It’s pretty rare to find Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man in a book on theology. Theologians typically draw the line at Jesus Christ when it comes to who can save the world. So where do superheroes come in when it comes to theology? Well, Jesus Christ is, in fact, the subject and even superhero of Superheroes Can’t Save You: Epic Examples of Historic Heresies by Todd Miles. In this fun and informative book, Miles skillfully uses a cast of comic book superheroes to illustrate Christological heresies from church history. Here’s how he does it chapter by chapter.
Superman, who only seems to be human, is a picture of Docetism.
Batman, who is only a remarkable human, is a picture of Liberalism
Ant-Man along with Giant-Man and Yellowjacket illustrate Modalism
Thor, being an inferior god to his father, illustrates Arianism.
Green Lantern empowered by his ring mirrors how Adoptionism teaches that Jesus was merely a man empowered by the Holy Spirit.
The Hulk represents Apollinarianism, which taught Jesus was merely a human whose mind was replaced by the divine Logos.
Spider-Man as a hybrid of man and spider is a picture of Eutychianism, which denies Christ’s human and divine natures.
You can get the idea. And it works exceedingly well! Every chapter follows the same outline. First, the author shares some kind of childhood memory that ties into the highlighted superhero. Then, you get the backstory and basic facts concerning said superhero. After that comes a summary of the heresy along with its historical context. Next, Miles tells who purposely commits the heresy today from outside of orthodox Christianity and how even those within orthodox Christianity can fall prey to heretical thought. To wrap things up, there’s a theological discussion on what the Bible teaches followed by an explanation of why the truth matters. Each chapter comes with discussion questions and recommended Scripture reading for further study. The book concludes with a brief summary, gospel presentation, Scripture index, and subject index.
I have to say, this book is a brilliant teaching tool. Really, it’s genius. I remember struggling in Bible college and seminary to keep all these heresies straight for theology tests. The superhero schtick really helps to make things stick. Whenever I come across a mention of Eutychianism, I am going to think of Spiderman. It’s good pedagogy, not gimmicky. And Miles manages to cover the gamut of Christological heresies. Nestorianism doesn’t get a dedicated chapter, but it is addressed in the chapter covering Eutychianism. You won’t find Monothelitism or Subordinationism, but I suppose the line had to be drawn somewhere.
My criticisms are minor. Each chapter contains some degree of application. The degree to which each area of application hits home with readers is going to vary. Are some evangelistic Christians tempted to channel Schleiermacher and water down the message of who Jesus is to the point where He’s only a human? Maybe. Are readers going to grasp the intricacies of each of these heresies by reading this book? Not entirely. For that, you would need to turn to a textbook on historical theology, but this is a wonderful introduction.
This would make excellent assigned reading for a college or seminary course. It would work well for an adult or college Sunday school class, too. I’ve been using it to teach a Sunday school class of teenagers, although I’ve had to adapt some of the material to bring it down to their level. People love or at least usually seem to like superheroes, whether their experience comes from recent movies, comic books, cartoons or live-action television. This book works.
And it works not just because it deals with superheroes. This book works because it makes much of the Lord Jesus. And rightly so. The Bible makes much of the Lord Jesus. And, as the author succeeds in driving home, for Christ to do everything that Scripture says, He must be everything Scripture says He is. I’m thankful there’s a book like this to instruct and remind us of these truths.