I’m not much of a fan of the recently completed LOST TV series. I sensed it was a phenomenon, as least from people’s reactions to the show over its six-year network run, and judging by reading some reviews of the finale which aired the other night. I know of people who have made watching the show an event, and even friends have tried to explain the “deeper meanings” behind some of the symbolism in the show. I was most interested in the aspect of “redemption” which was most often mentioned in relationship to the final episode..
There seemed to be an on-going thematic reference to “redemption” for deeds done (or left undone) mentioned in several articles. I wonder how that all plays into this ironic ending where the characters end up in what some have classified as purgatory, which to Roman Catholic believers is a place of purification in which the inhabitants therein are made ready for heaven. I’m not sure how there can be something akin to our Biblical understanding of redemption as embodied in the sacrificial substitutionary atonement provided by Jesus Christ when the view of purgatory is that one has yet to be made right with God and instead find themselves literally in “limbo” which is another word for purgatory. I hoped in my quest to understand more about people’s view of “redemption” from a humanistic perspective that I might meet someone who could explain the connection for me. And then I remembered my friend Scott.
My good friend Scott is a LOST fan, and when I asked the question about LOST and the references to redemption, this is what he wrote to me: “I am a LOST fan, but found the finale to be rather inscrutable. In general, the whole series definitely revolved around redemption…it started out with a group of individuals who had each experienced a great moral failure of some kind and who were basically isolated/alone in life. The group was ‘providentially’ gathered onto the same plane, which crashed and stranded them on an island together.” Scott continued, “I viewed the island as being purgatory, but the series creators denied this. On the island each person was ‘tested’ by choosing between good and evil. In the finale, everyone was (apparently) dead and in some kind of heaven/nirvana, suggesting that each had successfully ‘passed the test.’”
According to Elwell (2001), the Bible presents redemption from the perspective of the process and how it transforms persons who allow the process to work in them. Finding its context in the social, legal, and religious customs of the ancient world, the metaphor of redemption includes the ideas of loosing from a bond, setting free from captivity or slavery, buying back something lost or sold, exchanging something in one’s possession for something possessed by another, and ransoming (Elwell, 2001). This seems to align with what the writers of the LOST series tried to portray. I originally subscribed to this thinking, but in light of this LOST finale, I have two problems with this: (1) how different is this from our own understanding of Christ’s redemption? What ‘test’ could I possibly pass to make me worthy to come before the Throne of the Holy One of Heaven? (2) for those passing the ‘test’ in LOST, they found themselves dead. Maybe I’m mistaken, but my understanding of the redemptive work of Christ leaves me alive, and free to be all that God created me to be. Once set free here on earth, I can only look longingly forward to an even greater splendor in heaven, seat with Christ in the heavenly realms (see 1 Peter 1 and Ephesians 2). Tell me what you think.
 See several commentaries which mention the theme of redemption at http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/life/stories/2010/05/25/lost-fans-respond-to-finale.html?sid=101.
 Elwell, W. A. (2001). Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Rev. ed.). Carlisle, Cumbria, U.K: Baker Academic.