God does not play Dungeons and Dragons.As usual, I was reading the internets when I found this interesting article called "Confessions of a Dungeons & Dragons™ Addict". It's written by a born-again Christian, M. Joseph Young, who started playing Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). Soon his friends got wind of it, and informed him how evil and dangerous the game was. They handed him lots of tracts to demonstrate the point (and I bet the infamous "Dark Dungeons" Jack Chick tract was among them). But Young quickly saw that the tracts just made a lot of arguments that were awful and wrong. So he starts countering the arguments.
What's amusing is that Young has to make such obvious points. Stuff like, "Yes, there are demons and devils, but they mostly function as opponents," "Even if a player's character is evilly aligned does not mean the player is evil," and "The magic is fictional." There are also plenty of references to C. S. Lewis, a favorite Christian fantasy author. This stuff is trivial! It reminds me of the time that a Christian magazine quoted me as opposing book burnings. There's something going wrong when it becomes necessary to say such obvious things.
Less amusing, but still odd, is how Young describes his D&D games. He likes to discuss the philosophical and theological implications of the game with his players. Ooookay. I won't condemn. But I would feel pretty awkward in that situation. I've played a bit of D&D, and I already feel awkward enough about role playing. It does not seem like the proper venue for evangelism. I'm curious if Young has thought about the common image of Christians as always trying to insert evangelism everywhere, no matter how inappropriate.
Young goes on to state the real problems that D&D poses for Christians. He says it costs time and money. No argument here, and that's why I don't play much. He also says that since Christians don't like D&D, many D&D players end up not liking Christianity. Again, no argument here.
But there was one point that really stuck out to me:
Like most games--all those which use dice or cards--Dungeons & Dragons(tm) assumes that dice and cards fall in a random pattern along statistically predictable probabilities. It is extremely difficult for us to deal with this assumption. The question of whether dice and cards fall at random or are divinely controlled is far beyond the scope of this article, but the answer goes directly to the nature of the sovereignty of God.Extremely difficult? As far as anti-God arguments go, this is pretty weak. It's somewhere up there with the Babel Fish. I mean, seriously? "God controls everything... but what about dice?!" Does something so simple as probability really trip up theology? I don't know, maybe I'm just so used to the secular worldview that I can no longer imagine why such trivial things can cause such tremendous philosophical difficulties. Perhaps it might be clearer if I tried to form an explicit argument as to why this is silly.
Probability is a statement about our knowledge. If we say that a die has 1/20 chance of rolling a 20, that means that given our knowledge of the dice, there is a 1/20 chance of rolling a 20. The die may roll all sorts of numbers given different initial conditions, but to us, those initial conditions are indistinguishable. It has nothing to do with God.
Easy. I think so anyways. But perhaps not as trivial as the "D&D magic is fictional" bit. So never mind that. The following part was, I think, much more surreal.
Christians who play such games should grapple with the issue and form an opinion about it. Note that it is possible to avoid all such games by only playing those games which pit skill against skill--athletic competition, chess, checkers, reversi, competitive puzzles such as tic-tac-toe and dots--but these are the games most susceptible to the problems of the competitive spirit, the idea that one wins and therefore all others lose. That may be a far more dangerous challenge to the principles of the gospel than the more intellectual question of whether the assumption of statistical randomness is an affront to the sovereignty of God.Note that right away, one possible solution to the philosophical problem of probability is to avoid games which involve chance. Young, to his credit, rejects this solution, but for the wrong reasons. Doesn't it strike you as odd that the solution to a philosophical problem is to avoid a situation where you'd have to think about it? Isn't that a bit like sticking your fingers in your ears whenever you encounter an argument that you fear might be persuasive?
I find it especially striking that the idea was introduced so casually, without a bit of self-awareness. What is going on in Christianity that such bizarre and wrong ideas can be thrown around without a second thought?