Give Your Kids the Credit Card

Bryan Chapell is an incredibly gifted communicator. Here he is with a great illustration of what it means to be “in Christ.”

Bryan Chapell:

If my son needs the car, I can give him my credit card to use in the pump. At this current economy he usually doesn’t have the means to get what he needs. So he uses the card with my name on it. With my permission and according to my desire, he assumes my identity. Though he cannot fulfill the conditions required for payment, my son has all of my credit available to him. He meets the qualifications requires to use the pump b/c the machine gives him the credit that really is mine. My son, though he could not provide it himself, acts with my identity and, thus, has all the credit that I have earned.

This is what it means to be “in Christ.” Though we cannot provide the perfect righteousness ourselves, in Christ we can act with His identity and have all the credit that…

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Sometimes A Little Greek Can Save Your Doctrine of God

I’m not saying every Christian needs to know Greek but sometimes a little Greek goes a long way in preventing heresy.

Reformedish

greekMost of the time a solid translation, good reading skills, and a solid grasp of the story-line of the Bible is good enough for constructing the rough outlines of a good doctrine of God. I mean, you can at least come up with a solid handle on the Creator/creature distinction, God’s power, righteousness, love, and so forth mostly by cruising through the text with a sharp eye and a keen mind. That said, sometimes a knowledge of the way Greek or Hebrew works can come in handy, especially when your doctrine is being challenged at that level. Take the doctrine of the Trinity, for instance.

John 1:1-3 is one of the key explicitly texts (though far from the only one) used to establish the basic outlines of trinitarian doctrine, especially the equality, eternity, and so forth of the Son. It reads like this:

In the beginning was the Word, and…

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What Is a Culturalist Presbyterian?

This is a helpful description of Presbyterianism that I find myself most identifying with. I’m happy to see the Allkirk crew posting things like this because they say it so much better than I would.

Allkirk Network

In 2010, Tim Keller wrote an essay titled, “What’s So Great about the PCA,” in which he identifies three branches of the PCA.1 These branches—which share a common DNA in the Reformed tradition—don’t have to be mutually exclusive, and often they differ more in emphasis than in substance. However, I think they are appropriate categorizations for understanding the current landscape of our denomination, and anyone seeking ministry in the PCA should be familiar with them.

In brief, they are the doctrinalists, the pietists, and the culturalists.2 Doctrinalists—also known as TRs (truly/totally Reformed), confessionalists, or strict subscriptionists—are most concerned with preserving our distinctive Reformed heritage, as expressed in the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity. Pietists are known for their concern with individual spirituality and revival (this probably comprises the majority camp in the PCA). By contrast, culturalists—also known as transformationalists or…

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Adult use of Video Games for Leisure: A Christian Ethic

I just got my Christian Ethics paper back and I wanted to share it in hopes that it will help others who are trying to figure out how video games ought to fit into the life of the Christian. So, here it is: my final assignment for the Christian Ethics course at Covenant Theological Seminary under the instruction of Dr. Dan Doriani. Soli Deo Gloria

Introductiongamer_wallpaper

“Video games are violent, addictive, and pointless.” This sentiment is often heard when talking about video games. As I researched on this topic, one of my friends commented that because so many over age 18 play video games, “we are more stupid, out of shape, and lethargic.” On a LinkedIn discussion thread I participated in about the positive aspects of playing video games one person commented: “It’s better to go do some physical exercise outdoors.” “[Video games] are just stupid,” says a well-known megachurch pastor.[1] Men are increasingly unable to have healthy social lives because of a combination of video games and pornography, asserts a notable figure in the field of psychology.[2] A 24-year-old man used video games to prepare to go on a murderous rampage in a 2012 theater shooting in Colorado, (in which 12 people were killed and 59 were wounded) according to a criminal profiler on a CNN interview.[3]

We encounter these views implicitly on TV shows and movies[4] and explicitly at church and in articles and in their comment feeds on anything video game related on both Christian websites like Focus on the Family and non-Christian websites such as CNN. Meanwhile, releases for major titles continue to be huge events for retail stores and video game production for a major game such as Halo yields millions of dollars on day one of sales. Video games are here to stay as an entertainment medium. Are they a curse on our civilization or can we be more positive about them? The opening statement is a powerful value judgment on what a major portion of the American adult population[5] (about 51% of all Americans over the age of 18[6] [over 124 million])[7] uses for leisure[8] time.[9] There is a general negativity toward the adult[10] usage of video games both in and outside of the church. Christians are called to be salt and light to the world.[11] The way Christians approach this topic reflects what they believe about the character of the God they believe in and acts as a signpost to non-believers. The aim of this discussion is to present a biblically informed Christian ethic on the adult use of video games for leisure.

John Frame provides a working definition of “ethics.” He wrote that ethics is “a means of determining which person’s acts and attitudes receive God’s blessing and which do not.”[12] I, as the writer here, don’t have the authority to declare right and wrong in an ultimate sense and neither does the reader. God does. He is the creator of all things[13] and He rules over everything He has created.[14] Mankind was created in God’s image and made able to make value judgments.[15] The effects of sin however mar the minds of all mankind[16] so the value judgments we make are not reliable in an absolute sense,[17] but mankind is capable of making value judgments nonetheless.[18] The minds believers in Christ have begun healing and so begin to think freely without the bondage of sin.[19] Following Frame again, he remarks: “Most people who think about ethics, Christian and non-Christian alike, are impressed by the teleological, deontological, and existential principles.”[20] Respectively these are consequential or results based,[21] duty based,[22] and character based[23] principles. With a framework in place to approach the concept of ethics, a few other factors must be addressed in order to answer the main question at hand.

Video Games

What am I referring to when considering video games? The definitions of the following terms will frame this discussion: game, play, and finally video game. The Oxford American Dictionary (OAD)defines them respectively:

  • game: a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.[24]
  • play: engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.
  • video game: a game played by electronically manipulating images produced by a computer program on a television screen or other display screen.[25]

Practically stated, this discussion is framed with games within the mainstream in mind, ranging from a smart phone game like Flappy Bird to an PC game like World of Warcraft (and all variations of video games in between), which are played by adults but not for profit or vocation.

Video games have matured as a narrative medium and share some of the same characteristics of cinematic blockbusters. One can play a game with a relatively simple narrative and linear game such as an old Super Mario Brothers for the original Nintendo system. Here, the game is cartoon-ish and light hearted with very little in the way of a substantive message to take away from it. Here the player can only kill the “bad guys.” One can also play a game such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, with an expansive virtual world with interweaving character stories, adult choices about justice and mercy, the clash between goodness and wickedness, and spiritual overtones. Skyrim MarioOr they could play Bioshock: Infinite, and be confronted with both issues of religion and race in a similar vein to a political science fiction/fantasy novel. In these latter two, the violence is graphic and in Skyrim, the player has the option to kill “bad guys” and “good guys” alike. Video game narratives may also link in well with the Biblical framework: Creation, Rebellion, Redemption, and Restoration. Games like LittleBigPlanet, Minecraft and Sim City encourage mimicking God’s own creative acts through building. Games such as Fallout, Borderlands, and Grand Theft Auto exist in worlds that are dystopian and deeply broken, crying out for redemption and restoration but only give you fleeting tastes of relief. Other games like Halo, Legend of Zelda, Ōkami, and to some extent Call of Duty games allow the player to take on the role of a messiah-like character (or characters) who restores the world. Every time a game comes to a satisfying conclusion where wrongs are righted and a hopeful future is established, players connect with a taste of the promise we are longing for of a world with no suffering or death, which Scripture tells us comes about at the restoration of all things. On the knowledge of religion, John Calvin said: “Since the perfection of blessedness consists in the knowledge of God, he has been pleased, in order that none might be excluded from the means of obtaining felicity, not only to deposit in our minds that seed of religion of which we have already spoken, but so to manifest his perfections in the whole structure of the universe, and daily place himself in our view, that we cannot open our eyes without being compelled to behold him.”[26] In the same vein, Jerram Barrs writes: “It seems that among every people on the face of this earth there is recollection of the original good creation; there is awareness that the world we now live in is broken and fallen, and there is recall of the promise and hope of the restoration of what is good. This true knowledge exists sometimes in stronger form, sometimes in weaker, but is always present.”[27] Christian and many a non-Christian alike share this “awareness,” as Barrs calls it. Video games are a venue for these observations and recollections to happen.

Kevin Schut points out: “Video games absolutely do not need to be solitary activities. Rather they are social spaces.”[28] Some games such as World of Warcraft or League of Legends have fostered community amongst friends who commit to playing with each other regularly to enjoy adventures together in these virtual worlds. In fact, 27% of all Americans play games with friends at least an hour a week.[29] This diverse video game world is what should be remembered as this discussion progresses. Video games in general are as much of a valid form of leisure as watching Hollywood movies or reading fictional stories because they often share much common ground both in terms of narrative and content.

Adulthood

What makes this problem unique when considering adults? Scripture makes it plain that there is a way of living like a child, which is different from living like an adult. The Apostle Paul keyed in on this reality when considering our continual development in life in light of God’s unchanging truth.[30] God created all things in history and mankind carries this sense of development over the passing of time.[31] We must admit that there is ambiguity in Scripture on what exactly constitutes an adult while still acknowledging that there is a clear distinction between child and adult. Generally considered, children are physically weaker, think simply, and are dependent upon others for their well being. Conversely, adults are physically more capable, think more complexly, and are more capable of fending for themselves. Experientially, we feel it when we see things that are appropriate for children versus adults. We react differently if we see a small child or an adult reading Hamlet (complex thinking) and if we see an adult or a child eating with toddler sized eating utensils (physical capability and dependency). The OAD defines adult as: “a person who is fully grown or developed.” Consider the words: “fully grown or developed.” When referring to physical development, there will likely be much consensus on what constitutes a fully physically grown or developed person. However, there is growing complexity in other areas of development.

When specialists speak of developmental stages, a somewhat new stage as been identified: emerging adulthood (as opposed to full adulthood, which is culturally defined as “by the end of schooling, a stable career, financial independence, and new family formation”).[32] Christian Smith says this age group is made up mainly of 18- to 23-year olds.[33] He points to six major changes in the broader social scheme in America which all contributed to the rise of this distinctive group.

  1. Emerging adults live in a world where higher education opportunities have ballooned and some remain in school into their 30’s before beginning a career.[34]
  2. This age group is in no hurry to marry, waiting to be 26 to 28 years old before marrying for the first time.
  3. They have grown up in a world where the economy has undermined stable and lifelong careers and has replaced them with careers with less stability and require ongoing new training and skills.
  4. Parents of this age group, aware of the previous realities, are financially supporting their children into their 20’s and 30’s.
  5. There is less pressure to settle down after having a child. With the dawn of birth control, casual sex has become a common part of relationships and there is no pressure to become a parent while remaining sexually active.
  6. The diffusion of postcultural and postmodern thought has fostered a celebrated sense of “uncertainty, difference, fluidity, ambiguity, multi-vocality, self-construction, changing identities, particularity, historical finitude, localism, audience reception, perspectivalism, and more”[35] amongst this age group.

The American experience has changed a good bit for adults between 18 and 30. Some are unaware just how much the cultural landscape has changed in the generational gap. These changes foster a greater space for play and leisure in the lives of many emerging adults than previous generations experienced at that same age of life. Emerging adults are likely to treat their experience, which includes greater space for play and leisure, as normal and therefore good or better than previous generations. This will naturally lead to conflict with their elders from earlier generations who saw their alternate experience, which allowed for less space for play and leisure, as normal and therefore good or better than younger generations. They may be less understanding of the present realities that their generation contributed to and don’t understand why some young adults “won’t just act like adults” in their day. This means that in forming ethical expectations of adulthood, it is all the more important to consider data from outside our personal experience, both young and old, and seek to critically consider what adulthood is and isn’t about. C.S. Lewis gave a helpful word of caution on this issue as he wrote:

“Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”[36]

Play and Leisure

What does the Bible have to say about play or leisure? Scripture offers some guidance regarding these ideas. When using an English word search in the English Standard Version bible translation, “play” turns up 56 times. Five Hebrew verbs[37] and three Greek verbs[38] are used to produce the English word “play” in the ESV. When we read it in the ESV it usually refers to unfaithfulness (29 times),[39] use of a musical instrument (22 times),[40] entertainment or amusement (4 times),[41] and honoring oneself as one with great wealth when actually being poor (1 time).[42] When counting the occurrences of all the variations of both the Hebrew and Greek root verbs where the ESV translated “play,” the number rises to 135 times, with the New Testament accounting for only six instances out of the whole, exclusively referring to using musical instruments. The verbs that refer to the kind of “play” relevant to this discussion show God describing how He will treat his people as a mother bouncing a child upon her knees,[43] they describe delight in the Law of the Lord,[44] both positive[45] and negative[46] laughter, as well as celebration and mirth.[47]

The redemptive historical arc of Scripture makes little sense without the positive elements of celebration and play. The establishment of feasts and celebrations throughout Scripture reveals God cares not only about the work we do but has an appreciation for having fun. Dan Doriani makes the following observations to this point.[48] Jesus was committed to His father’s rest as opposed to ceaseless work,[49] went to enough parties that he was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard,[50] and even His teaching had elements of playfulness.[51] Jürgen Moltmann reminds us: “Easter begins with celebration, for Easter is the feast where the resurrected Christ makes a thank-offering in gratitude for his resurrection and breaks bread with the disciples.”[52] Tellingly, Scripture comes to a close with a picture of God’s people celebrating with Christ at a wedding feast.[53]

Play is a subset of exercise, leisure, competition, and games.[54] So, in relation to play, as in the previous distinctions between childhood and adulthood, the culture has unwritten expectations on what children versus what adults ought to do for leisure. Both adults and children may enjoy water balloon fights and throwing a Frisbee but, generally, children would be more likely to enjoy making crafts out of macaroni. Is there something inherently wrong if an adult enjoys making things out of macaroni? I did a quick internet search for “macaroni art” and turned up this guy: slow food pasta art workThis is one extremely detailed sculpture of a head made of different shapes of pasta.[55] With imagination and creativity, adults take the seemingly most childish building blocks and make surprising creations with them. It is unnecessarily narrow to suppose that adults cannot appropriate (seemingly) simple things for the more developed sense enjoyment that adults commonly share. Now that the terms have been explained, the exploration of the three different ethical perspectives can begin!

Consequential

Pragmatism is in the air we breathe as Americans. If it works, do it. Most all things are judged by their usefulness and the outcomes they produce. This is the consequential ethic. Using a consequential approach, adults playing video games for leisure is a ‘good’ thing if the results are positive and a ‘bad’ thing if the results are negative. Because this is the primary way that one makes their case in the public forum in America, arguments on either side ought to be scrutinized for bias. Within both camps of those who are pro- and anti-video games, both are guilty of making overly generalized value statements about their data. Emotional appeals are made on both sides but serious consideration of dangers and benefits are fewer and harder to find than stories that seem to be written to appease those already convinced of a position. While there are other issues that continue to come up when video games are discussed, three will be addressed here: trends toward practicing violence, addiction, and social impairment.

Are adults who play video games for leisure more likely to engage in violence? Some research suggests that some individuals who already have an inclination toward violence can be made more violent by playing violent video games.[56] One might consider it this way: because some people have a genetic inclination toward alcoholism does that make drinking alcoholic beverages absolutely inappropriate for everyone? The answer is no. The data is inconclusive about the link between video games and those who act out with violence. The killers in the Columbine High School massacre were fans of Doom. A Norwegian man claimed to play many hours of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 to prepare to shoot sixty-nine people in 2011 but the man who committed the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007 “apparently didn’t play video games much, if at all…”[57] As video games proliferate, the crime rate has actually been declining in the United States and Canada since 1990. One might expect the opposite trend if violent behavior was inextricably tied to video games.[58] Individuals who already have violent tendencies should take the links between violent video games and physical violence seriously. While some adults most certainly have and do engage in violence after playing violent video games, the problem of assigning blame to a common activity without conclusive data to back it up is nothing new. T. Atilla Ceranoglu wrote in an article for the American Psychological Association on Video Games in Psychotherapy:

“Skepticism and reflexive blame on new media or new pop culture for society’s ills even when data for harm are absent are not new. Throughout history, new media forms or leisure activities went through a similar process that video games currently navigate. In 1314, the mayor of London banned playing soccer because of concerns about the emerging violence and vandalism during and after matches (Carnibella, 1996). Theater in late 19th century, dime novels and comic books in 1900s, TV programs in 1970s, and the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons in 1980s all received criticism based on the notion that they led to violent behavior despite the lack of conclusive data that showed them to cause harm…”[59]

Statements that assert that videogames absolutely lead to violent behavior are too general and therefore inaccurate.

Are video games addictive for adults who play them for leisure? Some research indicates that online games in particular can lead to process addiction (as opposed to substance addiction).[60] Process addiction is a category for problems such as “habitual patterns of behavior related to an activity, and can include gambling, spending, shopping, eating, and sexual addictions.”[61] Video game addicts experience problems not unlike that of those who become addicted to television: heavy playing, problem playing, craving for playing, and withdrawal.”[62] A study by Searle Huh and Nicholas David Bowman on addiction and online gaming suggests that those who suffer from video game addictions may be disposed to it on account of their personality makeup. This indicates that as a general statement, it is misleading to say: “video games are addictive” without adding “for some people.” Video game addiction is just as real as addiction to any other activity that takes over a person’s life. The alcohol comparison may be helpful again here. Drinking responsibly does not equal being an alcoholic but the risk is real for some, but not all people.

Are adults who play video games for leisure unable to have healthy social lives? The The_Simpsons-Jeff_Albertsonfamous 1971 “prison experiment” researcher, Philip G. Zimbardo, on a CNN article titled “The Demise of Guys,” raises this problem.[63] Zimbardo and Duncan tie the use of pornography[64] and video game usage to “creating a generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships…” However, unhealthy use of video games is a presenting symptom of deeper problems that drive these individuals to live as Duncan and Zimbardo describe. Previously in the description of emerging adulthood, we saw how the cultural landscape has created a sense of disequilibrium in that age bracket. This disequilibrium forces some to reach for the cheapest and most readily available anesthetics they can get: video games and pornography. In Duncan and Zimbardo’s article, we see that some are retreating from healthy relationships and running to diversions from the troubles of their life. However, video games and pornography are unthinking things and certainly shouldn’t be blamed in and of themselves[65] for these people’s social problems.[66] Video games make for an easy punching bag as opposed to addressing the more complicated issues associated with the factors that influenced the formation of the emerging adults. The veracity of a value judgment of someone’s social health is likely to be tied to the previous problem: addiction. If they are addicted to video games, the individual’s ability to enter into healthy relationships will be impacted negatively. However, as stated above in section on Video Games as a category, a large percentage of adults play with friends regularly. While negative examples exist, not every adult video gamer is the overweight 33 year old, alone in their parents’ basement, unwashed, wearing their pajamas, and screaming profanity at preteens over Xbox Live. This stereotype is so strong, that for some it is symbolic of everything wrong with video games and the people that play them. Doriani cautions us: “To base our attitude toward play on its abuses is like basing a book on humanity on visits to prisons.”[67] It is easier to get people to pay attention to a disaster story than to tell of those who don’t make a mess of themselves.

The Bible clearly has some consequential arguments that are relevant to this discussion. For violence, Jesus warns the sword drawing disciple Peter, to put away his sword for all who draw them will die by them.[68] The Psalms warn that those who plot violence will have it fall upon themselves.[69] As for addiction, many passages that speak to idolatry are applicable here. Scripture warns that someone worships an idol they will become like it: dumb, blind, deaf, numb, and still.[70] For the last question of healthy social life, at least part of the root of what some are concerned about here is laziness, and Scripture speaks to that as well. The Proverbs warn the sluggard of many a problem that waits should they not change their ways. Their failure to get up and do necessary things will lead to their poverty,[71] sense of dissatisfaction,[72] and physical hunger.[73] Biblical authors were they living today, would likely tell us that committing murder, even in the heart, is unacceptable for Christians. Further, they would likely warn against the potential hardening of our hearts and turning away from God by rehearsing realistic gratuitous violent acts against realistic representations of human beings and animals. They would likely affirm our freedom in all things as believers in Christ while warning us against idolatry through addictions.[74] Finally, they would probably remind us to do all things for the love of God and our neighbor[75] and that it is difficult to love your neighbor well if we spend an inordinate amount of time in our leisure activities.

Deontological

While non-Christian ethicists are challenged to seek for an authoritative source for a categorical imperative (such as Hegel, Hume, and Moore),[76] Christians have the challenge of interpreting the commands that God has given them in the Bible. While there are other ways to approach the issue of video games and God’s commandments, consider the Ten Commandments[77] in how they might impact this discussion. First and second, the Lord commands that we have no other Gods[78] and that we shall not worship idols.[79] Allowing video game use to become an addiction violates both of these commandments. If they rule over us, they have become false gods to us. The act of playing video games could be “making idols” for the addict. Thirdly, the Lord commands that we shall not take His name in vain.[80] If we find ourselves invoking God’s name in what should be a restful activity, we have broken this commandment. Fourthly, He commanded that we keep Sabbath holy unto Him.[81] While leisure activities are good on the Sabbath,[82] if they become absolutely self-serving, we lose sight of the holiness of that day. Playing video games may or may not be done from a place of gratitude to God for making good gifts for us to enjoy and may become about just getting a selfish “fix.” Fifthly, we are commanded to honor our mother and father.[83] This means that if we are going to use video games for leisure, we can’t use them to the detriment of our parents. The “sluggard” discussion is relevant here too. If we have squandered our time and cannot support our parents into their old age because of it, we violate the fifth commandment and must heed the warning of 1 Timothy 5:8 (“worse than an unbeliever“).

1commandment

The sixth commandment tells us starkly: no murder.[84] Playing at “murder” in a video game is spiritually dangerous. Also, some people get so angry in playing video games that it may well approach the kind of hate within the heart that makes us guilty of murder.[85] The seventh commandment forbids adultery.[86] Many video games present people erotically, intended to awaken sexual desire. Jesus’ warning is clear here: lusting in the heart is committing adultery.[87] The eighth commandment forbids stealing.[88] This means that games that encourage players to practice stealing might very well be encouraging hearts to explore forbidden territory. Proceed with caution. It should go without saying that downloading illegal copies of or otherwise stealing games is a violation of this commandment as well. The ninth commandment forbids bearing false witness.[89] While the original context is primarily for a courtroom setting, other places in Scripture[90] point to the underlying issue in all passages referring to truth telling: preservation of justice, community, truth, and respect.[91] Some games overtly present ethical dilemmas with optional truth telling.[92] Is it a sin to lie in a game? Is the game letting the player decide to uphold or nullify the values that truth telling is really getting at? Again, the heart of the player is the issue. Does the player take the game lightly and tell the (virtual) lie in good conscience or does the player feel a sense of guilt from telling a lie even in a game? Murder shouldn’t be taken lightly in a game and neither should bearing false witness. Another way one might violate the ninth commandment while playing video games is playing them for leisure during business hours instead of doing assigned tasks. If they pretend that they have been busy working the whole time when reporting to their supervisor, they bear false witness about themselves while at work. The tenth commandment forbids coveting.[93] Video game culture can be consumerist. How does it make us feel when someone has the latest state-of-the-art video game or console? Video game systems advance technologically by leaps and bounds along with the prices of the hardware. Many people will not be able to afford the newest system. Can we rest easy if our neighbor has one and we don’t or does our heart feel sick until we have it too? This is coveting which could then spill over into violating the first and second commandments about no other gods and worshiping idols.

Existential

The final category of ethical approach is the existential or character-based. We behave as who we are. At our most basic level, all human beings are created in the image of God. God is God and we are not – we are finite. We must breathe, eat, and rest. Adults who use video games for leisure who are not anchored to this truth are likely to have problems. One Korean man who lost sight of his finitude died of cardiac arrest after 50 hours of playing Starcraft in 2005.[94] Even God rested after creating the world on the seventh day.[95] We must remember that though we do not live for pleasure (Prov. 21:17; 1 Tim. 5:6) or leisure, leisure is not evil.[96] The effects of the Rebellion / Fall are real in our lives.[97] At birth, our minds and bodies suffer the effects of the curse and we are enslaved to sin. We are all children of Adam who need redemption by the greater Adam: Jesus Christ.[98] We who take the effects of the Rebellion / Fall seriously will recognize our ongoing need to believe in Jesus Christ, to repent, and be transformed by the renewing of our minds.[99] As believers in Christ, we take on not only the identity of image bearer but also Child of God.[100] This means that adults who want to use video games for leisure must be on guard for the unique temptations that are present there (as in any leisure activity). We are to be sons and daughters of God first, and gamers somewhere else down the line of all the other roles we have in our lives. Our use of video games for leisure cannot be allowed to overtake the importance of seeking to follow after Christ in word and deed. Children imitate their parents and we ought to imitate our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ in His gracious care and love for those around us. After all, God did not rest when we were in need but gave us His own Son over for us while we were yet still sinners.[101]

Conclusion

Whether in work or in leisure, man’s chief end does not change: “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.[102] Adults who use video games for leisure may use them in good conscience when they use them according to the law of love.[103] God rested after creative work. Jesus was tired rested both on Sabbaths and in feasts.[104] To work unendingly even in leisure is not a quality of adulthood but rather a quality of sinful pride. Since it is perfectly acceptable to rest while accomplishing nothing by sitting by a lake for leisure, the same is also true of using video games for leisure. Moltmann warns against losing sight of our finitude when he wrote: “[Our tasks], if we take them seriously, loom larger than life. Yet infinite responsibility destroys a human being because he is only a man and not god.”[105] Gary Thomas states it well: “We do not need to fear pleasure; we need to fear the alienation from God that corrupts our sense of pleasure and that makes the pleasure drive so potentially dangerous.”[106] While playing games for leisure is permissible and even good in some cases, it is harmful and should also be discouraged in others. In playing video games for leisure, we should not play “games” in walking faithfully with the Lord. Otherwise, every good gift (which video games can be) is from the Lord and we ought to celebrate His goodness as we use them for His ultimate glory. In using video games for leisure to the glory of God, as in all things, we must avoid falling into the proverbial “ditches on either side of the road” of lawlessness and legalism. The Apostle Paul is our teacher and he wrote us words that are invaluable as we each walk with the Lord. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).


Footnotes:

[1] Mark Driscoll, “Video Games Aren’t Sinful, They’re Just Stupid,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ctQOmzsvisQ#t=93 (accessed April 1, 2014).

[2] Nikita Duncan and Philip G. Zimbardo, “The Demise of Guys,” http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/23/health/living-well/demise-of-guys/index.html (accessed March 13, 2014).

[3] McKinley Noble, “CNN Guest Blames Video Games For Dark Knight Rises Colorado Shooting,” http://www.egmnow.com/articles/news/cnn-guest-blames-video-games-for-dark-knight-rises-colorado-shooting/?fb_comment_id=fbc_10150921022701507_22099817_10150921080791507#f218760fa84256a (accessed April 1, 2014).

[4] In TV and movies, characters that play video games are rarely portrayed positively. Video games are used as a common prop to reinforce a characters narcissistic tendencies (House of Cards, Dexter), as a means of escape from reality essentially through wasting time (House of Cards, House M.D.), to illustrate characters as social misfits amongst the broader popular culture (Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons), to identify characters as buffoons or man-children living with Peter Pan syndrome (30 Rock, The Office), or even to make an association of violence with video games (Law & Order, Breaking Bad). Occasionally, video games are used in a positive way such as a medical professional improving his dexterity (Scrubs) or otherwise preparing a character for real life challenges (Chuck).

[5] Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry, http://www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/ESA_EF_2013.pdf, accessed 6 Apr. 14.

[6] The age of is 18 a common marker for adulthood in the United States even though it is a somewhat arbitrary cut off date between childhood to adulthood. In the US, at age 18 one may vote, buy lottery tickets (in many places), purchase tobacco products, and males must register for selective service. However, there are other activities that are associated with later age “gates.” Some of these are: renting a car without extra charges if under the age of 25 and legally purchasing alcohol at 21 years old. Add a cultural expectation of the appropriate time to marry and have children and the idea of “adulthood” becomes even more complicated. Because the nature of what it means to be an adult is somewhat complicated, it will be addressed later in the course of this discussion.

[7] U.S. CensusBureau, “Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013,” http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=PEP_2013_PEPANNRES&prodType=table (accessed April 21, 2014).

[8] There is an particular category of video game player which plays eSports competitively for money but that is beyond the scope of this discussion. This discussion aims to address the issue of average adult video game player who plays for leisure.

[9] For some perspective using some other common activity data for comparison, in 2012, According to the Outdoor Foundation, less than 50% of all Americans participated in outdoor recreation [ http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/ResearchParticipation2013.pdf, p.7, (accessed 6 Apr. 14)], just over 47% are Christian church adherents [ http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0077.pdf, accessed 6 Apr. 2014], and 64% of all Americans watched National Football League games in 2011 [ http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2011/10/14/no-surprise-64-americans-watch-nfl-football-73-of-men-55-of-women/107308/, accessed 6 Apr. 14 ]. More Americans watch NFL games than play video games but fewer play outside or go to church. The point is not specifically to compare these activities for the sake of merit. This comparison raises different questions for different readers. The question here is: what should the Christian ethic toward adult use of video games for leisure be?

[10] On the age spectrum of young adult to elderly adult, this discussion focuses on younger adults. This discussion assumes that many of the issues regarding this topic are more relevant to younger adults than older. Sin respects no age barrier so the abuses discussed referring to emerging adults possibly occur in elderly adults but there is less cultural attention given to older adults who might play video games for leisure.

[11] Matthew 5:13-16.

[12] John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life (A Theology of Lordship) (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2008), 10.

[13] Genesis 1:1

[14] Psalm 103:19

[15] Genesis 1:23-24, 27

[16] Romans 1:18

[17] Psalm 53:2-3

[18] Romans 2:14-16

[19] 1 Corinthians 2:10-16

[20] Frame, 49.

[21] Romans 14:20-21

[22] Romans 13:7-9

[23] Matthew 15:18-20

[24] Simulators should be considered distinct from games as a category because many simulators do in fact exist not for enjoyment or recreation but for a practical purpose. For example, the U.S. Army used simulators for soldiers going on convoys where they would sit in a mock up of a vehicle with simulated weapons and engage simulated enemies. Out of its context in a place like Kuwait where soldiers are preparing to go to Iraq, this might look like an elaborate arcade game you would play for several dollars a round. In it’s actual context, it is a training aid and it is used for that end. Describing it as a game in its proper context is inappropriate.

[25] Italics added for emphasis to all definitions.

[26] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1997), I, v, 1.

[27] Jerram Barrs, Echoes of Eden (Crossway), 2013, 74.

[28] Kevin Schut, Of Games & God, Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2013, 150.

[29] Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry

[30] 1 Corinthians 13:11

[31] Genesis 1:31

[32] Christian Smith, Lost in Transition: the Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood (New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2011), 14.

[33] Ibid, 3.

[34] Ibid, 13.

[35] Ibid. 14.

[36] C S. Lewis, A Harvest Book, vol. 317, Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975, 1966), 25.

[37] See original paper on Academia.edu for Hebrew text. https://www.academia.edu/7188553/Adult_use_of_Video_Games_for_Leisure_A_Christian_Ethic

[38] κιθαρίζω, παίζω, αὐλέω

[39] Jeremiah 3:1, 6, 8; Ezekiel 16:15-17, Hosea 4:10-15

[40] Genesis 4:21; 1 Samuel 16:16; 1 Kings 1:40; 1 Chronicles 16:5

[41] Job 40:20, 41:5; Isaiah 11:8, Zechariah 8:5

[42] Proverbs 12:9

[43] Isaiah 66:12 uses the same root verb as in Isaiah 11:8 translated “play” in the ESV.

[44] Psalm 119:16, 47, 70

[45] Genesis 21:6, 9; 26:8

[46] Genesis 18:12, 13, 15; 39:14, 17; Exodus 32:6; Judges 16:25

[47] 1 Samuel 18:7, 2 Samuel 6:5, 21; 1 Chronicles 13:8, 15:29; Job 40:20, 41:5; Ecclesiastes 3:4; Jeremiah 30:19, 31:4; Zechariah 8:5

[48] Dan Doriani, The Life of a God-Made Man: Becoming a Man After God’s Heart (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2001), 180.

[49] Mark 6:30-32

[50] Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34

[51] Matthew 23:24. The Greek shows the playfulness of the sound of Jesus speech: gamla [gnat] / kamla [camel].

[52] Jürgen Moltmann, Theology of Play (Harper & Row), 1972, 30.

[53] Revelation 19:6-10

[54] Doriani, 175.

[55] “Pastahead” was spotted at http://www.younggourmet.com/a/76.html, accessed 18 Apr. 14

[56] Duncan and Zimbardo

[57] Schut, 55.

[58] This statement is true unless there are greater factors reducing crime. Further research incorporating other crime reducing factors may help provide more detailed conclusions.

[59] T. Atilla Ceranoglu, “Video Games in Psycho Therapy,” American Psychological Association, Vol. 14, No. 2, 141-146, (2010), 144.

[60] Searle Huh and Nicholas David Bowman, Perception of and Addiction to Online Games as a Function of Personality Traits, 2008. Online Publication Date: April 26, 2008. Journal of Media Psychology, V 13, No. 2, Spring, 2008.

[61] Ibid.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Duncan and Zimbardo.

[64] While pornography is included in Duncan and Zimbardo’s article, it will not be addressed in detail here. A discussion of the problems of pornography, while absolutely worthwhile and ripe for Biblical correction and counsel, is beyond the scope of this discussion. Pornography, which is inseparable from adulterous activity, is inherently more damaging as a category of media than video games are. It is unhelpful to blend them together for the purposes of this presentation.

[65] See previous footnote regarding pornography.

[66] While video games and pornography cannot be blamed in and of themselves, individuals with weaknesses to particular addictions will exacerbate their problems through exposure as indicated earlier in the discussion on addiction.

[67] Doriani, 179.

[68] Matthew 26:52

[69] Psalm 7:14-16

[70] Psalm 115:4-8; 135:15-18

[71] Proverbs 6:6-11

[72] Proverbs 13:4

[73] Proverbs 20:4

[74] 1 Corinthians 6:12

[75] Colossians 3:12-17

[76] Frame, 105-125.

[77] Exodus 20:3-17

[78] Exodus 20:2-3

[79] Exodus 20:4-6

[80] Exodus 20:7

[81] Exodus 20:8-11

[82] Doriani, 182-183.

[83] Exodus 20:12

[84] Exodus 20:13

[85] Matthew 5:21

[86] Exodus 20:14

[87] Matthew 5:27-28

[88] Exodus 20:15

[89] Exodus 20:16; James 1:26-27, 3:8;

[90] Ephesians 4:25

[91] Frame, 834.

[92] Many games with role-playing aspects include this dynamic. These kinds of choices are present in Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, Fallout, Borderlands and many more.

[93] Exodus 20:17

[94] Duncan and Zimbardo.

[95] Genesis 2:1-2

[96] Doriani, 185.

[97] Genesis 3:17-19

[98] Romans 5:12-21

[99] Romans 12:2

[100] Romans 8:12-17

[101] Romans 5:8

[102] Westminster Assembly. “The Westminster Shorter Catechism” (Suwanne: Great Commission), 2011, Question 1.

[103] Matthew 23:35-40

[104] Mark 6:30-32

[105] Moltmann, 23.

[106] Gary Thomas, Pure Pleasure: Why Do Christians Feel so Bad About Feeling Good? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 44.

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What was the intention of Jesus’ earthly ministry?

Hello again readers!

Today’s post is the fruit of my course on the Gospels I am currently taking at seminary.

The task: describe what Jesus intended to accomplish during his first-century earthly ministry.  We were to draw from all four of the gospels and keep it under two pages.

In sharing this I hope we would come to a deeper joy in the knowledge of what Christ has done, is doing, and will do in the days to come not only for us but for the sake of His great name and the restoration of all things.  He is calling us to follow Him and we must respond.

On the question at hand:

To ask what Jesus intended to accomplish in his first-century earthly ministry is no small thing. To give a brief answer to this question is to leave aspects Jesus’ earthly ministry less attended to than they ought be.  While there is much that could be said about what Jesus intended to accomplish in his earthly ministry, I believe I can summarize Jesus intent this way: Jesus intended to accomplish an unparallelled in-breaking of the Kingdom of God in redemptive history. God, in the second person of the Trinity, became flesh and initiated the fulfillment of the law and prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the redemption of God’s creation while introducing an explicit personal call to become a disciple and to make disciples of Christ until His return. I’m only able sample some of Christ’s fulfillment of the law and the prophets in the course of this discussion but it is a crucial feature of His earthly ministry. The explicit disciple making aspect of Christ’s earthly ministry stands distinct from all of redemptive history before His incarnation.

After God made all things good, Adam and Eve sinned and brought God’s curse upon all of creation. God then promised in Genesis 3:15 that though the offspring of snake would bruise the heel of men, the offspring of Eve would bruise the head of the liar, Satan, from the Garden of Eden. In Christ’s incarnation, we have this promise realized in the flesh. The offspring of Mary, the God-man Jesus Christ, stoops down from heaven and enters the cursed creation and to decisively defeat the old adversary, Satan. Christ’s death on the cross redeeming His people and making atonement for the sins of the world (Lk. 22:14–23; Mt. 26:26–29; Mk. 14:22–25; also Jn. 1:29, 36) undoes and is undoing the damage done by Satan in the Garden of Eden. Christ’s sinless life, atoning sacrificial death, and confirming resurrection from the dead all serve as a resounding triumph over the power of Satan. The whole of Christ’s ministry, life, death, resurrection, and promise of return must be considered through the lens of the protoevangelion of Gen. 3:15.

Ezekiel 34 is a vivid description of wicked shepherds who stand in judgment for abusing the Lord’s flock and the promise of the Lord acting to rescue His sheep.  In Christ, we find this pronunciation of judgment upon wicked shepherds in the figures of the Scribes and Pharisees (“woe to you” in Mt. 23:1-39, Mk. 12:35-40, and Lk. 11:37-54, 20:45-47).  Christ then claims the role of the God-shepherd and sets about the work of retrieving His lost sheep from the flock of the Lord (the “good shepherd” of Jn. 10:1-18). In John 15-16 there is a swath of Jesus parables that get at both the issues of the unrighteous shepherding of the religious elite and the persistence of God as the one who seeks His own people. Christ’s acts of service and mercy must be considered through the lens of prophecies given about the Lord and how he will move throughout redemptive history.

Another key element of Jesus’ earthly ministry is the calling of disciples to himself. This element is similar to God’s prior calling of Israel to live as a nation of priests (Ex. 19:6) but in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, the calling becomes much more explicit and embodied as to what it looks like to be holy as the LORD is holy (Lev. 11:44). Holiness as embodied by Christ includes love of God that manifests itself in acts of mercy, humble sacrificial service, and proclamation of the Kingdom of God in anticipation of the second coming of Christ. In all four of the Gospels, Christ’s calling of disciples to Himself is featured (Mt. 4:18-22; Mk 1:16-20, 2:14, 8:34-38; Lk 5:1-11; Jn 1:35-50). Then, in three Gospels (Mt. 28:18-20, Mk 16:15-18, Lk 24:46-47), Christ commissions them to go and make disciples also. The Gospel of John features this call indirectly in Christ’s exchange with Peter after His resurrection where he bids Peter to feed and tend his sheep/flock/lambs (Jn 21:15-17). Christ’s earthly ministry was about more than the events of the first century in a vacuum. Rather, Christ initiated a succession of disciples making disciples who would in turn go and love God so that they would do acts of mercy, live humbly through sacrificial service, and proclaim of the Kingdom of God until Christ returns (Jn. 14:3). With this element of Christ’s earthly ministry, the uniqueness of it heightens the significance of it as a development within redemptive history. Christ accomplished the new commissioning of His followers to be seekers as God is a seeker of His people. The nature of what it meant to be one of God’s people was embodied in Christ in a way that was only described in types and shadows before throughout the law and the prophets.

In conclusion, while Jesus spent a great amount of time teaching, preaching, and doing acts of mercy and service, His earthly ministry was about more than those things for just the people of that time and place. Jesus life was about more than being a moral exemplar. Christ intended to set into motion the last days of God’s grand story whereby the Kingdom of God breaks into creation in unprecedented fashion. This initiation is just that, an initiation, because toward the conclusion of His earthly ministry, He commissioned His disciples to make more disciples and to be about the business of the Kingdom of God until His return (Mt 24:42, 44; Mk 13:33, 35, 37; Lk 21:36) which will be the ultimate completion of the work that Christ began and the initiation of dwelling in a place prepared for Christ’s followers by Christ Himself (Jn 14:3). Christ’s earthly ministry only makes sense when placed within the broader sweep of redemptive history as observers take into account what came before His earthly ministry and what is promised to follow.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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The Godward Struggle of Ordinary Parenting

The Godward Struggle of Ordinary Parenting.

Parents of small children: need some encouragement? Well, here you go. Good words here from Jemar Tisby.

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“ENEMIES OF THE HUMAN RACE” – WHEN WESTERN CIVILIZATION GOES BACKWARDS

The president of RTS Orlando weighs in on the recent SCOTUS ruling regarding marriage. I agree with the original link to this post that identified it as a “Must Read.”

The Chief End of Man (Old Site)

Backwards 2In the recent Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage reversing the Defense of Marriage Act, dissenting judge Antonin Scalia offered the longest opinion as to why this was a misguided and ominous ruling.

Some on the left have tried to present Scalia as a nut case. They talk of his “intemperate dissent.” It was passionate, I’ll grant you that—all 26 pages of it.

He criticizes the verdict as judicial overreach. But most interesting is his statement that Justice Kennedy and his colleagues in the majority have essentially resorted to calling opponents of gay marriage (i.e. those who defend traditional marriage) “enemies of the human race.” Scalia does so on the grounds that the ruling itself uses intemperate language, saying those who support DOMA and traditional marriage “disparage,” “injure,” “degrade,” “demean,” those who are homosexual. “All that,” wrote Scalia, “simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an…

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Defending John Piper Against Rachel Evans

These are reasonable words in the wake of the awful tornados in Moore, OK about God, Jesus Christ, and suffering. It’s worth your time.

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Christus Victor, Me, and Youth

           For my Christ and Salvation course at Covenant Theological Seminary, we looked at different pictures of Christ’s work and then wrote a short essay on how that image could be helpful in a specific context.  I chose Christus Victor in the context of youth ministry.  The reasons will become evident as you continue. ~Fotothek_df_tg_0005587_Architektur_^_Dekoration_^_Satan_^_Teufel_^_Schlange_^_Kreuz_^_Christus

            The Christus Victor image moves me.  I grew up hearing about warfare and then voluntarily surrounded myself with even more talk of warfare as an adult when I joined the military after the 9-11 terrorist attacks.  As I grew up, my father, a US Air Force veteran, loved to talk about heroic sacrifices made by American soldiers for the sake of others.  They became the “nights in shining armor” of my early childhood.  They were warrior-martyrs, giving their lives so that others might live under a cause that was greater than any one man.

When I became a believer in Jesus Christ in middle school, the Holy Spirit pressed on me an overwhelming sense of my sin and the need of Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf.  Christ became my ultimate self-sacrificing “night in shining armor.” However, my concept of Christ didn’t really see Him as a conqueror.  That idea either wasn’t stressed to me or if it was it didn’t stick.  Growing in Christ, I began to see the image of Christ as Christus Victor.  If Jesus only served as a sacrifice, He could be taken only for a martyr.  As Victor, the power of the sacrifice takes on a whole new level of meaning.  As critical as the sacrifice is, it loses significance without the victory of resurrection and the promise of the second coming in power.  Some see Christ as a helpless martyr and take pity on Him as such, thereby confusing his meekness with weakness.  Christ is the one who commanded demons and could have commanded angels to come to His aid at any time.  His restraint in suffering on the cross takes on a frightening and magnificent quality when we “zoom out” to see this fully God and fully human person who chose to suffer as (and I write this reverently) a chess player might choose to give up their Queen in order to achieve checkmate.  He is Christus Victor indeed.

           The issue for this discussion is how the picture of Christus Victor aids in ministry in my context, which is in Youth.  As we get older, some have the tendency to look at struggles in various stages of growing up and think that youth don’t have any real problems (family responsibilities, bills, jobs, etc.).  This is often an unfair denial of the reality of struggle at each stage of life.  Some of the struggles associated with youth are just as serious as ones we face in every other stage of life.  Youths, like all people, can struggle with a sense of God’s love for them.  Also, like all people, they struggle to identify who their true enemy is and the nature of the battle in which they fight in as believers in Christ.  The image of Christus Victor greatly influences both of these major struggles for the glory of God in our present reality as believers in Him.

           First, Christus Victor shows those who God loves can never be separated from the love of God.  The significance for youth ministry is that by virtue of their young age, many have not frequently enough experienced the benefits outlined in Westminster Shorter Catechism Q.36: assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.  Part of understanding the saving work of Christ whereby we are justified, adopted, and sanctified is knowing that Christ has conquered and in Him we too become conquerors.  When we experience defeat as youths, it is formative in how we will think for the rest of our lives.  As Christian youth there are many areas to experience defeat.  Culturally, it is normal to blaspheme, to engage in pre-marital sex with as many partners as you feel, it is normal to dishonor parents, and the list can go on and on.  From time to time, it’s likely that young believers will sin in any of these areas and be convicted of it by the Holy Spirit.  Will they give up on putting the deeds of the body to death in belief that they have lost God’s love or will they persevere?  The indicative that fuels the imperative to persevere in the faith is the fact that Christ is victorious over sin and death.  Christ’s work is the beach landing on D-Day that is the beginning of the end of the Axis powers that would come much later.  In Romans 8:34-39, after describing the necessity of suffering through putting the deeds of the body to death through the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul declared:

34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.[1] 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Christ’s victory over the grave and over Satan is a victory that all who come to Him in faith partake of.  We become co-conquerors with Christ (v.37).  Paul says “more than conquerors.”  What effect does this have then on a youth in the church?  There is a very different spirit in a man who has been defeated and a man who has been hit but is still fighting because he is winning anyway.  This is the difference that I would encourage a youth to come to terms with.  The enemy is like a fighter in a fatal choke-hold that batters the opponent as the life is squeezed out of them and Christ is that Victor In Christ, with Him as our Victor, we are more than conquerors.

Secondly, in a related way, the image of Christus Victor exposes the true nature of our battle.  The younger youth are the more concrete thinkers they tend to be.  As such, the idea that Christ is our Victor only makes sense when you can understand who the opponent is.  The ability to understand that Christ is victorious in a battle of some kind sometimes leads young people to think of battles like that which they are familiar with, which are earthly battles.  This can lead youth to think that to be victorious, they need to personally dominate other people in various ways for Jesus or as they might think, like Jesus.  However, Scripture teaches that our true battle, in which Christ is the Victor and will be forever, is a battle not “…against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”[2] Further, Christ has triumphed over them all.[3]  Christ has triumphed over death itself.[4]  With these things being true, the Christian youth need not fear suffering that comes with following Christ.  Whether that is standing up for someone who is being abused or choosing to be ridiculed for associating with certain other students.  Should they kill his body, he is promised resurrection like Christ’s, eternal life with Him, and just judgment upon the enemies of God.

His real enemies have already been defeated.  Not only that, Christ intercedes for him at the right hand of the Father in is daily struggles.  By the power of the Holy Spirit and through the truth of these words in Scripture, the pressure to dominate anyone for Jesus or like Jesus should evaporate.  Christ is victorious over the devil and we become co-victors in Him.  The Christian youth is freed from exerting himself in battles he has not been called to fight in.  Rather he can rest in the present reality of Christ’s victory and the promise of final destruction of death.  The image of Christus Victor has great power to encourage believers who feel embattled themselves.  This image reminds believers that the battle is already won in Christ and will be won once and for all.  Knowing that Christ has won empowers youth and all of us to persevere on in the face of obstacles and at the same time, rest in Christ’s work whereby he has defeated all of His and our enemies.


[1] Italics added for emphasis.

[2] Eph. 6:12.

[3] Col. 2:15.

[4] 1 Cor. 15-54-57

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Three Lies Christians Believe About Death

My friend and classmate, Nate, nails some common lies Christians believe about death while speaking at his grandfather’s funeral. This is such an encouraging message. Nate, I bet your grandfather is proud of you. Preach it, brother!

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