By Sean Tong, UK
“Faith is a torment. It is like loving someone who is out there in the darkness but never appears, no matter how loudly you call.” —Antonius Block in The Seventh Seal (1957 Swedish film, directed by Ingmar Bergman)
Ingmar Bergman’s seminal film The Seventh Seal remains a masterpiece of film-making since its time. Having spent 10 years fighting in the Crusades, an ascetic knight Antonius Block, returns to find his country ravaged by the Black Death. Once he returns to shore, we come across one of the most famous scenes in film history: the knight finds himself face-to-face with the austere figure of Death. Defiant to hold on to his mortality, Antonius challenges Death to a game of chess. If he wins, he gains the right to stay alive. The chess scene works as an excellent metaphor for man’s attempts to be in control of his own destiny, even in the face of his own inevitable mortality.
The deferral of the knight’s death also allows him to plague Death with his many anxious questions about existence, in particular, the existence of God. As with many of us, Antonius struggles with God’s apparent silence and perhaps even indifference to our lives. The epitome of this conflict is demonstrated in Antonius’ conclusion that in order to deal with death and make sense of it, “we must make an idol of our fear, and call it god.”
But unlike Antonius, we can seek answers from the Bible. Therein, we see clearly that while at times God may seem silent and distant, this is not the case at all! God has proven His amazing love for us “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). Apostle John wrote in his gospel, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God himself took on our fragile human form, that He might be with us, and that we might learn more about Him and have a relationship with Him.
Take courage! God is with us. We might all share in Antonius’ existential angst, but we know that death is not the end. This life is not “a preposterous horror.” Because of Christ’s resurrection, “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54).