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The Gospel according to Thor

October 16, 2011 1 comment

As a kid I was a comic book junkie. I started out with Superman and Batman, and couldn’t get enough. When my mother held me to three comics per week, that’s what I brought home each Sunday – plus a couple more hidden under my shirt. As I progressed through my teens, I did taper off, but there were two heroes who were very hard to say goodbye to: Thor and Green Lantern.

I was a little excited earlier this year when I heard that movies of both my old heroes, Thor and Green Lantern, were coming out this year. I generally don’t go to the theater, and I finally got around to renting the Thor DVD this weekend. So this review might be old hat to you. And if you haven’t seen the movie yet, be aware this will contain some serious spoilers.

One thing is preeminently clear from watching this movie: its creative principals are well-conversant with the Bible story. The parallels between Thor and Christ are pervasive, and other characters also line up closely with biblical persons.

It’s ironic that even as special effects have gotten more and more spectacular, they are losing their novelty and ability to hold the viewer’s interest. Gone are the days when effects could carry a film. A story will sink or swim based only on the old sure foundation of plot and character development. And so, though the effects in Thor are pretty good, they fade into the background. The real story is the spiritual development of the hero.

Thor is a brash young man destined for the throne. His father, king Odin, is old and wise and good. In his swagger, Thor retaliates for a wrong done to his kingdom, and unleashes a deadly war upon his people. For violating his fealty to the king, Thor is stripped not only of his power, which is embodied in his hammer, but of his position as heir to the throne as well. And he is cast out of his own realm and banished to earth, to live his life as a mortal.

The hammer follows him to Earth, however, and embeds itself in a rock. Thor immediately plots how to get to it and reclaim it. The moment finally comes when it is in his grasp. He smiles as he reaches out for it, tasting the power that will soon be his again. But Thor’s father had pronounced an oath over the hammer, whereby it could only be wielded by one who is worthy of its power. In what Thor thought would be his moment of triumph, he cannot free the hammer, try as he may. He cries what sounds like the death roar of a mighty lion, and falls to his knees, defeated.

If that weren’t bad enough, now taken captive, Thor is visited by his younger brother, Loki. Loki informs him that his father is dead. Thor’s foolishness and banishment has caused it, and their mother has decreed that Thor may never return. All of these are lies. Loki represents the satan figure in the story, who enviously rebels in order to rule, but his motives seem more confused than those of his biblical counterpart, in that he somehow thinks he is trying to please his father.

Once a mighty wild stallion, Thor now is broken. In tears, he expresses touching remorse for his actions and the woe they have brought on his loved ones. It was here that we began to see one aspect of the Christ story in action. I thought of the pain of the Cross, where everything went wrong for the Lord Jesus; where He suffered for sins He did not commit, and it seemed that even His Father had rejected Him. Thor’s loss at this point is complete.

Thor is now a changed man. He begins to adapt to his new mortal life by serving others in small ways, such as waiting tables, and he does so with servanthood joy. Finally, when Loki sends a robot to Earth to kill Thor and everyone else, Thor walks up to the machine and offers himself without resistance, as long as everyone else will be left to live. The robot takes him up on the offer – and kills him.

This is deep Gospel territory. What came to mind at this point were Michael Card’s “El Shaddai” lyrics, Your most awesome work was done, through the frailty of Your Son. Jesus laid aside the power and immortality of divinity in order to become a man and suffer like us, for us. He wrested the kingdom back from satan not by means of indomitable power, but by reestablishing the legal right through the humble obedience of self-sacrificial love. Thor’s death was a moving moment. (The film, directed by the Shakespearian, Richard Brannagh, had a noble feel almost throughout.)

But as Thor’s mother says at one point, there is a reason for everything the king does. Odin sent Thor into banishment to break his pride, and as soon as Thor dies, the father’s oath over the hammer is invoked. The hammer breaks loose from the rock it is embedded in, and flies into Thor’s hand. Thor is raised from death, and is restored to his former position and power. This, of course, is a picture of the resurrection. Thor goes on to stop the war he had triggered between kingdoms, and he does so sacrificially again, at the cost of destroying the way back to Earth, cutting him off from the woman he has come to love.

At the movie’s end, Thor and his father are reconciled. Thor is humble and aware of his need for wisdom, and he recognizes its rich endowment in his father.

I found the plot details and the dialog a bit hard to follow the first time through, but one advantage of the DVD is the ability to watch the film again on the cheap. The second time was much richer for being able to connect more of the dots. This movie is a winner at several levels, particularly the spiritual. That compliment comes from one who generally no longer bothers with most movies because of their low redeeming value.

If you enjoy seeing the Gospel story played out in different ways, and are looking for ways to relate it to those in our culture who are not conversant with the Bible, the movie Thor might well be something you would be interested in.

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review: Destined for the throne, by Paul Billheimer

October 19, 2009 1 comment

At 134 pages, Destined for the Throne is not a big book, yet it took me nine months to read it. What it lacks in length it more than makes up for in depth and power.

I came across Destined while review-hopping at Amazon. When I finally got around to reading the book I had forgotten why I had bought it. But it didn’t take me long to remember.

Billy Graham forewords the book by saying that “every” Christian looking for a deeper witness should study this book prayerfully and apply its principles. Billheimer himself introduces his work as what some will consider a “totally new and unique cosmology”.

I’ve got to say that most of what Billheimer has written is not new to me at some level, but never have I seen it stated so clearly and powerfully. He puts his case together so thoughtfully, logically and circumspectly that the book’s immediately huge impact only grows as one continues to read. Read more…

“The Word” Bible software

October 17, 2009 11 comments

I’d like to make everyone aware of new free Bible software. The Word is totally free, uses few computer resources, so that even older computers should be able to run it, and is a delight in terms of functionality, design and aesthetics.

I’ve been searching for such a program for a long time. I have Logos, which while being very powerful and offering many resources, is not user-friendly, uses a lot of computer resources, and is expensive. For in-depth study, I will still use it.

TW is young, and at this point its resource base is small. But this program is so well thought out, and so visually appealing, that it can’t help but grow in popularity and available resources. And its author actively engages with the user base on a continuing basis. For normal reading and study I am switching over to it.

There are other free Bible programs available. They are good, and some have a fairly sizable resource base. But none of them in my experience approaches the excellence of The Word. Maybe when I’ve used this program for a while I’ll do a review of it here.

I have no connection to The Word or its author. I’m just trying to pass on something that I think can help a lot of people in their study of God’s word.

There’s a portable flash drive edition available as well, also free.

Hint: click on this blog’s ‘bible software” tag in the sidebar for all articles relating to this program and its modules.

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review: Dating Jesus, by Susan Campbell

August 7, 2009 Comments off

Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl

Dating Jesus is very well written. Ms. Campbell is a bit younger than I, from a different part of the country, and of a different gender, but she is a great storyteller and her reminiscences of growing up in church were very engaging.

I don’t think she meant it to be so because she doesn’t dwell on it, but the most piercing memory I took away from the book was when a normally kind Sunday school teacher publically shamed her as a young teen, for asking too many questions about gender limitations within the church. That kind of thing sickens me. It seems not to have affected her as much as it would I. Read more…

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