The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Video Games and Jesus

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As God’s covenant people, we are commanded to take dominion of this world (Gen. 1:26-28, Ps. 8:6, Dan. 7:27, Eph. 1:21–23). Christians often take a light view of this truth, taking it to mean that we should simply preach the gospel to everyone we meet. Don’t get me wrong, evangelism is certainly a big part of our dominion (Matt. 28:19-20), but notice that we are to “make disciples,” not simply converts. The other piece of the dominion puzzle is conform Christ’s world to Christ’s word. This world no longer belongs to Satan (John 12:31, Rom. 16:20), and it’s time for Christians to start living and acting that way.

There is no area of life that the gospel does not touch. Abraham Kuyper has been quoted as saying that there is not one inch of creation of which Christ does not say “mine.” Our minds, as well as our deeds and occupations must be renewed by the regenerating work of the Gospel (Rom 12:2, 1 Cor. 7:17-24). “One of the fruits of the Reformation was an understanding of this fact; any job, done as unto the Lord, is a holy calling.”[1] Paul sent Onesimus, a runaway slave, back to his master, Philemon, with the admonition that Philemon should welcome him back as a brother in Christ. Although all three (Paul, Onesimus, Philemon) were Christians, Paul did not give Onesimus the permission to abandon his earthly master. He was to reform his attitude about his occupation, not get a new job. Likewise, Philemon was to reform his understanding of his relationship with Onesimus, not view him simply as a servant.

All of this is nothing new to the seasoned American Vision reader and should come as no surprise, but I remind you of this in order to challenge you. A recent article caught me off-guard and caused me to re-think the logical implications of the preceding paragraphs. PlayStations of the Cross appeared in the NYTimes Magazine on May 1, 2005.[2] It tells the story of a group of video-gamers who also happen to be Christians and want to use their passion for video games as a vehicle to “take dominion.” Now, if your Jesus Junk, Heresy-Detector just went off, then your reaction was the same as mine. I read the first few paragraphs of the article with amusement thinking in my mind of a “Monday Night Calling” video game. The objective would be to use the right “Evangelism Explosion” lingo to get a whole neighborhood “saved.” Or maybe a “Castle of Paganism” where you use your mighty “sword of the Spirit” to ward off and kill the evil-isms of modern culture (humanism, Darwinism, socialism, etc.) that threaten your very existence. Or perhaps “Dante’s Inferno—The Game,” where you must ascend the seven stages of the upper hell in order to escape the despicable “Father of Lies,” battling his minions along the way. Such thinking is not too far off in our age of “Christian” t-shirts, keychains, and breath mints.

But as I read further I was convinced that these guys were for real. They understand the small-minded mentality of putting a religious veneer on existing products and calling it “Christian.” They understand it and want to stay away from it. Their vision of video games for the Christian is to educate, not merely entertain. This is my main problem with video games—they are pure entertainment, meant to waste time instead of redeem it. Of course, the same could be said of playing sports, watching television, eating candy or any number of activities that people enjoy, both individually and as a family. My initial presuppositional response was being challenged. And the more I thought about it, I realized that these men are onto something big. Why not make interactive video games that bypass the typical “first-person shooter” games where the idea is to kill everything without being killed. A video game can and does teach as well as entertain. One of the many factors that led Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to carry out their Columbine massacre was their fascination with “first-person shooter” games.[3] The media we consume does affect us. If it didn’t, do you really believe corporations would spend endless amounts of money on advertising? Our goal as Christians should be to redeem the media as well as every other aspect of this world, including video games. Instead of cursing the darkness (which, let’s face it, Christians excel at) we need to shine the light of the Gospel.

Games such as the Myst series of computer video games and Tomb Raider engage the player in ways that most video games do not. They make you think and use your ears as well as your eyes to make decisions and your actions have consequences—sometimes good, sometimes bad. If these popular games can succeed with fictitious fantasy stories, why can’t Christians use video games to teach history and true stories? Turner Television and Steven Spielberg are putting up large sums of money to produce Into the West, a six-part miniseries about America’s western expansion.[4] Why not have a video game about this that teaches the kids (and parents) history while letting them live it out? Why can’t all of the great explorers like Magellan, Columbus, de Leon, Balboa and others be immortalized in a video game where the player learns as he tries to circumnavigate the globe, or reach the New World, or find the Fountain of Youth? The creators of Carmen Santiago made a fortune with this approach. I can envision whole families working together to prepare the rigging on a great clipper ship, or pushing the wagon over the last stretch of the Sierra Madres. The possibilities are endless because all truth, including historical truth, is God’s truth.

Video games are a virtual untapped market for biblical Christians to extend Christ’s dominion. We need to continue to think of new and inventive ways to teach the truth and effect change. Instead of nay-saying technology as the work of Satan, we need to embrace it as just another way to take dominion. Paul’s instructions in Romans 14:14 are appropriate: “I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” Even though Paul is talking specifically about food in this passage, the truth remains—nothing is unclean in and of itself …video games included. Let’s support guys with unpopular visions like Ralph Bagley and Peter Fokos in their quest to spread Christ’s kingdom to our kids’ X-Boxes and PlayStations. Who knows, maybe we’ll even learn something in the process.

Endnotes:

[1] Andrews, Robert. The Family: God’s Weapon for Victory. Sentinel Press, 1995, p. 37.
[2] www.nytimes.com/2005/05/01/magazine/01GAMES.html
[3] www.nytimes.com/2005/05/01/magazine/01GAMES.html
[4] http://alt.tnt.tv/itw/

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