Jesus vs. Cthulhu
I’m sad that October is almost over. I love this time of year. Fall is here and with Halloween in a few days, we all have an excuse to indulge in some spookiness. As such, I decided to draw the themes for our first XLM weekly Bible studies from horror stories.
I love my job.
My notes are below.
Cosmic Horror: the Universe Does Not Love You
H.P. Lovecraft was a pioneer of what’s called weird fiction. The bad guys in his stories are often these unspeakable cosmic horrors — vastly old, utterly alien creatures that cause trouble for humanity. Among them is Cthulhu, one of the Great Old Ones. He’s gigantic and has a squid head. Very creepy.
Lovecraft worked with that theme of alienness a lot. Much of the scariness of his stories comes as his characters learn unimaginable secrets about the universe. Because of that, one of the other themes that crops up a lot is madness. In the Cthulhu Mythos, when you learn the truth, the truth will drive you insane. Cthulhu and other figures in the mythos have evil cults that worship them and do terrible things. Their presence corrupts their followers. One of the things that happens in Lovecraft stories is that, if they don’t go nuts, people slowly become monsters.
Lovecraft’s work reflects his personal beliefs about the world. His philosophy is called cosmicism, which holds that the universe is an impersonal, chaotic, mechanical place. The universe was born of chaos, and produced only more chaos.
If that were so, what would it imply?
- Our lives are completely and totally insignificant.
- Good and evil are meaningless.
- Life has no purpose.
- There is no justice.
- We could all be wiped out at any moment.
- Suffering is arbitrary.
- Love is, at best, a chemical reaction.
Ever feel like that? Ever doubt that your life, your experiences have any meaning? Isn’t it horrifying to think that they might have no meaning at all? Ever get the feeling like no one cares about what you’re going through and life is nothing but chaos?
Let’s look at some contrasts between the universe of the Cthulhu Mythos and the universe that Jesus describes.
In Cthulhu’s world, our lives have no inherent value.
In a materialist view, we are a complex arrangement of particles, and that’s about it.
According to God, we have immense value to Him.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet (Psalm 8:3-6)
Our value is given to us by God. Think about that: our value is tied not to our own actions, not what other humans say about us, but the very character of God. The creator of the universe says we’re valuable: therefore, we are.
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:28-31 NIV)
I think that quote is funny in its understatement. Jesus says here that we are worth something. How much? Consider this as well: God set our value through the cross. Jesus paid an enormous price for us because we were that valuable to Him.
…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
In Cthulhu’s world, our lives have no purpose.
Materialism denies the possibility of a driving purpose. Some naturalists talk about survival as a purpose, but where does that imperative come from? The truth is, in a naturalistic world, survival and extinction are both equally meaningless.
Jesus gives us purpose.
I just finished a series on the Minor Prophets. All throughout the Old and New Testaments, you can see God’s plan at work. It’s been the same since time began. Paul summarizes it nicely:
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19 NIV)
Our purpose is to cultivate a relationship, a connection to Him, and to help bring others into that same connection. Our purpose is to advance God’s plan to save the world.
This points to something Lovecraft kinda got right: the world is a brutal place. The difference is, God gives us an explanation for what went wrong and hope for His solution.
In the Cthulhu Mythos, our only hope against impossible odds is our own strength.
One of the main themes of horror is hopelessness. “The Call of Cthulhu” ends thus:
Who knows the end? What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise. Loathsomeness waits and dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men. A time will come – but I must not and cannot think! Let me pray that, if I do not survive this manuscript, my executors may put caution before audacity and see that it meets no other eye.
We are pitted against creatures far more powerful and ruthless than us. We have no hope of winning. The world of Cthulhu is cold, indifferent, and hopeless.
Jesus gives us His strength.
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31-36)
Think about this: why is the idea of meaninglessness so horrifying?
It means that all our efforts and all the things that happen to us don’t mean anything. It means that all our pain amounts to nothing. The universe does not care.
I think one reason is, deep down, we know the truth. And the truth is, there is a wise, loving Father who created the universe and cares what we do in our day to day lives. There is purpose and meaning in everything He does, and He wants us to join with Him in saving the universe from the damage we did to it.
We have immense value to God. For those of us who get it, our job is to live it out and let people know. For those of us who don’t, our job is to learn it.
31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:31-33)
Posted on October 28, 2012, in Christianity, Fiction, Geekery, God, The Bible, Uncategorized and tagged Bible, Bible study, Christianity, cosmic horror, Cthulhu, God, H.P. Lovecraft, Halloween, Jesus, love, meaning, philosophy, purpose, spirituality. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.