Sean McDowell | May 8, 2018

The Gospel and Avengers: Infinity War

The Gospel and Avengers: Infinity War

[Spoiler Alert!]

The Avengers: Infinity War captures the power of the gospel by reminding us that the greatest act of love is to sacrifice yourself for another. Let me explain.

As I wrote in an earlier post, the moral question at the heart of Infinity War is: under what conditions is it morally just to sacrifice an innocent life (or lives) to save others.

Throughout the film, the Avengers consistently have to wrestle with this question: Should Loki allow Thanos to kill Thor to get the space stone? Should Star-Lord shoot Gamora (at her request) to prevent Thanos from using her to get the soul stone? Should Scarlett Witch remove the mind stone from Vision, which would end his life? In each case the superheroes try to save every life, but when there are no options left, they are willing to sacrifice their own lives to save others.

This is in contrast to the villain, Thanos. Although he claims to be motivated to save the universe, Thanos takes innocent life to accomplish his end—enjoying a sunset once the universe is in balance. While Thanos is willing to lay someone else’s life down (including his daughter Gamora whom he claims to love), he is not willing to sacrifice himself. He destroys half the universe but takes care to preserve his own life.

Thanos vs. The Avengers

This gets to the heart of the difference between Thanos and the Avengers. Thanos is selfish. But the Avengers are selfless. The sacrificial motivation of the Avengers is perhaps most clearly seen in the willingness of Vision to lay down his life for others. Even though it would cost him his life, Vision was prepared to make the most noble sacrifice.

Jesus said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13, NLT). In other words, the greatest sacrifice is to give your own life for the sake of another.

The Heart of the Gospel

And this is the heart of the gospel. Jesus willingly laid down his own life for our salvation: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18a).

It is quite remarkable that when the creators of The Infinity War, who want to tell the most epic story possible, rely upon the power of sacrificial love, which is at the heart of the gospel.

Written on the Human Heart

In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis said that we should expect to see some glimpse of incarnation, death, and rebirth throughout world literature, not because Christianity borrowed these ideas,[1] but because God has stamped onto our hearts the recognition that dying for another is the highest love, and that defeating death (which many of the Avengers will do in Infinity War part 2) is the greatest victory.

According to Lewis, these kinds of stories are shadows, so to speak, of the real death and resurrection of Christ in history. We are drawn to stories of love and sacrifice because God has prepared our hearts for when He himself would actually perform the ultimate sacrificial act of love in history.

The Infinity War is a story about universal salvation. The stakes don’t get any higher. And yet when the creators want to tell the greatest story imaginable, they rely upon notions of sacrifice and love demonstrated most fully in the gospel.

We all know that personal sacrifice is the greatest act of love. The various heroes in Infinity War demonstrate this in the fictional Marvel Universe. Jesus demonstrates this in the real universe.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog:

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[1] The idea that Christianity borrowed its core tenets from pagan mythology has been roundly refuted. For an in-depth response, see chapter 11, “Is Christianity a Copycat Religion?” in Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Thomas Nelson, 2017), 303-315.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell, TikTok, Instagram, and his blog: