Greetings readers, and welcome to another Christianity v. Anime! Today we will be exploring Serial Experiments Lain, and what it says, among its many complexities, about the nature of God. Just be warned that there will be heavy SPOILERS, if you have not yet seen this anime. Let’s not hesitate any longer and jump right in!
Why Christianity v. Anime?
For anyone who missed my previous Christianity v. Anime post, which I encourage you to check out if you enjoy reading this article, here is a quick catch up to why I am writing this. Japan is one of the most secular countries in the world, yet a lot of traditions and attitudes are rooted in religion. Christianity has an interesting backstory in Japan (which I encourage you to look up), and does have a presence, albeit minor, in the modern day Japan. As such, anime provides a useful tool for examining the attitudes of the Japanese towards Christianity. I desire to search out these insights, and see what I can glean from various anime that deal with Christian elements. Serial Experiments Lain is an anime that deals primarily with the relations between man and technology. However, sprinkled in there, it raises some questions about religion, most notably what makes someone or something a god. This is further made interesting by what the main “deity” character of Masami Eiri claims makes him a god. There are two things he claims that apparently make him a god, and we will compare these to the nature of the one true God. A summary is provided below if you need a quick refresher as to the premise of the series. If you have not done so, be sure to check out our review of Serial Experiments Lain.
Summary: Lain Iwakura appears to be an ordinary girl, with almost no experience with computers. Yet the sudden suicide of a schoolmate, and a number of strange occurrences, conspire to pull Lain into the world of the Wired, where she gradually learns that nothing is what it seems to be… not even Lain herself. -Anime News Network
Who is God?
The question above is first asked by Eiri, ironically enough, when he asks Lain in episode 8, “What is your definition of God?” The interesting thing is that as humans, from a theistic viewpoint, we do not get to decide that. God reveals Himself to us through two sources of revelation: special (which is the Bible) and general (study of creation aka nature). Therefore, we only know as much about God as He allows us. Now in episode 8, Eiri mentions two possible definitions of God, one as the creator of the world and one as someone who is omnipresent. Eiri is not the creator of the Wired, so he does not fit the first definition he proposes. The Christian God truly is the creator by contrast, as told in Genesis 1: 1-31. The second Eiri does fit, as he is omnipresent within the Wired. The word “omnipresent” is defined as “Am I only a God nearby,’ declares the LORD, ‘and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the LORD (NIV).” Now obviously, the nature of God is completely beyond human understanding, so we will limit our discussion to Eiri’s claims. Other classical attributes assigned to God include omniscient (all-knowing, supported by Romans 11:33) and omnipotent (all-powerful, supported by Job 37:23). Do note that what makes Lain a goddess of the Wired is her omnipotence over it.
The Internet Idol
There is one other fact that Eiri claims makes him a god. It is the very fact that he has worshipers, specifically the Knights of the Eastern Calculus. This claim ties very closely to the themes of Serial Experiments Lain, and is actually an accurate claim. Before we explore that further, let us see how this compares to Christianity’s God. The very truth, and a hard one to swallow, is that God really does not need us humans. He does not need worshipers to maintain His existence or to justify Himself as God. God still calls us to worship as a sign of love to Him. Humans exist because God decided to create us, as an act of love. So if our worshiping of God does not make God who He is, how is Eiri correct? Well, this creation of a god comes from the worship of idols. Now, the mention of idols are a very common thing in the Bible, most notably the Second Commandment forbidding the worship of idols (Exodus 20:4-6). Idolatry is the act of believing something as more valuable than God, or as more worthy of your love than God. So therefore, the idol becomes a god. This is very common in the Bible, including among God’s chosen people. One such example is the story of the golden calf as recounted in Exodus 32: 1-35. A common idol nowadays is often money, something Jesus specifically warns about saying, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24).” All this put together, Eiri is clearly nothing more than idol, having no more real power than the golden calf.
This ties nicely with the warnings in Serial Experiments Lain about becoming too caught up in technology. The Wired, the overall net that represents technology, is shown to be more dangerous than anything, and while many in the show believe it is above or of more value than reality, Lain dispels this rumor. The Wired is nothing more than a tool, just like any other gadget. As one can see, the Wired, and technology, had become an idol to people. This is very much reflected in modern society, especially here and now in the smart phone age, where your life on the Internet can become an idol too.
Thank you for taking the time to read. What are your thoughts on what I’ve written? I would love to hear any feedback, or any challenge to my assertions. Also, I will also link some of my previous Christianity v. Anime posts below, if you would like to read them. Thank you!