Put the term “sacred timeline” into a Google search and you will find page after page of articles explaining and debating a phenomena from the Marvel Universe of television shows, movies, and comic books. The Sacred Timeline was introduced in the comics over two decades ago, but is new to most of us who only know about Marvel from movies and TV.
In the Disney+ series Loki, characters called the Time-Keepers are introduced. These mysterious creatures created a single timeline (or at least a manageable number of timelines) from a multitude of competing timelines long ago and created the Time Variance Authority to help them keep time under control.
The whole idea springs from debates about time travel and the nature of reality. If it were possible for a person to go back in time, and that person did something that didn’t occur in the original timeline, what would happen? Would certain things be different when the person returned to their own time? Would the streams of time absorb the change so no real difference could occur? Or would a new timeline branch off leaving one timeline unchanged while a new parallel universe spins off with a new, unknown future?
While some people can discuss these theories and possibilities endlessly, many other people have no interest in such speculation. That’s okay. But one thing we can all speculate about is whether time (and our destiny) is pre-determined or if the future is unwritten and will become what we make of it.
You can call this debate freedom versus fate or self-determination versus destiny. Christians call it free will versus the sovereignty of God.
What we believe about free will affects most aspects of our worldview—how we think the world works. Many Christians say they believe in the sovereignty of God—His power and right to do whatever He chooses to do. But they differ on whether they believe God allows individual humans to “call the shots” of their own lives or if God has predestined what will happen to each of us.
What does it mean when the Bible says, “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be”? (Psalm 139:16)
What does it mean when we confidently proclaim, “God is in control”?
Perhaps the answers to these questions are as difficult to pin down as what happens when a person goes back in time and changes their past. But wouldn’t it be great if Christians were discussing theological issues with a fraction of the enthusiasm comic book lovers express when discussing a make-believe timeline affecting a fictional character based on a Norse myth?
If you’re looking for a way to start discussions (or fierce debates) like these, I have a resource for you.
You can learn how to use movies and books to start important biblical discussions in my new book Finding Your Part in God’s Master Story: An Exploration of Christian Worldviews. Sign up for my newsletter to find out when and how you can get the book. (You will even learn more about free will versus God’s sovereignty.)
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments—on free will, multiple timelines, Loki, or anything related.
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Stories are a metaphor for life. That's a deep way of saying we can learn life lessons from stories we read or watch on stage or on big or small screens. When viewed through a Christian worldview, even secular films and books can tell us something about our Christian walk. Here you will find a collection of blog posts with lessons I have learned from stories. I hope you enjoy them!