Atheist Richard Dawkins dismisses the God of the Bible as he dismisses a long list of other supposed gods. He writes,
“I have found it an amusing strategy, when asked whether I am an atheist, to point out that the questioner is also an atheist when considering Zeus, Apollo, Amon Ra, Mithras, Baal, Thor, Wotan, the Golden Calf and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I just go one god further.”
Is Dawkins right? Is the God of the Bible no different than the non-existent gods of mythology?
While there are some similarities, the God of the Bible and the gods of mythology are in completely different categories. In order to see this, let’s define what Christians mean by “God.”
When Christians say “God,” we don’t mean an old man on a cloud, a big angel, or a more powerful and bigger version of yourself (like a superhero). We are talking about the uncreated, eternal being who created all things and sustains all things. In other words, God didn’t just create the universe, He keeps it going moment to moment.
In order to grasp who God really is, set aside the word God for a minute and marinate on this question: Who is the Source and Sustainer of all things? Whoever that is, that’s who Christians mean by “God.”
The Source and Sustainer of all things is:
- Self-existing: not caused by another; the foundation of all being
- Infinite: unlimited; the completely maximized or actualized Being
- Simple: undivided in being; is not composed of parts
- Immaterial: spirit; not made of matter
- Spaceless: transcends space; isn’t confined by space
- Timeless: transcends time; eternal, had no beginning and will have no end
- Omnipotent: all powerful; can do whatever is logically possible
- Omnipresent: everywhere present
- Omniscient: all knowing; knows all actual and possible states of affairs
- Immutable: changeless; the anchor and standard by which everything else is measured
- Holy: set apart; morally perfect; is perfectly just and loving
- Personal: has mind, emotion, and will; makes choices
These attributes exist in a unified and infinite way in the Source and Sustainer. These attributes you can discover through evidence-based arguments and careful philosophical reasoning. And they are confirmed by the biblical writers, who are reliable sources.
Contrast God’s attributes with those Dawkins mentioned along with fictional superheroes. Superheroes do not have any of the infinite attributes of God—no finite being does or could. Since God is the only unlimited, infinite, infallible being, He is in a unique category. Everything else is finite or limited.
Superheroes, like humans, have some of the powers of God but only in a limited way. Whereas God has all knowledge, superheroes and humans have some knowledge. Whereas God is all-powerful, superheroes and humans have some power. In other words, our finite attributes are analogous to God’s infinite attributes, but they are not exactly the same in degree or kind.
We can put it this way: superheroes are limited, created beings inside the universe, not the ultimate, infinite, uncreated Being who is outside the universe and sustains it every moment. Since God is the Source and Sustainer of all of creation, if any of the superheroes or finite “gods” that Dawkins listed actually existed, they would need to be created and sustained by God. In fact, Dawkins himself wouldn’t be here without God.
Now, it is true that there are some similarities between God and the finite gods Dawkins mentions. And there’s much we can learn about God from the superheroes we see in movies. While superheroes are myths, Jesus is the true “myth.”
The True “Myth”
In our book, Hollywood Heroes, we discuss some of the most compelling stories ever shown on the big screen. In these stories, we see many parallels to the biblical account that tell us about God and ourselves.
But let’s be honest: the majority of these films’ screenwriters probably didn’t intentionally borrow parallels or ideas from the biblical accounts. They unconsciously included those elements because sacrifice in the struggle to defeat evil is at the center of the story of reality, which is the Christian story.
As philosopher Peter Kreeft put it,
“There are Christ figures everywhere in literature and life. This should not surprise us. For Christ was not an emergency afterthought or a freak from outer space, but the central point of the whole human story from the beginning in the Mind of its Author.”
Mythical Christ figures helped bring C. S. Lewis to Christianity. In 1931, when Lewis was on his spiritual journey from atheism to Christianity, he thought the story of Jesus was like a mythical pagan story of sacrifice. He admitted he was always moved by stories of gods sacrificing themselves unless they were in the Gospels. But his friend J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings series, personally convinced Lewis that Christianity was the true “myth.” Jesus Christ really sacrificed Himself and rose from the dead in order to accomplish the ultimate victory of good over evil. Lewis wrote:
“Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths: i.e. the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call ‘real things’.”
Lewis then spent much of his career providing evidence for the truth of Christianity. Christianity is literally the greatest story ever told, and it’s true!
As revealed in the quote above, Lewis believed that God expressed Himself through the minds of ancient myth writers. Might God do the same through the minds of modern moviemakers? As ancient myths moved Lewis to understand the truth, can modern myths do the same for us?
What can we learn about God and ourselves from Captain America? From Iron Man? From The Lord of the Rings? Star Wars? Batman? Wonder Woman? Even the controversial Harry Potter? More than you might think.
Taken from Hollywood Heroes: How Your Favorite Movies Reveal God by Frank Turek and Zach Turek. Copyright ©2022. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.