Posted by: LucidMystery | January 23, 2009

Batman Theology

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“Batman is the hero that Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.”

That’s from the Dark Knight. A great cinematic experience! Nominated for a bunch of Oscars, which is something for a comic book/superhero movie, and of course, it features and amazing performance from Heath Ledger. I really like this one line from it, though. I feel like it kind of accurately summarizes what might be an answer to a very tough to answer a question about God in the Old and New Testaments. I have often heard people saying that they have a hard time with Christianity because it seems like God had a personality change halfway through the Bible. We talked a little about that concept of the dual roles some months back my young adults group in my church, but when I heard this quote after getting the DVD for Christmas, something clicked and helped me to understand it a little better. Sound weird 😉 Yeah, let me explain.

To begin, I have to do some major backtracking, but don’t worry, I have a point!

Well, as much as you all have heard me vehemently adhering to my Creationist views, I obviously have to concede the belief in “change over time,” which is the very definition of evolution. Of course I believe in change over time! Who doesn’t? God had to give organisms that ability to adapt and survive, and it’s impossible to say that things don’t change. Heck, let’s get out of science and look at our fashion trends in the last 15 years. I just recently went to an “I Love the 90’s” party, and it was hilarious to remember all the crazy flannel and grunge or platforms and glitter! Let’s take this a step further and quote a Patty Loveless song “Life’s about changing, nothing ever stays the same.” In just the past century, the greatest pride of being a woman was being accomplished enough to attract a good husband, and look how far our society has come in rejecting that notion! Ok so we aren’t perfect, but political correctness will smite thee if you hint at old school gender roles. (Ok, before I continue, to quickly clarify, just because I agree that organisms change, I still don’t think I’m the descendant of an RNA-based primordial ooze that was struck by lightning in an atmosphere devoid of oxygen. Moving on!)

So we have established that things change. Our world is dynamic, not static! Now we’re getting a little closer to explaing Batman 😉

Let’s take another dive. Today, our American culture prizes peace. Why else was Bush was blasted so fiercely for his handling of the Iraq War? But not all societies throughout history have wanted it as badly as we do today. Some former cultures have created gods to specialize specifically in the art of war and brave warriors were ardently revered. (Which isn’t to say our brave men and women serving aren’t admired. Protecting your country is still a position worthy of honoring, but we don’t think of our soldiers the same way as, say, people in the time of Alexander the Great did.)

If you have ever read the Old Testament (and you think the way I do), you will have noticed three big trends: 1.) so-and-so-begat-so-and-so, 2.) lots of laws 3.) lots of war. So from this, I gather that the people in the Old Testament were really dedicated to that be fruitful and multiply thing; they were very much so based on ritual and works to prove their faith; and they were a war-based culture. I mean, a scrawny little no-account shepherd boy was eventually made a king because he turned out to be great on the battlefield! (Well, that and he was God’s anointed one, that always helps; but God proved him to the Israelites first by proving him as a warrior.)

Another thing you might have gathered from the Old Testament is that God was brutal. He destroyed entire cities of wicked people, He was quick to dole out punishment (sometimes; everybody at least got a warning first), and He led the Israelites into battle more often than not. Does that sound like the God of the New Testament? The God who proclaims His Son as the Prince of Peace, the Lamb, and such? No, I would say they don’t sound that much alike.

But that kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?

The last of the Old Testament was written centuries before Jesus was born. By that point, the Scripture was well established and many could read and quote it like we do the Bible today (well, there were a lot of laws about the reading and quoting part, but you get the general idea at least.) Also, by that point, the Roman Empire was in its heyday; the Romans were it. The Jewish culture was not what it had been before since it was now surrounded by Gentile influence and encroached on by Roman law. I think it’s safe to say the Israelites were now a completely different people than they had been in the Old Testament. Look how different modern Americans are now just from our founding not even 250 years ago! For starters, there’s no way God would have made it into a modern Declaration of Independence, we don’t despise the British anymore, and human beings aren’t sold like cattle (at least openly, if you want to talk about the sex slave trade.)

So if the people were completely different during the time of the New Testament than in the Old Testament, that makes me wonder about God. He is all things and can do all things. Couldn’t He respond to people differently?

I’ve mentioned before that one tough thing I had to learn working in day camps with special needs kids was that I had to change how I approached each kid. You don’t respond to a Down’s syndrome girl the way you respond to an ADD boy; you have to change up the game plan a little bit. Couldn’t God do the same thing with us? If He saw a people who were obsessed with the glorification of fighting and war, wouldn’t the best way to reach them be as a Warrior?

But a Warrior-God would scare the living crikey out of most of us today. That isn’t what we need. We need a God for our culture, and our culture isn’t war. It exists, and I applaud our brave military; but we aren’t defined by war the same way as the Old Testament peoples were. (And hold in your Bush rants!)

In short, God doesn’t change, we do. If He is all things, then He can be all things. And I don’t mean that in a pantheistic God-is-the-birds-and-clouds-and-sky-and-rocks kind of way, but rather I’m trying to explain His infinite capabilities. He can be what He sees that we need. To quote another song, He is “Lord of lords, King of kings, Mighty God, Lord of everything…Emmanuel…the Great I Am…the Prince of Peace Who is the Lamb…the Living God…my saving Grace…ancient of days…Alpha, Omega, beginning and end…Savior, Messiah, Redeemer and Friend.” Within in the realm of what is good, there is nothing He can’t be for us! And He is always exactly what we need.

Don’t mistake me, though. I’m not saying God is different for each of us or something with  post-modern slant like that. God is the same God, but like a good parent knows what their son or daughter needs right then, that’s how God knows to respond to us. And note that I didn’t say “want;” God doesn’t have to be what we want. In fact, God probably is not what many of us want because He represents a surrender to a Higher will than our own. But that is what we need. At the same time, it’s comforting to know that through that same surrender, we accept the most precious gift in existence.

So now, to bring this full circle, I quoted Batman earlier. “Batman is the hero that Gotham deserves, but the not the one it needs right now.” Well, I wouldn’t say we deserve God, but if you have seen the movie, you know that Batman is still Batman, no matter what he is being blamed for, and his actions are for the good of Gotham. God is always God, no matter how we see Him in the Bible versus now. He is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever. And though we are never the same, God is always the hero we need.

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Responses

  1. You wrote about how “God is all things.” What do you mean by that? How have you come to that belief? It sounds more like pantheism than monotheism, but I support you either way 😎

    I’m glad you referred to God as “parent,” not just “Father.”

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  2. That’s a good point, I phrased that badly. I didn’t mean “God is all things” as in He’s a rock, a fish, a tow truck, etc., I meant it more along the lines of He’s not just a finite being like we are. I mean, if He wanted to momentarily be a rock, I guess He could…but I was trying to describe His ability to be what we all need, which seems like it would be impossible to be a friend, gaurdian, savior, etc all at the same time as being the intanglibles such as love, peace, discipline, and a spiritual GPS.

    I guess, I when I say “He’s everything” I mean that more in the way a country singer sings “you’re everything to me.” Does that make sense? Maybe it’s more abstract/poetic than literal.

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  3. […] I was given a link to another blog as a reference for this subject (here’s the link.  Hopefully Lucidmystery doesn’t mind.).  It got me to thinking about God and how each and […]

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