Thursday, June 24, 2010

An Eisegetical Interpretation of the Lost Series Finale

Eisegesis (the process of interpretation whereby we simply read our ideas into a text rather than actually seeking to interpret the author's intended meaning) is generally bad. It's especially bad when it happens with the Bible, because at that point we are wrongly interpreting God's words to suit our own agendas. In my previous post I tried to engage in exegesis (correct interpretation) of the writers' intent in the season finale of LOST. I basically concluded the writers represented a pluralistic supernaturalism in the finale, obviously antithetical to biblical Christianity. I'll now engage in some eisegesis to argue that you could interpret the finale as supportive of a Reformed Christian worldview.


In the LOST finale the hero of the show, Jack, embraces his ordained role in life and willingly offers his life as a sacrifice to save others. After he willingly offers his life, the next scene in the show switches to the flash-sideways timeline and displays a statue of Christ with His arms spread out, signifying His crucifixion. The message is clear: Jack sacrificed himself to save his friends and defeat evil, embodied in Easu/MiB/Fake Locke. Sound familiar? Similarly, Jesus laid down His life for His friends (Jn. 15:13) and in doing so defeated evil, embodied in satan (Col. 2:14-15). Not only that, but in some sense Jack was resurrected, as was Christ (1 Cor. 15:3-4).

This gospel parallel takes on a distinctly reformed flavor when you consider that Jack really does only seem to be laying his life down for his friends. In the final church scene the whole world is not represented there entering paradise, only a chosen few. Esau/MiB/Fake Locke is not there, in fact there are a number of other characters from the seasons of the show that weren't there. Despite the stained glass, the redemption Jack accomplishes does not seem to be universal. Doesn't this suggest Jack's work is less valuable, as Arminians often charge? Well, is that how you felt in watching the final church scene? Absolutely not. And why not? Why weren't we so angry that Fake Locke wasn't there? Because we know Fake Locke got what he deserved. We were amazed at the redemption for those who were there, and understood the need for justice to be carried out on Fake Locke. And it's not like the people in the church were more worthy of redemption; plenty of them had been Jack's enemies and the island's as well (think Sawyer). They didn't choose to come to the island, the island chose them. Because the island chose them and the island's purpose for Jack was to redeem those the island had chosen, they end up in paradise.

In the same way, Jesus laid down His life for the sheep (Jn. 10:11), not the goats. When we understand that all of us deserve divine wrath because of our sin (Eph. 2:1-3), we see that there is no injustice in Jesus not dying for everyone. We rather are amazed that He laid down His life for anyone. And who are those He died to save? Those that deserve it? None deserve it, rather, it is those His father had chosen, who it was His purpose in His life on earth to redeem (Jn. 6:35-45). He will raise them up on the last day.

Obviously I'm not naieve enough to think the writers intended to communicate this message. However in writing the story in this way I do think they acknowledge (sub-consciously or consciously) certain truths of reformed theology:

1. In order to be saved we need someone to die for us. We can't do it, we need someone else. The LOST characters couldn't save themselves, they needed Jack to do it for them.
2. It is not unjust of God to choose some and not others since none deserve to be chosen in the first place.
3. Jesus' sacrifice is not devalued because He only intended it to redeem some.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Finally Back

Hey everyone, sorry for the big delay between blog posts. I'm adjusting to a new schedule and still figuring out where blogging will fit into it. I still want to do it though, so keep your eyes peeled.

Contrary to some resistance, I am going to return with a post on the LOST series finale. Let me start by saying I was very satisfied with the finale. They didn't answer all the questions, but they did wrap up the storyline in a satisfying way. The show was about the characters, not the island, and each character's story concluded in a reasonable fashion. I loved watching the show for the years I was able to, and I'll miss it for sure. That said, I do want to level a fairly significant criticism.


One of the great things about LOST has always been that the show is not only entertaining and addictive, but intellecutally stimulating. The writers have always been interacting with real philisophical questions (the nature of man as good or evil, free-will vs. determinism, naturalism vs. supernaturalism etc.). However they would often not show their cards as to where they stood on these issues. For instance, sometimes the island seemed to support naturalism, i.e. all the crazy stuff that happens there is really just the result of a concentrated pocket of electromagnetic energy. On the other hand, sometimes the island seemed to support supernaturalism, i.e. the island can "will" certain things or favor one person over another. The characters of Jack (man of science) and Locke (man of faith) epitomize this conflict.

While I think it's still hard for me at least to pin the writers down to one philosophy, I think the finale does reveal alot about where they stand on these questions. The trajectory of Jack's character is from the man of science to the man of faith. By the end of the show he sees himself as having some supernatural purpose in life and when he fulfills it he saves everyone. Then there's the fact that the flash-sideways turns out to be some kind of middle-ground until the characters walk into the light of paradise/nirvana/heaven. I think it is safe to conclude that the writers are communicating a supernatural worldview.

That said, they are certainly not trying to communicate a Christian supernatural worldview. They seem to be much more like universalists. Throughout the show they always borrowed from Christian traditions, but alongside Egyptian mythology, eastern religions, and so on. In the end I think they meet in a Unitarian Universalist church, where the symbols of all the major world religions are displayed in stain glass ala the popular "coexist" bumper stickers. All the characters had their own unique lives and "paths," but all ended up moving onto paradise in due time. I think this is why the writers don't take a hard line on alot of the other philisophical questions they bring up throughout the show. They present each of the characters on a journey to discover their purpose, and on the island we see various religious traditions' attempt to navigate this journey. The big philisophical questions come up, but in the end everyone goes to whatever paradise is.

I obviously did not like this aspect of the show, and in fact found it rather dissatsifying. The value of art is not only measured in its form but in what it communicates. A good painting is good not only because the artist moves the brush in a controlled fashion, but because he or she communicates something good through the painting. I'm afraid what the LOST writers communicated through the show represents a false optimism. The god of LOST (whatever it is, again the writers don't commit themselves one way or another, probably because they see all religions as various attempts to explain the same reality) seems nice because everyone goes to paradise, but the god of LOST is not good. The god of LOST seems to have no regard for the presence of sin. Maybe people are good, maybe people are evil, maybe all the characters have done wrong, but who cares? One must be left wondering just how good a paradise ruled by a god who has no concern for righteousness would really be. I for one am holding out for a better inheritance.

So I think that's what the LOST writers were communicating. It's their show, they're certainly free to communicate what they want. I really enjoyed the show, but suffice it to say the gospel is far better. While I think the LOST writers represent the pluralistic supernaturalism common throughout the world today, I think in the hero of the show, Jack, we do see something of Christ. I'll share more of my thoughts on that in a later post.