book, P.T. Barnum wrote this:
"I shall assume, without giving my reasons, the being of God, the authority of Jesus, the truth of the trend of Scripture, and the immortality of all Souls."
P.T. Barnum goes on to give more specifics of what he believes:
(I) believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain a revelation of the character of God and of the duty, interest, and destination of mankind.
(I) believe there is one God, whose nature is love, revealed in one Lord Jesus Christ, by one Holy Spirit of grace, who will finally restore the whole family of mankind to holiness and happiness.
(I) believe that holiness and true happiness are inseparably connected, and that believers ought to be careful to maintain order and practice good works; for these things are good and profitable unto men.
P.T. Barnum was not a heretic.

He was a man who loved the unlovely, rescued the perishing, and served the less fortunate (despite what the agnostics will tell you about him).

The movie The Greatest Showman, based loosely on the life of P.T. Barnum, is an uplifting, inspiring, and hopeful movie about finding value and fulfillment in a life that is lived for others.

I am not a Christian universalist. I believe the God of love will eventually destroy those who live selfish lives, those who've rejected the selfless Savior who died in place of sinners, the One who gives the power to live an unselfish life.

But I'm not writing this post to debate universalism.

I write this because the film The Greatest Showman reveals that life is meant to be lived full of inexpressible joy, focusing on loving deeply the people God places right in front of us.

When you are more concerned with disciplining and correcting a woman who is divorcing her husband over his use of pornography than you are the wounded woman, you've missed the joy of Christianity.

When you focus more on a glass of wine than you do the woman who comes to Christ while enjoying a glass of wine, then you've missed the joy of true Christianity.

When you can't live, sing, dance, and be full of joy like the circus performers in the bar with their ringmaster in the climactic scene of The Greatest Showman, then you've missed the true joy of genuine Christianity.

The Christian life is all about the joy of bringing happiness to this world.

The Creator, in love for you and His world, has placed you in a specific arena of life so that you may demonstrate His love to those in need of Him - those right in front of you.

The real P.T. Barnum said:
"The noblest art is that of making others happy."
I agree. But those with the art of making others happy have come home to the true joy found in Christ, finding the well-spring of their joy in Him. Happiness within bubbles up as the fountain of happiness for others.

You may not be able to sing like Hugh Jackman.

But you sure can love people the way God loves you.

Anything less is Never Enough.


Bob Cleveland said...

Marvelous post, once again, sir!

I have found at my age, that doing stuff isn't the thrill it once was, but helping or ministering to others maintains it's thrill forever. And in increasing amounts!

Matt Pinnell said...

Oh this will preach! So good. Needed this.

Rex Ray said...


Glad you and Rachelle had enjoyment. Everyone’s thoughts pass through a ‘filter’ accumulated in their brain that’s been shaped by their experiences.

I especially relate to you separating your shoulder playing softball.

Judy said she loved this post. You see, she likes ‘high class’ music whereas I like some old guy with a guitar like Hank Williams or Jimmy Rogers’s “Waiting for a Train” or “Hobo Bill’s Last Ride”.

This 10 year-old boy has become famous singing “Love Sick Blues” while singing at Walmart:

I think you’ll agree with the words “try to” being added to “But you sure can love people the way God loves you.”

Christiane said...

" ... weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (from Psalm 30)

Tamara said...

Sadly, the movie trashed the character of Jenny Lind, who was actually pretty wonderful. She did 93 concerts for Barnum, donated all her proceeds to charity, and never tried to break up his marriage. :-(

Victorious said...

As I watched The Greatest Showman, I couldn't help but think of the real Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum.

Wade, this link isn't working for me.

I'd not seen or heard of this movie, but am sending your post to my son who is a big Hugh Jackman fan. As always, thank you for your inspirational posts!

Mary Ann

Wade Burleson said...


I agree - Jenny Lind was a remarkable lady.

Only disappoint with the film (IMO)

Wade Burleson said...


Thanks, I’ll fix the link when I have the opportunity.

Christiane said...

Hello out there, REX RAY

you wrote: "I think you’ll agree with the words “try to” being added to “But you sure can love people the way God loves you.”

I think that God recognizes the humility of our 'trying' to do what is impossible without the gift of His grace;
and in our humility, He sends us the grace to accomplish our efforts . . . . maybe not all at once, but as a process of 'formation' where we grow into a new way of seeing 'the other', that maybe 'the other' is more important as a person to us than anything they have said or done that is negative . . . that their 'worth' in our eyes is based on our human connection to them through Christ incarnationally . . . that their humanity also has been taken to Him to be healed. Our humanity: Our Lord assumed it to heal it. I think He did this out of a great love reflected in His selfless sacrifice. He looked out at those who crucified Him and forgave 'for they know not what they do' . . . the healing of our human kind begins and ends in Christ.

RB Kuter said...

Wade: when I am in the shower I think the acoustics of my bathroom make me sound like Hugh Jackman when I am singing, at least to me!

I don't mean to single out one thing you mention as being worse than another but you have addressed social drinking previously and in this post made the statement, "When you focus more on a glass of wine than you do the woman who comes to Christ while enjoying a glass of wine, then you've missed the joy of true Christianity."

I believe that you previously discussed this relative to social drinking as being a matter of contextualization, so to speak, when having a glass of wine was done primarily to minimize cultural barriers for the purpose of conveying the Gospel with others who do drink alcoholic beverages routinely. So I conclude from this that you drink alcoholic beverages, at least on some occasions, in limited quantities, avoiding levels of consumption that would cause you to get drunk, and apparently see no evil in this. At the same time, it seems that you would position those say it is wrong to drink at all as being judgmental and perhaps hypocritical given that even Scripture depicts Jesus as drinking, etc.

Allow me to explain why I choose not to drink at all, but sincerely do not seek to impose my position upon you or to be critical of your position on this matter. It is entirely your decision. I'm just explaining mine.

I drank alcohol in the past, as a Christian, and at times, drank way too much. Certainly, that was sinful behavior. In my case, my level of consumption was reflective of how close I was walking with God at the time. When my "life-walk" moved more distant from God, my consumption increased. As God graciously guided me back closer to Him my levels of consumption of alcohol decreased.

At one point I was closer to God than ever and served extensively in the Baptist church in which I was a member: Sunday School teacher, deacon, chairman of the deacons, outreach director, youth leader and on and on. My drinking diminished to the point that I drank small quantities on random occasions. I no longer drank to the point of getting drunk but sure enjoyed a cold beer after cutting grass in the hot sun.

I came to the position that I must stop entirely. I was buying a six-pack in the grocery store where I knew that one of our youth worked as a cashier. She wasn't working at that time, but still, I thought, "What would she think of me if she saw me buying beer? Would that be an encouragement to her or other youth that she told that drinking was okay?" I had arrived at the point and ministry level when I believed that drinking any amount would be sinful. I never drank another drop after that day, which was several decades ago.

Later, when serving in Zambia, an Italian couple who were close friends invited my wife and me to dine with them at their house. Upon arrival, they, of course, insisted that we have a glass of wine prior to sitting down for dinner. We declined and they were shocked that we did not drink wine. I explained my reasons and told them it was totally okay with us if they had wine and as a matter of fact, encouraged them not to alter their plans due to our presence but to feel free to have wine as they preferred.

I have had many occasions to fellowship with Christians and non-Christians who drank, and I did not. I have never felt that my choice was detrimental or even offensive to those who drank in my presence. It has never been expressed to me that they "admired" me for my position or convictions, but I suspect that the likelihood of my "not drinking" was as likely to contribute to the legitimacy of my testimony as it would be detrimental to it.

That is why I take this position, but it is one of those choices which should be left to the individual and their assessment of its impact on their ministry and testimony.

Anonymous said...


I will thank you in print, sir, instead of only in my heart. I have read you for several years and am amazed by your depth of understanding of the grace of God and now of the joy of god.
May you keep writing and preaching as long as your father. Your voice is sorely needed in these distracting times.
God bless,

Rex Ray said...


I’ve been down this road before with Wade on his statement: “When you focus more on a glass of wine than you do the woman who comes to Christ while enjoying a glass of wine, then you've missed the joy of true Christianity”.

I was going to ignore it, but you’ve hit it head on.

The word ‘winepress’ is in the Bible about 20 times. It’s a device that presses grapes. Does wine come out? No, just grape juice.

“…six stone water jars…Each could hold 20 to 30 gallons…Jesus told the servants, “fill the jars with water”… (John 2:6-7 NLT)

“What sorrow awaits you who make your neighbors drunk!...” (Habakkuk 2:15) Would Jesus provide 120 to 180 gallons of enough stuff to make an army drunk?

Wade, you seem to promote wine because a woman was saved. Many years ago in Kazakhstan, a young Muslim was amazed I’d never drank a beer. (Their religion is against drinking, but many do.) Before we left some of our group led him to accept Jesus.

Hey! I’ll drink wine if it’s made from water. :)

Wade Burleson said...


Your total abstinence is to be admired. Your turning biblical wine into grape juice is not on the same plane of admiration.

You write: "You seem to promote wine because a woman was saved. Many years ago in Kazakhstan, a young Muslim was amazed I’d never drunk a beer."

I think you're misunderstanding me. I'm promoting the work of the Spirit within a person that leads to real, internal joy, and attempting to avoid the teaching or belief that one's outward activities (e.g. abstaining from drinking a beer) - activities which even amazes Muslims - in the end, add to anyone's righteousness. Christ is enough. Trusting in outward performance seems as hollow to me as attending a Baptist church every Sunday for the attendance pin.

Wade Burleson said...

RB Kuter,

Beautiful testimony!

Thanks for sharing. Could not be in more agreement than what you've beautifully written.

Wade Burleson said...


Thank you for the kind words!

Rex Ray said...


First of all: “…all our righteousnesses is as filthy rags…” (Isaiah 64:6 KJ)

Three things help guide my life: foremost is the Holy Spirit when I was ten, a Baptist preacher for a father, and a twin who was never separated from me over 3 days until we were 22.

I might add for “our Sunday attendance pin” neither has smoked one cigarette because when we were small, our father taught us to stomp on cigarette butts and say, “Dirty old cigarette.”

We moved from country to city in the seventh grade where we printed everything and were asked, “Why don’t you do cursive writhing?” My brother said, “Our mother taught us not to curse.”

As far as me turning biblical wine into grape juice is no different than you turning biblical grape juice into wine.

It’s too bad the Bible has no word for grape juice other than wine. The nearest to ‘grape juice’ is mentioned by Jesus: “NEW wine must be stored in new wineskins.” (Luke 5:28 NLT)

The logic is grape juice that’s put into old wineskins will expand when it ferments and becomes wine which will rupture the wineskin.

How OLD was the wine Jesus made? Yes, I know he could have turned the water into rattlesnake poison if he wanted to.

Wade Burleson said...


I understand what you are saying. You are very clear. The "wine" in the Bible is always grape juice. I'm familiar with the argument. 19th-century temperance Christians promoted this view to support their teaching that drinking an alcoholic beverage was a sin against God.

With all due respect, the view that wine in the Bible always refers to grape juice is an absurd argument.

When you are able to translate Ephesians 5:18 as "Be not drunk with grape juice" and explain to me how one can get drunk on grape juice, then I'll be a convert to your view.

Until then, I'll abstain from drunkenness as the Scripture commands, but refrain from calling drinking wine, beer, or other alcoholic beverages a sin.

Victorious said...

At least the recent comments have somehow stopped the continuous song segments...."and we will come back home" and replace them with Eph. 5:18! The Hugh Jackman tune was driving me crazy (even though I loved it) but it has been replaced by "holy?" laughter! LOL

Great post, Wade. I was not aware of the background of P.T. Barnum and his beliefs and thoroughly enjoyed reading your post, comments, and the tunes you linked to.

Victorious said...

Just to clarify....that tune "from now on" and the "and we will come back home" part were continually playing over and over in my mind! I went to bed with that tune in my head and woke up to the same until I read the comments here.

Rex Ray said...


Sorry I gave Jesus ‘new wine’ the wrong reference. I wrote “Luke 5:28” and it should have been ‘Luke 5:38’.

Jesus said, “No one puts NEW wine into old wineskins. For the NEW wine would burst the wineskins…NEW wine must be stored in new wineskins.” (Luke 5:37-38 NLT)

I’ll say again what I wrote in my last comment:

The logic is grape juice that’s put into old wineskins expands when it ferments and BECOMES WINE which will rupture the wineskin.

But you said, “You are very clear. The “wine” in the Bible is always grape juice.”

I definitely agree Noah and Lot did not get drunk on grape juice.

Wade Burleson said...


I'm glad you concede nobody can get drunk on grape juice.

Now, having that as common ground, I'll take on your view that "Jesus turned the water into grape juice, not alcoholic wine."

Since your lips have never tasted wine, take my word that there is a great deal of difference between the taste of unfermented grape juice and fermented alcoholic grape juice (e.g. wine).

At the wedding feast, the wedding guests (not the disciples) said to Jesus after He turned the "water into wine" and had it served:

"Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best (wine) till now" (John 2:10).

Rex, I can assure you the guests knew the difference between wine and grape juice, and your proposition that Jesus turned the water into grape juice contradicts logic, experience (those who know the difference will tell you), and Scripture (e.g. "after the guests have had too much to drink the cheaper wine is then brought out").

I have enjoyed the discussion.

Again, I admire your abstinence from fermented grapes.

The reason for my dialogue on this issue is to deconstruct an image of Jesus that may be more the fruit of one's imagination than the One revealed in Scripture.

Wade Burleson said...


I appreciate your comments and am LOL myself. I, too, cannot get the marvelous songs out of my head! :)

RB Kuter said...

Rex Ray: Why would it make any difference whether Jesus drank wine or grape juice? Drinking wine is not a sin, in my feeble estimation, at least, unless it somehow diminishes the value of your testimony or is consumed to the point of making a person drunk, which we know Jesus never to have been.

I'm unclear as to the reason for the debate.

Rex Ray said...


I don’t have to take your word that grape juice and wine taste different. The next Sunday after we joined a church, they had the Lord’s Supper with wine. I couldn’t swallow it because it tasted so bad. It seemed to expand until I almost choked. We never went back.

“When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine…he called the bride groom over. Usually a host serves the best wine first…then when everyone is full and doesn’t care, he brings out the less expensive wines. But you have kept the best until now.” (John 2:9-10 NLT)

Wade, I would think if everyone had drank enough wine to be full, they’d be drunk. Do you think Jesus would help make them more drunk? I believe they were full of grape juice.

RB, you say you’re unclear why the debate. I thought you were the one that started it. :)

RB Kuter said...

HA! Rex Ray, you kill me! I guess I did introduce the topic of drinking wine but didn't intend it to be a debate on whether the "wine" mentioned in the Bible refers to alcoholic wine or grape juice.

My input was given in an attempt to introduce the concept that "drinking" is a sin if it results in another person concluding I am a hypocrite and thereby diminishes the influence my Christian testimony can have on them. I see it as being a case similar to eating food offered to an idol. The food is not a sin in itself but if it is identified as being that offered to idols and observing Christians would take offense at my eating it or pagan worshippers see me as endorsing their worship of idols, then it leads to someone else moving away from God or is destructive to the integrity of my testimony. So in that case, eating idol food would be a sin.

My intent was not really meant to insinuate whether Jesus drank wine or grape juice. Personally, I figure He did drink wine, but in the context of His drinking it, He neither got drunk or diminished the integrity of His testimony given that all of the religious leaders and that society perceived the drinking of wine as being a normal thing. But as you say, Rex, it could have been grape juice, I suppose.

If I, as one identified as being a Southern Baptist and church leader who routinely goes around telling strangers and friends about Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God (which I do),and I am seen sitting at a table having a beer or glass of wine, I would feel I have to hide it under the menu to keep it from showing up on FaceBook! I believe that for a bold, transparent follower of Jesus who outspokenly shares the Gospel to be seen drinking alcohol in our society, would be risky. It would likely diminish my opportunities to serve as a witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ to some people.

I attribute this feeling I have about it as coming from the voice of The Holy Spirit, so I personally have chosen not to drink at all. I do not preach to others that they sin by drinking a glass of wine, but if asked, I explain the basis for my abstaining, which is Scriptural given the interpretation I make.

Rex Ray said...


The United States government defines drunkenness with a blood content of .08 alcohol. With the average size person, one glass of wine (about 5 ounces) creates a blood alcohol of about .03. Three glasses of wine within one hour would make the person drunk.

“A host always serves the best wine first, he said, Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!” (John 2:10 NLT)

Wade, the question is: if they were drinking wine and not grape juice, would a “lot to drink” be three glasses of wine which would make them drunk? And if they were drunk, would Jesus give them more wine to make them more drunk?

Wade Burleson said...


A wedding feast would often last for days. You are assuming far more than the Bible states. You are assuming that the wedding feast lasted only an afternoon and not the typical several days which was the ancient custom, you are assuming that everyone already had several servings of wine, and you are assuming that any further wine would lead to drunkenness. If the crowd was much larger than expected, and if the wedding had been going on for a couple of days already, then it is quite possible that the guests were not drunk, did not get drunk, and were not intending to get drunk.

I think we've hashed this over enough, and it's time for me to move on.

Rex Ray said...


Ah, just when I thought the Scriptures indicated they were drunk, you enlighten me that a wedding feast in those days usually lasted a week.

With hindsight that makes more sense than the marriage celebration lasting one day.

I believe Scriptures show when Jesus was baptized (day 1) his mother attended a wedding that started the next day.

Day 2. Andrew and Peter became disciples: “The following day…” (John 1:35-42 NLT)
Day 3. Philip and Nathanael became disciples: “The next day…” (John 1:43-49 NLT)
Day 4. Jesus and his four disciples arrive at the wedding. “The next day…” (John 2:1-4 NLT)

“And the third day there was a marriage…the mother of Jesus was there.” (John 2:1 KJ) “the third day” probably means the third day of the week-long celebration.

I think this is what happened: Mary was at the celebration and so many came Mary saw there would not be enough wine. Knowing that Jesus could do anything she told the host to invite Jesus. (If Jesus had been there at the first, he would know about the shortage of wine.) On arrival, his mother told him, they have no more wine. “Dear woman, that’s not our problem…My time has not come.” (John 2:4 NLT)

It's obvious there was a big crowd with several day to go or Jesus wouldn’t have made up to 180 gallons of wine: “…6 water jars…each could hold 20 to 30 gallons.” (John 2:6 NLT)

BTW, The first miracle Jesus did was telling Nathanael, “…I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you. Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—King of Israel!” (John 1:48-49 NLT)


Wade Burleson said...


Peace, indeed.

Rex Ray said...


Now when I say “peace”, I’m not talking about the “peace” my brother would say when we were kids. He had a space between his front teeth that he cold ‘shoot’ water at 8 feet and hit you in the face; then he would yell, PEACE! :)