Friday, August 17, 2007

Calvin, Wesley and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

In the Buffyverse, when a human is turned into a vampire, he instantly loses his soul, which is replaced with a demonic spirit. As a consequence, vampires are completely without any conscience; any sense of right and wrong. They are pure evil and not only will not do good -- they are actually incapable of doing good. Such was the clear case of Angel, who mercilessly hunted, tortured, and fed upon humans for 150 years. His bloody rampages continued until 1898, when, after he killed the daughter of a Gypsy mage, was cursed with a soul. Suddenly, Angel was flooded with the moral awareness of what he had done for a century and a half, and was crushed by guilt.

Such is the (semi-) Calvinistic anthropology in the Buffyverse. Vampires are Totally Depraved. They are not able to do good; not able to have the slightest spark of moral awareness. It is only the elect who are given the grace to know good from evil and be saved. Angel represents those who are delivered from the abyss by Limited Atonement, for only a handful of vampires have souls.

A different case is Spike. My wife describes him as "totally hot", but that's a discussion for another day. Spike was a failed English poet who was sired as a vampire in 1880. Spike was powerful and ruthless, and left a flood of innocent dead in his wake. But unlike other recently-turned vampires, he did not immediately slaughter his own family. Instead, he sired his mother in order to prevent her death from tuberculosis. And although he was a hated foe of Buffy and her gang in seasons 2-6, in the seventh season, he fell in love with Buffy. She rebuffed his advances, and in response, Spike tried to rape her. Horrified at his own actions and aware of his inability to love Buffy properly, Spike underwent a grueling ordeal in order to win his soul back.

This is a more Wesleyan anthropology. Spike, though a vampire and thus Totally Depraved, has some moral awareness, although he repeatedly rebels against it. This is the prevenient grace of God which is extended to all people, calling them back to their originally ensouled selves.

Of course, Whedonistic theology is discerned only with limited evidence, and it would also be possible to read Spike's re-soulment as a semi-Pelagian process.


Elizabeth said...

I'll have to point out this post to my brother - he's a closet buffy fan.

John Meunier said...

Jedi Pastor Ken Hagler was telling me about using Revenge of the Sith to teach youth groups.

I'm not sure, though, that most youth would be up for your fine theological distinctions. "Spike is a hoot!" might be the extent of it.

Personally, I think you are just trying to find a way around the General Rules prohibition of entertainments that cannot be used in the Lord's name.

"Honest, it's not a vampire show with teenage sex. It's a subtle commentary on limited atonement."

rocksalive777 said...

So what about the Reavers of Whedon's Firefly?

JD said...


Good question. I would like to know that too o'great one. Who do the Reavers represent?


Mark B. Hanson said...

Actually, in proper terminology, vampires are utterly depraved.

Total depravity says that every portion of our being is fallen, but does not say we are as bad as we can be (totally depraved persons still have a conscience that may drive them to do good sometimes, or bring them guilt when they do evil).

Utter depravity means everything done is unmixed with good, and no conscience cries out at the evil. Sounds like vampires to me...

psychodougie said...

like the blog

good point mark about total v utter

i really want to use buffy/angel for my youth group talk, not that i know them that super well, but they've a wealth of pop-theology references.

unfortunately i think they're all a little too young - i guess i could try get them to watch the show, but then they might get hooked, and yeah, think i'd have lost any point i was trying to make long ago!