It was challenging to pinpoint a direct moral theme related to fate and freewill in this week’s episode of Lost. If there was one, I think it is the theme of trust. The character Sun Kwon, wife of Jin Kwon, has been separated from her husband for some time and reuniting with him overrides all other concerns. Throughout this episode she is faced with decisions about who to trust. The MIB approaches her in her garden promising to lead her to Jin if she follows him. She hesitates and then flees. When the enigmatic Richard Alpert returns to lead her group (the “good guys”) to stop the MIB from leaving the island (an event that would precipitate some kind of worldwide catastrophic plunge into darkness), she angrily refuses to follow, saying that she is more concerned about finding her husband than saving the world. Finally, at the end, Jack Shepherd (the last name is no coincidence), gently assures her that he will lead her to Jin if she will join the group, and asks if she trusts him. Jack is the only one she does trust.
This episode opens up a whole new, and important, door in the discourse of freewill and fate – the relationship between trust and choice. Plainly, what we trust influences, or perhaps even dictates, our choices. Sun chooses not to follow the MIB but run because she does not trust him. She later changes her mind and chooses to join the group because she trusts Jack. We choose to visit restaurants or shop at certain stores because we trust their name. Our choice of doctors, financial planners, attorneys, pastors, and so on, are based on who we trust.
A more complex issue has to do with how our choices influence who and what we trust. Do we choose who we trust or is trust something that happens in us? If trust is something that happens to us, how might our choices influence that process? If trust is a choice, then what or who we choose to trust is a fundamental one, or perhaps even the fundamental one because it was the first moral choice humanity faced.
In the Garden of Eden, God presented man with a real choice:
15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)
In Genesis 1, we learn that mankind – man and woman – is made in the image of God. Just as God is rational and creative, so are people. And just as God has a purpose and will, so does he endow humanity with a purpose and will. But having a will is meaningless unless one has real choices tied to real consequences. Imagine if a friend invited you to a great restaurant with the promise of numerous scrumptious menu items to choose from, but when you arrive the waiter says that they are out of everything except meatloaf. At this point your freedom of choice is nullified by the absence of choice (except of course the freedom to leave the restaurant!). By providing Adam with a real choice tied to weighty consequences, God affirms the reality of human freedom. Adam has the freedom to choose to eat from any tree, except one. Choosing this one will result in death.
You probably know how the rest of the story goes, Eve is approached by the serpent, representing the devil, who tempts to eat from this one forbidden tree. His tactic is to contradict what God told Adam:
“1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ “ 4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Here the first man and woman are faced with a fundamental choice about whom to trust: do they trust what God has said about the consequences of eating from this tree or do the trust the serpent? They chose to trust the serpent that they might “become like God.” The consequence, though, was just as God had said: death.
This choice to trust the word of the serpent over the word of God fundamentally changed human nature from a state of innocence and righteousness to a state of guilt and alienation. This change is symbolized in the coverings they make for themselves to cover their shame. Prior to choosing to eat the fruit, they both were “naked and without shame.” Or this transformation might be described as a shift from trust in God to distrust.
Throughout Scripture, God calls people to trust in Him and His Word. Clearly the first humans’ choice was free; it is debatable now, though, whether we can make a truly free choice to trust God and not the word of the serpent, which is any claim that opposes the truth God has revealed. I would love to hear your comments on this.
Yet who we trust, just like in Lost, remains inextricably linked to the path we follow in life, and thus this fundamental choice is still imbued with far-reaching consequences. As God promises concerning his Son – Jesus the true Good Shepherd – “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame (Romans 10:11).”