***WARNING!! POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERTS (not major ones but still possible spoilers)***
This weekend I made sure I was one of the first in line to see the new Batman v Superman movie, Dawn of Justice. The movie was matinée money well spent! I’ve seen lots of unwarranted, unnecessary, hyper-critical assessments of the movie since its showing but I decided to not address the haters in this post. You’re welcome.What I did want to address is one of the themes showcased in the film. There were lots of different themes and little messages hidden and overtly shouted throughout the film. The one that stood out the most to me was the juxtaposition between the role of G/god(s) and man. The struggle between the heavenly and the earthly played out interestingly in the film.
The god role, played by Superman, was faced with the challenge of answering the question of how a should god act or intervene in the lives of those it/he protects. There was a pivotal moment in the movie when the question was asked that if Superman can save someone, but doesn’t, should he be implicated due to his inactivity? Is he, in fact, an accessory to the crime if he does not intervene in the stopping of the crime? As a god/alien figure, clearly able to destroy the entire human race of Metropolis, and Gotham as well for that matter, the question posed challenged the immanence, which is how the divine manifest in the material world, of his goodness and his power.
On the opposite end of the spectrum you have man. Man, or mankind, will be used here as a term for humans, male and female. These roles were dual played, in my opinion, by both Batman and Lex Luthor. Both represented man’s desire to control the things and events around him based on a self-defined moral code and using whatever resources, mental and physical, to bring about these results. Batman seeks to control everything from his own self-defined moral code of justice and good. Lex Luthor, on the other hand, although agreeing that man should be able to control what he chooses, decides to rest his foundation of philosophy on the idea that man’s place is to step in where G/god cannot and/or should not. Lex Luthor posed an interesting thought to Superman in a climatic scene where Superman was forced to make a difficult decision of life or death (I am trying very hard to not spoil things here). He poses the idea that “if G/god is all-powerful, then he can’t be all good; but if he is all good, then he must not be all powerful”. Lex Luthor’s frame of thought is very similar to a quote from Harold S. Kushner from his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People where he states, in relating to Job’s experience of suffering before God, that “God wants the righteous to live peaceful, happy lives, but sometimes even He can’t bring that about. It is too difficult even for God to keep cruelty and chaos from claiming their innocent victims…”. Lex, and Harold for that matter, simply do not believe that a G/god can be both all-good and all-powerful. But, by this logic, the very nature of the name “god/God” is undermined.
The idea that God can’t be both powerful and good is actually wrong simply because it goes against the secular and religious definition of God. The idea of God connotes and implies divine absoluteness, a wholeness and perfection not achievable by the human race. This wholeness must be deeper than and far beyond just an ability to do something that no ordinary or extraordinary human, no matter how extraordinary, can do; it must be the fact that this divine entity not only has unattainable abilities and attributes, but ones that should be praised and adored. Basically, God/gods are supposed to be worshiped not just for what they can do but for who they are. So, if God can not be both all-good and all-powerful, then that God simply cannot be called “God” because that God has nothing worthy of worship. Therefore, a God who cannot be all-powerful and all-good cannot be God. No matter the context, the idea of god is always followed by the idea of worship. Even in Greek mythology, their gods were prayed to and revered highly, even though each one could be killed and often found themselves the prey of human emotions and consequential folly. But what about a God, not made by man’s hands, thoughts, desires, or wishes, who is all-powerful and all good, while simultaneously being all that man needs, desires, and wishes? The God of Holy Bible has an answer for that.
The God of the bible, as well as all those to whom He has revealed Himself, indeed describe Him as all-good and all-powerful. In regards to His omnipotence, which is His ability to do anything according to His will, the Lord asks of the laughing Sarah, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14); His Son Jesus, while talking to His disciples inquiring about salvation, answers that “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26); Paul, to the church of Ephesus, puts forth this adoration of praise to the God who “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or do” (Eph. 3:20). God can do and does do all and anything that is according to His will. In regards to that, God cannot lie or do anything against His will. Now, though at first this may seem to negate the above passages of His power, these attributes actually speak to God’s ability to be all-good simultaneous with His ability to be all-powerful. God’s ability to be all good actually coincides with His omnipotence, His ability to do all that is according to His Will. God being all-good means everything He does is deemed worthy of approval. His approval. This attribute is controversial at best. Not due to the Bible being shy of proclaiming the goodness of God. The Psalmist proclaims repeatedly how good God is, and even Jesus Himself says ” No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19). God’s ability to set the standard of good started in the Garden of Eden. After creating everything we see around us, the Bible states that “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day”(Gen. 1:31). Here, after exercising his creative divine muscles, God saw what He had made and said that everything was to the standard of His good. God defines what is good. As stated, this statement is controversial due to the fact that, in our human minds, we wrestle with the notion that a divine entity has the ability, let alone the right, to tell us what is good. Just like Lex Luthor and Batman, we do not simply oppose God and His ways, we want to be God. We show that to be true of ourselves by acting and living in a such a way that says we have the right to define what is good and the right to decide how much and what kind of power should be used to bring forth that which we choose to define as good. Our problem is not with God being God; our problem is we believe we would make a better one. We are, from birth, covetous of Divinity.
The battle in Dawn of Justice, is about more than just the iconic duel between age-old heroes. It is not even about a challenge between good and evil. It is a battle between two entities; both claiming to be God, and both claiming the other is an impostor who we cannot and should not trust. Can we really trust a God that not only has the power to wipe us completely, but that also can set a standard, if He chooses, that says wiping us out completely is actually a good thing? We can only trust a powerful God who defines what is good if we know and are promised that this God will and can work His power for our good. The amazing thing about the God of the Bible is that He does things like this: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Here we see the power of God’s will working, the good of God’s will being the aim, and the benefit of our good being the result. Those who love God and who are called according to His purpose are called by a God who does not wield His power simply to brag (although He is perfectly in His right to do so), nor do they serve a God who has set a flimsy or no standard of good; no, believers serve a God who uses His omnipotence and His all-goodness to work out good, the good worthy of approval from a Holy God, in the life of those called according to His purpose. Those who God calls into a relationship with Him, and those who answer that call, enjoy the goodness of God’s power. We can trust Him. You can trust Him. God is good. God is powerful. And we are neither without Him.
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4)