I’ve been hearing talk about comparisons between God and Thanos lately and think I’d like to weigh in on the conversation. An example of an article discussing this can be found here.
Alright, so, I was going to write this up a little more academically but I feel like this topic isn’t quite that serious. Let me start off by saying that I love the way that Thanos is portrayed in Infinity War. Which, to me, seemed to be a little different than End Game. But that’s just me and I don’t intend to pursue or defend that opinion any further here. My take on Thanos is based on my understanding of him in Infinity War specifically. People may disagree with my perspective.
I also want to clarify that the God mentioned in my title is whatever understanding of God that falls within the boundaries described in the Nicene Creed and that His roles, motivations, the cosmic problem and His solution are based on my understanding of what the Christian Bible teaches. Again, people may disagree with me. It’s natural, understandable, and perfectly human for us to disagree on just about everything. Disagreement helps us to sharpen our beliefs and discover truth. Provided we keep dialog open and an open mind.
I think it’s obvious that there are many differences between God and Thanos. Briefly looking at their attributes we see that God is immaterial, Thanos is material. God is all-powerful, Thanos’ power is limited to the Infinity Gauntlet. Which can only be used within one particular universe and using it, apparently, causes Thanos significant harm. God is all-knowing while Thanos is limited in his knowledge. God is triune and Thanos isn’t. And on and on and on….
God and Thanos are also different in the roles they play in their universes. In the Avengers movies, Thanos is the self-proclaimed savior of his universe. However, he doesn’t seem interested in ruling and governing his universe. On the other hand, God is the creator and sustainer of His universe. Combined with His attributes (all-knowing, all-powerful, good, loving ect), this rightfully makes and justifies Him as the sovereign ruler of His universe.
As you can see, there are a lot of differences. But that isn’t what we’re asking, right? We’re asking about whether God is worse than Thanos. So, why do I bring up their different attributes and roles? Well, I think those differences are why some people think that God is worse. But their individual roles and attributes also make a difference in understanding why they also have different approaches when solving their universe’s cosmic problem.
Becoming a savior
What is the cosmic problem? In a word, “suffering”. In my opinion, this is where it starts to get interesting. Because Thanos and God have different opinions of what is causing the suffering.
Thanos' perspective and plan
Thanos believes that the excessive suffering experienced in his universe is brought about by limited resources. But he believes that the resources only appear limited. The deeper problem is that the population exceeds the comfortable use of the resources available. Just to be clear, the problem isn’t that the people in the universe are too large in size, it’s not that there are inherently too few resources, and it’s not that the people of the universe are too greedy. According to Thanos, the root cause for the suffering in his universe is, “Too many people.” If that’s the problem then the answer is pretty easy, make is so there is, “Not too many people.”
Therefore, Thanos’ solution is simply to halve the universe’s population via random, “painless” elimination. Now, as we saw in the films, the path to achieving that solution was difficult and complicated.
God's perspective and plan
Let’s take a look at what God thinks is the cause of the cosmic problem of suffering. It should also be noted that while Thanos could be wrong about the root cause of the suffering and he could be wrong about how to solve it, God, due to being all-knowing and good, can’t be wrong about the root cause or the best way to solve it. God created His universe as a province within His kingdom. He then assigned humanity stewardship over this province. Making them to be His image bearers and to rule the province mirroring His goodness, grace and justice. But humanity was tricked by Satan and obeyed Satan rather than obeying God. In so doing, betrayed God by causing Sin to enter God’s universe and became enslaved to the Sin they created. So, God’s universe is now in a state of cosmic treason against Him and all of His beloved citizens are enslaved to an evil that brings suffering with it. And many of His citizens are not only slaves but have become part of the rebellion; rejecting His reign and taking up arms to fight against Him. As futile as that would be. Let me try to be clearer. I believe God thinks the cause of the suffering in the universe is “Sin”. Now, sin is a word that is loaded with theological significance. For the purposes of this post I’m just going to define sin as, broadly put, the failure to acknowledge God as God.
If God is right in that the cause of the cosmic problem of suffering is, “Sin exists.” Then the answer, just like Thanos’, is pretty simple. Make it so “Sin does not exist.” There’s just one issue. Remember that Sin was brought into existence by humanity. As long as there is humanity, Sin can be brought into the universe. This doesn’t mean that Humanity must create Sin, like a triangle must also be trilateral. It’s just that everyone in God’s universe chooses to actualize Sin. However, while humanity can exist independently from Sin, Sin can’t exist independently of the humanity that brought it into being. So, in order to permanently destroy sin, God would also have to destroy humanity. In the end, God seems to agree with Thanos that the suffering in the universe lies at the feet of the people in the universe. But instead of the root cause being “too many people” it’s, “people create Sin”.
Therefore, God could eliminate sin in the universe simply by wiping out all the people. Fortunately for the people of His universe, God just happens to love them. So He is forced to come up with a way of removing the parasite, that is Sin, from the people of His universe without destroying them all. He decided to do this with the cross. On the cross He takes on the Sin of His people and with it, the suffering and punishment deserving of cosmic treason. With that act, He is free to save as many people who are willing to have Him reign instead of Sin. And to exile Sin, with its unrepentant creators/hosts/slaves, outside of God’s universe. Obviously, just like Thanos, the journey to this goal is much more difficult and complicated than what I have described here.
Here are my final observations:
Thanos is hoping that his plan works but can’t know that it will. God knew from the beginning that humanity would create Sin and how He was going to fix it and that the end result would bring about eternal bliss.
Thanos’ solution to the cosmic problem of suffering is reducing the universe’s population by half in the hope that the amount of resources in the universe in enough to eliminate excessive suffering for the remaining half. It should be noted that the scope of his plan is limited to suffering brought about by limited resources. This doesn’t include suffering from disease, for example. God’s solution is to eliminate the source of all suffering in His universe, Sin, and to save everyone who prefers His reign over the reign of Sin.
As for the question in the Title. I see Thanos attacking the people of his universe and not attacking what he thinks is the source of the suffering, the limited resources. With God, I see Him directly attacking the source of the suffering in His universe, Sin, with the goal to save anyone who doesn't resist being saved. In Thanos’ plan, half the universe is eliminated against their will. In God’s plan, the only people who aren’t saved are the ones who don’t want to be saved. Personally, I think that Thanos is much worse than God and that he is enormously misguided. And that’s why Thanos makes a great villain.