So, last week I took a look at a brand new tract that Chick’s released about how Catholicism is secretly idol worship of the World Trade Center (or something), and this week I’m taking a look at an older tract that Chick’s just put back into print (it’s displayed on the website almost as prominently as the new tract).
Earthman is actually a very straightforward presentation of something we who hail from evangelical circles call the bridge illustration. There are other names for the model depending on what visual metaphor you use to structure it, but universally its a way of organizing the essential pitch of the gospel. The fact that I’m describing a way of presenting the gospel as a pitch should be the first alarm bell.
The essential point of the bridge illustration is to break down the gospel into a series of bullet points that are best summed up by four broad ideas: God’s Purpose, Man’s Problem, God’s Remedy, and Man’s Response. The way I recall the bridge, you start by explaining God’s purpose, which is that he created humanity to enjoy eternal and overabundant life (each point is accompanied by a verse to highlight that this is what the Bible tells us, so it’s totally reliable; since I’ve left behind proof-texting as a method of theological discernment, I no longer have the relevant verses memorized). You follow that up with Man’s problem, which is where you give the account of the creation story in Genesis 2-3 (for our purposes, it’s best to ignore the separate creation story given in Genesis 1) and explain that because of Adam’s original sin (this is a model that only works within an Augustinian theological framework) all of humanity is fallen and incapable of having fellowship with God because we’re no longer perfect and therefore can’t be in his presence (it helps to have a Calvinist bent too). Once that’s been explained, you go on to talk about God’s Remedy, which is Jesus. The wrap up is Man’s Response, where you explain that all a person needs to take advantage of this very special offer from God is accept Jesus as your lord and savior.
That’s the essential idea as I remember it, anyway. Earthman focuses mostly on the creation story, though there are hints of all the parts of the bridge embedded in the fringes of the central narrative. It starts off with an anti-evolution volley that involves citing a book which was published by Chick publications (I checked, and it’s definitely not a comic book this time, but not much else recommends it as a credible source of information; also, I came across a customer review that described the book as “full of ammunition for those skeptical about evolution”; I wasn’t aware that ammunition was what we were looking for in the ongoing discussion of the objective Truth–this is probably fodder for a post all its own) and suggesting that the tract itself may soon be banned from public schools, making the uncomfortable proposition that what we’re about to read is intended as something you should give to school age children. This is alarming because what follows is apparently a very prettily illustrated rehash of John Milton’s Bible fanfiction, Paradise Lost.
By the way, I dearly love Paradise Lost, but elements of that work of fiction have seeped into the popular consciousness about what’s going on in Genesis, mostly in the form of the story about Lucifer becoming Satan and inhabiting the serpent in order to tempt Eve (Satan is not a figure in the text, nor is it implied that he’s represented by the serpent; in fact, this interpretation isn’t even supported later within Scripture).
As an English teacher, I’d love to be able to teach Paradise Lost, but I would never suggest that its contents supersede a science textbook the way that Chick implies here.
See, this whole thing just gets more and more frustrating as I continue to think about it, because Chick’s trying to be so blasted literal in reading the second creation story (despite referring to details that aren’t even in that account), but in doing so he’s highlighting the absurdity of a literal reading. It’s a shame, because I really like the creation story. I think it provides us with an excellent metaphorical explanation for the state of human nature (that we are both created in the Imago Dei and we are extremely poor reflections of it, such that we need God’s intercession to help us better fulfill our purpose of reflecting his character) and it’s a wonderfully compact introduction to the idea of Christ’s necessity. Reducing it to a pretty picture book about a genetically perfect superman and his wife (who for some reason is depicted wearing make up; total literalism fail, Chick) whom God kicks out of his house because he’s angry with them just feels like an insult to the purpose of the text.
Also, evil vegetarian Cain: