Greater than Superman.
That’s how many of us think about God.
If you were to listen to many of the conversations going on in evangelical circles today, you would hear many of the same things about God’s sovereignty repeated over and over again..
God has to be the biggest, strongest, greatest, most awesome being in the universe otherwise God can’t be the God of the Christian faith.
In some sense, God does have to be “greater” than the rest of us or God would be no different than the rest of us.
However, Jesus throws a cog in the wheelhouse of “my God is bigger than your god”
In Jesus we see the infinite enfleshed in the finite, the transcendent incarnated in the immanent.
The God who should be greater than Superman became a mere human in a backwater town, in a conquered country, on a small planet, in a remote corner of the universe.
Worse yet for those of us who need our God to be the biggest, baddest, most ultimate sovereign being in the universe, this God who by all rights should have come as king, instead became a humble carpenter. This God who by all rights should have been surround only by the greatest, most holy people in the world, instead surrounded himself with fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners of all sorts.
Then, in the ultimate insult to our greater than Superman theology, this God who by all rights should have had the world bowing at his feet, instead chose to let that world conquer, humiliate, and ultimately murder him.
Despite this portrait of God we are presented with in the gospels, there are many among us who simply want nothing to do with sort of Jesus.
Or at least that’s the message they present.
The Jesus that has come to dominate so many corners of evangelicals is a Jesus who, by necessity of a particular theology, must be a manly man who takes nothing from no one, leaps over buildings in a single bound, destroys his enemies with a look, and occasionally jumps into the octagon to show off his MMA skills.
Some of this Jesus is greater than Superman rhetoric comes from our American ideology which insist that we and everything we have and believe in must be the biggest and the best. Some of it also stems from the aforementioned particular form of theology that, contrary to a New Testament narrative that describes a Jesus who made himself nothing and became a servant to all, instead insists that Jesus must be a manly destroyer of his enemies in order to sustain a patriarchal, manipulative, and wrathful theological framework.
Ultimately, though, this Jesus (or God) is greater than Superman theology is an echo of the Garden of Eden.
As we all know, Adam and Even were kicked out of the Garden for eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Most of us assume they were kicked out for simply breaking the rules, or for stealing.
But there was a deeper, much more serious issue at hand.
The sin of Adam and Eve wasn’t simple rule breaking. Their sin was about power, control, and, ultimately, idolatry. In taking the fruit from the tree they were, in the words of the serpent, attempting to become like God. They simply couldn’t handle a world in which they weren’t in control.
The thing about theology, and particularly theology that’s all about a God who’s bigger, badder, and in control of everything, is that it gives us a sense of control over the world because it convinces us, or deludes us, into thinking we have everything figured out and, thus, everything under control.
A God who isn’t bigger, badder, and in control of everything simply won’t do because it doesn’t satisfy our most ancient desire to be in control.
But if Jesus is our guide, then control is exactly what we’re called to give up, along with our desire to be greater than everyone else.
As Christians the good news of our message is not, “My God is bigger, badder, and more awesome than you can imagine.” As Christians, our gospel proclaims “My God is smaller than yours. In fact, our God is so small that, even though he is God, he
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a slave,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”
This isn’t a negation of God’s greatness. It’s an affirmation of it. God is great enough to became small enough to put on flesh, dwell among us, and redeem the world. In other words, for God, true greatness lies not in God’s ability to smite, conquer, and destroy, but in God’s humility, servitude, and self-sacrificing love for creation.
Which means portraying Jesus as a manly man, who takes nothing from no one, leaps over buildings in a single bound, destroys his enemies with a look, and occasionally jumps into the octagon to show off his MMA skills isn’t just cheesy, misogynistic, terrible theology.
It’s a false gospel.
Grace and peace,