LOST – Fate or Freewill? part 7

The Man-in-Black (foreground) conversing with Jacob on the island

This week’s episode of Lost may have been the most revealing in the history of the show in terms of understanding the mystery of the island and the theological beliefs of the show’s writers.  “Jacob” – the good, god-like figure – says explicitly that the purpose of the island is to constrain the evil force known as the smoke monster or man-in-black.  He identifies this evil force with the belief that people are corruptible because their nature is sinful.  Then he defines his own purpose on the island:  “I bring people here to prove him wrong, and when they get here their past doesn’t matter.”  He aims to demonstrate that people are inherently good and therefore have the ability to choose the right path, regardless of their past, which the island provides opportunities for them to do. For Jacob, this ability to choose freely is sacrosanct.  To redeem themselves, the characters have to make this choices autonomously without being compelled by Jacob in any way: “I want them to know the difference between right and wrong without me having to tell them; it’s all meaningless if I have to force them to do anything. Why should I have to step in?”

This episode was absolutely fascinating (a Lost fan I work with said that it may have been the best hour of television he has ever watched) and watching it I felt excitement as I saw pieces of the show coming together.  Yet, though the show has contained many biblical allusions and themes, this plain revelation of the show’s meaning is plainly at odds with a biblical, orthodox view of both human nature, and the meaning of good and evil.  I will be unpacking this claim more this week and as the show progresses, so stay tuned!  I’d love to read your insights as well.


5 comments on “LOST – Fate or Freewill? part 7

  1. Jason says:

    It was such a good episode I had to write my own thoughts in a post


    • I read your post and agree with your theological interpretation. As complicated as the plot has been, in the end it is a TV show (on ABC no less) and so I expect it’s overarching message to be simplistic and flawed.

      I think it is interesting that influencing a person’s choices is viewed by Jacob as a violation of their will. We influence people’s choices all the time. This is what happens in any society/culture – we are constantly influencing and being influenced by others. Does this mean our will is not free?

      There is almost a kind of social determinism here. People are bad because their environment influences them badly. What people need then is a new environment where the “past doesn’t matter.” Note there is no true redemption of the past in the show whereby God transforms even evil and tragedy into good, but just a forgetting or erasure of the past.

  2. Daniel Harman says:

    Indeed, Jeremy! I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointment as I saw the philosopical framework of LOST finally revealved. Somehow I was holding out hope that it would line up more with the gospel. Then, I could relish it more! Jacob would have more gravitas. But man’s stories are but pointers to the real glory. They’re only shadows, reflections. Some are better than others, but none can quite suffice.

    • True. This story does point towards some biblical truths, but there is just enough truth in it to make it dangerous (especially since it is so entertaining!). I’m concerned about it’s potential to reinforce powerful lies in our culture about the human condition and what we need for salvation.

      • Jason says:

        I agree that the elements of truth in the show are just enough to be dangerous. I read alot of LOST blogs and such. Many, many individuals are abuzz about how Jacobs speech to Richard was so much like the God of the Bible. They are so deceived 😦

        I don’t spend much time trying to engage people in cyber-chat about these issues but I am trying, and I hope all LOST fans who know the gospel are also trying, to talk with those people whom I know in the flesh that watch the show about deep truth.

        We can use a speech like the one by Jacob to start a conversation with a lost LOST fan (pun intended) which can end with a clear explanation of the Gospel.

        Thats what I love about LOST, it is willing to tackle the big questions in an age of superficial whipped cream entertainment…And even when LOST gets it wrong – we get a chance to talk with others and spread the truth!

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