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.)
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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