Decisions, decisions — which superhero cliché to use first?
How about none. Instead, we’ll forgo an introduction and just “take off.” Oops.
Superman — John Piper
Mild-mannered by day, and passionate and powerful — also by day. Surely the first and most popular of superheroes could not be assigned to any other modern-day author/teacher.
Like the Man of Steel, Piper’s care for humanity is easily seen. God-given fervor for seeing, savoring and delighting in doctrinal truth help him soar. He can bend Scriptural steel with his bare hands, shoot heat rays from his eyes. And Piper even lives and works in Minneapolis, preaching at a great metropolitan church, weekly.
Members of that church and others who’ve read Desiring God or heard his many online sermons would agree that he genuinely cares about doing good. A Boy-Scout hero. His only weakness? Many kinds of Kryptonite, such as too-frequent Twittering and TV-watching. We can all identify.
Yes, as with the Last Son of Krypton, some people think Piper is too serious about his job. But confronting evil, not to mention superficiality in the Church, is serious business. Besides, at the right moment he’s just as quick with a quip as any of the “flightier” heroes. Catch him in civilian mode: quirky as Clark Kent, with a contagious grin. All that’s missing is the eyeglass-shove.
Fighting for truth, justice and Christian Hedonism, in a world that so needs all three — that’s Pastor Piper. You’ll believe a man can cry.
Batman — John MacArthur
Some may question his methods. Some may even call him too serious. But you can’t question his almost cheerful commitment to rid Christianity of bad teaching. That’s John MacArthur, author, dark knight of Gotham City (Los Angeles) and pastor at his own Batcave, Grace Community Church.
Possessing no superpowers, Johnny-Mac (his alter-ego) is still a man of stealth, strength and many other talents. When he’s not writing books about holy living or particular religious crimes against truth, he’s applying his detective skills to Scriptural study and finding forensic evidence from the worst abuses of the Bible. Supervillains such as The Joelker (Joel Osteen) may try their doctrinal crimes, but one pellet of Bat-prosperity-preacher repellant makes them flee.
He may be dark and brooding, and even sometimes work against other spiritual superheroes. He and Superman (John Piper) may have some disagreements, but they’re on the same side. However, grittier heroes like Wolverine (Mark Driscoll) definitely get on Bats’ nocturnal nerves.
Wonder Woman — Beth Moore
Some may have thought superheroing was strictly man’s work. Then from a mysterious island came a new kind of hero. Deep-South drawl. Great hair. Flashy duds. Let’s not picture any more wardrobe descriptions that lead to unfortunate mental images.
Beth Moore wards off almost all criticism with her magic Baptist-woman arm bracelets. Many truths in the Bible are lassoed by her golden lariat. Yet some would argue that really, most other heroes already had her same powers, such as flight, strength and durability. So there’s some overlap. But when you’re in the thick of battle, even the redundant heroes are helpful.
Sure, more-complementarian superheroes, male or female, would prefer she work better under the leadership of male heroes. But you can’t deny her positive effects, especially if your church has an unfortunate absence of male heroes. If Wonder Woman arrives, you had best watch out.
Beware especially if it’s the day of her new small-group curriculum’s release, and you’re caught between a Christian bookstore and a stampeding horde of her fans, the Blue-Haired Amazons. And if you’re actually the quasi-Christian husband of one of those fans, Hera help you.
Mr. Fantastic — Al Mohler
Is anyone as flexible as the author/speaker/talk-radio host/blogger/husband/father/chronic reader/president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary? How does he do it?
Clearly, Al Mohler as Mr. Fantastic is blessed by some cosmic storm with powers of extreme flexibility. He can stretch his body and limbs amazing distances to do superhero work. He’s able to wrap around multiple projects simultaneously.
Meanwhile, he’s very much a leader of other heroes. Since assuming the presidency of the largest seminary of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, Mr. Fantastic has led a team of at least Fantastic Four, and many other heroes with many diverse callings and powers. Only Professor Charles Xavier (C.J. Mahaney) could perhaps boast an equally large training academy for young heroes just developing their abilities.
And while Mr. Fantastic is quite a public presence with impressive speaking gifts, he’s equally at home in the lab, perhaps working on a few more Fantasticar-style vehicles for Biblical worldview messages to the masses. We can only hope and pray this leader and super-stretchy spiritual star doesn’t stretch himself too far.
Iron Man — James White
With all his technical expertise and charisma (though we would doubt the multibillionaire parts, not to mention the skirt-chasing), James White could have chosen a different life. Instead, perhaps after an attack by enemies of the Church that changed his life, he did something few others do. He studied the mechanisms of apologetics, built himself a suit of armor made from right exegesis and Biblically based logic, and became a hero who is made, not born.
He’s sarcastic, with indestructible arguments proving Jesus’ divinity, Reformed grace doctrines, justification through faith and more. Very often you’ll find him firing repulsor-blasts from his hands in debates with members of the Mandarin (the Mormons) Iron Monger (Bart Ehrman) and of course Whiplash (Dan Barker).
Iron Man’s battles over the Bible have led him even into conflicts with other heroes, most notably The Hulk (Dave Hunt). Some may wonder whether such force against The Hulk is necessary, but others point out it wasn’t Iron Man who started that fight. And let’s face it, very often you need even a man with inner flaws like us all, to swoop in with his high-tech suit, save the day, and blast false teachers to smithereens. That’s a — ahem — stark reality.
- Disclaimer 1: All superhero comparisons are meant as pleasant parody only and should not be construed as endorsement of all plotlines, characters or lewd graphic-novel portrayals. The same goes for the fictional characters. ↩
- Disclaimer 2: By virtue of reading the following very long legalese-istic and comma-less sentences reader agrees to forego any misunderstanding of author’s intention and furthermore heretofore understands that only Christ is the true Hero and all human heroes even Biblical ones are flawed in many ways and it is better to trust in the Word Himself rather than every word of a human leader however spiritual he (or even she) is. Henceforth the undersigned e.g. the reader must also be aware that Scripture’s inclusion of human figures as examples of God’s grace and who taught His truth (to wit the Apostle Paul and the Hebrews 11 “faith hall of fame” and the Old Testament) also shows us that human heroes and leaders are part of how God distributes His Word in structured local churches and parachurch organizations in this phase of His covenant working. Void where prohibited. Your mileage may vary. ↩
- Final disclaimer: Actually it was a 2002 version of Macromedia Fireworks MX. ↩