Mission Statement

Theology Gaming Logo

Editor’s Note: Apparently I wrote this a while ago. It’s an interesting little musing that came out of my head. More than likely, it came out of frustrations with my prior church and Christianity at large…but I am “para-church”, so that makes sense. It’s entirely unfocused and strange, but it works well enough as a “mission statement”, I suppose.

I have, at times, been involved in “evangelistic ministries” – you know, the traditional “save people” sort of enterprise. I have no problem with this. What I do have a problem with, though, is a mixed set of motivations and compulsions. That is why modern evangelism never strikes me as particularly effective. It operates and functions on a modern paradigm without understanding they’ve been co-opted already. They function on a mindset already established, and inevitably lose the “culture war” as a result.

Does Christianity simply consist in love? I’m not going to say “no” to that question. I refuse to write a simple reflection of our culture’s current obsession with acceptance and “feeling good” for the purpose of “saving souls”. I can criticize something all I want from a moral perspective (and if that doesn’t sound like judgement, I don’t know what that is).  Condemning a game’s moral content without them understanding WHY seems like a pretty big gap. They think you come from the same mental mindset, and that assumption means they don’t believe themselves any different from you. Do you want them to love you or to hate you? Must a person find acceptance in a community before coming out of the blue with an evangelistic message?

But that doesn’t work. The safe approach usually fails. I’ve seen this more times than I can count. You can hear this in nearly every single medium I’ve ever watched or listened. Christianity has a particular perception placed upon it, right or wrong, that it is believed by dumb or crazy people. It’s hard to convert someone who thinks you believe in something insane. This is a problem of thought, of thinking, and of placing borders on the sources of our knowledge. We must change that. We must give people a way to look differently. I’m going to guess that the majority of people in the “gamer” demographic come from a liberal arts education; at the very least, they’ve got the prevailing wisdom of materialism by their side. Rather, I’m thinking in a much grander scale: make Christianity an intellectually viable mode of thought. We must show that Christianity does not kowtow to whatever everyone else thinks, but what God thinks.

What is the purpose of the Christian religion? To make people feel good, or to tell them they truly need a Savior because they are sinners? In fact, we are all sinners. That Christ brings us new life, but that we have to change the way we live. There is acceptance, yes, but there’s also hardship and turmoil and suffering. It is not easy. To give the perception that it is, that we can live just the way we’ve always had, becomes the worst trend of all evangelism in American within the past fifty years. One cannot simply accept cultural trends. One cannot accept the morality of the culture around them. New life and new birth require a total renewing of the way we think (Romans 12:2) in every respect. To think independently, to not think in terms of grey nor black and white, but the Truth that sets us free from worldly powers, principalities, and cultural paradigms of any era and every age.

If we truly believe this, then our evangelism cannot come from a place where we “fit in” or just drop ourselves into an existing subculture. We become all things to all men, but we don’t we don’t dumb the Gospel down to a vague idea of love and acceptance. That is completely disingenuous to the audience in question; I certainly would find myself insulted by it.

The problem does not come from nonbelievers being ignorant, or stupid, or unable to comprehend. I could walk up to some guy on the street, tell them “Jesus is Lord!”, and they could not understand that proposition. It does not make sense to them. It cannot make sense to them. They are blind. What can bring them out of that lack of sight? Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, 2 but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

If we believed it, we must act, walk, talk, and write as if it is the state of affairs. If not, we’re merely treading water. That is why the goal of Theology Gaming, far from being antithetical to evangelism, tries for a different approach. Acts 17, in a word:

16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. 17 So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. 18 And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.”21 (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)

Sermon on Mars Hill

22 So Paul stood in the midst of the [s]Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands;25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, havingdetermined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ 29 Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.30 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you[x]again concerning this.” 33 So Paul went out of their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

If we really claim to have the truth, we need the conviction that our truth can prevail and go against whatever the intellectual traditions of our culture. Otherwise, do we really believe, or have we co-opted faith into a previously shaped mold where Christianity can fit into a larger paradigm?

Paul talks like a man possessed. He appeals to their mindset, but he does not dumb down the message. He makes it clear what it is he preaches and what he believes. Whether adopters or scoffers, he does not care because he speaks, and the Spirit follows. He understands that this belief in the Resurrection, in Christ, completely changes everything. Nothing else could possibly matter more. Why sugarcoat it, then?

Merely by saying “I believe in the Resurrection,” I am not stating this as a fact expressed in a propositional form, but a fundamental tenet of my existence! You cannot, by the whims of any methodology, get rid of this belief, no matter how hard I try. It is not a belief that merely adopts symbols, nor one that believes out of desperation, but out of wholehearted conviction that, indeed, Jesus was God, died, and rose again. I have what you call an unshakable belief that will show by regulating how I act and what I do.

If we let Christianity exist on the grounds as a intellectually held belief, we cannot have the same passion for the formation of that belief into a distinctly rigorous mindset, a theology if you will. That, then, is my intention and my goal: to show that Christianity works in application to anything, and that its truth destroys all others with its radiant glow.

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.