Inerrancy and Final Fantasy Tactics

Okay, I know that I said I was done with Final Fantasy Tactics after my last post on it, but good games are good, and I’m still mired in my current playthrough right at the point when the Glabados Church’s conspiracy to seize power has been uncovered by Ramza and company.  It’s at this point in the story that Ramza acquires a book known as the Germonique Scriptures, which has been long hidden in the library of the monastery where Princess Ovelia has been secluded.

File:Scriptures of Germonique.png

Just like in the real world, there’s a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over a certain book. (Image credit: Final Fantasy Wiki)

This book’s a big deal, because it offers an alternate history to the one officially accepted by the Glabados Church wherein Saint Ajora Glabados wasn’t a divine figure who was born performing miracles, but a spy for enemies of the dominant power at the time, the Holy Ydoran Empire.  Germonique, who in the Church’s history was a traitor who sold Ajora out to the authorities, was actually an agent of the Empire tasked with monitoring Ajora’s activities.

Obviously, these conflicting accounts pretty heavily mirror the difference in events between the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of Judas (it’s not a perfect parallel, but the idea that one of the divine figure’s disciples who is known as a traitor held some kind of secret history fits closely enough).  This is significant because the crisis of faith that comes with entertaining the possibility of a different version of events is one of the greatest fears people have (this crisis extends even to people who don’t exercise any kind of faith, as conflicting narratives are endemic to our conversations about what’s happening around us, and being confronted with information that undermines any narrative, be it ideological, theological, or even historical, inevitably creates a sense of distress), and Final Fantasy Tactics just drops that problem right in the middle of a story that’s mostly been about political intrigue.  Ramza, who admits that he’s not a terribly devout person, has a small crisis of faith after reading the Germonique Scriptures; the scandalous nature of Germonique’s account (Ajora was not only not divine, but also a sort of revolutionary) combined with the fact that the Glabados Church has been hiding it for so long weighs heavily as it eats away at all the cultural stories that he was raised on and had integrated as just part of history.  Suddenly he’s not just fighting against a plot to destabilize all of Ivalice at the expense of its most vulnerable citizens; he’s contending with a corrupt church which promotes a faith that might all be a foundational lie.

So, I bring all this up because it reminds me of several conversations I’ve followed recently regarding various kinds of narratives.  In the realm of Christianity, I’ve become interested in the ‘controversy’ (anything which is controversial in Christianity is simply something that defies the most prominent cultural narratives of the faith) surrounding the band Gungor and their coming out as non-literalist Christians who acknowledge that evolution is true.  Gungor has received a lot of flak from the white evangelical community because of this public disclosure, with many lamenting how the worship band has fallen away from the truth of scripture.

You guys know how I feel about that kind of talk (it’s bullpoop).

Nonetheless, this casting out of former tribe members emanates from the same kind of crisis of faith that Ramza experiences in finding that book in the bottom of a monastery.  To suggest that there’s another way to look at a narrative invites scorn and derision, especially when it’s one so foundational to identity like a faith narrative (it’s ironic then, in Final Fantasy Tactics, that Ramza is branded a heretic before he discovers the Germonique Scriptures, and that his loss of faith in Glabados is primarily motivated by the constant persecution he receives from the Church).

I think that’s part of the reason inerrancy has become so prevalent in evangelical culture.  People of faith have a strong motivation to maintain their faith as part of their identity (even looking at myself, this is why I try to push back on people claiming that there’s only one kind of authentic Christian; my faith is an important part of my identity, so I’m invested in protecting my claim on it), and creating a narrative where the faith’s scriptures are not only important, but inerrant, reinforces that narrative against any counter claims that might incite a faith crisis.  Of course evolution is a lie; if it weren’t then Genesis would be wrong, and Jesus wouldn’t be necessary, and Paul’s claim that “we are of all people most to be pitied” would be true.

God forbid someone pity us.

I’ve probably written this before in some shape or another, but I think it’s worth repeating: clinging desperately to a narrative in the face of counter evidence is not real faith.  Put another way, faith is not about sticking to beliefs that are verifiably false, but holding to unverified beliefs.  I don’t believe the universe was created in literally six days; that is verifiably false.  I do believe that the universe was created by a benevolent, loving God whose character was revealed in the person of Jesus Christ; that is presently unverifiable (and, I think, never will be).

Given all that, Final Fantasy Tactics‘s detour through the problem of the Germonique Scriptures strikes me as a particularly insightful bit of storytelling.  One of the game’s core mechanics is how every character has a faith stat (this stat determines how effective the character is at delivering and receiving the effects of magic; characters with zero faith are actually immune to magic-based actions).  After reading the Germonique Scriptures, Ramza begins to lose faith in Glabados, but his faith stat is unchanged.  He has discovered something that disrupts the narrative he knows, perhaps incontrovertibly (it’s important to remember that Ajora’s status as a divine incarnation is left ambiguous within the game; his relationship to the Lucavi Ultima is unclear; all we know for certain is that Ultima posed as Ajora at some point in the past), but this change in perspective doesn’t impact what he really believes.  Even if the Ajora story isn’t factual, Ramza still adheres to higher ideals of what is good about his universe.  His faith remains intact.

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