Theology of Justification in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

shield-seedIn the first season of Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.Agent Coulson somehow survived his run-in with Loki in the movie The Avengers and is now back in charge of an elite unit of S.H.I.E.L.D. which is searching for other superheroes either to recruit them or to keep them from becoming bad supervillains. Good stuff!

We previously talked about a depiction of Original Sin in the first episode and Hell in the ninth episode.  Today, we are talking about a depiction of conversion in the twelth episode “Seeds.” (watch episode here | read review here).


Removing False Narratives

Agent Coulson has found out the truth of Skye’s family origins: she was saved as an infant by SHIELD agents who were then killed. She was passed around from home to home for a while to keep her out of harm’s way of whoever killed the agents. Coulson–who has had enough of secrets–tells Skye this classified information.

When Coulson is later talking to Agent Mae, he explains how the conversation went:

Coulson: When I told her, it shattered her world. Her lifelong search led to stories of murder and now it is too difficult to continue. Her search is over, her story ends here. But you know what she said? She said no, her story started here. Her whole life she thought she wasn’t wanted, that she didn’t belong, that every family that took her in didn’t want her to stay, didn’t care. But all that time, it was S.H.I.E.L.D. protecting her, looking after her.

That’s what she took away from the story. Not the family she’ll never had, but the story she’s always had. Here I am telling her something that could destroy her faith in humanity and somehow she manages to repair a little piece of mine.

The narrative that Skye told herself is that she wasn’t loved, wanted, or cared about. She built up this story in her head, based on the reality around her, and told herself she wasn’t important.

But the truth was that all along the way–every step of her early life–there was a family around her. Agents who would slip in and out of her life and move her whenever it got too dangerous. And then she found her way back into S.H.I.E.L.D. when she was an adult, desiring to serve the greater good through an organization that she knew nothing about but some part of her yearned for it.

This is the moment of conversion for the soon-to-be Agent Skye. Conversion as depicted in this scene is not where someone accepts Jesus into their heart and is saved from eternal damnation. Conversion is rather depicted as when we shed the false narrative that we built up and replace it with a true narrative that gives life.

Will we see a full Wesleyan Grace in this series?

From a Wesleyan perspective, we’ve seen now two episodes that deal directly with Wesleyan Grace.

  1. In the first episode (which we examined here), we see a character who was born into societal sin react badly against it. Mike was born into Original Sin. And yet Coulson sees the inner good, that prevenient grace, inside the character that empowers them to resist their situation and  make their narrative not about “what they have” but about “what they do with it.”
  2. In this 12th episode, we see a character go through justification, or a turning towards the divine.  Wesley, in his sermon “Jusification by Faith” understood justification as a restoration of Imago Dei or the image of God. Skye no longer saw herself as a victim or unwanted person, but as a beloved child who was cared for to the point of death by the organization she now belongs to. Her narrative has changed–nay, her false narrative was stripped away and her true narrative is laid bare. She accepts it and turns, repairing Coulson’s sense of humanity in the process.

So I wonder if we will see sanctifying grace in a future episode so that we get a hat trick of Wesleyan Grace.

Or perhaps the grace is already there.

Perhaps that grace can be experienced by all who live out Coulson’s closing lines from the episode:

Coulson: The world is full of evil and lies and pain and death. And you can’t hide from it. You can only face it. The question is when you do, how do you respond? Who do you become?

The choice is yours.


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