God: Genie or Superman?

When talking about prayers of petition I have occasionally heard people say something like, “Be careful what you pray for”. I now tend to think that this is a tongue in cheek remark, but I used to take it seriously. For example, if I was struggling with pride, if I realized that my ego was trying to stand between myself and God, I would naturally ask Him to grant me some humility. Of course, God might present me with a can of worms that I could be unprepared to open. Perhaps He would place me in such humbling circumstances that it may lead me to regret my request.

clark kent


Is this a reasonable assumption to make? Even if it is nothing more than a witty remark, would it tend to reinforce the mindset of “God the Genie?” I have to admit that it has been sometime since I even remotely thought of God in this way. Since then I have been able to enjoy a trust in God that no longer puts me in the position of having to worry over what to pray for. God knows what I need, I leave it to him to help me work it out.

Then there is the tension that seems to exist in most of our minds over the Incarnation; Jesus as Fully Man as well as Fully Divine. Isn’t this a contradictory statement? Not really, not if you are able to understand this part of the Gospel message, an understanding that we often call ‘faith’. But until that understanding is realized some people seem to read stories in the New Testament as if they were an early issue of DC Comics – Jesus as Superman;

By day, he is akin to an ancient Jewish Clark Kent; mild mannered carpenter, dutiful son, trying to keep a low profile, But he has a secret identity that he shares with very few people; he is really God the Son. In this persona he performs miracles; walks on water, stills savage storms, changes water into wine, heals the sick, even raises the dead. He has a direct line to God the Father and claims to predict the future (although the jury is still out on his success rate in this paticular category).

When does Jesus realize that he is God? Early on he understands that he is the Son of God (and what, really does that mean?) but at what time does he understand that he is divine ? It would seem to me that at that time he must sacrifice the mantel of Fully Human, for even just the knowledge of personal divinity, not to mention the powers available to him, would obscure most of the frailties, if not the worries, of human existence.

Is Jesus God before the Resurrection? Or does he only realize it at that pivotal moment? Resurrected, he obviously is well beyond the human condition, as he is depicted in the Gospels. If aware of his divinity prior to the Easter moment, is it possible to view Jesus as fully man? Even the idea that he was completely without sin tends to make this difficult (at least for me) to understand. To be able to live life, from birth until death, without sin is unimaginable, even more difficult to accept than tales of the miraculous.

What do you think? Does anyone else struggle with “God the Genie” or “Jesus as Superman”?

(reprinted from Rev22.org)

  1. #1 by Ambrosia de Milano on July 14, 2007 - 9:43 am

    Wow. You present some problems that deserve addressing. Let’s look at what one may see as the pivatol case, is Jesus God; Does Jesus realize He is divine all along, or is it a discovery He makes after the resurrection.

    This also raises eyebrows as to the authenticity of the Scriptures themselves–whether the recording of the divine references have the camera (so to speak) on while the events are occurring, or whether the events are recreated by the disciples years later.

    The question also walks itself along the logical roots of doctrinal assertions. In other words, are the historical assertions of the Church true because they are true, or are the accepted as being true because they sound logical, and have been accepted for nearly 1700 years.

    One can easliy find a clear explanation of the doctrines of Jesus’ divinity. For example, the doctrines are clearly exlained by John Walvoord (who was President of Dallas Theological Seminary for many years) in his book “Jesus Christ Our Lord.” Walvord writes, “When the second Person of th Godhead became incarnate thre was immediately introduced the seemingly insuperable problem of uniting God with man and combining an infinite and eternal person with one that is finite and temporal” (p. 107).

    Walvoord says there is a problem united the two persons–but if Jesus is Divine there is no problem. What Walvoord may mean, or is saying without meaning, is that the modern theologian has been presented with a problem in explaining how Jesus can have two natures.

    Okay, now to a few assertions by Jesus.

    Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). This statement certainly offended the religious estalishment of Jesus’ day. If it meant nothing, they would have dismissed it as being insane. This seems to be Jesus’ assertion–that He existed before Abraham.

    One could also argue that pre-existence was a belief held by many in the Hellenistic world into which Jesus spoke. However, this would be self-defeating for early Christians if Jesus was making a Platonic assertion that He realized His preexistence–and that the Pharisees found conflict with His Platonism and therefore wanted to stone Jesus.

    Whatever the case, it is an interesting field for discussion. It opens many questions of faith; the
    historical context of the beginnings of Christianity, as well as the authenticity of the gospels (a question I raised above).

    We will leave these questions for discussion at a later time.


  2. #2 by Ambrosia de Milano on July 14, 2007 - 9:52 am

    One more comment–as to Superman. His Uber powers are derived from his being from another planet, not from his ontology (basis of being).
    He holds his powers in Himself.

    Later on in the compendium of Superman stories,
    Smallville, to be specific, shows Jer-El as a god.
    I’m not that familiar with Superman to comment if this was in the story all along, or if the producers wanted to add another element to the Science Fiction of the show.

    There doesn’t seem to be a question about whether Superman is independent or dependent on his other-world father.

    The conflict for Christians is whether Jesus performed miracles in His own power, or whether the Father was doing the miracles through Jesus.
    Matthew 8 seems to draw a very thin line between the two–and the accounts about the resurrection of Lazarus, John 11, show a Jesus who moves seemlessly between the human and divine (“Jesus wept” verse 35 to “Lazarus, come forth” verse 43).


  3. #3 by Christian Beyer on July 14, 2007 - 10:47 am

    As usual, Ambrosia, you have presented the unusually clear thoughts of a highly educated man.

    I first want to say that I personally have no trouble with this duality of Christ, I just wonder as to the chronology. I do think that some of the statements attributed to Jesus, although in accord with his teachings, may not have been uttered by him, at least not in the context as John presents it in 8:58. That Gospel may very well represent a corporate compendium (great word, thanks) of Jesus’ ministry, as laid down by those who came tor realize his spiritual presence long after the Easter story.

    But I think you are correct in saying that God worked through Jesus, not that Jesus the man had any special powers. Instead of powers he was connected to the Father in a fashion that most will never realize, although the apostles and some mystics throughout history must have experienced at least temporarily, as they are recorded to have “performed” miracles themselves.

    Superman’s Krypton name is Kal-El, which roughly translates from the Hebrew as vessel of God. What was Stan Lee up to?

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