On this episode of Finding Christ in Cinema, we assemble with the Theonauts and look for Christian themes in the capstone of Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, THE AVENGERS. How can the Avengers help us to better understand “Christian freedom”? Does it have anything to do with the whole armor of God? All that and more in 3…2…1!
We are joined by David Gaddy and Jeremiah Orr, who together make up the Theonauts. David and Jeremiah have joined Michael and me at the Great Commission Transmission Network months ago, and we continue to celebrate that connection in this episode by letting the Theonauts lead the discussion on this film.
Curious about David’s mission work in Haiti? Check out his non-profit organization Footprints of Charity to find out more. Wanna read Jeremiah’s personal blog? Get over to Ragamuffin Orr and show him some love. And don’t forget to check out the Theonauts podcast at either their Podbean home or their home here at GCTN.
“Freedom from Freedom,” Says The Accuser
According to Loki, humans were meant for one thing: kneeling to someone higher. To him, kneeling in subjugation is the natural human state, and as long as we’re on the ground worshiping, we may as well worship him. He actually presents a good case when he claims that our desire for what we understand as “freedom” is actually a type of oppression. In doing this, he’s using the truth to represent a lie – a tactic very similar to the ways of our Accuser. He takes his case further against the Avengers, the Champions of the human race, and shows them that they are indeed individual engines of chaos who, when initially brought together, form what Bruce Banner calls a “ticking time bomb.”
Believers can be like that, too, when we listen to the half-truths that are spewed in our direction. After all, the Israelites have always kneeled down to someone. As they became a multitude, they were still enslaved to the Egyptians and were forced to kneel before Pharaoh. Later, when they got to the Promised Land, they were captured by the Chaldeans and forced to kneel before King Nebuchadnezzar. And the only reason they were being forced to kneel to these people was that they were not freely choosing to kneel before God. Such is the way we are whenever we choose not to kneel before God and instead kneel to sin and death. This type of existence is best understood with Paul’s words:
We know that the law is spiritual, but I am not spiritual since sin rules me as if I were its slave. I do not understand the things I do. I do not do what I want to do, and I do the things I hate. And if I do not want to do the hated things I do, that means I agree that the law is good. But I am not really the one who is doing these hated things; it is sin living in me that does them. Yes, I know that nothing good lives in me — I mean nothing good lives in the part of me that is earthly and sinful. I want to do the things that are good, but I do not do them. I do not do the good things I want to do, but I do the bad things I do not want to do. So if I do things I do not want to do, then I am not the one doing them. It is sin living in me that does those things.
So I have learned this rule: when I want to do good, evil is there with me. In my mind, I am happy with God’s law. But I see another law working in my body, which makes war against the law that my mind accepts. That other law working in my body is the law of sin, and it makes me its prisoner. What a miserable man I am! Who will save me from this body that brings me death? I thank God for saving me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So in my mind I am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful self I am a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:14-25 NCT).
Loki claims that the Avengers are “lost creatures,” and because of that darkness they cannot prevail. However even though each member’s testimony is full of sin and darkness, they choose not to serve that darkness. The same counts for us: even though we are lost, depraved creatures, we can quench that desire by choosing to not cater to it.
The Whole Armor of God
Of course, once we’ve been freed from that darkness, we are called to live out a second nature – that of the whole armor of God (its only called a “second nature” because it isn’t the one we were born with). For an individual to “suit up” is for that individual to admit that he or she cannot work effectively by themselves and need the help of something that can work effectively. It means that the individual in question will have to adopt the second nature and then begin making the choices and thus creating the character known by that second nature. To further the theme of “not being able to do it alone,” the individual with his or her new second nature must now work with other individuals who have adopted a similar second nature. Without this second nature, they are chaotic, irreconcilable, and irredeemable. But with those second natures and by working together, they become one body serving one leader.
The Avengers may very well be the best picture of this sentiment. Each individual has his or her own dark past, and each is continually burdened by that past. In fact, that’s what Loki was seeing them for: an amalgamation of selfish individuals that would destroy each other when they got the chance. However, because they’ve each adopted a second nature – that is, because they’ve “suited up” – they can now work together as the team they were meant to be and fulfill their objective in defeating Loki.
We as Christians go through the same thing. Since we’ll never be sinless, the best we can do is not let whatever sin we still have take control of us. Instead, we “suit up” by putting Jesus Himself and putting on the whole armor of God. Paul explains it:
But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. (1 Thessalonians 5:8-9)
The Avengers are a mess in their normal state, but they are powerful once they “suit up.” And once we “suit up” with Christ and the tools He gives us, we will become powerful, too, and thus be able to fulfill the Great Commission.
Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.
Use the audio player at the top of this article to listen to the podcast, or use the links below for other convenient ways to hear FCC.