Given that The LEGO Movie was released on DVD yesterday, I thought it was about time I shared the following. I had a spiritual experience with The Lego Movie. This is not the first film to which I have had said reaction; I just didn’t expect it. But when I left the theater Friday, February 7, 2014, the main thing on my mind was not new Lego sets or my next viewing. I was thinking about Theology.
And I was convicted.
[Warning, I need to spoil the third act of the movie to elaborate.]
The final act of The Lego Movie reveals that the film’s narrative has been crafted by a young boy named Finn (played by Jadon Sand) who is enjoying his father’s elaborate Lego display—a collection divided into well-organized themed areas, with signs that say “do not touch”. When the father (played by Will Ferrell) discovers his son, they discuss how the Lego elements should be treated. The exchange is both humorous and engaging, resulting in Ferrell’s dismissing his son’s ideas only to later become enamored with them.
The interaction brings immediate questions to mind. Should adults invest their resources in a toy recommended for children ages 7-14 (though that’s “just a suggested age range”, Ferrell reminds us)? Is the child’s disobedience overshadowed by the fact that the toys are intended for his age (a question I often asked myself as a child, considering my father’s model railroad hobby)? Of course, these are surface ideas that emerge during the film itself. After the credits rolled, I thought more abstractly about what I had seen.
I realized I am Will Ferrell (or, at least, his character). Given that I am a Lego enthusiast myself and well outside the suggested age range, I spend time building with Lego elements alongside my nephews and nieces, but I am not unlike the film’s antagonist. I want things in their place, even at the expense of stifling creativity. I like order, consistency, and knowing where Gandalf and Lando Calrissian are on my display at any given time (yes, I have them both). This is clearly an issue.
More importantly, however, I saw in the film a wonderful picture of my Theology. I know that sounds like I’m reaching, but bear with me. I’m not saying my conclusions were intended by the filmmakers, and I admit all analogies eventually break down (this is no exception), but nonetheless, I could not help but think, “Man, that is exactly how I am about God.”
If Lego in the scenario is Theology, then I and other adult Christians tend to be Will Ferrell. We love our theology. We invest time in it, have large displays of it, and take pleasure in it. Of course, we are also set in our ways. We think we know so much about an infinite God but ironically can be the most narrow about him. We assert that he is beautiful and use words like “eternal” and “glorious”, but then we apply those words in limited ways. He is “glorious like is but not like that”, we say.
Conversely, however, Finn is the young Christian. To him, Theology is simple but full endless possibilities. The pieces do not always have to make one thing. What we know of God can always change. It may require breaking down one model to develop a new one—but doing so is possible. Children have these sorts of revelations all the time, and they seem to never lose sight of the wonder in that. Their Theology is constantly changing, growing, evolving. They don’t draw lines in the sand and say, “God is only this.” They say “God can be whatever he wants.”
Christ exhorts the disciples, “let the children to come unto me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14), and I find this to be one of the most beautiful encouragements in the Bible. Children see things with a certain beauty and mystery that we adults tend to diminish or quantify. We want concrete answers, but children trust without them.
The Lego Movie includes a moment when Will Ferrell sees his son’s additions to his organized display. Trucks are now spaceships. Workers are now warriors. Minutea is made new. The power of the moment captures something deeply real for the collector—he has forgotten the essence of Lego as vibrant in its function. This reminds him of the possibilities inherent to the toy (or “interlocking block system” as he calls it). The experience moves him as well as the audience.
When I place this moment in the context of Theology, I find myself equally moved. As an adult, I can so quickly limit God to my box. My doctrinal lines are not unlike Will Ferrell’s Micro-kingdoms. I put God here, Christ over there, and the Holy Spirit somewhere else entirely. I compartmentalize and, in so doing, minimize each of them. But Theology must move beyond hardline doctrines to ongoing relational interaction in which endless possibilities can be revealed again and again.
Theology is the study of God. And modern Christianity claims to be a relationship as opposed to religion. What happens when we assume to understand everything about another in a relationship? What happens when we do not open ourselves to new insight and changed perception? The love grows stale. The excitement wears thin. “The Thrill is Gone” as B.B. King would say.
What did Will Ferrell see when he saw his son’s display? The joy of discovery and a fresh perspective on what was possible. May our Theology reflect the same.
The pursuit of knowing God more deeply is noble one, and Lego has nothing to do it. Then again, the Holy Spirit was able to convict me and reveal himself through a movie about the children’s toy, all the while increasing my appreciation for both the toy itself and my Creator.
And the fact that he can do that is my whole point.