The Theology of Lost: A Pastor Dissects the Show’s Religious Themes

By
Share:

Of all the 20.5 million people who watched the series finale of Lost last night and are now debating what it means, Chris Seay might be the most satisfied. Seay is a pastor of Ecclesia Church in Houston and the author of The Gospel According to Lost. As most Losties witnessed, the show ended with some questions being answered, some answers leading to more questions, and some things — polar bears, Walt — being shoved off to the side for fans on internet forums to continue debating for eternity. In case you’re still confused as to the extent of the show’s religious implications, we’ve gathered some recent newspaper passages and interview excerpts from Seay, both before and after the finale, to explain what happened to those people on that island — in a Biblical sense, of course.

From KansasCity.com:

“For the writers of Lost, the Biblical narrative is a big part of the larger story. It has come into play more than philosophy, science or other religions — such as Hindu — that pop up. It dominates in a way the other themes have not,” Seay says. Some of the narrative has been as simple as naming characters after those in the Bible, such as Jacob (Mark Pellegrino) and Aaron (played by various children). They’ve also been as complicated as the island being a parallel to the Garden of Eden. The purgatory theory, says Seay, is off the mark. He points to Jacob’s description of the island as “a cork holding back the evil” as being more in line with the island being the Gates of Hell.

From the The Oklahoman Online:

Author and pastor Chris Seay, who wrote The Gospel According to Lost, says the show is filled with people you might not like on the surface — an alcoholic doctor, an accused murderess — that then must face up to their own redemption. “We look at the way that each of these characters learn to face their sins and their failures,” he said. The show teaches community, beyond the idea of living together on an island, Seay said. “The primary lesson that comes up over and over again on Lost, Jack Shephard said it in Season One, is this lesson that we can live together or we can die alone.”

From a Q&A on Crosswalk.com:

CW: In a nutshell, what is the Gospel as LOST records it? Chris Seay: For Christians, we have to make two distinctions. It is The Gospel According to LOST, so these are the spiritual truths as told in this unbelieveable series. And sometimes they line up very clearly with Jesus the Liberating King. And other places they do not. So my job isn’t to make all of it conform, it’s to reflect on it and ultimately to believe what Jesus said: those that seek will find. So that’s what I love about this show — it gets people seeking, asking questions, and hopefully finding. It isn’t an endorsement of everything that happens in the show. From time to time people pick up the book and tell me, “I thought this was gonna be just like reading the Bible.” And I think, “For that, you would read the Bible.” For this, you would engage people in conversations about a show that they’re already watching. Having said that, I think that The Gospel According to LOST is about the yearning for redemption. There’s not a full understanding of where redemption comes from, although, clearly with all the biblical metaphors in the show — the biblical narrative being woven in — there’s so much there that alludes to [the Gospel], that seems to be hungry for it, but at the end of the day, [the story’s about] the most broken people you can find. CW: With all these diverse, broken characters thrown together, can you compare what it means to be “lost” in a scriptural sense to what you think it means on the show? Seay: Where we find most of the term “lost” in the Scriptures is in Luke 15. Jesus tells these “lost” stories: the woman who loses a coin and turns the house upside-down to find it; the shepherd who loses a sheep and leaves the 99 behind to go and find it; the father whose son leaves and is lost as lost can be and ultimately finds his way home, broken but searching for redemption. In those “lost” stories (and you can’t summarize scripture too simply, but) clearly it is about God seeking out and pursuing those that are lost and the joy of being reunited with that which God loves. I think it is pretty similar in this story. It’s not about necessarily coming home to a location, or a place, but about finding home. These people are searching for home, and maybe what they don’t realize is that their very Creator is also searching after them. So I think that there are a lot of parallels there in the meaning and the way that we identify with them. The book shows that this isn’t about them being geographically lost, though they clearly are, they’re on an island. It’s about them really searching for a spiritual home to lay their head.

From a Q&A on Nerdage:

Nerdage: What Biblical references may show up in the finale? Chris Seay: Well, there’s no telling with Lost what may pop up. You’re almost guaranteed to get some direct passages of Scripture. A … reporter told me, “I went to Sunday School a few times when I was a kid, but I’ve never owned a Bible. I’ve had to borrow one from the religion editor because they keep bringing up Scripture on Lost. I’m reading the Bible all the time now.” As a pastor, those are things you like to hear from people. My guess is we’ll get some direct spiritual, kind of Biblical references in that vein. I think it’s very likely that the birth of Aaron will play out in this finale. It’s not a mistake that this baby is named after the brother of Moses. It’s not a mistake, clearly, that Jacob, also known in the Bible as Israel, plays a prominent role in this narrative. And ultimately I think the finale and the journey still very much echoes the narrative of the Exodus. We’ve got one of people moving from slavery to freedom and to abundance. The themes of the pharaohs, there’s thousands of images that point to the Biblical narrative of slavery in Egypt on this show, so it’s going to be interesting to see. One of the things they let us know about the finale in the dialogue last night is that faith would play a very prominent role. Nerdage: Is this something that has made churchgoers think about different allusions in the Bible? Does it let people interface in a different way? Chris Seay: Yeah, I think so. Mainly what it does is it gives you an opportunity to talk with co-workers, and neighbors, and people that you might not typically talk about faith with, if ever at all. This show brings it up. There are very few shows that get you talking about real issues. You don’t watch an episode of CSI and then show up the next day and talk with all your friends about it. But this show, they’ll reference a book by Soren Kierkegaard, and you go on Amazon 30 minutes later and thousands of people have ordered Kierkegaard’s book and they’re ready to read it because Lost references it and they want to be able to talk about it, and know what it means, and why it’s being addressed on this show. And that’s pretty remarkable. So that’s the thing I think I enjoy most about the show.

So, how did Seay feel about the show’s resolution? Here’s what he had to say to his Twitter followers:

Before the finale: “I have only 3 predictions for #LOST finale 1)Aarons birth will be important 2)Faith will be key to outcome 3) Jack & Kate forever – Enjoy!”

After the finale: “To be clear finale was satisfying 4 me on many levels(characters&spirituality) frustrating on the ability to bring cohesion 2both stories.”