The idea of zombies has grasped the mind of Western culture. What is it about zombies that we find so interesting or attractive? I asked my students this one time in my theology classes, and the most memorable reply was about survival. Zombies enable a narrative to be crafted in which humans are struggling to survive, clearly battling a malevolent enemy, and offers a thrilling climax when they overcome. Such a narrative is not far from the biblical framework of spiritual warfare, the battle between God and cosmic powers of evil governed by Satan. If we take God’s curse of nature in Genesis 3:15 – 17 as God allowing or permitting Satan to claim rule over humanity and their realm (nature) as Satan’s rightful spoils of war gained through his deception of Adam and Eve, then the hostility we see in and through nature is indicative of something far darker. Why must, after all, carnivorous animals kill one another in such a violent way? Why can’t a pack of wild dogs make sure their prey is dead before they start eating it alive? Lions usually kill quickly in a way we might call “humane” by going for the throat. Why must alligators and crocodiles tear a limb from another animal before killing it, and then eat that limb in the sight of the animal that just had it ripped from its body? This surely is the stuff of nightmares; my father once told me that this life is the hell before hell, and I confess that some of the abominable and repulsive acts of violence done in this world makes me gravitate towards his thought.
People in the zombie shows and stories we are so intrigued by struggle to survive against a malevolent enemy; so do we from this spiritual warfare perspective. We struggle against an enemy who influences every sphere of our natural realm. From beasts to volcanos, this “destroying enemy” oversees devastation — except when God intervenes or causes the natural disaster Himself. Further, this enemy has an army filled with those who “have the reputation of being alive, but . . . are dead” (Rev. 3:1). In Ephesians 2:5 we are told that “we were dead . . .” but “made alive together with Christ” — He is life itself (John 1:3 – 5). There is much more I want to do with a theology of zombies, but that will have to come in subsequent posts. Let me summarize how popular zombie flicks highlight our understanding of a biblical theology of zombies:
Zombies are a malevolent enemy who are unceasing in their hostility towards those who are alive; likewise Satan and his hosts are an unceasing enemy towards those who live and the Author of life Himself.
Zombies set up a scenario where the living must struggle for survival; Satan and his hosts set up circumstances in nature where the living must struggle to survive.
Zombies are the dead who have a semblance of life; Satan is the god over unbelieving humanity, who “have a reputation of being alive, but . . . are dead.” Zombies are the “walking dead,” but — as offensive as this is to say — Scripture identifies unbelieving humanity as “children of wrath,” that is, the “walking dead.”