Glorious Purpose

Warning: this article includes spoilers for the Disney+ Marvel Series, Loki.

“I am Loki of Asgard, and I am burdened with glorious purpose.”

Tom Hiddleston’s Loki first uttered that iconic phrase in 2012’s The Avengers, and the god of mischief has been scheming and backstabbing to achieve his glorious purpose ever since. Although Loki dies in Avengers: Infinity War, a “variant” version of him survives in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) due to the time-travelling events of Avengers: Endgame. The Loki Disney+ series begins immediately following Loki’s escape from S.H.I.E.L.D. custody using the Tesseract.

 

While Loki features plenty of the wit and deviousness we would expect from the god of mischief, it also explores deep existential themes such as fate, free will, and purpose—glorious purpose.

Everything is Meaningless
Mobius, the Time Variance Authority (TVA) agent assigned to Loki, desires to know why Loki acts the way he does and what his “glorious purpose” is. This is all to help Mobius track a fugitive who has constantly eluded the TVA: another Loki variant, Silvie. In the process, we see the arrogant, power-hungry god of mischief become completely humbled and powerless. Loki’s magic does not work in the TVA. The Infinity Stones, the greatest force in the universe, are useless in the TVA and treated as mere paperweights. While Loki believes his glorious purpose is to rule the universe, Mobius reminds him that all he does is fail, which we have seen happen repeatedly throughout the MCU films. Loki learns that in the “sacred timeline,” he is the cause of his adopted mother’s death and that he ultimately dies at the hands of Thanos. The grand, bombastic Loki can only laugh as he learns that his glorious purpose ultimately amounts to nothing.

We all may not have the desire to rule the universe, but every one of us seeks to find our purpose in life. Recognizing one’s hopes and dreams is only the first step, however—the hard part is achieving them. Loki finds that, in spite of his cunning and determination, his life ends at the hands of someone stronger and smarter. Does life ultimately matter, then? According to the author of Ecclesiastes, it doesn’t. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” he proclaims (Ecclesiastes 1:2). The book is traditionally believed to have been written by Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, a king who obtained great power and riches. Yet, the writer claims that everything is ultimately meaningless. He understands the fleeting nature of life, how we try to enjoy it while we can, and then it ends. Ecclesiastes offers a dismal view of life.

Finding Purpose
Yet, Loki persists. He does not believe he is a loser but a survivor. This is, perhaps, his defining characteristic. Even though he is repeatedly defeated, often in a humiliating fashion, he never quits. Eventually, Loki gains his greatest victory. No, he does not obtain his glorious purpose of ruling the universe or overthrowing the TVA. He gains something more important: friendship. As god of mischief, Loki is utterly untrustworthy. As Mobius notes, Loki constantly stabs people in the back—often literally. Loki’s desire for power isolates him from everyone. He eventually admits that he plays tricks on others due to his narcissism and need for attention due to his fear of being alone. But throughout the season, Loki learns to trust. He befriends Mobius and falls in love with Silvie. It is through this that Loki finds a new glorious purpose: caring for others. In the season finale, Loki ultimately rejects his plan of overthrowing the TVA, only desiring for Silvie to be okay.

All of our hopes and dreams may end unfulfilled. If our purpose in life is to chase worldly success and power, we will eventually learn—as the writer of Ecclesiastes did—that those things are meaningless. Yet, this is not how Ecclesiastes ends. In the final chapter, we discover the aim of life: “Remember your creator” (Ecclesiastes 12:1) and “Fear God and keep his commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). We find our purpose not within ourselves, but in God. Jesus declared the greatest commandment is to love God with all that we are—heart, mind, soul, and strength—and the second commandment is to love others as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). Loki discovers that a solitary life aimed at self-satisfying pursuits is ultimately meaningless, but loving others allows us to find purpose. Since the first commandment is to love God, everything else flows from that. Knowing and loving God is our true purpose. While Loki initially believes that his purpose ends at death, as Christians we know this is not true. For us, death is only a step in the glorious life we have with our Creator.

Sovereignty and Freedom
In the season finale, Loki discovers the true power behind the TVA, the one who controls the sacred timeline: a being known as He Who Remains. He is an immensely powerful and intelligent being who allegedly directs the events of the entire universe in an effort to keep it safe from an all-out multiverse war. Given the scope of power and control He Who Remains has over the universe, one can’t help but wonder how he compares to the God of Christianity. God is all-knowing and all-powerful. He is sovereign over all creation. But that is where the similarities end. One of the many differences between superpowered fictional beings and God is God’s moral character. God is perfectly good, holy, and loving. He Who Remains does not love the universe or the people in it; he merely wishes to prevent the chaos of a multiversal war. Thanos, the god-like villain of the Infinity Saga, ruthlessly destroys anyone in his way, eliminating half of the sentient beings in the universe—which is his idea of saving it. On the contrary, God emptied himself and took on human flesh, not to become a tyrant, but to become a suffering servant. Jesus did not kill anyone, instead, he sacrificed himself to save us. He taught us that true strength is in service and submission to the will of the Father, not lording power over others.

This leads to the major theme that runs throughout the entire season of Loki: free will. From the first episode to the last, characters maintain that no one in the universe has free will other than He Who Remains, the being who orchestrates and maintains the sacred timeline. While Loki and Silvie reject this, the other characters claim that everyone in the universe simply acts out the script that He Who Remains has written. Similarly, Christians have been debating the connection between God’s sovereignty and human freedom for centuries. How can humans have free will if God is completely sovereign over the world? While the Bible teaches that God rules over all creation, he still offers us commands and expects obedience. God does not control us like He Who Remains appears to in the MCU. Instead, God invites us into a loving relationship with him to join his redemptive plan for the world. He is not a ruthless dictator or a puppet master—God is a loving father.

Conclusion
Like many of the other MCU films and television series, Loki offers a fun way to explore deep, existential issues. Loki finds a glorious purpose, but not the one he expected. He abandons his narcissism and learns to trust. He no longer needs to be alone in the universe and is willing to form true relationships based on love and trust. Loki also causes us to question the nature of God and his design for humanity. Unlike He Who Remains and other supremely powerful beings of the MCU, God is a loving father who desires not to control us, but to love us and for us to love him in return. As Ecclesiastes teaches, pursuing the things of this world is utterly meaningless. We were designed for more: to join with God in his glorious purpose.

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Timothy Fox

Timothy Fox has a passion to equip the church to engage the culture. He is a part-time math teacher, full-time husband and father. He has an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University as well as an M.A. in Adolescent Education of Mathematics and a B.S. in Computer Science, both from Stony Brook University. Tim lives on Long Island, NY with his wife and children. He also blogs at freethinkingministries.com, and you can follow him on Twitter at @TimothyDFox.