11.02.2010

Valid Evangelism?

So I got a letter in the mail from a Christian video game company, urging me to push their products to my young people. From the perspective of LB Games, a key ingredient to the problem of young people losing their faith stems from playing secular video games, so they have developed Christian video games in an effort to use video games to actually lead people to Christ instead of away from Him.

I am probably not qualified to determine whether or not this is a good idea. Maybe this is a brilliantly modern method of evangelism, taking the Gospel to people where they already are (in front of their PC monitors, xboxes, Wiis, etc.). On the other hand, maybe it’s completely absurd. Maybe people aren’t losing their faith because of video games—maybe people are never developing true faith in the first place because we substitute things like Christian-themed video games for authentic Christianity. I don’t know.

What I do know is that despite what I assume are good intentions on the part of LB games, I won’t be promoting their products, in large part because of their headline product which they are expecting to be incredibly popular: Left Behind 3: Rise of the Antichrist.

Seeing this just makes me shake my head.

In addition to the fact that I believe Left Behind’s portrayal of the end times is biblically unsound at a fundamental level, I also wonder about the strategy of evangelizing someone through a violent video game (the game is rated T because of violence, and the cover art certainly supports that idea).

Someone once said, “What you win them with is what you win them to.” Basically, the idea is that if you get lots of people to come to your church by building a really nice building, then you haven’t really brought in a lot of disciples, you’ve brought in a lot of people who appreciate comfort and architecture and aren’t necessarily opposed to Jesus. If you get lots of people to come to your youth group by having lots of fun and exciting events, then you’re really just building a group of people who like to have fun—even if it’s good clean fun—rather than follow Jesus (as a youth minister, this weighs on me a lot). But if you get people to come to your church or your youth group by teaching them about Jesus, then you’re building a group that is focused on learning about Jesus and trying to follow Him.

With this idea in mind, the implications for Left Behind 3: The Rise of the Antichrist aren’t too promising: if you win people with a violent video game that carries the tag “Christian”, what are you winning them to?

7 comments:

Colby 11/2/10, 11:33 AM  

o.O

Luke 11/2/10, 12:37 PM  

Colby,

I am not tech-savvy enough to know what that emoticon means.

Hopefully it is something like bewilderment over the publication of the aforementioned video game.

Justin and Heather Bland 11/2/10, 7:26 PM  

It could be a game rating: 0.0?

"Too Christian, Too Pagan" crosses my mind.

Unfortunately Luke, you have made aware of this game when I otherwise would not have been... now I want to play it. Is this a 1st person shooter? How does that work? Maybe its Angels vs Demons.

Bewilderment is a good word.

Luke 11/2/10, 9:00 PM  

Justin,

If there's a multi-player feature, maybe we should all get a copy and combat the Antichrist together over the internet.

Justin and Heather Bland 11/3/10, 4:24 PM  

Count me in!

Colby 11/5/10, 7:57 PM  

o.O Wikipedia describes this emoticon as meaning "shocked, disturbed, stunned, raised eyebrow," but bewilderment is how I meant it.

I visited LB Games' site and had a look around after reading your post, and somehow I got subscribed to their newsletter. O.o

Hacking is not very Christian either, LB Games.

Justin, it's a RTS game, not a shooter.

A question Lukum: If LB Games wins someone to the brand of Christianity espoused by their game, is that person saved? If so, is it still distasteful to makes games like this?

Luke 11/9/10, 10:20 AM  

Colby,

If LB Games wins someone to the brand of Christianity espoused by their game, is that person saved? If so, is it still distasteful to makes games like this?

Great question. Let me try to answer in pieces.

(1) I don't want to say too much about the "brand" of Christianity espoused by LB Games, because I don't claim to know much about it.

What I do know leads me to reject their understanding of the end times, but I don't think a correct understanding of such things is necessary for salvation (though an incorrect one can lead to some unhealthy/dangerous ideas I think).

(2) Maybe a different way of asking the same question (and you can correct me if I am missing your point) is, "If someone evangelizes in a questionable way, does that negate the salvation of the evangelized one?"

I would say no, and I'll give an example.

First, I believe we are saved by grace through faith (a free gift which is made possible by Christ's work on the cross), and that at baptism, God pronounces forgiveness of sins (or, to put it another way, baptism is not the "how" of salvation, but the "when"). Obviously, there's more to it than that (repentance, life of discipleship, etc.), but that's at least a starting point.

In order to motivate people to commit their lives to Christ and submit to baptism, some people use fear—"Do you know how bad hell will be? Do you want to find out?"

I would suggest that fear of punishment is a pretty low-level motivating factor on the maturity scale, and certainly is not the ideal one in what is supposed to be a loving relationship between man and God.

I would further suggest that one who comes to be saved out of this motivation is still saved, but runs the risk of having a warped relationship with God if the original fear-based faith doesn't mature.

Going back to the quotation from the original post, “What you win them with is what you win them to”, I think if you win someone with fear, you win them to a relationship with God that is characterized by fear. Certainly there should be a degree of the “fear of the LORD” in our relationship with God, but I would argue that properly understood, this isn’t a constant sense of terror.

Hopefully, with teaching and maturation, the person in question will develop a healthy understanding of God and relationship with Him, but with a more balanced view originally, the maturation process would be much easier, I think.

(3) So, if a person who comes to know of the Gospel in a less than ideal way can still be saved, does that validate the less than ideal method of evangelism?

Maybe it does in a relative sense, but really, I don't think so.

Again, to use an example…

If I walk around on street corners yelling, "You're all going to hell!", I'm not going to be very effective at leading people to a relationship with Jesus. My words might eventually cause someone to go and learn more about Christianity and, ultimately, come to faith, but that doesn't really validate my method since there are so many better ways of accomplishing the same purpose.

To put it another way, if the only method of evangelism was yelling at people on street corners, then any results would validate the method. But if there are other, better methods of evangelism that reach more people and don't turn off as many others in the process, then those would clearly be preferable.

I guess I would pretty much say the same thing about the video game in question (with the admission that I haven't played it and really don't know that much about it).

Does that answer the original question?

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