A theological approach to Loki Laufeyson

Two brothers grew up in the house of a wise king.  They were both given the finest clothes, choicest foods, best education, and the tender attentions of two doting parents. The brothers loved each other, and thought they would always be the truest of friends. Although they were raised in identical circumstances when it came to the amount of love, attention, and provision of needs, these two brothers grew up to be as different as the sun and moon.

Two households, both alike in dignity
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
~William Shakespeare

Loki’s nature is chaos.  It is his destiny to ensnare others, and, in turn, be ensnared by, chaos, because that is who he chose to be.  His desire is to rule, but how can the god of chaos rule anything?  To rule means to instill an order, even if that order is mangled, misshapen and deformed.  But, chaos and order cannot coexist.  They mutually exclude each other.  So, how could Loki ever hope to achieve his desire?  How can chaos rule?It would defy the very nature of what chaos is.  If it were able to instill rule, then it would no longer be chaos.  And thus, even his hopes are confounded by his nature.  His desires, which cannot ever be fully realized, because they are opposite to his nature, leave him ever striving yet finding no solace.  So long as he follows his wanton desires, Loki is stuck in a life of chaos.

The Bible teaches that “there is a way which seems right to humankind, but in the end it leads only to death.”  Humans have a fractured nature.  Even though we were created by God in His image, and given a beautiful bountiful planet, we chose to pursue our own desires.  In effect, when we do things our way, we are telling God that He does not know what’s best for us.  When we go against our conscience, which God put in us to lead us toward Him, our own hearts tell us we have gone wrong.  Even though we want our own autonomy (that means rule of our own lives, and mastery of our own destinies) we cannot control outcomes, so we have chosen to make ourselves out to be God, but without the powers of a god.  The weird thing is when people, who have spent their whole lives trying to produce a happy life apart from God, pray to Him when they want Him to get them out of trouble.  Our sinful nature, which wants to put distance between us and God, is at war with our conscience, which wants to draw us closer to God.  This produces a life of emotional chaos.  Like Loki, we often choose to silence the small voice within us that wants to do right, in order to follow our own twisted passions.

Poor Loki suffers from a perpetually tormented spirit.  He always seems to be the recipient of scorn, even if it is only a product of his imagination.  He has a “persecution complex”.  He feels the slights and barbs others aim at him to the power of ten, and this is one of the excuses he uses to justify his behavior.  Loki always plays the victim.  How well his expression reads, “Who, me?  Why? What have I ever done to deserve this?” He lays the blame at the feet of everyone else.  He says, “This is Thor’s fault, because he would have made for a reckless and foolish king.” Or, “My actions were in response to Odin’s mistake of choosing to crown Thor.  If, he had only chosen me, things wouldn’t have had to go down like this.” Pride and hurt propel him to do what he knows is wrong.  In his warped sense of entitlement, Loki believes he can prove to his father that he is fit to rule.  So, he chooses to start a war, in order  to enthrall Midgard, which he somehow believes will belie that he was meant to wear a crown.  The irony of course is that his actions prove to Odin he is not a worthy king, because Odin was hoping his heir would be a person of peace and orderliness.  It is Loki acting on his own orders, which spoils his hopes of ever pleasing his father.  He thinks he can do it his own way, and his father will grin and throw open his arms in loving acceptance.  Except, it is not in the nature of Odin to overlook any crime, no matter how small, let alone Loki’s attempt to conquer one of the realms.  Odin sees all too well the nature of Loki, and it grieves him.  Odin is bound by his honor, indeed, by his very character of self, to oppose and reject Loki.

Humankind has invented many religions and philosophies, which it hopes will be good enough to merit God’s favor.  Human’s, in their vain attempts to please God with ritual, sacrifice, religious activities and incantations, have overlooked (and even openly avoided) the only true Way to meet God.  The Bible teaches in 1 Timothy 2:5 that there is only one Mediator between God and men, and that is not a method, dharma, or system of belief.  Rather it is a Person, the Person Jesus.  Jesus is the Way we get to the Father, and choosing to go around Him or ignore Him is choosing to miss the only Way God Himself prescribed for us.  We, like Loki, defy the orders of the very Person we want to prove ourselves to, opting instead to have it our own way.  This is counter-intuitive, yet it somehow makes sense to our twisted human nature.  But, our best is simply not good enough.  It is not the acceptable act of worship that God is worthy of. God will not accept us where we are, when He has graciously shown us a Way which leads to Himself.  A Way in which He first leads us.

He is in over his head, but rather than turn and repent, Loki chooses to double down. He cannot allow his pride any further injury.  He is given chance after chance to turn over a new leaf.  He is a person possessed of self doubt, and yet he succeeds in causing trouble where ever he goes.  Even the human, Agent Coulson, tells Loki that he cannot prevail, because he “lacks conviction”.  It goes somewhat against intuition that Loki has so much ambition, but so little certainty of his abilities.  And yet still he recruits an army of Chitauri, who he hopes to use to over throw the earth. Loki listens to his pride, when he should obey his conscience. His own sense of common understanding and wisdom is telling him, that he cannot possibly hope to prevail. Not against Asgard; not against the Avengers. But, he doubles down. He chooses to move forward with his demented designs, because, in his mind, admitting defeat would be confessing to Odin, Thor, and all the realms that he is unfit. Even if he succeeds, the onus of rule will be too much for him. His chaotic nature will not grant him a successful reign. Tony Stark makes this expressly evident when he tells Loki, “You’re missing the point. There’s no throne. There is no version of this where you come out on top. Maybe your army comes, and maybe it’s too much for us, but it’s all on you. Because if we can’t protect the Earth, you can be damn well sure we’ll avenge it.” And, Loki knows it. He knows in his intellect that victory is not for him, but he uses his will, fueled by his negative emotions, to convince himself otherwise. He has two natures, just like me.

I think, hidden in the hearts of most people, there is an awareness that we are somehow lost, incomplete, needy. We strive to have a victorious life, but we also doubt that it is even possible. In your quiet moments, maybe staring at the blackness of the ceiling above your bed, some early AM hour, you have pondered your faults, frailties, and fears. You think to yourself, “Am I enough? Can I do it? Do I have what it takes? Do I measure up?” Yes, you have dreams and goals, but you aren’t sure if you will ever attain them. Take heart, and know that every person God draws to himself, he leads through the dessert. You are meant to ask yourself these questions, because you are meant to answer them; “No”. Coming to this answer is the first crucial step to accepting God’s gracious gift of forgiveness. The next step is to carefully follow Jesus through this life, and into the next. He offers us a better Way. It is a way out of the traps we have laid for ourselves. It is a life that matters here on earth, and ends in the heavenly victory God has secured.

It would be easy for Loki to give up, and admit his error.  Thor pleads with him multiple times to do just that, but for Loki this would be impossible.  Once again this goes to his nature.  Thor takes it upon himself to mitigate and thwart Loki’s evil, all the while offering him opportunities to quit destroying and make things right.  Thor even spills his own blood, in  a face to face showdown, at the battle of Manhattan. On another occasion, when Thor believes Loki has been killed, Thor is tormented with grief.  Loki on the other hand, seems incapable of caring for anybody but himself, possibly barring his adoptive mother, Frigga.  When Loki became king of Asgard, while Thor was banished on earth and Odin was in his deep sleep, Loki came to Thor to gloat.  Thor is humbled, and asks King Loki for permission to return home, but Loki told Thor that his mother, Frigga, forbade his return.  This crushes Thor even more bitterly. Afterward, thinking he had finally rid himself of anyone who could stand in his way, Loki returned to Asgard smiling triumphantly.

The quintessential quality of humanity is self absorption. We find it nearly impossible to value others as much as we value ourselves.  Our every thought is bent on self promotion, and when we work hardest it is to advance our own self’s position.  Rather than admitting this, we often redouble our efforts at philanthropy, just to prove to ourselves we aren’t so bad.  Some of us even start a non-profit, or serve soup at one.  God has given us a conscience, which nags at us to repent and be saved, but all we want to do is remain in the dark.  God has sent His Holy Spirit into the world to guide believers into all truth, but we are satisfied with the life of a novice.  Far too busy, or too lazy, to commit to diving deep into the goodness of God, we contrive to settle for mediocrity.

Even if we are to get what all that we want, we’ll soon find that there is no true and lasting satisfaction apart from God.  We can build no happiness, totally independent of God, which gives life meaning.  Only that love, joy, and peace that is founded upon the person of Jesus, can hope to be permanent.  The reason you can never find real happiness, is that like Loki, you have a restless soul.  Like Loki, it is in your nature to defy authority, substitute your own laws, and look around witheringly while the world crashes down around your ears.  Like Loki, your nature makes it impossible for you to have what you want.  Admit it, under all the charm and facade, this is who you really are. Isn’t it? It is who I am. It is a truly sad existence, but Christ extends to us this one and only hope.

The fact is, Loki must be defeated. He does not have the power to rule himself, so he must be governed by others. He may act good and benevolently, when it serves him, but his true heart is bent and fractured. The love of his good family was not enough. They had to band together to defeat him. Loki’s destiny and desert is to be conquered, humbled, and bound by the Good. I, too, must be defeated. I need God to conquer me, in order that he may save me. Under ordinary circumstances, I will not bow to Him willingly. He must go to extremes to win me. He must sacrifice His very peace, place, throne, and life, to break through to a soul like mine. To redeem a wicked will like mine, the Lord pays every price. What an amazing paradox, that the God who rules over everything, in this one regard defers to my will. He travels a distance of 100 trillion miles, then bids me take the one last step toward Him. The transaction He commands, is that we believe on the One He has sent. That One is the Lord Jesus.

Lord Jesus offers us perfect peace, in the midst of riots and tumult.  He is the Lord! Who are we to disobey Him? He offers us complete forgiveness, which heals the unspoken, secret, shameful wound within our very hearts.  He will lead us beside still waters. He will walk along side of us, as we follow His direction. He will stand by us, and lead us through this life, and He bids us ““Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Wisdom vs Faith

I have, in little bites and small portions, ingested elements of the Materialist’s false worldview.  In the smorgasbord of worldviews, cultural perspectives, and alternative philosophies of life, it was bound to happen that a little bit of savory error would find its way onto my plate.  Without ever having meant to, and in spite of my best efforts to avoid it, I’ve swallowed some spiritual junk food.

This particular bit of junk food manifests as a dichotomy between two streams of scriptural thought.  It makes it so that, in my mind, you have “acting in faith” on the one hand, and “behaving wisely” on the other.  This supposed duality has been put in my head by my western materialist culture. Even though I strive to rid myself of “sloppy logic”, and divest my mind from worldly perceptions, they still get in.  I must stand ever vigilant, and subject my thought life to the approval of a body of believers.  Otherwise, I may never know that my mind is compromised, and my thinking confused.

As it turns out, I have pitted “reason” against faith, in a way which my materialist culture would surely be proud.  The irony here is not that a Christian should find that his worldview is not completely biblical, but that I have used the bible, against myself, to confuse myself further, in a way which is entirely anti-biblical.  The scripture is, sometimes, an unwieldy sword, especially in the hands of a novice.  Other times, believers who have shown themselves to be able “rightly divide the word of truth” make simple category errors, which lead to doctrinal problems.  Still, and this is where I’ve fallen this time, at other times we simply smuggle into the interpretation, ideas which are nothing but pagan.

In philosophy this kind of thinking is sometimes called a “false dilemma” or “false dichotomy”.  In his publication, “The Word Turned Upside Down” analytic philospher John Searle who called it an incorrect assumption that produces false dichotomies.

It is the godless world which wants me to think that faith must be pitted against reason. The “free thinker” (which is code for pagan or atheist, by the way) attempts to persuade  even the elect if possible that he owns Reason, that all faith is blind faith, and only the materialists are able to see the world for how it really is.  I have spent many years learning Christian Apologetics in order to refute and defeat those very claims, and yet I haven’t even rooted it out of my own thoughts completely.

Physician, heal thyself!  Go right on ahead, and pull that log out of your eye socket!

I realized my logical error when I was discussing with Dino the apparent paradox in the following scriptures.  My thesis was simple, “The scripture seems to indicate that two different, equal and opposite, instructions are equally valid.  One is even on the level of a command”  One of the instructions is found in Proverbs 13:22, which says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his grandchildren, but the sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.”  The lesson here is that a wise person, who does what is right, will make good investments and be able to leave a sizable fortune to his forbears.  Some bible teachers will undoubtedly use this verse to show that Christians have a moral duty to store away goods for retirement or a rainy day.  If not a moral duty, then it is at least a highly endorsed action of the virtuous wise.  They sometimes call this “stewardship”, and it is always presented as “wisdom”.

The problem is, I was looking at wisdom as if it is a hedge against chaos.  My version of wisdom, would keep me safely out of the hands of a God who could ruin me.  My version of wisdom, meant never having to lean on God.

On the other hand, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus seems to indicate to his disciples that they should not “worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Taken at its basest and laziest interpretation, Jesus, (quite possibly the worst financial planner in the history of ever) appears to tell his disciples in essence “M’eh, investing is for chumps.  Thinking about the future has no value”.  Unfortunately, some new to the faith or those unfamiliar with the full council of scripture, will take it to mean just that.  For shame!  This puts a black eye on the glorious name of Messiah Jesus.  At its best, Jesus is calling believers to place their faith in His ability to make provision for their daily needs; and encouraging them to not lose heart when things aren’t going just how they’d like.  Still, this is a far cry from the Proverb’s admonition to go about “storing up an inheritance for your grandchildren”.  If the first view is taken, some might suppose that a faith in Jesus is irresponsible, reckless even.  If the second view is taken, some might suppose that Christians need not take care to make wise financial decisions.  Choosing not to worry about the future, for Christ’s sake, is taught as “faith”.

The problem was I was looking at faith as a catch all.  Faith would bail me out if I acted irresponsibly.  Faith would catch me from falling into the traps I’d set for myself, by acting foolishly in the past.  Faith meant I could be lazy.  It meant, God would overlook my lack of effort, hard work, and industry.

So, now we find ourselves between the horns of the dilemma.  On the surface, these two far flung tenets never get any nearer to each other.  They mutually exclude one another.  Without some hermeneutical contortion, these two ideas will never shake hands.  My mind would bounce back and forth, wondering what direction to take.  Should I move forward in faith, or should I

Rock, meet hard place.

For me, these two scripture passage illustrate the need for wisdom.  I realized recently that I had created these false categories, where there are none.  It was either Faith or Wisdom.  Whereas traditional bible interpreters, ones better skilled and stronger minded than myself, would have never erected a wall of partition.  I separated into two distinct categories, what should have remained a singularity.  It is not Faith vs. Wisdom.  It is faithful wisdom, and wise faithfulness!

I firmly avow that, if Christians will first get our heads right concerning proper reasoning, I am confident that many examples of apparent incongruity within the scripture will vanish.  Some may always be with us.  There is a fair amount of unsettledness we must learn to live with.  I have satisfied myself, as one groping in the dark, to dwell in the uncertainty of not perfectly knowing every facet of life.  Sometimes we must simply live in the harried middle, the land of dissonant in-betweens.  We can camp their, but we cannot put down foundations.  Sometimes the only habitable lodging is disparate tent.  Thankfully, this is not one of those times.

I have personally reconciled these two paradoxical bible instructions, by first realizing my logical errors, then re-reading God’s word through the eyes of my new insight.  I saw things much more clearly, and all the foggy mists of paradox evaporated.  God is honored when we act in faith.  It is wise to act in faith, no matter how dangerous the optics may look.  I am not here advocating faith for faith’s sake, and I readily admit that we can place our faith in things which cannot come through (such as lotto tickets, irresponsible cousins, the transmission on our ’87 Dodge)  But, the Lord can be trusted, because when God leads us he also takes responsibility to bring about a good result.

It takes knowing the Lord, and the collected years of life experience with Him, to follow where He leads.  Sometimes it takes a tremendous amount of courage to do what is wise.  Sometimes, the only recourse for the learned doctor, is to raise holy hands to God in humble supplication.

Just like it is wise to act in faith, it is also faithful to act in wisdom.  It is an act of faith to store up for the future, because we do not know the return on our investment.  It is an act of faith to give to God’s kingdom, for His work, knowing we cannot manage the outcomes.  We are told not to be like the lazy and wicked servant, who refused to take what God had given him and use it to grow the Lord’s bounty.  It is wicked to bury our “talents” in the ground, especially when God gave them to us so that we might use them for the advancement of His kingdom.