The Glorious Purpose of Truth in Loki
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32
In the current climate of tolerance and acceptance, and of fake news and propaganda, truth is something that has become increasingly subjective—what’s “truth” for you doesn’t have to be the case for me if I don’t accept it. In turn, objective, absolute, universally applicable truth can and has been labelled as close-mindedness, or even bigotry.
Nonetheless, objective truth is still something that, deep down, matters to us all, as demonstrated by many of the characters in the Marvel TV series Loki. The six-episode Disney+ show chronicles the aftermath of Asgard’s God of Mischief following his Tesseract-assisted escape from 2012’s Battle of New York during Avengers: Endgame’s time heist.
Loki’s evasion of capture creates an unintended alternate timeline, and almost immediately after he teleports himself out of the Avengers’ clutches, he is apprehended by “Minutemen”—hunters from the Time Variance Authority (TVA), an organisation dedicated to preserving what it calls the “Sacred Timeline.” Loki ends up being recruited by TVA Agent Mobius M. Mobius to help him stop another alternate-timeline Loki who has it out for the organisation.
The Sacred Timeline, Loki learns, was created by three omniscient Time-Keepers to contain the Multiverse, branches of alternate timelines. The TVA’s goal is to “prune” —eliminate—what it calls “variants,” beings who attempt to deviate from what the Time-Keepers have dictated ought to happen in the “real” timeline. Variants create what the TVA calls “nexus events,” which if left unchecked could unleash the chaos of the Multiverse once more.
Free will versus predestination is set up as the show’s main theme, especially when Mobius tells Loki he was always “born to cause pain and suffering and death … All so that others can achieve their best versions of themselves”. Loki, who believes himself to be “burdened with glorious purpose”, rejects his pre-determined story and decides to track down the Time-Keepers in his quest to make his own destiny.
The truth behind these hidden temporal overlords and what the TVA really is quickly becomes the running mystery throughout the series—a mystery that breaks down into many facets for the different characters. As we later see, knowledge of the truth is crucial not just to Loki’s journey, but to nearly every character’s arc—as is how they learn to handle the truths they eventually succeed in finding.
Do we know our source of truth?
“I don’t get hung up on ‘believe, not believe,’ I just accept what is.” —Episode 2: The Variant
In the show’s second episode, Loki is quick to challenge Mobius’s belief in the TVA in a compelling conversation that strongly mirrors one that many Christians have most likely sat through at least once—the conversation of why we believe what we believe in. Many of us would be familiar with Mobius’s position, with the Lokis in our lives often pushing us to wrestle with our faith by posing difficult questions about the sovereignty of God.
While Mobius defends the organisation he calls his “life” staunchly before Loki in their conversation, it becomes increasingly clear as the series goes on how little he knows about who he serves. Access to the Time-Keepers, it’s revealed, is granted only to those who are “higher up”—guys like Mobius must simply accept the directives given by those who have “earned” that access.
What differentiates us Christians from Mobius and the other TVA staff is that the core of our faith is not hidden behind secrecy: unlike the Time-Keepers, our God wants to be known (Jeremiah 29:13-14). From Genesis all the way to Revelation, He has not hidden His traits—in fact, He has been given many names precisely because of the wealth of roles He has played in the entire history of the world—Healer, Provider, and Redeemer, just to name a few.
He tells us how He feels about us—the Psalms and the books of the Old Testament prophets reveal the scope of God’s love and passion and even heartbreak for His people. He tells us where we came from, and that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by Him (Psalm 139:14). He assures us that He knows our future (Jeremiah 29:11). And most importantly, He tells us what He has done for us through Jesus Christ that we who have sinned might have eternal life.
Romans 1:20 points out that “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”. Unlike Mobius, we have been granted all that we need to know about what we believe in and why—and through prayer, we all have direct access to the One for whom we live.
Should “glorious purpose” matter more than truth?
“And that’s the gambit.” —Episode 6: For All Time. Always
A character who, like Loki, would not toe the Time-Keepers’ line is his variant Lady Loki, aka Sylvie. Sylvie has been at odds with the TVA for nearly all her life, and dedicates herself to blowing the organisation wide open and to destroying the Time-Keepers. Her years-in-the-making plan culminates in the revelation of the TVA staff’s origins, and ultimately leads Sylvie straight to the real power behind the organisation.
In the season finale, the TVA’s creator explains to Sylvie that the strict governance of the Sacred Timeline is actually a guard against something worse. However, Sylvie’s lifelong vendetta and view of the TVA’s leader as a villain leads her to declare the explanation “another lie” and “another manipulation”. It is her rejection of what is revealed to be (apparently) the truth that results in the return of the Multiverse—and with it major repercussions for the MCU as a whole.
Sylvie claimed to seek the truth so that she and others like her could win the freedom to choose their own destinies. But ultimately, she chose to believe that which confirmed the truth she had already decided on, even though it had the potential to cause more harm than good. The “glorious purpose” she was chasing trumped the truth itself.
How often have we allowed our personal feelings and biases to cloud the truth, even when it’s staring us in the face? Romans 1 points out that we humans have mastered the art of suppressing truths we don’t want to accept (v.18), resorting to “futile thinking” that we try to pass off as wisdom (vv.21-22), and choosing to believe lies that sit better with our worldview (v.25).
Sylvie couldn’t bring herself to accept a truth that was bigger than herself, and it kept her chained to her bitterness and need for vengeance. The rightness or wrongness of her decision in the long run remains to be seen, but what is certain is that in the end, it held no triumph for her.
What do we do with the truth that sets us free?
“Thanks for the spark.” —Episode 5: Journey Into Mystery
Mobius’s own quest for truth ends up revealing a web of lies spun around and by the TVA, which upends everything he thinks he knows about his own “glorious purpose”. But instead of being broken by his knowledge of the truth, Mobius allows it to set him free. He immediately makes up his mind to carry the truth to everyone in the TVA and liberate them the same way he was.
Mobius’s position once again reflects that of us Christians—we heard a truth that changed everything we knew and lived for, and delivered us from a “life that is dominated by sin and death” (Romans 7:24, NLT). Unfortunately, many of us seem to react more like a TVA higher-up when it comes to sharing the gospel—keeping the truth on the down-low in order that we might maintain status quo. We’re afraid to let ourselves be upended completely because we still want to hold on to our self-determined “glorious purpose” while enjoying our access to the truth.
By contrast, Mobius knew that his “betrayal” of the organisation meant risking his own pruning, but still he charged ahead with his mission. He recognised that the message of truth was bigger than himself—and that became his “glorious purpose”.
What Mobius chose to do with the truth given to him demonstrates precisely how we should be treating the message of the cross of Christ. We should want to bring the light of Jesus to the people around us who are still “walking in darkness” (Isaiah 9:2), even if it means risking our reputation, social standing, or relationships. Many who have come before us, and many in the world now, have and are risking their very lives for the spread of this truth. For this choice, they are considered the heroes of our faith.
Some people might tell us that in the end, we will find out that we were just like Mobius, only living for a lie. The apostle Paul himself addresses it in 1 Corinthians 15, saying that “we are of all people most to be pitied” if our hope in Christ is only for this life (v.9). However, he concludes by holding on to the gospel and its source—the God of truth who tells us that Christ is risen and will come again, ensuring that we can live our lives with true “glorious purpose”.
I love the reflection on Mobius and sharing the gospel. I think it’s apt.
However, I’m not so sure about the comparison of Sylvie being blinded by her own purpose in exchange for truth. He Who Remains openly declares himself a villain and that they are all villains (Rom. 3:10). Of course she sought vengeance on the TVA and its creator. But was not her desire to rid the universe (her universe?) of the oppressive and coercive power—a power that directly impacted her and indirectly impacted billions?
Hi Jordan, thanks for the comment, and for reading the piece!
I remember one of my first thoughts on He Who Remains was, welp, even the best version of Kang is an evil overlord, because his control of the timeline is based on just his own perception of the right thing to do. So it’s a valid point to raise!
But I guess for me, Sylvie fell into that same trap. Ultimately, she went there prepared to kill whoever was on the other side of the desk. I don’t think she had intended to listen to any explanation, good or bad, and that was the big difference between her and Main Loki. Loki at least considered He Who Remains’ explanation because what they were about to do was going to have serious implications on the rest of the Multiverse. He at that point had learned to think beyond himself.
Sylvie, on the other hand, had already decided on only one right outcome, and she was going to see it happen even if it might make things worse for everyone, as He Who Remains warned them. She had dedicated herself to that cause, and she wasn’t willing to let it go for any reason.
I think the final shot of her in the finale is very telling – the look of, “What have I done?” – when it was all over and she finally registered what He Who Remains said. I think she realized that in her zeal, she may have done the wrong thing after all.