Guest Post: The Monergism of Haruhi Suzumiya

We’re excited to bring you a guest post by Tommy of Anime Bowl, the only aniblog to explore dubs, conventions, and… the Green Bay Packers! You can find him, of course, at his website, Anime Bowl, and also on Twitter as @AnimeBowl and @CrazyPackersFan. We also had him as a special guest on The Tangles Podcast last year!

It’s the tenth anniversary of the release of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, a series that reached tremendous popularity in the late 2000s. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, but in case you haven’t, here’s how it works: Haruhi Suzumiya (the character) has incredible powers, though she doesn’t know them. In fact, that little ball of energy has enough power inside her to create or destroy universes, and it’s all subject to her whims. She gets melancholy, and “closed space” is created, which can cause great destruction. She gets bored, and the fate of the world rests on the outcome of a baseball game. She feels unfulfilled with her summer vacation, and not only is her club companion (and alien) Yuki Nagato forced to live the same summer thousands of times, but the worst arc in the history of anime occurs (“Endless Eight”), which pretty much killed the Haruhi fandom. The other members of the SOS Brigade spend every waking moment keeping her happy, afraid of what she may do to the universe if she isn’t.

But then there’s Kyon. There is nothing special about him in the least. For all we know, we don’t even know his real name. He’s just a regular guy. What did he do to get into the good graces of Haruhi? The answer, of course, is nothing. Kyon’s just an ordinary human—someone Haruhi herself claimed to have absolutely no interest in. So what makes him special? Why Kyon?

While I warn you not to insert yourself into a Biblical story—i.e., tell the story of David and Goliath as if you’re David and your financial goals are Goliath—there’s nothing wrong with inserting yourself into an anime story. Because while the Bible—and yes, even the story of David and Goliath—is all about Jesus, anime, well, isn’t. Kyon represents you and me, and Haruhi, in this case, represents God. The same way Haruhi selected Kyon, God has selected you and me, if you believe in Him. But why you? Or, why me?

I used to think when I was little that the Apostle Paul was selected by God to be the evangelist to all those nations and write all those books of the New Testament because he was somehow skilled—he was a great speaker, a fantastic orator of some sort. While he may have had those skills, that was not the reason for his calling. After all, Paul writes himself in 1 Timothy 1:15-16, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” So, was Paul somehow chosen because of something he had done? Not by any means! Rather, Jesus saved even Paul, the chief of sinners.

One of the biggest mistakes in all of modern-day Christianity is what is known as Pelagianism. What is Pelagianism? It’s basically the belief that you can choose God on your own, that you can choose to do good works, and that we have free will to determine our own salvation. I know this starts to get to be a touchy subject. What do you mean, we can’t choose God (or, Kyon can’t choose Haruhi)? How then is anyone saved? We’ll get to that in a moment, but first let’s tackle the Pelagian issue and why it is indeed wrong.

The Gospel of John deals with this topic on quite a few occasions. John 1:12-13 says, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” Yes, “not of human decision.” There’s more in John 6:37: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” And in John 6:65: “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” If you want to, please read these verses in context—I can assure you that they still make sense in the overall context. And actually, when Jesus said these very things in John 6, he had a great multitude of people leave him and no longer follow him.

So, how are people saved? By preaching of the Word, and the gospel. Remember the parable of the sower and the seed? Some seed falls on the path, some on the rocks, some in the thorns, and some on good soil. How exactly does a person become a Christian? I don’t think there’s any better way to answer that than the way the Apostle Peter answered it on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:38-39: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Ooh… did he say children? Peter mustn’t have been against infant baptism… but that’s a topic for another day.)

Kyon with Yuki

This is what we call monergism. That’s God doing all the work in salvation, and us doing no work. The only thing we offer to the table is our sin. We receive salvation through Jesus—we don’t earn it in any way. Repentance—that’s a gift from God. We can’t repent on our own; it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Baptism—it’s all a gift. When we receive the gift of baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (no matter what age you are), you receive the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. Even our belief in Jesus for the forgiveness of all of our sins—it’s a gift. Now we don’t say that it’s impossible for a person to backslide, as some may claim, but as Jesus says in Mark 16:16: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” This is not written to condemn those of you who may have fallen into the trap of taking the yoke of salvation upon yourselves. This is meant to free you. You don’t have to make a decision for Jesus. Jesus decided to save you. You don’t have to give your life to Jesus. Rather, Jesus gave his life for you. Salvation is all one-way; there’s no two ways about it. Embrace the freedom we are given in Christ, as in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Back to Kyon for a moment. Haruhi “saved” Kyon, so to speak. What about all the others out there? Taniguchi, Kunikida, for argument’s sake. Since Haruhi didn’t “save” them, does she hate them? After all, if God chooses who he saves, then does that mean that he is also choosing to send others to hell?

This is where the great paradox comes in. We believe that God chooses to save his children. At the same time, we do not believe God chooses to throw people in Hell before they were born. But the God of the Bible is full of mercy, as in 1 Tim 2:3-4: “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” So God actually desires for everyone to be saved. He’s not choosing people to throw in Hell. Why, then, does he choose those he saves? It’s a mystery. It’s a paradox, but we know that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and that his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. We can’t possibly understand how the universe works.

And that all goes back to my original point. Kyon never tried to figure out how Haruhi’s universe worked. It was a mystery to him, and that was just fine with him. In the end of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, he came to be happy with his life as it was. And so it is with us. Perhaps we’ll never understand how or why we were chosen, and how God works the miracle of salvation. But we do know that he loves us, and he doesn’t expect anything from us. His salvation is all a gift, the most wonderful gift of all. A gift that not even Haruhi Suzumiya could possibly match.

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6 thoughts on “Guest Post: The Monergism of Haruhi Suzumiya

  1. The “great paradox” of God choosing whom to save is always something I’ve maintained is true, because otherwise I don’t really have another suitable Christian explanation for what happened to my sister and I. If it were all down to faith and loyalty and choice, then why in literally God’s name do I have such strong faith and loyalty towards a guy who might be the Devil? The exact circumstances under which that happened…happened in childhood, and weren’t exactly a matter of “free will” in the sense that term is supposed to work. Interpreting the decision to love the person that helped you when you had nobody, or the decision of a son of a Hindu practitioner to be Hindu himself, as “freely chosen” is a bizarre way of interpreting that phrase. God literally has to be aware of what appear to be available options to the person. And my sister, in a theater program surrounded by drug addicts and progressives, accepted salvation from nowhere. So it must be that God Himself is involved with the choice and its prompting somehow.

    ‘So God actually desires for everyone to be saved. He’s not choosing people to throw in Hell. Why, then, does he choose those he saves? It’s a mystery. It’s a paradox, but we know that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and that his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. We can’t possibly understand how the universe works.”

    The Calvinists assumed that based on this, predestination of who was saved and who was damned literally had to be true, and so God in fact WAS “choosing” who got thrown in Hell. Now…morally speaking this rubs people the wrong way, and when it does is when we start bringing out the “God works in mysterious ways” language. But personally I think it’s kind of a cop-out, and that a simpler explanation might exist.

    Here are my thoughts— Take ’em with a grain of salt. 😉 God is a being outside of Time, no? So it may be, like Pharoah, that there is NO possible outcome where some individuals become Christians. God wants to save everyone, but He is already aware the person can’t be saved…..because it has already happened. Millions of times. So, did God theoretically create these people just to see them suffer in the end? Well….sort of. That’s the real paradox. In a story with heroes, after all, there must be noble and ignoble villains.

    1. I don’t see how it’s a copout. After all, if God is the Transcendent being, then it follows we don’t understand Him fully and will never. Did He not say in the Bible, “My ways are not your ways”? The problem with trying to understand God is that we’re limited and He isn’t; if we shoehorn God into our preconceptions, we’re bound to be wrong, since He’s far beyond anything anyone of us can imagine. That’s why I see the Calvinist idea is simply wrong.

      1. Yeah, but on a human scale such explanations just tend to lead people to discredit the existence of God. They’re not helpful exactly. “I don’t know” actually seems like a fairer answer than “God works in mysterious ways,” and most importantly…It leaves room for debate, and self-doubt. I think it comes down to the fact that when a lot of people use that phrase, they’re using it to dismiss what seems to be an odd inconsistency in their logic rather than wondering further on why it exists.

        Having faith that God is a fundamentally good sort of being and wouldn’t do something so seemingly arbitrary, based on your personal knowledge of Him….Isn’t necessary mutually exclusive with wonder, and asking the question of God in prayer.

        He may never give an answer that makes any sense at all, but it’s better than not trying to come up with one.

        1. I see both answers as fundamentally the same, though, since all that is known is that God wants all to be saved, and some are predestined to be saved. The rest is either speculation or, if they contradict these two things, dangerous errors to be avoided. Such is the idea of positive reprobation for the damned, at least in my Catholic mind.

  2. I love how you were able to compare Kyon and Haruhi to the relationship of a believer to the Lord. However, I think that Monergism offers an incomplete picture of salvation. Pelagianism makes the great mistake of reducing Jesus to a teacher and essentially declaring that we can be saved without grace. Monergism, conversely, makes the mistake of saying that we can be saved without our free will. Of course, infants and people who have not attained the age of reason (about seven) are indeed saved by baptism, but the majority must also apply their reason and will towards their salvation.

    When we consider human nature and the nature of sin, the cooperation of grace and free will makes the most sense. God made man to be free, therefore it is fitting that man should freely choose salvation–also, temptations and trials would not make sense in a believer’s life if free will did not hold importance in our salvation. At the same time, sin, committed against an infinite God, has infinite consequences, which man, a finite being, cannot repay. Therefore, God Himself paid the price of our redemption, opened the way to eternal salvation, and must infuse grace into the soul.

    But, that salvation is a gift, and human beings have the option of declining that gift. So, God gives man the grace to accept this gift, and, if accepted, God infuses supernatural charity in the soul, which makes him a son of God and allows him to cooperate with God’s will. Indeed, we continuously need special graces also to perform good works and remain in a state of grace, since the concupiscent will, due to original sin, is always inclined toward evil. But, man cooperates with God: without God, man could not be saved; without man’s free choice, God’s gift could not (in most cases) be received.

    If monergism is true, the Calvinist contention that God predestines both the saved and the damned must also be true. Calvin tried to solve the mystery of predestination and free will by cutting out free will from the equation. But, in reality, all the saved are predestined, but they still are not saved against their will. On the other hand, all the damned are damned by their own will in spite of God’s grace. And, even though grace is more essential because it both leads the soul to salvation and empowers it to accept it, people must still cleave to God with their whole mind, heart, and will if they wish to be saved: “Wherefore, my dearly beloved…with fear and trembling work out your salvation. For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will” (Phillipians 2:12-13).

  3. I’m happy to have started some serious theological discussion here, if nothing else. I’m a Lutheran, though I’m new to Lutheranism, only having discovered it 6 years ago. Lutheran theology has given me great comfort, comfort I did not get in the seeker-driven church I had gone to for decades. The seeker-driven church made it all about me; Lutheranism makes it all about Jesus.

    I see that you, Medieval Otaku, bring up the topic of “infused grace.” I’m assuming you are a Catholic, then. As Lutherans, we believe in grace alone by faith alone by Christ’s work alone. No good works necessary! Rather, good works follow naturally for those who believe in Christ.

    I’m glad we could have this conversation, and I hope that maybe in the future I can give some more theology from a Lutheran perspective.

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