Deeper Waters Podcast 6/27/2020

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Superheroes are really popular in our culture. While Batman and Superman and others have been around for decades, they still have new fans coming up every single day. New movies featuring them are constantly coming out and television series have been produced regularly.

These aren’t the only ones certainly. There are many more heroes such as the Avengers and other members of the Justice League and then the Justice Society and plenty of heroes that stand alone in their own right. I grew up also watching Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers and those series have stuck with me to this day.

We live in a culture that loves superheroes. We want someone to come in and right the wrongs and stop evil and for many of them, we also like the moral compass they live with. Batman has a rule of not killing and in the second season of Arrow, the Green Arrow also took on that rule. If anything disappointed me severely in Man of Steel, it was when Superman killed Zod. The Superman I always knew did not kill, at least directly.

Yes. Superheroes can do many things, but unfortunately, they are also fictional so they can only do so in a fictional universe, even if that universe is meant to be ours. However, with all the things that they can do, there is one thing they cannot do.

Superheroes can’t save you.

Many superheroes despite having qualities that are Christlike, cannot provide salvation. If we looked to superheroes like they were the Messiah, we would believe many false things. What if our idea of Jesus was like superheroes? What if we formed our Christology that way? This Saturday, my guest will be someone who has considered that and written a book on Christology using superheroes to illustrate his point. The book is Superheroes Can’t Save You and the author is Todd Miles.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Todd Miles has been a follower of Jesus from a young age. A native of Oregon and resident of Portland, he is married to Camille. They have six children, Natalie, Ethan, Levi, Julius, Vicente, and Marcos. Todd is a Professor of Theology at Western Seminary where he teaches Theology,
Hermeneutics, Biblical Theology, Church History, and Apologetics. He currently serves as an Elder at Hinson Church. Prior to working at Western Seminary, he was employed as a research engineer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Todd is an alumnus of Oregon State University (BS and MS in Nuclear Engineering), Western Seminary (MDiv), and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (PhD in Systematic Theology). Todd enjoys “all-things athletic,” “all-things Oregon State,” and reading military history and biographies. Todd is the author of many published articles and books, including Superheroes Can’t Save You: Epic Examples of Historic Heresies and A God of Many Understandings?

We’re still working on getting caught up on shows. I plan to upload several of them soon. Thanks for your patience and I hope this episode will greatly help you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Superheroes Can’t Save You

What do I think of Todd Miles’s book published by B&H Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m not someone who reads comic books, but I do like superheroes. When Smallville was on the air, I devoured everything I could on that series and I regret that I never got a copy of the comic strips for after the show went off, but alas, I didn’t have the money. Many of you might know I had every episode title memorized in order when it was on.

Fortunately, I also married a wife who likes superhero movies so we can sit down and watch Thor or Iron Man together as well. It is rare I meet a guy who doesn’t like superheroes. For many of us men also, we like to be the protector and imagine being those heroes for the ones we love.

Many times, we can also see these superheroes as Christ figures. To some extent, there’s some truth to this. There are many ways in which Superman is very similar to Jesus. However, there are many ways that they are different.

Those differences could lead to heresy even.

Superheroes leading to heresy? Holy Christology Batman! Yes, indeed. Superheroes can illustrate for us great Christological errors in history.

In this, Todd Miles covers 7. Superman is a docetism of sorts that is so much divine that we do not see him as really human. The humanity is just a facade. We can see Jesus the same way.

Batman is quite the opposite. Of all the superheroes, Batman is a regular guy. He just has a lot of knowledge and a lot of gadgets. In this, many people can say Jesus is just a regular guy. He was just really a man of great wisdom.

Hank Pym has made a comeback in the movies as Ant-Man, but he can also be Goliath and the Yellow Jacket. Three different ways one guy can be. Sounds like modalism? Indeed, it does.

Thor is the son of a great god, but he is just a god in himself. Is there any group out there that teaches that Jesus is the Son of God, but he is simply a god? That would be the Arian teaching and the Watchtower Bible has Jesus described as “a god” in John 1:1.

Green Lantern has an awesome ring that gives him great powers with the use of his will. In the same way, some groups teach that Jesus was adopted and given the Holy Spirit that allowed Him to do miracles. This adoptionism is for Miles, the Green Lantern heresy.

Hulk is a Christological heresy too? Yep. The great Bruce Banner is a brilliant thinker and scientist, but when he turns into the Hulk, he loses all of it and just wants to smash everything. Hulk doesn’t really have a human mind then. If you recognize Apollinarianism, move to the head of the class.

Finally, Peter Parker gets bit by a radioactive spider and becomes Spider-Man. His DNA is actually fused with spider DNA. At this point, he becomes a mixture of a spider and a human. Yes. We are talking about Euytchianism.

This is a really fun read through church history and at times, the footnotes at the bottom of the page can be just as funny. This book is also designed for small groups, so get a church group together and watch a superhero movie and then read a chapter of the book about that hero and discuss it. It would be great to see more like this. About the only major problem I have is the Superman chapter never mentioned the Smallville series. I don’t understand how a great oversight like that can take place still…..

Theology is a deep field, but it can also be fun. If you like superheroes, you can learn Christology. Give this one a try.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Rediscovering Jesus

What do I think about the new book from Rodney Reeves, Randy Richards, and David Capes published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Rediscovering Jesus by Capes, Reeves, and Richards is a surprising read. Now I had read this book shortly after reading Rediscovering Paul so I was expecting something like that, but that isn’t exactly what I got. At the start, I was kind of disappointed hoping to find more about the culture of Jesus and especially looking at Jesus from an honor and shame perspective. That disappointment was only initial. As I got further into the book, I found myself quite intrigued and fascinated by what I was reading in the book and I found the idea for consideration a fascinating one.

This idea is to look at Jesus in isolation from the major sources that we have, such as the Gospel writers individually, the Pauline epistles, Hebrews, the general epistles, and Revelation. What would it be like if each source was the only source we had on Jesus? We usually take a composite of all we have on Jesus and then put that together and say this is the real Jesus. There is no fault in this, but looking at each case in isolation can be an interesting case study. Imagine how different our worldview would be if the only source we had on Jesus was the book of Revelation?

While these are fascinating, there is also a second section where we look at Jesus from other sources. What about the Gnostic Jesus such as popularized in works like The Da Vinci Code? What about the Jesus of Muslims who never died on the cross? What about the historical Jesus of modern historians who do not hold to the reality of miracles? What about the Mormon Jesus that looks like a Jesus made just for America? Speaking of that, what about the American Jesus as here in America, Jesus is used to promote and sell just about anything. Every side in every debate usually wants to try to claim Jesus. Finally, what about the Cinematic Jesus? Many of us have seen Hollywood movies about Jesus. Some are good. Some are not. How would we view Jesus if all we had were those movies to watch? (And since so few people read any more, this could become an increasingly common occurrence.)

For me, honestly the most fascinating section was the one on the American Jesus. This dealt with so much I see in my culture. It’s interesting we don’t talk about the French Jesus or the Japanese Jesus or the Italian Jesus. It’s more the American one. This one changes so much to being the super manly Jesus who takes the world like a man or the Prince Charming Jesus that every girl sings about as her boyfriend. This can be the pragmatic Jesus who is there to help us promote our culture, or it can be the Superman Jesus who rescues us when we’re in need, but then disappears. I do have to admit I am a Superman fan so I could see the parallels very easily and while I do think there are valid parallels, we do not want to see Jesus as identical with Superman. If there’s any chapter in the book I keep coming back to mentally, it’s this one. I will certainly be watching my culture much more.

I find this book to be one of the most eye-opening ones I have read in that sense. I do not think I ever paused to consider what it would mean if all I had to tell me about Jesus was just one particular source or one kind of source. How much richer off we are for having all these other sources! We can also be thankful for the non-Christian sources as well because these can highlight aspects of the Biblical Jesus that we might have lost sight of or they could show that the Jesus of the Bible is so much greater by contrast. If an outside source says something true about Jesus, we are the better for it. If it says something false, this can contrast with the true and we are the better.

I recommend the work wholeheartedly. It fortunately also comes with questions at the end that make it ideal for small group discussion.

In Christ,
Nick Peters