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Movie Theological Reflection: BATMAN as the Atoner of Gotham

Like everyone else this past weekend, I saw Batman The Dark Knight.

Simply amazing! Wow. Heath Ledger needs to get an Oscar! Two thumbs up.

Batman was deeply loaded with theological content everywhere. I decided to blog about my theological interpretations of THE BATMAN. Weird? I know.

The three part BATMAN theological reflection goes something like this:

Part 1// BATMAN as The Atoner of Gotham.

Part 2// BATMAN as the Blessed Hope.

Part 3// The Joker as Lucifer.


Atonement means an amends. Someone is repairing what is wrong and making it right. Batman is exactly this in Gotham City. I am arguing that Batman best depicts the theological atonement theory of Christus Victor and that Harvey Dent best illustrates the Penal Substitution theory. In order to understand how the atonement theories operate in Gotham City, one must see Gotham City as our Earth/Humanity, Batman as the victorious Jesus, Harvey Dent as the Legal Jesus, and the Joker as Satan.

In the land of theology, Jesus is the One who fixed earth and humanity. He brought the world back in balance. Jesus destroyed the evil ways of this world (Heb 2.14, 1 Jn 3.8), reconciled all things, including humans, to Himself (2 Cor 5.18-19; Col 1.20-22); died as our substitute, bore our sin and guilt, was punished by the Father in our place (Is 53.4-5, 10, Rom 3.23-25, 2 Cor 5.21, Heb 2.17, 9.26, 1 Jn 2.2) forgave us of our sins (Acts 13.38; Eph 1.7); healed us from our sin-diseased nature (1 Peter 2.24); poured his Spirit on us and empowered us to live in relation to Himself (Roman 8.2-16); and gave us an example to follow (Eph 5.1-2; 1 Pet 2.21). This is why Calvary is so central to Christianity. Calvary communicated redemption, sacrifice, salvation, comfort, hope, and victory through Christ and the cross. The act on the cross is the reconstruction of the world’s corruption.

Batman and Dent are trying to reconstruct Gotham’s corruption.

In the land of Gotham city, Batman is the serving justice. Batman is in conflict with his arch-nemesis the Joker and with his awkward relationship with district attorney Harvey Dent. Dent is the awesome attorney who sentences the criminals of Gotham. Since Dent is so good at closing court cases, Batman believes his time is done. Batman is convinced that he can delegate his atonement duties to Harvey Dent. Although Dent cannot handle the warfare of the Joker and his entourage. It is too intense, forceful, and stragetic.

Batman is the hero of Gotham. Batman is overcoming evil by doing good. Batman is resisting the ways of the Joker. The Joker does not care about the money, but ONLY cares about sending a message. The Joker is full of lies and diversion. Batman knows that the Joker has entered Gotham and he needs to find him and destroy him. Everything Batman is about is for one purpose: Establishing a peaceful and democratic reign in Gotham city by destroying the regime of the Joker.

In my opionon, I rather see the Batman be the victor. Why? Because Batman is so deeply in love with Gotham, which motivates him to enter into a deep and violent battle with the Joker. Batman wants justice! Dent wants fairness. To me, the Christus victor model is indebted with an outrageious act of love in entering into complete soldiartiy with fallen, cursed, oppressed humanity (Gotham city). The victor model aims at entering into real warfare activity against the powers of this fallen and suppressed world. The victor model views Batman in the warfare role rather than in a legal role. The warfare model calls for action.  I think that is why Dent cannot handle the intense responsibility and warfare activity that Batman can handle. Dent is not use to the hands on type of action.  Dent can handle the legality issues of Gotham really well (as we saw), but cannot handle the fighting and destroying the villians.

In conclusion, I saw Dent’s atonement role more as the legal role and I saw The BATMAN’s atonement role more as the victor/fighter role. To be honest, I like the Christus victor atonement role a lot more because it motivates us to take a serious part in destroying the evils and wrong ways of the world and to resist the powers and to imitate Christ. Yes it is essential to reflect on what Christ did for us, but it is just as essential to reflect what Christ is doing in us and through us.

The problem with the Christus victor model means that we as followers need to get our hands dirty and actually part take in fighting for the Kingdom. The Victor model encourages us to move in participation while the Penal model encourages us to spew out information and talk about what has already been done, not what Christ is doing.

About Jeremy Zach

Orange XP3 Specialist | Youth Worker | MDIV | Hot Sauce Addict | Dr. Dre Beats Lover

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