The Theological Truth Behind WONDER WOMAN
By Vishal Mangalwadi, Contributing Writer
My wonderful daughter responded to my Father’s Day wish, by giving us a gift card for our 42nd Wedding Anniversary. Ruth, my Amazon (sorry. . . amazing) wife, didn’t object to watching Patty Jenkins brilliantly directed action movie on our only romantic afternoon out. Ruth’s condition was that we go to Amazon-owned Whole Foods for the anniversary take-out.
I loved the magical and beautiful, compassionate though fierce, daring and deadly, Gal Gadot. She plays Diana, the princess of the Amazon women warriors. Growing up in supernaturally sheltered, women-only, paradise of mythical Themyscira, Diana is trained for her life mission – War! Not against men, but against the only Greek god left alive – the god of war, Ares. Because I liked the movie (and because the gift card did not use up all the money), I went back to watch it again with my Californian friend, Bryan Prosser.
The enchanted movie has already made more than $713.9 million worldwide. Therefore, only a bright Mathematician like Bryan could have noticed that a scholarly princess, who had mastered all the twelve volumes on “Bodily Pleasures,” had no idea of what marriage is. Steve Trevor, (the pre-James Bond) spy in World War 1, played by Chris Pine, is a thorough gentleman. He is unwilling to lie down near a young woman because they are not married.
‘What is marriage?’ inquired the princess who had rescued him from drowning, tied to his plane.
‘Couples go to a magistrate,’ explains Chris, ‘and promise to stay together for better or for worse, “until death do us part.’”
“And, do they?” Diana asks.
Chris admits embarrassingly that don’t always do.
“Then why do they do it (marry)?” a bewildered Diana wants to know.
“I don’t know,” answers postmodern Chris. His post-Christian culture has no clue for Christian marriage.
Diana’s mother, Queen Hippolyta, had taught her that men could not be trusted. They don’t deserve her. From Steve she learns that although human untrustworthiness is an observable (scientific) fact, at the end of the day, it is not about what people deserve. One acts in accordance with “what you believe.”
“It is love that saves,” muses the Wonder Woman at movie’s end. For before the end, Steve does muster up the courage to tell a feminist, “I love you.” He loved undeserving people too. For their sake he left her love, ran on the runway, jumped on to the German plane headed to London, loaded with poison gas. Steve blew up the plane, sacrificing himself in order to save the people from the deadliest weapon ever invented up to that point.
Like English authors, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien who fought in WW1, Diana knew a truth that secular Steve did not believe: the real reason for humanity’s insane war was supernatural. Zeus, the creator, made mankind in his image. Ares, Zeus’ son, became envious of mankind because his father loved them. Becoming the god of war, Ares corrupted mankind, filling them with hatred and strife.
Diana believed that by finding and killing Ares, she could end all wars. She did kill the god. . . but the war continued. Diana sensed that the problem was more complicated than her worldview; something was wrong with men themselves. Her education, however, didn’t equip her to understand what is wrong with man and how to cure his sinfulness. Like Diana, Postmodern Steve too lacks intellectual tools to understand man’s sinfulness.
“Germans are the bad guys,” Steve and Diana believed. Indeed, the Germans were making the poison gas with help from the Turks (the Muslim Ottoman Empire), and the Psychopath scientist was a female – Dr. Poison. Why would a woman invent the worst weapon ever?
Well, because she was loyal to a man, the German commander, who is committed to war. His woman gave the commander the power to become worse than he was. Diana believed that the cold-blooded murderer, the cruel commander, was Ares. So, she fought and killed him, only to learn that Ares was a British leader, the foremost public champion of peace.
Steve Trevor, the spy, was trained to deceive the enemy. Spreading misinformation, called propaganda, was a weapon democracies routinely used against their enemies. WONDER WOMAN’s viewers know that now propaganda is a weapon democracies use against their own people. In London, Steve’s secretary takes Amazon Princess shopping so that she may be dressed appropriately for a civilized society. “But how can your women fight in such a dress?” asks a puzzled Diana.
“We are a democracy,” informs the secretary, “we fight for votes.” Diana can’t comprehend British parliamentarians who appear to be deceiving each other. What she does discovers, however, is that Ares, the god of war, is not a German dictator. He is British, democratic, champion of peace.
There is something true about Post-Truth Wonder Woman. The media has branded the new American president “Post-fact.” The President has retaliated successfully, labelling investigative journalism, “fake-news.” Following Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, and Joseph Campbell, secular universities and many “Evangelical” theologians have agreed that human intellect (logic and Rationalism) can’t lead man to truth. Since there is no word from God, Truth has to appear magically, through “story.”
Man may not know truth but deception is definitely there. A Wonder Woman is needed to fight such diabolical deception with her magical truth-lasso.
As Einstein conceded, knowing truth is indeed a mystery. A machine may read a brain. It may know precisely which part of the brain is active in a particular thought process or emotion. Yet, as Apostle Paul said, the thought itself is known only by a man’s own spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). Amazon women are wonderful but they could not know the truth in Steve’s mind. The best their magic lasso could do was to force him to confess truth.
When even magicians and telepaths can’t know what is in someone’s head, how can a philosopher know God’s thoughts? Paul goes on to say to the Corinthians that only God’s Spirit knows God’s mind and God’s Spirit can communicate truth to our spirit. As some Greek philosophers and St. Augustine taught, human beings know and communicate truth in words because we are spiritual beings. A worldview that discards spirit has to discard truth also. By reducing man to a soul-less, biological machine, secular materialism in effect has killed truth.
Neither Steve (a good man) nor Wonder Woman (who knew everything about bodily pleasures) has intellectual tools to know what marriage is. This is because the West (including much of Western theology) has chosen not to heed God’s word. It was God who told Adam and Eve that their sexuality was intended for something much greater than passing pleasure and procreation. God made them male and female so that they could become rulers over everything on earth. When God brought a naked Eve to a naked Adam, He blessed them to be one, to ““be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over. . . every. . . thing” (Genesis 1:28, etc.).
Men and women are “fallen.” It is indeed an observable fact that they are untrustworthy and undeserving. However, saving them is not about what they deserve. They do need to be saved from their powerful enemies (“the Germans”) and the god of war (the devil). But the Savior came to save them from something much deeper within their own heart – from the sin in their own souls. The “family” is fallen. Lovers hurt and betray each other. Husbands and wives go to war against each other, and children often clash with their parents, and vice versa. Yet, Christ’s salvation includes transforming family. Through His word, His church, and His Spirit, God turns sinful family into a school where children and parents learn to fight against Satan and against sin in their own lives and in their relationships. Marriage is God’s primary school of character. Marriage and family disappoint those who seek “Bodily Pleasures” without character. For the divine purpose in instituting marriage is to make us holy and true, like the Triune God of love.
I enjoyed WONDER WOMAN. The film does with Greek myth what C. S. Lewis did with another in his novel, TILL WE HAVE FACES: A MYTH RETOLD. Lewis too used a Greek myth to explore love and faith in the midst of human envy, betrayal, loss, blame, grief, and guilt. He saw conversion as transformation.
Lewis enjoyed and used pagan myths, but he knew a fundamental fact which contemporary evangelicalism is blurring: The Good News of the Savior coming as a baby in Bethlehem, dying for our sin on Calvary’s cross, and rising again from the dead for our salvation is not a story. It is eyewitness testimony. A Christianity that views the Gospel as merely a fictional “story” sets itself on a course of self-destruction. To the post-modern thinker, WONDER WOMAN is incomparably better told than anything in the Bible, because it’s based on Graeco-Roman myths that Hollywood is trying to revive. However, Christianity won over paganism not because Jesus and His apostles told stories. As eyewitnesses, they unleashed the power of truth in a religious culture based on stories. The god of the post-modern age, however, has blinded many evangelical theologians who can’t see the distinction between “stories” about Jesus in the New Testament and the “parables” that Jesus told the disciples.
Incidentally, my Father’s Day wish for WONDER WOMAN was aroused by my friend Rohan Holt. He emailed me the following eschatological review. He didn’t know that I was in the USA for three weeks, holidaying (i.e., helping Ruth look after our grandchildren). Here is what Rohan wrote:
Greetings Brother Vishal,
I hope you and Ruth are doing well. It’s Father’s Day here in the U.S… Happy Father’s Day!
I saw WONDER WOMAN tonight for the second time. Tonight it made me think of you and the eschatology you were teaching in Goa (Jan 4-14, 2017). Have you seen the movie yet?
Towards the end, Diana (Wonder Woman) is fighting Ares, the god of war. He has her wrapped in metal, imbedded in the tarmac. She feels like giving up. She has already struggled with discouragement when she realized that all men are not good and she has wondered if men are worth fighting for.
While she’s lying there, she remembers the last words of her love interest, Steve Trevor. She didn’t hear the words when he spoke them to her. He has just sacrificed his life to save others from the terrible poison gas weapon that was loaded onto a plane headed for London. He fought to get on board and blew it all up, himself included… there was no other way… he gave himself to save others. His final words to Diana, whom he loved, was “I can save today, you can save the world.” That’s when it hit me. He’s Jesus and she is the church. Jesus gave himself to save us and to show us that love is the answer. Steve’s love and sacrifice strengthens Diana and gives her the will to fight and destroy her enemy. Decades later (she appears to be immortal) she still fights for others, though now she knows, and says, it’s love that save them. If he hadn’t sacrificed himself she wouldn’t have known love like that. It’s his sacrifice that makes her the hero she becomes. Very inspiring.
It’s definitely your eschatological view that helped me see the movie this way. Thanks. Please let me know what you think when/if you’ve seen the movie.
Bless you, brother!
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