Yahweh as the Dark Knight

Yahweh as the Dark Knight

I recently received an interesting analogy for The Crucifixion of the Warrior God from Aaron Reini. Thank you Aaron!

In the final scene of “The Dark Knight,” Batman and Commissioner Gordon are standing over Harvey Dent, whom everyone in Gotham City looks up to as a hero, but whom the Joker had turned into a secret villain appropriately named “Two Face.” Batman and Gordon have just learned that Dent is responsible for a trail of destruction and the death of five citizens. Yet, if the citizens of Gotham discover the tragic truth about Dent’s villainous identity, it will unravel all the good work that had been done in his name and could have dire consequences for the city.

Then Batman has an idea. Watch the scene above.

Awesome, heh? Because Batman sees that the citizens of Gotham City need to believe Dent was a hero, and because he is willing to appear to be “whatever Gotham needs me to be,” Batman, who is Gotham City’s real hero, is willing to take on the appearance of the villain who carried out the atrocities that Dent brought about. In short, Batman’s love for his people leads him to appear guilty of Dent’s crimes and to thus become Gotham City’s Dark Knight.

The analogy of course isn’t perfect (analogies never are), but it captures an important aspect of my thesis in Crucifixion of the Warrior God. Like Batman, the cross reveals a God who has always been willing to appear to be whatever his fallen people need him to be. His love for his people, and his refusal to coerce people into embracing true conceptions of him, frequently led God to appear guilty of crimes that were actually committed by other human or angelic agents.

For example, when his fallen and culturally conditioned people needed to believe Yahweh demanded and enjoyed animal sacrifices, Yahweh humbly stooped to allow them to view him this way, which is why he takes on the appearance of a typical ANE sacrifice-demanding deity within the biblical narrative.

So too, when his people proved incapable of trusting a God who could accomplish his goals non-violently and needed to instead believe Yahweh was a more ferocious violent warrior god than the gods of the other nations, Yahweh humbly stooped to take on the appearance of a rather typical ANE warrior deity who commands and engages in violence. All the violence that OT authors ascribe to Yahweh was actually carried out by human or angelic agents, as their own writings usually make clear. But his ancient people weren’t yet in a place where Yahweh could free them from their assumption that attributing violence to God is the highest form of praise. And so God bears their sinful conception of him and thus takes on an appearance that reflects the ugliness of this sin.

In short, the cross is the quintessential expression of God as our dark knight. To be the loving knight who watches over us and saves us, he must, like Batman, be willing to take on appearances that are acclimated to our darkness.

Ps. If you have other good movie or literary analogies that illustrate the thesis of Crucifixion of the Warrior God, I appreciate seeing them. Please send them to editor@reknew.org. At some point down the road I’d like to compile them into a single resource for people to view.

Pss. Nanny McPhee is already taken. ;-)

Related Reading

Are You Fully Alive? Here’s the Key

Image by rashdada via flickr.  The cross reveals the full truth about us. This truth reconnects us with our true source of life, which in turn heals our idol addictions. This dimension of the cross is frankly so breathtakingly beautiful that, so far as I can tell, very few followers of Jesus have ever really grasped it.…

The Starting Point for “Knowing God”

While it makes sense that Hellenistic philosophers embraced knowledge of God as the simple, necessary and immutable One in an attempt to explain the ever-changing, composite, contingent world (see post here for what this means), it is misguided for Christian theology to do so. By defining knowledge of God’s essence over-and-against creation, we are defining God’s essence…

The Extremity of God’s Love

In response to questions he has received about whether Jesus was actually separated from the Father on the cross, Greg fleshes out his perspective on this. The love that unites the Trinity is the very same love that resulted in the separation of the Father from the Son. This separation actually expresses the great love…

Sending Evil Spirits

In several infamous biblical depictions of Yahweh in the Old Testament, God is depicted as “sending” spirits to trouble and/or deceive people (Judg 9:22-3; 1 Sam 16:14, 23; 18:10; 19:9; 1 Kg 22:20-3). While there are several exegetical considerations that arguably help alleviate the problematic way these passages implicate God in unethical behavior, I nevertheless…

Christus Victor Atonement and Girard’s Scapegoat Theory

Many of the major criticisms of Crucifixion of the Warrior God that have been raised since it was published four weeks ago have come from folks who advocate Rene Girard’s understanding of the atonement. A major place where these matters are being discussed is here, and you are free to join. Now, I have to…

Lighten Up: Meet Rollins

Greg introduces his grandson Rollins and talks about the God of little things.