It’s About Time: Marvel’s Loki and Jonathan Edwards
Time is an enigma. Dr. Suess once asked, “How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” Albert Einstein said time is what keeps everything from happening at once. The columnist Dave Berry remarked, “Aside from velcro, time is the most mysterious substance in the universe.”
A new Marvel series wades into these philosophical waters, as Loki, that lovable-trouble-causing-sort-of-bad-guy, takes on the keepers of the sacred timeline. In a previous Avenger movie Loki exits the plot and this new series picks up on where and what the quasi villain is up to in the intervening chronology. Here’s a trailer to give the uninitiated a bit of an overview.
Me and my three sons are already fans of the show. I’m particularly interested in how the producers will describe time and its relationship to human activity. That is a topic philosophers and theologians alike love to gnaw on like a a dog with a stolen bone. Even the famed puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards, best known for his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” spent a good amount of time on the subject.
Edwards was a bit of a rock star in every arena he stepped into. He was only thirteen when he enrolled in Yale University. The guy was writing philosophical thoughts before kids today can get a driver’s permit. In one of his early works Edwards described his belief that God is re-creating the whole of human existence one moment at a time. “For we are anew created every moment,” he said, “and that that is caused to be this moment, is not the same that was caused to be the last moment, only as there is such a relation between this existence now and a certain existence in time past as we call sameness . . . ”
This is a topic called “Persistence.” It’s an attempt to explain the relationship between an eternal God and a created world. It explores the notion of sameness that we universally experience even though we live in a constantly changing world. If you want to see how quickly this can get a wee bit confusing, read this excerpt from Edwards:
“If the existence of created substance, in each successive moment, be wholly the effect of God’s immediate power, in that moment, without any dependence on prior existence, as much as the first creation out of nothing, then what exists at this moment, by this power, is a new effect; and simply and absolutely considered, not the same with any past existence, though it be like it.”
Though a hefty subject — in my opinion, an untraversable mystery — Edwards models the Christian work ethic applied to the intellectual realm, even while rushing in where angels dare to tread. One scholar described the philosophical Puritan preacher this way, “Edwards sanctified the unknowable.” While time is indeed a conundrum, it’s not one any person can avoid. Even Marvel is taking a crack at it.