Theodicy on the Screen and in Scripture
Obviously, with Thor being a god, a quest to murder gods concerns him and the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not only do we want to see Thor live, but we also want to defend him, so the film offers its own theodicies. There are numerous philosophical responses to the problem of evil, but the Bible directly speaks to the issue in two primary ways: God is God, and God became man. Thor seems to be a critique of the first option, but it actually offers its own corrupted version.
What is the “God is God” response to suffering? When humans face evil and turn to God for answers in the Bible, they are sometimes reminded of their place compared to God’s. Job endures suffering and questions God only to have God turn the table and question Job. God is God, and Job is not.
On the surface, Thor: Love and Thunder may seem to rebuke this response. Most of the gods we see in Thor are self-absorbed and offer no response to those in agony beneath them. Some, like Rapu, only want to experience all the pleasures of their divine existence and so they’ve given no thought to the lives of those beneath them. Others may recognize the difficulties and troubles of their followers, but their concern for their own safety and comfort overwhelms any desire to help. But in this, we do not see “God is God,” instead we see “God is man.” The gods in Thor are simply more powerful humans. They may have abilities beyond our imagination, but they have the same moral weaknesses.
Still, Thor: Love and Thunder does offer hints at the other response the Bible offers to the problem of evil and sin: “God became man.” Over four standalone MCU films and other appearances, the character arc for Thor has been to prove his worthiness amid pain and loss. In the original Thor film, we see an arrogant warrior who needed to be humbled and learn to love others. Now in the latest Thor film, we see a god ready to lay down his life for all that he loves. In the end, before Eternity (literally), Thor learns that salvation requires sacrifice.
Just as the mythological gods serve as shadows that find their fullness in the true God, as J.R.R. Tolkien demonstrated to C.S. Lewis, so too do the MCU’s representations of the mythological gods point beyond themselves to the “True Myth.” Thor’s journey leads us to hope that love conquers death and paradise awaits those who walk the narrow way. Jesus’ life and death give a foundation to that hope.
This is the Christian’s response to the problem of evil on a personal level. It may not address all the philosophical questions, but it does address the existential one: Where is God when I’m suffering? In the person of Jesus, we see that God is right there in the midst of our pain with us. God became man. He doesn’t have the same moral failings we do. He didn’t have to prove His worthiness. He has always been worthy, but he did “prove His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). On the cross, Jesus suffered, enduring the full punishment of evil on our behalf. He died to bring us life. That is a God worthy of our worship.
Gorr the God Butcher says, “All gods must die,” to which the Christian responds, “Yes, He already did.”