Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Fifth Element and Two-Sided Life

I've talked about Luc Besson before. Check out the below scene from his 1997 action extravaganza The Fifth Element:

Mr. Zorg (played with pore-oozing panache by Gary Oldman) claims that he and the priest (Ian Holm) are really in the same business: that of life. Holm accuses Oldman of only wanting to destroy life by being an agent of destruction and chaos, while Oldman insists that life cannot exist without destruction and chaos. They both have a point.

Zorg embodies the Law. He causes death. As St. Paul says so eloquently in Romans 7, when the law came, sin "sprang to life and I died" (v. 9). Elsewhere, he famously said that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23) and we know that sin exists as a result of the existence of the law (Rom 7:8). So Holm's argument is true: Zorg, by his very existence, destroys life. But Oldman is right, too.

At the beginning of Romans 7, Paul discusses his covetousness. He says, in essence, that he had no idea how much he was coveting, until the law came and told him "Thou shalt not covet." All of a sudden, he realized the extent to which he wanted things which weren't his! That's when he says that he dies. There's a point for Holm. But then, most profoundly, Paul recognizes his need for a savior: "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Rom 7:24) and finds his need met: "Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom 7:25) It was the law, and the resultant death (by "destruction, disorder, and chaos"), that led Paul to real life, that is, in Jesus Christ. There's a point for Oldman.

These two forces belong in the same room. Zorg and the priest. The Law and the Gospel. Destruction and salvation. The disorder and chaos of our lives drives us to an epiphany: we're dying! We need a savior, and the creepy creature living inside our desk isn't going to cut it. Luckily, the Gospel always trumps the law, the cosmic slap on the back that brings us from death to life. "Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"


  1. ...where do Bruce Willis and Chris Tucker fit into all of this?

  2. Bruce Willis fits in by "negotiating," and Chris Tucker fits in by flouncing. Theologically speaking, they don' least not as far as this post is concerned!


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