Final Fantasy XIII Versus Fate (Part 3)

Part one and Part two.

That isn’t the Christian God. Rather than simply punish Jonah for his arrogance, the Father takes a subtle approach. From my perspective, it not only chides Jonah lightly, but exists as a stern reminded to anyone reading these recorded events. What is the key problem with Jonah’s attitude? His lack of gratefulness. As discussed earlier on an After Church entry, grace from God isn’t anything other than undeserved, freely given love from Love itself. Salvation represents the purest expression of that grace – to save those who cannot save themselves for no other reason than that He loves us. If God was not gracious, He would be as dangerous as the fal’Cie. The fal’Cie tire of their role and wish to destroy life and an entire universe for their own happiness. Humans, in some respect, become a means to an end: they force them into specifics roles to turn events to their favor.

The fal’Cie, established as the protectors of Cocoon AND Pulse, aren’t designed to harm the Maker’s creation. In fact, they’re unable to attack, destroy, or forcibly eliminate the living races in any way. Apparently, the Makers knew that their creation needed protection in some respect, but they obviously gave the fal’Cie too much power. As such, the fal’Cie found more underhanded and subtle ways to perform these functions. Barthandalus, the main villain of Final Fantasy XIII and the Sovereign fal’Cie of Cocoon, orchestrates the events of the game leading to the climax. His plan comes to complete fruition as the game progresses, as the player and his/her avatars walk down the much-reviled “tunnel” to the game’s conclusion.

Although many were surprised by the game’s total linearity, it’s completely consistent with the narrative. Barthandalus guides the L’Cie to their destiny; although it doesn’t look like he’s in control, any cursory look at what exactly happened in the game shows that he made sure a new generation of fal’Cie would bring back the Makers. Fang and Vanille, whom you meet in the course of the game, were given the task of killing Orphan and destroying Cocoon five hundred years before the start of the game; however, they failed in their attempt and were crystallized. They were NOT turned in Cie’th, as you might expect, because of Anima, a Pulse fal’Cie who froze them to prevent Cocoon’s destruction, which would result in Gran Pulse’s destruction as well.

To explain: if you’ve played the beginning of the game, you’ll know that one of the L’Cie has to turn into Ragnarok in order to destroy Cocoon – this was Fang, and she does this at the end of the game. The only way the planned cataclysm can occur is by having Orphan die at the hands of Ragnarok, which will cause Cocoon to collapse, killing millions of people, all the fal’Cie, and bringing the creators back to restore everything through destruction. It’s interesting to note that the fal’Cie want to die in order to prevent human suffering. Although this is not directly stated as such, the whole purpose of reforming creation equals a removal of the horrible state of human affairs in paranoia, violence, and self-destruction which Cocoon has become (you see this throughout the game and ESPECIALLY in the way your party is treated as L’Cie).

Of course, why Barthandelus believes he can direct humanity towards this fate without consulting them at all raises some eyebrows from the audience. He’s cold and uncaring towards their fate, instead intending to destroy everything to fix everything without their consent. Jonah, on the other hand, gets a choice – but there’s a consequence to those choices. Sure, he gets swallowed by some giant fish and endures a thunder storm, but that’s relative child’s play. Even then, God’s mercy and grace overtakes his judgement when it comes to Ninevah, prompting Jonah’s complaints. Jonah’s free to complain, but God has a lesson in store for him; he doesn’t strike him dead (although He would be perfect right in doing so).

Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. So the Lord God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.”

Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” 10 Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. 11 Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”

This has to be one of the more bizarre stories in the Bible. Plants? The example, though, makes perfect sense. The difference between God and the fal’Cie (and, apparently, their capricious creators) vastly differ in their approach to destiny. God has every ability to change the fate of all mankind at a moment’s notice; however, He chooses mercy over judgement in most cases. In fact, even though the citizens of Ninevah don’t know God personally (other than by Him restraining His wrath), He has compassion for them almost immediately. Contrast this to the fal’Cie, who aren’t so compassionate as much as they are machines fitted to a purpose. Humans must fight against these god-machines to continue their lives, and they must destroy the fal’Cie to become truly free. In the realm of the Bible, we must know God and follow His commands to be free. That’s a very different approach. One God interacts with His creation and cares about their fate; the other does not care about the individual, only the big picture.

That’s why Lightning and her friends need to destroy the fal’Cie in either case. Think of it in this sense: either way, they’re going to fulfill their Focus. Events have been crafted meticulously to lead them to this point. However, if they don’t kill Orphan as Ragnarok, they won’t actually fulfill their Focus while, at the same time, destroying all the fal’Cie and putting an end to the threat. So, if you were wondering, that’s why they fight Orphan without transforming into some magic demi-god. Thus, discovering from Barthandelus that humans have unlimited possibility (unlike the fal’Cie, who have unlimited power in one task only), the L’Cie gives themselves their own Focus and defeat Orphan without fulfilling their Focus. Hence, the Makers don’t return, but the fal’Cie die, leaving humanity to their own destiny (until the sequels, of course!).

The God of the Bible recognizing this human possibility. He doesn’t need to give them arbitrary powers that only cause death and destruction; the people He calls are ordinary people who live under the will and care of an extraordinary God. He can do anything and MAKE US do anything He wants – but He gives us a choice of how to live. Even if we are predestined to some fate, can we truly perceive it? Whether or not it is real choice, we can only perceive our lives as a choice – otherwise, sin would be a required element. But that can’t be the case – if sin equals willful disobedience, without will there is no sin. And that makes all the difference – God respects our choices but tries to lead us on a path that is most fruitful for our work. The fal’Cie represents gods and idols not fit for worship, interested only in themselves and their own ends.

That’s why the characters in the games are entirely justified in their struggle, why the game is framed so linearly, and why everyone seems to look down upon the game in the “critical” media. It’s not perfect (and seriously, what game is?), but anyone who can get past their preconceived notions will find plenty of food for thought. Any game that can promote this kind of discussion deserves some kudos, don’t you think?

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.