“In the beginning was the video game. And the game was enchanting. And the game was augmented reality.” (The gospel according to Pokemon?)
I bristle at this. Once again, churches will leave discernment, truth, and almost certainly, the Gospel, behind in a pathetic, almost drooling attempt, born of their belief in the insufficiency of Scripture, to make themselves relevant to an increasingly depraved culture. (Can you say ‘Romans 1 judgment?’)
If you attend a typical evangelical church in America, just look around. Is it not already awash in undiscerning, unbiblical attempts to coddle a godless culture, hoping that by entertaining them in concert-like, man-exalting church services, that some might be saved?
Actually, if you look around, it might seem evident that most of these culture-craving churches don’t even care if these goats are ever authentically saved, so long as they just keep coming and exude a tolerable “form of godliness.” (2 Timothy 3:5) If you attend a First Baptist Goat Farm or some similar such “Scripture isn’t sufficient but we’ll say it is” church, you know what I mean.
The writer exhorting an ecclesiastical embrace of this latest cult-like gaming craze points out, as titled, eight ways in which the church should capitalize on the craze. Based on luring in those intentionally seeking an experience of augmented reality, (Believers understand that, already, the unregenerate don’t even comprehend non-augmented reality.) which is the crux of the game, and thus the craze, the author suggests such things as:
“Check your church on the game.”
“Staff the area with a greeter.”
“Place welcome signs on your door.”
“Offer drinks and snacks.”
“Post about it on social media.”
“Attract Pokemon to your church.”
“Have drawings for free Pokemon gifts.”
Justifying the church’s “chase Pokemon, find Jesus” participation in an effort to bring in those who just may be worshipping a digital idol, a reference is made to Paul’s, “I become all things to all people.” (1 Corinthians 9:22) Implying, of course, that the church ought to be the world in order to win the world.
Of course, this is not remotely close to the context in which Paul penned those words. Referencing Christian liberty, and his use or abandonment of it, Paul was not implying that he would eagerly join in the worship of idols while trying to reach idol worshippers, or that he would gleefully participate in carnal festivals of the flesh while trying to share the Gospel with Gentile pagans.
He had been chosen to be Christ’s slave. Paul’s liberty, therefore, was exercised at the discretion of his Master, and that liberty was never utilized to make Paul indistinguishable from the “condemned already” (John 3:18) world he sought to reach. Paul did not engage in idolatry or sin in order to proclaim the Truth. It doesn’t work that way. (Oh, and the church? Yeah, we’re called to “come out from among them,” where “them” is the world. 2 Corinthians 6:17)
There are those who acknowledge a potential problem for Christians who themselves may be engaged in the craze. The CARM site includes an entry that describes what the game is about. It should be noted that among the “pocket monsters” players are to “catch” are those under such categories as “ghost,” “poison,” and “psychic.”
Imbued with digital abilities ranging from multi-dimensional morphing to the control of lightning and the use of claws and biting, the most concerning category for believers might be the “psychic” one. With names like “Hypno” and “Jynx,” these monsters have the abilities of “reading minds, teleportation, inducing headaches.” Some can “consume people’s dreams,” induce hypnosis, and cause confusion.
Try to correlate those things with what the apostle Paul warned the Corinthians about with regards to the far less imaginary, non-augmented issue of eating meat to idols.
“No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.” (1 Corinthians 10:20)
There is, apparently, the recirculated rumor of intentional satanic purposes for the original creation of the Pokemon game. For what it’s worth, the site “Snopes” has deemed that rumor false. But, for believers, we do know one thing that is a Biblical certainty about the very sure reality of the world in which we currently live …
“We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” 1 John 5:19
The real world risks involved in the game have been popping up over recent days. The Seattle Times reports twisted ankles, people falling into holes, and skateboard injuries sustained as players lose track of the real-world while playing in the fantasy one. The site iDigitalTimes reports similar mishaps but adds the report of a player finding a dead body and others being victimized by robbers maximizing the game for their own ill-gotten gain.
While it seems these days that a believer can scream “Christian liberty” in order to justify just about any desired behavior, (rightly so in some cases, but assuredly not in others), the intentional engagement of the church proper in this latest cultural craze seems to be looming on the near horizon. The Challies-referenced article is evidence of that.
Seeker-sensitive churches, who by their disobedient modus operandi disregard the sufficiency of Scripture, (Christ said “I will build my church.” He did not command us to do it.) will latch on to this latest phenomenon like a rat on a Cheeto. Where there’s a pew to be filled, discretion, discernment, and caution will be tossed to the digital winds of potentially demonically inspired hype in the hopes of eventually contextualizing a decidedly different “gospel” to those “condemned already.”
(Looking for augmented reality experiences? Come join us for a “worship experience!” Our doctrine-less, mantra-like music will lull you into other-dimensional “spiritual,” coma-like moments of meditation! Our light shows and theatrics will dazzle your senses! Our “sermons” will make you “feel” the love. Come catch Jesus in our gym!. Add Him to your game experience!)
The Gospel of John opens up with the profound, singularly important truth, “In the beginning was the Word.” It is the proclamation of that Word for which we’ve been commanded to “GO.” We’ve not been commanded to play false-reality, “go” games with the unsaved who, conscious of it or not, while chasing their digital monsters, are under the authority of a non-digital and very real diabolical enemy of our God.
“For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 1 Corinthians 3:19
As the apostle aptly educated the Corinthians, God doesn’t need the wisdom or methods of the world to achieve His purposes. It seems evident, then, the church ought not rely on them either. The church that believes in the sufficiency of God’s Word will understand this. They’ll further understand that, while this current monster-catching game may seem harmless, the souls of the unregenerate that will one day be eternally “caught” is a reality that won’t merely be digital. The “lake of fire” is not augmented-reality.
If the “condemned already” show up in your church parking lot, show them hospitality because this brings glory to God. (Matthew 5:16) But skip the monster show, and give them the Gospel. It is the sole power of God that, by His will, might save them from a more definite, un-augmented reality of certain wrath.
The monster they’re chasing may be digital, but the one they are serving is decidedly real. Give them the real Gospel. And don’t augment it.
We’re not playing games here, folks.
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[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]
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