The Spider-Man Fallacy

The Spider-Man Fallacy

Question

What is the Spider-Man fallacy? Wouldn't this then disprove the Bible?

Answer

The Spider-Man fallacy is a rather new sort of fallacy. The Urban Dictionary describes the fallacy as follows:

It follows that archaeologists 1,000 years from now unearth a collection of Spiderman comics. From the background art, they can tell it takes place in New York City. NYC is an actual place, as confirmed by archaeology. However, this does not mean that Spiderman existed.

Often used to illustrate the flaw in the assertion by evangelical Christians that archaeologists unearthing biblical cities today "proves" that the Bible was written by a supernatural force.

The Spiderman Fallacy is committed any time the discovery of a mundane element from a myth, legend, or story is taken to mean that ALL other parts of that story, even the supernatural, are also true.

Can be modified to use any fictional character whose story takes place in a real life location.

Idiot: The Bible is literally true! Archaeology proves it! Sodom and Gommorrah have been found!!!

Smart guy: Dude, you're committing the Spiderman fallacy. New York City is a real place. Does that prove Spiderman exists?

Smart girl: There was also a real Transylvanian prince named Dracula. Does that prove vampires exist? [1]

Some atheists and others make these claims against all Christians. And it is true because, for example, some Christians will say that since the Pool of Siloam was discovered by archeologists in 2004, it proves that Jesus healed a blind man there. This would be the idiot in the example above. However, this is not what the majority of Christians would think of this. Those I know would say that since the Pool of Siloam has been proven to exist, this supports that the document being read has certain elements of truth within it, but it doesn't prove it. And it also reveals that the apostle John is a reliable witness to these truths (John 9:1-11). So, the argument isn’t really directed against the Word of God per se but at probably well-meaning people coming to dubious conclusions regarding the Word of God.

Genuine Christians don’t believe in God or the Bible because of some archeological discovery! Faith is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8-10; Tit. 3:5). He opens the heart of his people and places within them this gift of faith (Acts 16:14; cf. John 3:3, 5; 2 Cor. 5:17). God also gives his people the gifts of repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:24-26). It is God who appoints his people to eternal life and, along with that, belief in his Word and himself (Acts 13:48). So, proven archeological discoveries are just icing on the cake of the faith that has already been given (cf. Jude 1:3).

Besides not understanding how God-given faith originates and what this amazing gift results in, there are many other problems with the Spider-Man fallacy. First, we are speaking of two different types of genre. Spider-Man comics [2] are mere fantasy while the Bible is ancient historical literature. Even some of the 1961-1962 Spider-Man series have the words “Amazing Fantasy” on the front cover. [3] While many works of fantasy may contain some elements of truth within them (i.e., the existence of NYC), they also may have many fictional characters (e.g. Sandman, Vulture, Electro, Doctor Octopus and Mysterio, et. al.) and events (e.g., the death of NYPD Captain George Stacy, an ancient creature named Morlun who attempts to consume Spider-Man). When observing all the fiction in a Spider-Man comic book, only an absolute fool would assert that Spider-Man was a believable historical record of absolute truth (i.e. Psa. 14:1; 53:1; cf. Psa. 10:4; Rom. 3:10).

On the other hand, there are numerous biblical and secular histories that support the existence of Jesus Christ, his death, and resurrection. (Please see, “Isn't faith blind, irrational and without reason?” below.) These merely help support their God-given faith; actual facts only verify what true believers already know in their heart of hearts. It is not their basis for belief. The real pillar and foundation of the Christian’s faith is the God-man, Jesus Christ alone (cf. 1 Tim. 3:15; 4:10; 2 Tim. 2:19).

Have you ever read a Spider-Man comic book? When I was younger I read many. Something to take note of is, even as a teen, I understood that the different types of dress (customs) and the way the characters interacted was pure fantasy. Look at it this way: suppose some 1000 years from now someone really does discover 800 issues of Super-Man comics. Surely they would immediately see the disconnect in comic books' delving reality — a radioactive spider, a serum to detox all of the spider-junk out of Spider-Man’s genes, an alien eating brains, and a strain of bedbugs which gives anyone they bite similar spider-powers, and so on. None of these have a basis in reality. This is all mere fantasy, not fact.

Meanwhile, in the Bible we read of a history that a genuine truth-seeking audience can and should identify with. There was a literal beginning to the world. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all lived. Moses and David were real people. Rome, Pontius Pilate, and Caiaphas the high priest all really existed as well. Crucifixions really took place during Jesus’ generation. There were over 500 witnesses to Jesus’ miraculous resurrection (1 Cor. 15:6). (Please see, “Why do Christians celebrate Easter?” below.) Not all the histories of the Bible have outside support as of the time of this answer, but many do. And they reveal a basis in a traceable historical record. However, once again this only supports a believer’s faith and does not establish it.

In closing let me add that while one archeological discovery doesn’t mean much, if you have a series of documents written over approximately 1500 years by some 40 authors, and every historical claim within these documents has been proven true, then it would seem that the evidence would be so substantial that withholding provisional assent as to whether these documents in their original form are stating the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, would be unreasonable. The Spider-Man comic books are no such type document! But of course, the Bible is. [4]

So, like in the Russell's teapot analogy (see below), atheists and others are using just another straw man argument that falls apart under close scrutiny. Genuine archeological discoveries support the Christian faith yet are not its foundation. But even if every historical element of the Bible was proven by archeology to be absolutely true, the unbeliever still has a problem because faith is not something that can be mustered up or earned. It is a God-given gift. It is given to whomever he wills, and when he wills. And facts without faith are just facts and can’t by themselves save you! Saving faith is more than just believing in a set of facts. Without God-given faith the unbeliever will never believe the overwhelming preponderance of evidence that God exists and the Bible is true! (Please see, “Is saving faith knowledge in a set of facts?” below.)

Reference

[1] The Urban Dictionary. “The Spiderman Fallacy.” (https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=The Spiderman Fallacy). Last Accessed 6 March 2020.

[2] Spider-Man is a fictional superhero created by writer-editor Stan Lee and writer-artist Steve Ditko. He first appeared in the anthology comic book Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962) in the Silver Age of Comic Books. Wikipedia. “Spider-Man” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider-Man). Last Accessed 7 March 2020.

[3] Amazing Adult Fantasy and its retitled final issue, Amazing Fantasy, is an American comic book anthology series published by Marvel Comics from 1961 through 1962, with the latter title revived with superhero features in 1995 and in the 2000s. The final 1960s issue, Amazing Fantasy #15 (cover-dated Aug. 1962), introduced the popular superhero character Spider-Man. Amazing Adult Fantasy premiered with issue #7, taking over the numbering from Amazing Adventures. … The science fiction-fantasy anthology Amazing Adult Fantasy began with issue #7 (cover-dated Dec. 1961), having taken over the number of the similar anthology Amazing Adventures. Wiki. “Amazing Fantasy” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazing_Fantasy). Last Accessed 9 March 2020.

[4] All the facts aren't in yet and they won't be until the Second Coming. However, we are are speaking about the eternal God of the universe and his Word. God isn't a liar and therefore, his Word can't lie. Thus, it is the truth. So, one day every detail of God's holy Word will be unearthed, be heard, and seen to be true. One day every knee will bow to this truth (cf. Isa. 45:23; Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10).

Related Topics

Isn't faith blind, irrational and without reason?
Why do Christians celebrate Easter?
What is Russell's teapot analogy?
Is saving faith knowledge in a set of facts?
Christ in the Old Testament
What About Hebrews 11:3?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).