Man of Steel – Discussion
I think most of us are familiar enough with the Superman story that I don’t need to spend much time acquainting you. Man of Steel is not a remake of the original superman, but it is still the Superman story. There’s no Lex Luthor; General Zod is the villain instead, which makes it more like a combination of Superman I and II, if you want to get technical.
A lot is being circulated in the Christian circles about Superman connects to the Christian faith, because it’s such an easy connection. The father from another world (in the heavens, if you will) sends his only begotten son to earth. The son, who comes incarnate, as a man, has super (miraculous) powers that he hides for a time (until his 30’s, in both stories). He is innately good. He never lies. He loves mankind and even willingly sacrifices his life for their salvation. Jesus rose again. Superman didn’t actually die, though he was willing to.
What I want to do is go through several quotes, line by line, and provide a brief commentary, comparing and/or contrasting the quote with the Bible in hopes that this will help equip you to discuss the movie concretely and intelligently with believers and non-believers alike.
- Jor El to Zod: “His name is Kal. Son of el. And he is beyond your reach.”
Superman was literally out of Zod’s reach for a time, but Zod has his day, his time to test and tempt and hurt Superman. In the end, Zod failed and Superman prevailed.
Satan also had his time to tempt, test and even hurt Jesus. In fact, Satan surely must have thought he’d even won when Jesus died on the cross. But Jesus rose, and now, even Satan knows that Jesus truly is beyond his reach.
“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you,than he that is in the world.” 1 John 4:4
- Lara Lor Van: “He’ll be an outcast, a freak. They’ll kill him.”
Jor El: “No, he’ll be a God to them.”
Both of Superman’s parents were right. On the one hand, when they needed his power, they treated him like a God. But on the other hand, they were afraid of what they didn’t understand and couldn’t control. And, when it came down to it, they were quick to sacrifice him to Zod to save their own skin.
Mankind responded similarly to Jesus. They loved him when he was doing things that served them, like healing them, feeding them, etc. They hated him when he challenged their authority, their hypocrisy, their false religion. When it came down to it, they were quick to sacrifice Jesus to avoid having to bow to him.
- Jonathan: “You’re the answer, son. You’re the answer to our being alone in the universe”
Jesus was the answer too, not just to our being alone in the universe – man has believed in God long before God incarnate came to earth – but to our inability to reach God. Which leads me to the next quote…
- Jor El: “We wanted you to learn what it meant to be human first, so that one day you could be the bridge between us.”
Superman was the bridge between Kryptonians and earthlings, not just because he came there, but because he was raised as one of them, because being one of them he truly understood them.
Jesus was the bridge between God and man. It began with him becoming as a man, being raised as a man, in the same was as Superman, but with Jesus there was more to it. It wasn’t enough to just come to earth as a man because there was still that problem of sin separating man and God. Jesus came to pay the penalty for sin (death) and then, through his resurrection, to defeat death. It is through Jesus’ death and resurrection (not just his life) that man may come to know God.
The big distinction here between Superman and Jesus is that sin wasn’t separating mankind from the Kryptonians. Superman didn’t come just to save mankind, though he was sent to help them, but he came to save his own kind. Additionally, he came to learn from the humans – to learn some things that Kryptonians needed to learn, things about what it means to be human. Jesus came to teach the humans. Superman had physical superiority, and he was “as” a god in many ways, but he was not God. If he was God, (as Jesus was), he wouldn’t have had anything to gain from mankind, only something to give.
- Jonathan: “It’s a huge burden for anyone, but I have to believe you’re here for a reason… One day you’re going to have to make a choice, to stand proud…”
This quote applies to us all. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “ For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” It can be a burden to know that we are made with a purpose, but also a relief to know that our life has meaning. The great news is that we are not on our own. In fact, we are promised that “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (I Peter 1:3-4).
- Jonathan: “You have another father. One who gave you his name… One day you’re’ going to find out the reason.”
Just like Superman, we who believe in Christ all have two fathers as well: an earthly father, and a heavenly Father. He gives us his name and calls us His sons. I John 3:1 “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
- Jor El: “Artificial population control… every child was predetermined to fill a role in society.”
Jor El: “Your mother and I felt we’d lost something…the element of choice.”
People often wonder why God didn’t stop Adam and Eve from sinning, or why He doesn’t stop us from sinning. He didn’t want to lose the element of choice. God chose to give us choice, even though it meant accepting the consequences of our choices, even when it meant things might not go as He wanted. He wanted us to have a choice. Watching Superman, seeing the difference between Superman and Zod (who was bio-engineered to fill a predetermined societal role) should give us some deeper understanding of why God chose to give us that freedom.
- Jor El: “You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.”
Jesus also gave us an ideal to strive towards. Paul writes about striving to be like Jesus, and how, even though he isn’t there yet, even though he fails, he puts the past behind and keeps working toward the goal, towards being like Jesus.
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:10-14
We are also told that, with the Holy Spirit’s help, we will accomplish wonders (John 14:12). And there will definitely come a time when those who follow Jesus will join Him in Heaven (John 14:1-4).
- Jor El: “The potential of every body to embody good – that’s what you can bring them.”
OK, this is where it gets a little dicey. Superman came to help mankind see his innate goodness and inspire him to realize the fullness of his goodness.
As good as that may sound, the truth of message of Jesus is the opposite of that. The message of Jesus is that mankind is sinful, with a heart that’s “deceitful … and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). He came to save us from our sinful natures, to help us put to death our wicked hearts. He came not to make ourselves better, but to make us new selves, a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). He did come to help us embody good – literally. For those who trust in Jesus, He gives us the Holy Spirit who is, in His very essence, good, to live within us so that we literally can embody good. And the Holy Spirit works in us to transform us and make us more and more into the image of God.
Don’t miss this one. It may sound like a subtle difference, but the implications are astronomical. Mankind doesn’t need to awaken his goodness. He needs to put to death his badness and let God put HIS goodness inside, instead.
- Lois: “The only way you disappear all together is to stop helping people and I sense that’s not an option for you.”
Superman’s time to reveal himself hadn’t quite come, but he couldn’t help helping people. When he did though, he had to disappear again, or ask them not to tell anyone. The thing was, he just couldn’t stand by and not help.
Jesus faced some similar dilemmas. He often asked people not to tell anyone who he was. They rarely listened. He knew they wouldn’t; He chose to help anyway. It wasn’t really an option for Him to not help people.
- Zod: “And so, the instrument of our damnation became salvation.”
This is an odd paradox that we find throughout all of life itself. Zod and his companions were cast off in a prison in space, but that prison saved them when their planet blew up and all who remained on it died with it. Unfortunately for Zod, it was only physical salvation, the discipline did nothing to save his soul. The purpose of discipline, however, though it feels like a death, is to bring change, repentance…life.
We see this principle in nature all the time. A seed must fall to the ground and die before it can become a tree. Winter precedes spring.
The same is true in the spiritual realm. Jesus’ death brings our salvation. We have to die to our sin nature before we can receive Jesus’ nature. Jesus said, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:38-39).
- Clark: “You’re scared of me because you can’t control me. Just because you can’t control me doesn’t make me your enemy.”
We have learned to fear what we can’t control. A lion is a magnificent thing, but when we can’t control it, it’s dangerous. A fire in a fire place is wonderful, but out of control, it’s destructive. We fear what we can’t control because our world is fallen and anything that we can’t control is bound to hurt us…unless that thing is fully good. But in our world, nothing is fully good.
Superman isn’t from our world. He could be trusted; he just wasn’t willing to be controlled.
A lot of us think that God is our enemy because we can’t control Him. Superman may have had a lot of great qualities, and may have been a good thing to trust, but he definitely isn’t God. He isn’t all-knowing, or all-powerful, for starters. God is – and He’s so much more. Here God telling you, “You’re scared of Me because you can’t control Me. Just because you can’t control Me doesn’t make me your enemy. You can trust me. I love you. I am all-powerful, all-knowing, sovereign over all creation. I have a plan that is beyond your comprehension, but know this – it is good. Don’t try to control Me, you’ll only be scared or frustrated because of it, just trust Me.”
Questions for Discussion:
- What similarities do you see between Superman and Jesus
- What similarities do you seen between Jor-El (Superman’s father) and God the Father?
- Which of these points above stood out to you the most? Why?
- When has “the instrument of your damnation become your salvation”?
- Superman gave mankind an ideal to strive for. Who are your heroes, the people who inspire you to be better? What makes them so special (or what about them do you admire so much)?
- Superman had two fathers. Both were good fathers, but they were different. How is God (your heavenly Father) like your earthly father, and how is He different?
- Have you accepted Jesus, so that you too can be called a son/daughter of God? Do you have a heavenly Father?
- The superman movie implies that mankind is good. The Bible teaches that mankind is not good. How do you feel about that? Which do you think is the truth?
- Does it sometimes scare you that you cannot control God? Would you feel better if you could?
Click here to read a collection of Quotes from Man of Steel.
By Stacey Tuttle