Spider-Man, Iron Man, Superman, and the God-Man

This past decade has seen a plethora of movies dealing with superheroes: the “Batman” films, “The Green Lantern,” “Iron Man,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Thor,” etc. But the most popular—at least judging by box office receipts—has been the Spider-Man franchise. Since 2002, there have been four major movie adaptations of the Marvel Comics story of a kid who gets bitten by a spider, undergoes a stunning metamorphosis, and then “catches thieves just like flies.”

What is it about these stories—and the Spider-Man tale in particular—that fascinate us? May I suggest that it has something to do with Christianity, more precisely, with the strange hybrid figure around which all of the Christian religion revolves. St. Athanasius’s most significant contribution to the Christological debates of the early centuries of the Church’s life was a soteriological argument for the dual nature of Jesus. In the saint’s pithy formula: only a human being could save us; and only God could save us. If Jesus were only divine—as the Monophysites argued—then his saving power wouldn’t be truly applied to us. If he were only human—as the Arians and Nestorians argued—then he could not really lift us out of the morass of sin and guilt in which we find ourselves mired. In a word, salvation was possible only through a God-man, someone in the world but not of it, someone like us in all things but sin, and at the same time utterly unlike us. Read more


Father Robert Barron is the rector of Mundelein Seminary near Chicago and the founder of Word On Fire.

Additional reading

News category: Analysis and Comment.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,