Book Review: Superheroes Can’t Save You by Todd Miles

by Keifer Navey

People love superheroes, there’s no denying it. The four Avengers films themselves grossed over seven billion dollars. Superhero tv shows are all the rage. Renewed interest in the source material of comic books have skyrocketed. People love superheroes.

People also love heresies. That’s a crazy left turn, isn’t it? But it’s also true. Through the centuries of the Church, the orthodox has always had to fight to hold the line on sound biblical doctrine. Whereas now any keyboard warrior with an anonymous christian meme account has no problem calling everyone a heretic, there used to be councils made up of hundreds of leaders who meet and deliberate over days to arrive at a conclusion.

Todd Miles brings comic book canonicity to church history and illustrates famous heresies the church has fought over the centuries. But this isn’t just a book on church history and heresy, it’s a book about how often we look to superheroes for the saving that only Christ can give us. Superman is strong, but he cannot protect us from the wrath of God. So while this book is fun to read, and explores topics we need to be well versed in, this book will also constantly point you to Christ and how he is truly the one who can save us.

Superheroes Can’t Save You: Epic Examples of Historic Heresies

Throughout the history of the Church, there have been bad ideas, misconceptions, and heretical presentations of Jesus. Each one of these heresies fails to present Jesus as the Bible reveals him. In Superheroes Can’t Save You, Todd Miles demonstrates how these ancient heresies are embodied in contemporary comic superheroes.

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Miles combs through both Marvel and DC characters such as Batman, Green Lantern, Spider-Man, and the Hulk to illustrate the dangers of heresies attributed to Jesus over the years. For some, it could seem novel, but the genius lies in its simplicity and exposure. The book is remarkably accessible and effective. But we are constantly exposed to superheroes. Publicity and propaganda for superheroes is everywhere! After reading this book you can’t help but think every time you watch Man of Steel or Ragnarok you can’t help thinking of the “Superman Heresy” (docetism, Jesus was just God in disguise) or the “Thor Heresy” (Arianism, Jesus was created by God). This simple trigger is helpful for one, reminding us just how desperately we need a real savior in Jesus Christ and two how hard the Church has fought for orthodoxy.

Key Points of the Book

  1. The Heresy: Miles shows at the beginning of each chapter his experience with the superhero and ties in the characteristics of the hero to a famous heresy. For instance, the Ant-Man chapter examines Modalism (“Jesus was one of three ‘costumes’ of the one God”). Modalism makes Jesus out to be like Dr. Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man. Pym uses his science to transform into various sizes, but what size he morphed into came with a different moniker, or even different suits would have different names. Such as Ant-Man, Giant-Man, and Yellow Jacket. All are Hank Pym, but he could not be all at once, hence: modalism. 
  1. Who Teaches the Heresy Today: Miles gives a history of the Character but also a history of the heresy and an update on who practices it to this day. Modalism has its roots in Sabellianism but is still practiced by the “Jesus Only” groups or “One-ness Pentecostals”. These groups do not believe in a Three-in-one God but rather believe all the members of the Trinity are one God who has various manifestations. 
  1. What the Bible Says: The Bible teaches that God is a trinity and that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God but separate persons who simultaneously and continually exist without ever ceasing. We can see this clearly in the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3. 
  1. Why It’s Important: A correct understanding of the Trinity is vital because our doctrine of the Trinity has massive implications for every other aspect of our belief. Our salvation is a Trinitarian work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Even something as simple as prayer is Trinitarian in that we pray to the Father, in the Son’s name, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Modalism has rightly deemed heresy, and we need to be wary of its dangers.

Powerful Quotes From the Book

  • “The Scriptures present a Jesus who is far from merely human, and they do so consistently throughout the Old Testament prophecies, through the Chronicling of Jesus’s life in the Gospels, and the New Testament letters that describe Jesus’s life. The Bible believer is left with no option but to affirm the deity of Jesus Christ” (p.37).
  • “Because Jesus Christ is the God, and not simply a god, you can be sure that those who do not know Jesus would be better off serving him. You can be that Jesus Christ is just as revelation to the 12-year-old girl in Papua New Guinea as he is to your 70-year-old next-door neighbor in Portland” (p.91).
  • “The Lord of the Universe is the Lord of the Church. Jesus Christ is not just Lord of those who happen to follow him. He is the Lord of the cosmos, and he deserves and desires the allegiance of everybody” (p.91).
  • “Don’t ever forget what I like to call the ‘grace of place in redemptive history.’ It is a wonderful thing to be born on this side of the cross, knowing the full-orbed gospel. It is an even better thing to be sealed and empowered by the Spirit of God at Jesus’s behest. The coming of the Spirit was a crazy dream for Moses; it was a distant hope for Ezekiel; but it is true for you” (p.118).
  • “But Jesus Christ is not like Spider-Man. Jesus is fully and completely human. There is nothing about him that is subhuman or altered human at all. Of course, Jesus also possesses full divine nature, but that does not change or diminish his human nature. Jesus is fully human, but not merely human. Everything that makes you a human, Jesus possesses in full, and authentically so” (p.162).

Application in the Local Church

Our doctrine is absolutely vital. We have to be aware of the various heresies that have attempted to slip into the Church even to this day. We need to guard our doctrine, but we also have to be ready to engage others who are a part of cults that subscribe to some of these heresies. This book is an excellent tool for engaging with each other and committing to memory these heresies. If you have a small group or local house church this is an excellent resource that comes with discussion questions at the end of each chapter. Young or old, this book is so well written it will appeal even to those who aren’t comic book fans and the material is necessary for all Bible-believing Christians.

Citation: Superheroes Can’t Save You by Todd Miles. B&H Publishing, 2108. 194 Pages.

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Keifer is the Founder and book reviewer for Nerdy Theologians—a digital resource dedicated to recommending the most edifying theological literature. He is also a husband, father, preacher, and elder mentee at his local church. When he’s not reading or writing, he’s playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

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