In this film, Thor questions whether he will ever be worthy of something far more universal than power and heroism. Thor seeks to be worthy of love, just as we all do. But as important as this is, the film also explores two crucial theological questions that have ramifications far beyond this life: what makes someone worthy of worship and worthy to enter paradise?
Worthy of Worship
Many fans believe Love and Thunder’s antagonist, Gorr the God Butcher, is one of the best villains of the MCU due to his complex, tragic characterization. However, the most compelling aspect of the character may be that he is absolutely correct in his assessment of the universe’s gods. The film begins with Gorr wandering a desert with his daughter, both suffering from hunger and thirst. Gorr cries out to his god, Napu, yet Gorr receives no assistance while he watches his daughter die. Gorr eventually finds Napu in a lush oasis and expresses his loyalty to his god. When Napu scoffs at the plight of Gorr and the rest of humanity, Gorr decides that Napu and all other gods are unworthy of worship. Using the god-slaying Necrosword, Gorr strikes down Napu and vows to destroy all of the gods in the universe.
However, it is not just the movie’s villain who realizes that the universe’s deities are not as great as they make themselves out to be. Thor journeys to Omnipotence City, an assembly of the universe’s greatest gods, to warn them about Gorr and to gain assistance in defeating him. But they reject Thor’s plea, instead choosing to remain safe in their abode. Thor realizes that the gods are all selfish and vain, desiring praise and comfort while caring nothing for their followers. Anyone should agree that these deities are certainly unworthy of worship. This, then, raises an important question: What makes someone worthy of worship?
Revelation chapters four and five record John’s vision of heaven, in which God is worshiped for all eternity. The twenty-four elders proclaim: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:11). This verse provides insight into why the Christian God is worthy of worship and our complete loyalty: He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. God is not just the greatest of gods, like Zeus. No creature on heaven and earth compares to God: “Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours” (Psalm 86:8). God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and morally perfect, whom St. Anselm described as a Greatest Conceivable Being. Only a Being such as this would be worthy of worship.
But God does not deserve our worship only based on who he is, but also based on what he did. In Revelation 5:12, thousands upon thousands of angels cry, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Who is this Lamb? Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, who took on human flesh and was crucified and rose again. Omnipotence City was beautiful and golden, the gods there were powerful and radiant. Yet, they were all lacking in character and compassion. In contrast, Jesus was lowly and humble. He was born in a manger in a tiny town to simple parents. Isaiah 53:2 says that Jesus, the Suffering Servant, “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” This is contrasted with the muscular and handsome Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, who in 2014 was named “Sexiest Man Alive” by People magazine. Jesus appeared as a normal man, saving the world not through physical might, but through his sinlessness and passively suffering on the cross for our sins. This is what makes Jesus worthy of our worship.
Worthy of Paradise
While Gorr enacts his vengeance across the galaxy, Thor receives a distress call from a fellow Asgardian hero, Sif, who was gravely injured in a battle with Gorr and his monsters. Sif asks Thor to leave her to die on the battlefield so she can go to Valhalla, the final resting place of Norse warriors. However, Thor reminds Sif that one must die during battle to enter Valhalla. This raises a second question: What makes a person worthy of paradise?
Many cultures and religions believe in life after death, an eternal reward for the good and eternal punishment for the bad. Most belief systems hold that we are judged by our good deeds, by our actions in this life. If we are good enough, we will be worthy of paradise. This is untrue of Christianity, however. In fact, we can never be good enough to stand in the presence of the perfectly holy Being. This is the bad news of Christianity, that we are all sinful and unworthy of paradise on our own merit (Romans 3:10, 23). But, the good news of Christianity is that Jesus paid the debt for our sin, and those who place their faith in him will be declared worthy because Jesus is worthy.
A great illustration of this occurs during Jesus’s crucifixion. Jesus hung between two criminals, and one asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus entered paradise. We aren’t told what that criminal did to merit a death penalty, but we can imagine it must have been terrible. Yet, Jesus didn’t ask. He didn’t even question why the man thought he was worthy of heaven. Jesus simply replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). We are not worthy of salvation because of our good works, but by our faith in Jesus and the work that he accomplished by dying and rising again. There is no other religion like Christianity in this aspect, and there is no superhero or religious figure like Jesus.
While Thor: Love and Thunder has been highly criticized by fans and critics alike, it still offers important points of theological reflection. The film’s villain, heroes, and the fans alike recognize that the gods of the MCU are unworthy of praise and worship. However, we Christians believe in a God who is maximally powerful, intelligent, loving, and good; a God who is absolutely worthy of our worship and devotion. It is because of God’s love and goodness that he provided a means of salvation for unworthy sinners. This was not through physical might, by destroying powerful armies, but by living a sinless life and enduring a sacrificial death. This is why “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them” will proclaim, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).
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