Tag Archives: substitution

The Black Swan and the old self

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”


The film follows Nina (Natalie Portman) as she takes the lead role in Swan Lake and battles physically and psychologically with the false self. The director (Vincent Cassel) urges her to give in to the false self (although not in those words). To give in to her urges, desires and cravings.

I think about the words of Paul written above. We no longer need to be animals. To be slaves to our desires. Not that desires are wrong. But when they control us, we become less than human.

In Paul’s theology, the old self has been crucified with Christ. Christ’s death on the cross has brought victory over our struggle. A sacrifice has been made for us.

In the Black Swan, in order to rid herself of the old self, blood must also be shed. But it’s her own blood. She sacrifices herself in order to claim victory over her old self.

It seems to be a truth that is found in movies, culture and theology.

The need for sacrifice.

For things to be reconciled, blood needs to be shed.

What’s different about the film is that it is the character who offers the sacrifice. Not God.

I have struggled with the idea of penal substitution being the main focus of atonement in recent years. Or at least the idea of redemptive violence. The idea that blood must be shed for reconciliation to occur.

I don’t think it needs to be like that at all.

What I choose to celebrate is that sacrifices are no longer needed. That victory has been found. That we can be the people we were called to be without the need for blood. Nina was born to be a dancer but in order to find that perfection, blood had to be spilled.

No more. We can have perfection. We can be “like God”. Because of Jesus. Because of his work.

In youth work, it is my role to share this victory. The cross dealt with the old self. That which abuses us, mocks us, tells us we’re not worth dying for.

And with this knowledge, we must live life to the full and be all that we were created to be.