Book Plunge: Essential Asatru

What do I think of Diana Paxson’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I always try to be going through at least one book that either directly disagrees with me or is from a worldview that I do not share. In this case, while looking for another one, I remembered how a couple of years ago I had been at Wal-Mart and I think I had a book on the resurrection with me and someone saw it. He then told me that he was a follower of Norse religion.

I had enough experience in the field to recognize this as Asatru. I went to Kindle immediately to see if I could find a good book on the topic really trying to explain it well. It would be easy to find something that didn’t treat it seriously but was more on a popular level, but I wanted something as scholarly as possible.

In the end, I chose Essential Asatru, by Diana Paxton. I started the book then, but just never finished it as other things came up, but when I wanted something new, I decided to go back and start it again. I wanted to know what these people really believed and also why they believed it.

To many of us, it can sound strange to be a follower of Norse religion. Most of us when we hear that think of Thor and then we think of the Avengers. You want to follow a deity who is in a comic book? (That is a topic that never came up in the book. Many followers consider themselves heathens and I would like to have known what they thought of a deity of theirs being a comic book character. Are they allowed to see the movies or read the books and enjoy them or is that sacrilege?)

Yet as I pondered it further, I thought perhaps it isn’t that strange. Areas like Iceland still hold to a lot of tradition such as a large number of people over there believe in elves. If you’re going to believe in some deity or deities, and I contend secularism has left such a hole, and for whatever reason you don’t want to go with the monotheistic faiths, why not go back to the religions that have some historical precedent?

The book has several chapters with each starting with a scene from a get-together in the Asatru religion involving passing around a horn filled with ale of some kind and sharing together. Then each chapter will go into a different point about Asatru and how practitioners worship in it. It is certainly a look into a world unfamiliar to most of us.

Many of this is also a history of beliefs of the people in Scandinavia with many times talking about how Christianity intersected with the culture. There can be a bit of what can look like ancestor worship, but I suspect it’s much more just wanting to honor the great heroes of the past. The closest parallel I can come up with from the Christian perspective is the way Catholics and Orthodox tend to have feasts and days to honor saints, all the while not worshipping them.

Then the book goes into a description of the different deities in Norse religion, which yes, includes Thor. If you are interested in Norse mythology, as I do happen to have an interest in such though mainly in Greek, this could be a fascinating part for you. Loki is included and I found it interesting that different gatherings have different rules on how to treat Loki and it’s best to ask before coming to one’s first meeting.

The final chapter deals with day to day lives of heathens and how they are when they gather together. This includes ethical beliefs as well as how religion is practiced with regard to priests and priestesses and events like weddings and funerals. Would there be such a thing as an Asatru seminary one day? It doesn’t look like there will be any time soon, but the writer herself is a priestess so they do exist.

So in the end, of course, I don’t agree with Norse paganism beliefs, but I am glad I am now more informed about them. I suspect that as time goes on, we will see more and more such beliefs rise up as secularism leaves a hole and many people have too many negative associations with Christianity (Such as supposedly hating people who are same-sex attracted or being anti-science). While we as Christians disagree, we can recognize the clues of the God-shaped hole and the longing of people to seek something beyond themselves.

It’s up to us to give them that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)



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