Spiderman and the Bible: A Lesson in Logic and Evidence
I’m not really a big fan of superhero movies. And I never really got into comic books as a kid. I have nothing against them, just not my thing. But I do enjoy archeology (especially museums with dinosaurs . . . and mummies!)
So, it was an interesting moment when these two worlds intersected briefly the other day.
I was watching a fascinating YouTube clip about some recent archeological findings that support the Bible’s historical accuracy. And then I began to read the comments (Almost always a bad idea).
Most of the comments were pretty standard. Some praising the content of the clip; others questioning or mocking. One comment in particular stuck out to me. It asked, “Is a Spiderman comic book a real historical book? Spiderman lived in New York. Archeologists think they have found the city of New York! Amazing hey?”
That got my “spidey-senses” tingling. And it made me pause.
His sarcastic point was clear. Stop claiming the Bible to be true because it mentions a few historically-verifiable locations. But, cheeky humor aside, did he have a point? There are a lot of mythical and fantastical stories set in real locations. Both The Chronicles of Narnia and the Harry Potter stories are set in modern England. But the characters and events are clearly fiction. Or, going as far back as the most ancient of texts, the very-mythological Epic of Gilgamesh mentions the very-real city of Uruk and the Euphrates river.
So, what do we do with Spiderman?
First of all, we should acknowledge that it is a good question. With so much riding on the claims of Scripture, questioning the Bible’s validity and reliability is certainly warranted. Sure, Christians accept the truth and teaching of the Bible on faith, but remember, not all faith is the same. There is blind faith (I will find a million dollars in the mailbox today) that has no basis in reality, just in pure speculation. And then there is reasoned faith (The mail will be delivered today). A reasonable expectation based on sound logic, historical patterns, observable data, or established facts. Is the Bible true for no other reason that I simply wish it to be? Is archeology the only evidence for its reliability?
Second, we have the perfect opportunity to remind ourselves, and to teach our students, the importance of logical reasoning and the dangers of logical fallacies. Here, the commenter is committing the fallacy of a false analogy. Simply because two things share something (or a few things) in common, that does not mean they are the same (I play basketball. Michael Jordan plays basketball. I must be a Hall of Famer!).
So, what are the differences between Spiderman and the Bible? Here are just 7.
1. The creators of Spiderman* never claimed it to be true.
When writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko created the character of Spiderman in 1962, they never claimed that Peter Parker actually existed or that his adventures were historical fact. The Bible, however, continually asserts that its events occurred, that its characters existed, and that its moral teachings were 100% true. For example, the Gospel writer Luke recounts his historical-narrative process (Luke 1:1-4) and not only gives his readers the details of the events (including the supernatural miracles that occurred) but also lists the personal eyewitnesses that observed the events firsthand (most of whom were still alive and available for corroboration at the time of his writing). The Apostle Paul does the same thing.
2. Spiderman was created to entertain, not to document history or instill moral values.
While the Spiderman comic books certainly contain life lessons (“With great power comes great responsibility.”), the clear, overarching intention of the comic is to entertain, not to preserve a reliable history of the author’s culture or to instruct the reader as to the true nature of the true God.
3. The creators were never persecuted or tortured for claiming their stories to be true.
Even if the creators of Spiderman claimed their stories to be true (they didn’t, but let’s imagine), I guarantee that if faced with ridicule, exile, imprisonment, torture, and death for sticking to those claims, they would have recanted quicker than you can say “Green Goblin!” Yet, for most of the authors of Scripture, and for the followers of Christ whose stories they recorded, their faith in God and their claims to the Bible’s truth cost them dearly…their livelihoods and their very lives. Some people will say anything to get attention or to make a quick buck; no one goes through torture and death for a hoax.
4. Spiderman is not a consistent narrative.
The Marvel Universe, like any popular franchise (think Star Wars or Lord of the Rings), has a wide range of fan-fiction and non-canonical writings and films inspired by the original work. And if you ever want to dive down that rabbit hole, you’ll find a lot of earnest arguments about what constitutes official comic book “canon.” Think of it this way . . .as of the time of this writing, the Spiderman character is less than 60 years old. Even if we eliminate all of the fan-fiction, and all of the unofficial “inspired-by” stories and take a close look at just those comic books that Stan Lee himself authorized, we would still discover internal inconsistencies and contradictions in character, plot, style, or theme. Not so with Scripture. Composed of 66 separate books, written by 40 human authors, living on 3 continents, speaking 3 different languages, separated by over 1,600 years of human history, and covering a wide variety of controversial subjects, the Bible reveals one central theme, hundreds of cross-references, and exactly zero contradictions. That is amazingly unique. And it is one of many evidences that point to not only the Bible’s historical reliability, but also to its divine authorship.
5. Spiderman does not contain detailed prophecy.
Unlike the fictional web-slinger, many of the heroes of Scripture were prophets. Men and women who spoke God’s message to their immediate culture and who, many times, also made detailed prophecies about future events. Some of these were fulfilled in their lifetime, some centuries later, and some still to come in world history. Nearly one third of the Bible is prophetic, and history records the fulfillment of those prophecies. Historical prophecies (about nations, wars, global events), Messianic prophecies (about the Savior), as well as personal prophecies directed toward specific people, the Bible has over 1,800 predictions. Anyone can make predictions about the future (and there have been some hilariously-wrong ones over the years) but one cannot deny the astronomical odds against hundreds of specific, detailed predictions coming true unless they were of divine origin.
6. Fans of Spiderman do not claim internal transformation. Followers of Christ do.
Millions of people have enjoyed Spidey’s comic books and movies, but how many would say that their lives have been transformed by his adventures? I am one of millions of people whose life has been radically changed for the better by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, based on the truth I have learned in God’s Word. And I am not alone.
7. Some of the greatest minds in history never followed the teachings of Spiderman.
Of course, the Bible does not need celebrity endorsements. And none of the following people are perfect or hold pristine theology. But it is no small matter that some of the greatest, most respected thinkers and achievers in world history were students of--and believers in--the claims of the Bible. Martin Luther King Jr., Blaise Pascal, Galileo, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, William Wilberforce, C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, J.R.R. Tolkien, Florence Nightingale, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, Francis Collins, N.T. Wright, and almost every U.S. President. Just to name a few.
In conclusion, of course it would be naive to rest the entire case for the reliability and truth of the Bible, solely on the fact that it mentions historically-verifiable names and locations. But equally foolish would be to carelessly dismiss the mountain of historical, archeological, scientific, and personally-transformative internal and external evidence that the Bible is, in fact, the very Word of God.
Follower of Christ:
What doubts have you had about the Bible’s claims? How have you resolved them?
What is the relationship between faith and evidence in your testimony?
How can you challenge your students to examine the evidences for the Bible?
Are you preparing them to respond to critics and doubters with gentleness and respect?
What reservations or questions do you have about the claims of the Bible?
*Spiderman was created by Stan Lee and is owned by Marvel Comics