September 24, 2014

Superhero Theology VI: The Voice of God

Superman: Departure From Krypton
Sculpture by William Paquet 
[DC Direct]
As I tried to type the parallels between Jesus and other superheroes it dawned on me that many of the superpowers in many heroes are embodied in Jesus. In this way Jesus is the perfect superhero or superman. In truth, He is the perfect man. So I narrowed this down to the two most prominent. It seems Superman best represents Jesus and Moses. In truth Moses was merely a predecessor or shadow of Jesus anyway. In reality Jesus was so much more…but I’m getting ahead of myself by saying this. Because there is so much back story to the Superman narrative I will only hit on a few key ideas. Not only am I trying to point out the parallels intended by Superman’s creators but I am also trying to point out the theological stuff that is embedded in the narrative that the creators of Superman hadn’t intended or might not have seen.

In Moses we see a man set adrift in a vessel and pushed into a great unknown. The vessel is used to save his life from impending doom. This is similar to Superman being put on a craft that will evacuate Superman from a dying planet. Both Moses and Superman are found in a rural agrarian setting as infants by their adoptive parents. Moses is found among the bulrushes (reeds). Superman is found in a field. Both end up in a strange foreign world. Like Moses, Superman goes through an exodus from everything in his past only to take hold of a much greater responsibility. Superman or Kal-El is sent as the only son of Jor-El to earth. He looks the same as those around him (Clark Kent) but is clearly different (Superman).

Exodus 2:5-6 ~ The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her maidens walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. 

Ironically, Jesus to would come in a vessel too. He would come in a human body as an infant which would not be used to save His life but to give it up for the sins of those who repent. The reason He would give it would be to save everyone else’s life who were dying from sin on a dying sin-tainted planet. I should say that He gave it for all those who would believe that He came for that exact purpose. Jesus would come into a hostile world that was under the sway of evil and would use his power and influence to change His environment around Him so greatly that it would seem as if another world was forming in His presence (the Kingdom).

Romans 4:25 ~ He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

As Moses grows it becomes more and more apparent that is more than meets the eye when it comes to Moses life. In a similar way, as Clark Kent grows it becomes obvious to his parents Jonathan and Martha Kent that he has superhuman powers. The Kent’s teach Clark to use these powers responsibly to help others. After Moses kills an Egyptian for unjustly beating a Hebrew slave he flees to Midian and it is here that he will eventually come into God’s direct presence with the Burning Bush. From both of these stories we see that both Moses and Clark Kent seem to have been created or made with an acute sense of justice and right or wrong. Their lives become proactive in righting wrongs and correcting injustices.

Like Clark Kent, Moses appears mild-mannered and Moses even seems to fear what he is called to do by the Lord and uses human shortcomings to emphasize this fact. The Bible said that Moses was reluctant to speak because he was slow of speech and of slow tongue. Some people take this to mean that Moses stuttered. Regardless, it seems to be some sort of speech impediment. Yet he still managed to do great things. He did them through the Spirit of God!

It is when Moses begins to do the mighty works of God that we begin to see a shift to a new character. It is at this point Moses stops being mostly Clark Kent and becomes more Superman. The reason this seems to take place is because a new character comes over Moses. It is the Spirit of God (just as it is now in all believers). We see a shift and foreshadowing of Jesus. It is at this juncture also that when we see a shift from Clark Kent to Superman, we biblically can analogize the shift from Moses to Jesus Christ. Where Clark Kent was a mild-mannered but idealized working man, Superman is something more. Where Moses was originally only part of a royal earthly family he is divested of this role to become something much more in a spiritual manner in God’s family. In so doing he becomes an emulation of the Messiah.

Both Moses, Jesus and Superman are associated somehow with the Mosaic Law, a law or moral rectitude. God obviously gave Moses the Law in the Pentateuch and in the form of the Ten Commandments. The laws given at the time embodied moral, civil and ceremonial law. These all of course pointed to Jesus who was an embodiment of the Law given to Moses. 

Although the ceremonial and civil laws no longer apply to the Christian, the moral principles behind the moral parts of the law will always apply because, well, they deal with morality. Herein lies the unique parallel in the Superman narrative. Superman essentially upholds modern civic law in an idealized fashion. Not all, but some of the legalities and law in modern times is morally based. Even much of our Constitutional law is based in moral/ethical and even biblical underpinnings regardless of what revisionists want us to believe. In Superman’s world which parallels our own (sort of), it is the same.

When dealing with Superman as Jesus we see that Superman’s real name leaving Krypton is Kal-El which in a forced Hebrew means “voice of God”. This of course is exactly what Jesus was, not necessarily Superman. Unless of course we believe Jesus to be our Superman in real life because of the fact He has died for my sins and wishes to be my Master (which I do). Not only was Jesus Christ the voice of God, He was God, and the perfect human embodiment of God. A voice which, ironically, gave Moses the Law which Jesus was an embodiment of.

John 14:7-11 ~ “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”  Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.  “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; 

One thing I will note is that there are a few serious and major differences not only between Jesus and Superman but Jesus and all superheroes and all men including Moses. Jesus is divine and Jesus is perfectly holy. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. Jesus is one Persona in a Triune Godhead. These characteristics cannot be found in any of the aforementioned. Nor will they be found in any future superhero or man. It is due to these characteristics that Jesus would be able to die and atone for the sins of man. This is a critical distinction that needs to be made. It is specifically because of these characteristics that Jesus would be able to die in accordance with Scripture, be buried quite dead and rise again the third day. His rising would be through the power of the Holy Spirit and it would change the course of history forever. Not even Superman can do that.

In short we must realize that I am comparing Superman to Jesus, not the other way around. The concept of Superman as we understand it today would not even exist if Jesus and Moses hadn’t existed first. Why? The creator of Superman was Jewish and there are deliberate vehicles from the Jewish faith (Moses meta-narrative) incorporated into the Superman story line. Even though the creator was Jewish and most likely intended the Moses parallels, God behind the scenes seems to have pushed the story line in Superman even further in real life into Christianity. How? By using Moses in the Hebrew Bible, the creator has inadvertently pointed to the One Moses and the Law would portend: Jesus. 

I find it really neat that God can work through an eighty year old comic book story line to point to His Son Jesus even though this probably wasn’t the original intent of the comic. God has used a child’s comic book to inadvertently bring focus and therefore glory to His Son. So I guess, in a strange quixotic way, we are hearing the voice of God through the character of Superman. We see the sovereignty and other characteristics of God in real life because of a fictional story. Even in the things of this world we can see God shining through. In a story for youth we see Jesus most clearly exemplified.

Matthew 18:2-4 ~ Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Romans 1:20 ~ For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse

Isaiah 55:8-9 ~ For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 

[Addendum: One last thing should be mentioned about Superman. In the very spirit of what he is about, he is an advocate for men. He helps men do good...this is strangely akin to the work of the parakletos or advocate in Scripture (John 14:26, Galatians 5:16-25) who is the Holy Spirit]

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