So what am I going to be going on about in this post? There are two things, in sum. The first is a reminder for you to make sure you check out which location for the showing of The Riot and the Dance on March 19 is going to be nearest you. All you have to do is go to the website here, type in your zip code, and the nearest theaters pop right up. [N.B. The link on Twitter now fixed.] There are hundreds of locations for this movie nationwide, so if one of them is not actually near you then that means you are not really trying hard enough. And if one of these theaters is not near you, then you probably need to move.
What is the second point? I want to conduct a brief examination of the bones of this film. This movie is a celebration of creation, which is to say, it is a disciplined exercise of imaginative realism. With the development of high definitions cameras that are within the reach of independent film makers, it is becoming really difficult for Darwinists to maintain the charade that nineteenth century ignorance once was able to maintain. The more we learn, the more we can see, the more a Kuhnian paradigm shift tidal wave accelerates toward the beach, gathering both force and height, and it is guaranteed to take out the boardwalk of infidelity, the front row of beach houses once inhabited by Galton, Spencer, Huxley, and Darwin, not to mention all the shaved ice stands of materialist atheism. And when the tsunami has receded, the only thing left on the beach will be the detritus of overwrought and overdone metaphors, some of them mine.
Back to imaginative realism.
“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them” (Psalm 111:2, ESV).
So what is meant by the phrase imaginative realism? What do I mean by this? First, if you take one of the cameras now available to us, and take the trouble to watch a hummingbird flying in slow motion, you start to realize something. The realism is there because the hummingbird is right there, and slowing the motion down makes you come to grips with the fact that this bird is downright . . . well, unlikely. This is nothing but God showing off.
I contrast the phrase imaginative realism with its Darwinian counterpart in scientism, which should be called something like duddy realism. Picture a drawing by an untalented descendant of Audubon, one who has had his soul sucked dry in the course of his internship, during which he had to draw nothing but dried beetles pinned to cards. He gets the number of legs right, and they generally go in the right directions. That’s about all.
We—in the grip of our confusions—think that imagination means something like coming untethered from the world as it actually is, and floating off into the cloudy realm of daydreaming. People who are imaginative, we think, are the people who are tired of dealing with the world as it actually is. But biblically speaking, the imaginative are those who actually see the world as it really is. An imaginative man is one who recognizes that God is an imaginative God. The imaginative person is not the one whose mind wanders off the point. He is the one who doesn’t wander off the point. He sees what is there, and he refuses to look away until he is truly seen it.
I said a moment ago that God was showing off with the hummingbird. But if you let the camera wander to another object in your front yard—to a centipede on a leaf, or to a roly-poly bug doing its thing, or to a caterpillar looking for the right place in your yard to turn into a butterfly—it slowly begins to dawn on you that God is showing off absolutely everywhere.
And for those who are spiritually-minded, and think that it is unseemly to describe God as “showing off,” I would urge us all not to be too high minded, as though it were a sign of pride or something. God is already God. His prodigality in this is simply showing us what kind of an overflowing God He is.
“But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; And the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: And the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these That the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7–10).
And what will the beasts teach us? Among other things, they will teach us that God is frequently extravagant, outlandish, lavish, irrepressible, ridiculous, absurd, bizarre, and preposterous. In a word, God shows off. I submit for your consideration . . . the peacock’s tail, those neon green lizards, the bowerbirds with their goon show approach to mating, whales singing like distant bassoons, the feather star swimming, and bighorn rams fighting in a high meadow.
But because we have sinned and grown old, because we have drifted away into spiritual lassitude, we find the world boring. The real problem is that we are boring. We have an odd name for one of the gaudiest locations we could have been privileged to inhabit. We call this place mundane, after the Latin word for world which is mundus. And if there is one thing the world is not, it is mundane.
If I might, let me take an example from another arena in our culture wars, another place where God is being kind to us through technology. When Nancy and I were first starting our family, ultrasounds were a new thing. Not only were they a new thing, but it was sometimes hard to tell why they were a thing at all. I remember one ultrasound picture we got of one of the kids that looked to me like it was a smudged xerox copy of a bad black and white Polaroid snap of a distant galaxy. The resolution stood in need of improvement is all I am saying. But now ultrasounds can show you if the kid has his grandfather’s dimples, and this technological advance is one of the reasons why pro-lifers have the momentum they do. It is hard to stick with the party line that an unborn child is just a “cluster of cells” when you can see his grandfather’s dimples.
The debate over creation is the same kind of issue. This film has some glorious footage, and so when you are looking at one outré masterpiece after another from the God who shows off, and you are watching this in a nature documentary without someone in a BBC voice telling you some Darwinian “just so” story about how the elephant got his trunk, the effect is a profound one. The effect is religious. The effect is a celebration of creation.
The camera enables you to look straight at some of the some of the most magnificent feats of aesthetic and functional engineering ever done. And it was not done—sorry to break it to you—through millions and millions of years of trial and error, all trial, mostly error, with here and there a few lucky and fecund lottery winners. This fighter jet did not happen because of an explosion in a junk yard. You say that explosions do not provide the requisite time for such an evolutionary advance? Okay. This fighter jet did not happen because of a slow moving glacier inching through a junk yard.
Come on, people. You all have several hundred phenomena in your back yard that are more complicated than said fighter jet. Your left thumb is more complicated than that. And if you have trouble finding these extravaganzas of divine imagination, I would recommend starting with The Riot and the Dance. Actually, go to the movie after meditating on your left thumb. These things are everywhere around you. The movie starts with ordinary animals, and moves on to some exotic ones, and the effect is to help you to see that there are no ordinary animals.
They are all exotic. As the song puts it, He has the whole world in His hands, and none of it is mundane.