Friday, November 6, 2015

SUPERMAN AND THE PERSONALITY OF GOD

I fondly recall when the original Superman series ran on TV in the 1950s, with George Reeves in the title role.  I was seven when the series began in 1952, and I loved it.  And while I realized at some level that Superman wasn’t real, I will admit to thinking early on that if I only had a cape maybe, just maybe, I too could fly.  (Yes, I was that naive.)  Thankfully, my older sisters quickly disabused me of that notion.
 

Superman was a classic superhero, but he was different from the others in that his powers were more general.  He was, of course, “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”  But he wasn’t truly omnipotent or omniscient.  He had to work to soar into the sky and shove that plane out of the way to avoid a mid-air collision.  And, although he had x-ray vision, he had to rely on it to find things out; he didn’t just know everything.  And then there was that kryptonite stuff.  What kept us watching was not so much his superhuman powers but the tension stemming from the fact that we didn’t know if he would succeed. 

Where am I going with this?  Superman was a superhero, but he wasn’t God.  And because of that, Superman had emotions.  He worried whether he could save the day and we worried along with him.  It was his human side that created his charm (to the extent that George Reeves could be considered charming; his Clark Kent alter ego helped).  

But the Abrahamic God doesn’t suffer from any of Superman’s limitations.  He is both omniscient and omnipotent.  He knows everything, both in the past and in the future.  Moreover, he can do anything without even breaking a sweat.  Oh, sure, supposedly creation took him six days and he stopped to recuperate on the seventh, but I think even the most fundamental of the fundamentalists might admit that his seventh-day recuperation was largely symbolic and was really intended to rationalize a day of rest for us humans.

And that’s what’s so puzzling to me.  Why would God get angry and then grieve over humankind’s sinful fall?  He knew it was coming.  Why would he gloat over the destruction of the rival tribes of his chosen people, the Israelites, as if he were proud of his feat of strength that resulted in wholesale genocide?  Why would he feel compassion for individual misfortunes and intervene in the form of miracles when he could have prevented those misfortunes ab initio.  Was he not paying attention?  Most Christian apologists speak of God’s ambitions, of his plans for humans’ salvation, as if these were goals that God was striving for, when in fact for God the whole salvation thing is a cakewalk?

Here’s my point.  Personality is a human trait; it requires a certain degree of tension—the hope for success, the possibility of failure—just like Superman.  With God, not only is there no failure, there is no possibility of failure.  So there is no reason for a personality.  

Bottom line:  Genesis states that we were created in God’s image.  Isn’t it more reasonable to assume that we created God in our image?

© 2015 John M. Phillips

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