25 June 2013

Jesus and Superman: A Failed Comparison

By now it is no secret that the latest Superman movie, Man of Steel is being promoted from the pulpit. An article published last week by the Associated Press reports on this latest church-going gimmick:
Seems Warner Bros. has taken movie marketing to a whole new level — even higher than a bird or a plane. 
The studio enlisted Christian-focused firm Grace Hill Media to promote "Man of Steel" to faith-based groups by inviting them to early screenings and creating trailers that highlight the film's religious themes. They also enlisted Craig Detweiler, a Pepperdine University professor and author of "Into the Dark: Seeing the Sacred in the Top Films of the 21st Century," to create a Superman-centric sermon outline for pastors titled "Jesus: The Original Superhero." (Source)
The above-mentioned sermon outline is available for download, along with many other materials, at the Man of Steel ministry resources page. More than a mere outline, this document provides nearly a full, albeit short, sermon for those pastors who simply are too busy to formulate thoughts of their own. The introduction to this sermon reads in part:
Superman’s mythical origins are rooted in the timeless reality of a spiritual superhero who also lived a modest life until extraordinary times required a supernatural response. Jesus was sent by his Father to bear our burdens, to right our wrongs, to rise above our troubling circumstances. How might the story of Superman awaken our passion for the greatest hero who ever lived and died and rose again? Let’s consider how Superman’s humble origins, his high calling, and his transforming sacrifice point us towards Jesus, the original superhero. (Source)
First, it is important to highlight what Stand Up for the Truth (SUFTT) notes in its article, "Can't We Just Preach from God's Word?"
First of all, when you understand the Bible against the story of Superman, the movie more accurately reflects Mormon rather than Christian theology. Superman is a created being sent to earth to save the planet. Mormonism teaches that Jesus was a created angel sent by God to save the world. Jesus Christ was not created—he is the Alpha and the Omega. All things were created by, through and for Him. He is God, period—not a created being. (Source)
Already, then, the comparison between Jesus Christ and this comic book action figure must be disregarded. Sadly, few Americans are even aware of the differences between Mormonism and Christianity, and thus will remain ignorant of what SUFTT has pointed out.

It is incredibly grievous to read the words in Professor Detweiler's sermon outline above, "How might the story of Superman awaken our passion for the greatest hero who ever lived and died and rose again?" How might Superman awaken a man's passion to live and to serve Christ? What Christian would ask such a question?

A Christian who needs a worldly and mythical movie to "awaken his passion" for Christ is a Christian in dire need of a self-examination.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
This is not to say that movie-going is inherently evil, but the Christian should not seek to find the truth of God and Christ within a hostile and opposing system. The Scriptures tell of our Lord, and there is no need to search elsewhere if one wishes to learn about Him.

The world should not incite a believer's desire to serve the Lord, unless perhaps it is a righteous indignation over sin and darkness that helps to drive one's service and obedience in proclaiming the gospel. The fallenness of this world should cause the believer not only to rejoice at the promise of the Lord's soon return (Rev 22:20), but should create in him a great sense of urgency to proclaim the gospel and call men to repent and believe upon Christ (Luke 24:47). But to preach a movie's theology instead of that which is offered in God's Word? May it never be.

photo credit: Ben Northern via photopin cc
Yet, the Man of Steel sermon outline continues:
The parallels to Superman as depicted in MAN OF STEEL are hard to miss. At a critical juncture in the film, as Kal-El is struggling with his identity, whether he should live life as a “normal” human or as the otherworldly hero he was called to be, Jor-El tells him: “You are as much a child of Earth as you are of Krypton." Jor-El did not just send his son to earth to save him from Kryton’s [sic] destruction, but for a far loftier purpose. (Source)
One may hesitate to question a professor from an institution such as Pepperdine University, but this writer must. Where are these parallels of which he speaks? At what point in Scripture do we see Christ "struggling with his identity," debating whether He ought to live as a "normal" human "or as the otherworldly hero he was called to be"? Quite the contrary, Jesus Christ knew exactly who He was (Luke 2:49; John 4:10, 26; 5:18; 6:35; 14:6) and what He, the Son of the living God and God Himself, was to do in His time on earth (John 6:38). He knew each moment of God's predetermined plan and He accomplished the will of His Father (John 19:30).

The God-man knew that He was not a "normal" human being and doubtless did not desire to be "normal" since he knew what was in the hearts of men (John 2:24–25). Further, Jesus was not sent from Heaven so that He may be saved from destruction. He was sent to be the Savior, the sin-bearer, the perfect, atoning sacrifice for all who would believe upon Him.

Jesus Christ accomplished His "loftier purpose" not with a red cape and tights, but by living a life of perfect obedience to God's Law, dying a painful, bloody, humiliating death as the perfect, unblemished sacrifice for sin, and by rising again on the third day. There is no parallel here with a comic book superhero, and the only way that such a comparison can be made is by grossly misunderstanding, misusing and abusing Scripture.

Unfortunately, that is what is done throughout the remainder of this Man of Steel sermon outline. The reader may peruse it for himself, but what will be found is a regrettable attempt at relevance at the expense of Scriptural truth and fidelity.

Any pastor who attempts to exegete the movie Man of Steel instead of the Scriptures that tell of our true Lord ought to fall on his knees in tearful repentance. Otherwise, how terrifying it will be to one day explain to Christ why it is that such a pastor saw fit to belittle the Sovereign King and His Word from the pulpit.

Jesus Christ is not a mere mythical superhero. He is Savior, He is Lord, He is Creator, He is Judge, He is the Lamb of the World, He is the Lion of Judah. He is God.

The Scriptures—not Hollywood—tell of this great Savior. May we ever look to those precious pages to learn more about Him, to draw near to Him, to love Him, to obey Him, to glorify Him. May God forgive those who seek to find Him in the whimsies of the world.

Further Reading
Lawson and Luther on the Preacher's Study of Scripture
Affirming Sola Scriptura
Church-going Gimmicks

3 comments:

  1. Yeah. The blasphemous “equate Jesus Christ with Superman” scenario.

    A fictional comic book hero, created by the vain, idol-loving imagination and profit motivation of man, is somehow something to compare to the KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS? Woe x 3.

    (Warning, sarcasm to follow)

    1st Man: Look, up there! In the clouds.

    2nd Man: It’s a bird!

    3rd Man: No, it’s a plane!

    4th Man: No! It’s…..it’s….Some dude with a beard, and sandals?

    (End sarcasm)

    This is just another sign that what has been spoken in the scriptures is coming nearer and nearer to our generation….

    Luke 21:25-29
    25 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

    Carol

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have a different take on the problem with this.

    Many people would, I'm sure, compare this with Paul referring to the Temple to an Unknown God; on the surface, that appears to be the case here. (And yes, I have heard people tell me that Paul was sinning when he did that. I just excuse them as idiots and move on.)

    However, the difference is this: ultimately, the main subject wasn't about that temple. He was using it to make a point about Jesus Christ, using a cultural reference the people there would understand.

    In this case, the subject is about how Jesus is like Superman; Superman is clearly the co-star of the story here instead of being a tool.

    About a year ago, my church did a series of sermons that referenced movies, and I was very skeptical of the idea. But I went anyway and saw that the sermons were not about the movies. The movie was used only to introduce the point - for example, it mentioned The Amazing Spider-Man and talked for about 5 minutes about Peter Parker learning about the responsibility that came with his power. The sermon was about using the talents and resources God gave us to His glory. Did it refer to a Hollywood production? Yes, it did. And I believe it was used properly.

    But this sermon? This is just a gimmick taking center stage.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hero? Yea, right. What super hero would come to fulfill Isaiah 53?
    Anybody who buys into this knows not the Gospel and most likely does not know Christ and Him crucified!

    ReplyDelete

Please keep it pithy (in other words, if your comment is long enough to be its own blog post, don't bother), pertinent (please don't go off-topic), and respectful (to the author, to the other readers, and to the subject of the post). If you can't do that, your comment will not be posted.

If you haven't already, please read the Comment Policy in its entirety.