Sunday, April 14, 2019

Black Panther and the Problem of Evil

The problem of evil is a challenge to religious belief, and yet the New Testament writers felt that the death and resurrection of Jesus effectively disempowered the forces of evil in the world, and evil should not be a hindrance to trust in God.

How does this make sense?


One scene from Black Panther helped illustrate for me how Christ''s death and resurrection should at least weaken the challenge of evil.

T'Challa, the rightful king of Wakanda, is nearly killed by the usurper and villain of the story Erik Killmonger, and he is thrown off a cliff. Things look very bleak for the people of Wakanda as Killmonger seizes the throne.

But we find out that T'Challa is not dead! Through the powers of the heart-shaped plant, he regains his life and strength, and arrives back in Wakanda to challenge Killmonger again.

When he comes back in full restored strength, the audience gets the sense, "Oh, this is it. He's back. Game over," even though the story hasn't quite finished, and there's still a battle scene to take place on the plains. But in spite of the remaining battle, as the audience member you're assured simply by T'Challa's return that the story ends with T'Challa back on the throne. It is precisely T'Challa returning to life that ensures the story ending as it should even though there's still some fighting left to be done. That's the linchpin of this whole thing.



I think that's how the resurrection of Jesus was thought of for the New Testament writers. Jesus has returned from the dead: "Oh. Game Over. That's it. Whatever happens now is just wrapping up the mess." This is why the New Testament writers could talk about this being the end of history, that Jesus' resurrection inaugurated the eschaton.

Still someone might think yes, T'Challa returns and that's effectively the end of the villain. But lots of Wakandan warriors still struggle and fight, and even lose their lives. That is not good news if you're the one who is collateral damage. True enough.

But now take it a step further. Suppose now not only Black Panther came back from the dead but he also had the power to raise his people from the dead. Then you really know there's nothing to ultimately fear. So long as T'Challa is there on that field, not only will the villain be vanquished, but you can rest assured that even if you might be killed, your king can bring you back to life.

I think that's why the story of Easter is good news. “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”


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