What I’m Learning From Final Fantasy XV

How can fantasy shape our approach to reality? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been a Final Fantasy fan from the very beginning. For those who don’t know, Final Fantasy is a highly popular RPG (Role-playing game) series that started with Nintendo and now has moved over to the Sony Playstation. It was called Final Fantasy because the company that made it, SquareSoft, was sure that that would be their last game so they just gave it all they had. It became so popular that it granted them a new life and now more and more sequels have been made.

Recently, The fifteenth main game, Final Fantasy XV, came out. I got a copy of it from my parents for Christmas. I have been going through it and quite enjoying it and Allie often sits with me and watches me play. We both keep remarking about how realistic everything looks. Of course, one knows that the fantasy creatures and such aren’t real, but everything does have a great look of realism to it. The description of the game is as follows on Amazon so I can avoid spoilers.

Get ready to be at the centre of the ultimate fantasy adventure. Enter the world of FINAL FANTASY XV, and experience epic action-packed battles along your journey of discovery. You are Noctis, the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Lucis, and your quest is to reclaim your homeland from the clutches of the imperial army. Joined by your closest friends, you will take the wheel and experience a voyage like no other, travelling through the breath-taking world of Eos encountering larger-than-life beasts and unforgiving enemies. You will learn to master the skills of weaponry and magic, channelling the power of your ancestors allowing you to effortlessly warp through the air in thrilling combat. Fresh faces and long-time fans, fulfil your destiny and experience a brand new kind of fantasy.

The realism can also be seen with the theme of the game being by Florence and the Machine. It’s a rendition of the old song Stand By Me. The opening scene in fact involves the characters pushing a car they drive in throughout the game down the road because it has run out of gas. Most quests have involved walking or airships or something of the sort. Driving a car makes it all the more realistic still. Those interested in seeing scenes of the realism can see this video with the song in it.

Okay. But this is an apologetics blog. It’s not a blog about video games. Why on Earth am I spending time posting about Final Fantasy XV?

It’s because I believe fantasy is meant to make us approach reality with new eyes. The realism aspect is something I greatly appreciate. When you walk through a restaurant area, you actually overhear the people talking making comments you would hear at a restaurant. When you drive down the road, there are other drivers that you encounter. One early sidequest (A minor quest you can do in the story but not essential to the main story) where you have to catch a fish for a cat and then the cat won’t eat it until it’s properly cooked. As a cat owner, yes, this does describe a cat well. It’s also fitting because of the rule gamers know about sidequests.

cat-sidequest

The story also involves you, Prince Noctis, traveling with three friends who seem to be both bodyguards and friends. These guys talk like regular guys. When you’re out in the wild wandering around, you hear side chatter. When you get done with a battle, you hear chatter. When you go set up camp, you hear the same. It’s just guys being guys many times.

How does that realism make me look at reality differently? Because I try often to see my own life as an adventure. God has placed me in this world to do something and I want to strive to be the best at what I do. At the same time, while we don’t have giant creatures wandering around, we could all relate to the idea of hostile powers that be. Some of us will point to political threats. Some will point to moral threats. Some will point to spiritual threats. We all have some people we think wear white hats and some who are not on the side of the angels and some who are pretty much neutral.

So I picture not the heroes in this world, but the ordinary people I’m encountering. Here you have one empire declaring war suddenly on another and what are people doing? They talk about it some, to be sure, but how many are really doing something? Only a slight few, your party being the main ones that are doing something.

I go out into the world then after that. I see people going about their lives. I think we can all agree that the world isn’t the way it should be. What are these people doing? Do they really see the greater battles taking place? If so, do they care? If they care, are they doing anything? If not, why? Do they think that they being who they are, probably seeing themselves as simple ordinary folk, just cannot do anything significant?

I wonder about these people. How would God like to use them in the story? I think about my own life. My wife and I met across a great distance and our age is nearly ten years apart. What role are we to play together? Among men, my closest friend lives all the way in Missouri and was my roommate for awhile before Allie and I married. What role does he play and what role does our friendship play? The internet makes this all the more real. With Facebook, I have several friends I have never met. How are we all to interact together? None of us can do everything, but can’t we all do something? Even if we are all weak individually, can’t we join forces together?

As I drive in my own car, I think of the world that I see driving. There are billboards and tall buildings and such. I drive through Atlanta and I see the city and wonder “What is the adventure that is waiting for me here?” I can see the evil all around me in the world and think “Am I going to sit by and do nothing or am I at least going to try?”

This also brings me to the idea of improving over time. At the start of any Final Fantasy, your characters are weak, and this one is no exception. While gaining experience has been a staple of Final Fantasy games, this one also has improvement in skill. Each of the main characters has a skill that you improve on over time. Those are fishing, cooking, survival, and photography. The lesson is simple. Start off where you are and you get better over time. Isn’t that what we should all do? There’s no other place you can start at other than where you are.

Noctis’s adventure is fantasy, but what about mine and yours? We live in a world where there is warfare going on. The warfare is the Kingdom of God versus the Kingdom of the devil. It can be tempted to see the giant airships of the enemy flying overhead and think “I can’t do anything about it. Might as well go about my day to day life.” Maybe we can do something. It could be a small something in your eyes, but God can take a small something and use it for a great something.

My goal then is to take the fantasy and look at reality differently. My life is a gift and adventure, and I hope to use the abilities I have, that I will improve in more and more and have as time has gone by, to face the forces out there that are in opposition to the Kingdom of God. How about you? Will you join me? Will you stand by me? Can we do more if we stand together?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

The Importance of Teaching Youth

Who really needs apologetics training the most? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I got to do something that’s one of those privileges that I enjoy in the apologetics field and that’s teaching youth. At my church, I had been invited to speak to the youth group about the importance of Christian apologetics. I did it with the help of a friend of mine who I brought to the meeting with me. Since this friend didn’t go to my church, he played the role of an atheist asking the kids why they should be Christians. Unfortunately, our young Christians were flummoxed early on. That’s when we told the truth. My friend is also a Christian apologist and that led us into the discussion of how we can know that Christianity is true and what difference it makes and not only that, but how much fun it can be to discuss these matters.

In the end, one of the youth said a closing prayer and I think it showed that this was sinking in, at least I hope it was. The leaders at least certainly appreciated it. In fact, this is one of the events I consider the most important. It’s great to talk to adults often on topics such as the resurrection of Jesus. That needs to be done. Youth are our main group we should be trying to reach. The youth are the ones that are about to go into the furnace of college most often and have their faith tested by professors who will be more than happy to debunk Christianity and by moral challenges such as dealing with sexual temptation.

Ultimately, stressing to them that Christianity is true is what it’s all about and they need more than warm fuzzies to know that. They will face hard times eventually and a good feeling will not sustain them and we should all know we cannot produce feelings. If we all lived according to our feelings, our world would be chaos and most of living the good Christian life is learning to overcome wrong feelings and wrong thinking. (And despite this, how many Christians act or don’t act because of their feelings and even turn it into something supposed to be Biblical, like doing something because you “feel led” to do it?)

But what if you have something else that drives you? That will really come into play when those times of struggle come. “Wow. It feels like God is absent now, but I know because of XYZ that He exists and that He cares about me and I know because of this historical evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.” “Wow. My date is so hot and you know, I really would like to get to see all that she has right now and have some fun with her, but I know that that is not the right thing to do because of XYZ.” “Wow. My spouse is being a jerk today, but I know I am to be the better person and love (or respect) more because of XYZ.”

Those times will come, and those necessities will need to be there. You will need to know how to think properly about the issues.

When you do this, Christianity will become more real to you. Your worship will be better informed. You will get much more out of your Bible reading and study when you see it as a book that contains events that really took place in space and time. You will take your moral responsibility much more seriously when you realize that there truly is a good. Studying believe it or not can also be fun. Yes. There are times I don’t really want to do it, but I suppose for some people, it’s like working out. Many I understand don’t like to work out really but once they get started, they are enjoying it and want to finish. It’s just honestly fun to learn new things about Christianity.

There’s also great joy when you encounter someone who is rather a loudmouth atheist. Now of course not all atheists are like this, but those who are not will be the first to admit that there are too many atheists that they find frankly embarrassing for speaking on what they don’t know about. These kinds do not want to meet a Christian who knows what they’re talking about. Be that Christian.

Also, as my friend and my wife and I discussed afterwards, there will not be many times that you will find that the atheist you dialogue with is convinced. This is sadly par for the course. As I had said in the meeting, I don’t do it for the atheist most of the time. I do it for the people who are watching. Someone might see what is going on in that Facebook thread and really reconsider that there could be good evidence for Christianity and be strengthened in their faith by seeing how weak the opposition is. (This is not to say there are not opponents out there who really do think about the issues and know how to interact well with the arguments, but that for the most part, the objections you encounter are quite weak.)

Friends. The youth have to hear this. They have to. We who are the adults and able to teach are doing our youths a great wrong if we do not equip them with Christian apologetics and if they go to college and fall away or fall away morally through sexual sins or other sins because we have not equipped them, then just like in the book of Ezekiel, we will be accountable for that. Do you really want that on your head? If you still want to ignore teaching your youth what they believe and why, then the question that needs to be asked is not “Why are they not taking Christianity seriously?” but rather “Why are you not taking it seriously?”

We are at war friends and our youth are lined up to be the first casualties. We need for them to know that the life of joy and pleasure is found in more than just sex, music, video games, etc. It’s found first and foremost in knowing God and learning about Him. Christianity isn’t pie in the sky. It’s not wishful thinking. It’s an actual worldview that is meant to shape everything that you think and do. It has something to say about who you date, who you marry, how you behave, how you spend your time, how you spend your money, what you study in college, and every other aspect of your life.

Please be teaching young people at your church apologetics. You could make sure that they enter the blessed presence of God one day by doing so.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Confessing Christians, Practicing Atheists

Are we really showing the difference the Christian life makes? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today during some time I had alone, I started thinking about the way we live our lives. Look at how many of us wrestle with issues that we have today. How many of us in the church struggle with addictions and sorrows? Now of course, some of this is the day to day of ordinary living. Someone who has recently lost a loved one is not supposed to feel happy. There is something wrong if they do. Even barring extreme examples like that, there are regular day to day events that don’t bring us the greatest of joy, and that’s understandable, but overall, our lives are to be examples of joy.

The sad part is some readers who are down will be wanting to ask what we have to be joyful about.

Let’s start off. God is in his Heaven and Jesus is Lord and we are invited to join into His rule as the king of this world.

If you’re sitting there still wondering what the big deal is, you have a problem.

And insomuch as I do the same thing, I have a problem.

First off, I want to state some thoughts on how we got to this point exactly. Our ancestors lived in a world where the deities or deity always mattered. Christianity did not change that. Throughout the medieval period, the highest study you could attain to was the knowledge of God. You had to have learned every other subject well before you could move on to that one. Then something happened. I start it at the Reformation. Now I think even the most ardent Catholic would admit the Catholic Church was not the picture of purity and innocence at that time. Yes. Wrongs were being done by the church and yes, changes needed to take place. Of course, this is really true of every church and will be because every church is composed of these problematic creatures called humans.

The sad thing is that even though I think the Reformation was needed, a good thing can go to far. The questioning of the highest authority on Earth led to the questioning of the highest authority in Heaven. Questioning is good of course, but a lot of people were throwing out the baby with the bathwater. It would be interesting to know if this would have happened had the Reformation never happened, but we do not have access to know such a thing. I reckon it often when we do this thing to be like teenagers given the keys to their parents’ car and then suddenly thinking they’re in charge of the world and don’t need anyone, neglecting the fact that Mom and Dad hold the credit card that pays for the gas.

So we go on and note that I have said the questioning is not the problem. In fact, I wish more historical Jesus questioning had been going on and that we had been learning more. The good part for a Christian is that we can be open to any avenue of questioning and should do so without fear. What do we have to be concerned about? If Christianity is true, then honest and real investigation will lead to that. If it is not, then we should be thankful that we have been shown that that which we put our greatest trust in is false. Naturally, I do not see this happening on any level, but I still do read the opposing sides just in case I am missing anything.

As we moved on, we got to Deism. There is a God, but He’s more of an absentee God. He created things, but He cares nothing about you. He is indifferent to all the evil that is going on in this world. This deity is more of a stopgap to explain the word philosophically. However, people who grow up with absentee fathers can often say that there is little difference between an absentee father and no father at all. They certainly can and they certainly do say that. The next step in the worldview would act on it and that would lead us to atheism.

If atheism is true, then really, we are in a bind. We have to seek out something. Man by nature does want to be happy. He wants at least the satisfaction of his desires. If his highest desires, such as his rationality, lead to nothingness, then why not move on to his other desires? This is where we end up centering our lives on things like sex, money, food, fame, drugs, etc. Many of these can be good things in themselves. In fact, the first one on the list, sex, is quite likely our nation’s #1 choice of deity right now. Many a Christian can easily understand this, and if we don’t, that says more about our sex lives than it does about sex itself. Sex was made to be a beautiful and wonderful and transcendent experience. As a lady was telling my wife and I yesterday, it is a great power women have over men especially and men will do most anything for this good. I can easily say it is amazing how many life changes I made for the better in my life after getting married and how much more confident I was in many areas. That is not an accident.

But there is a danger here. One dare not think about sex too much on this level. What is it for? Does it have any greater purpose? Is there anything beyond the physical act? Such thinking could lead one to questions that might wind up with God, the explanation that is desired to be avoided. One pastoral author has said actually that if anyone asks you to prove that God exists, just answer with one word. “Sex.” If they don’t understand your argument, they’ve quite likely said more about their sex life than they ever intended. Many of my friends are single and could be thinking I’m making too big a deal here. If you’re one of those, just wait until you get married and then get back to me.

This is also why our nation is so odd when it comes to sex. Although we have mountains of evidence of the dangers of constant illicit sex, although our experience shows it, although there is much science backing the pro-life position, this is all ignored. The only reason this is ignored is because it is sex. As soon as we start saying there is a proper time and a proper place for sex and a proper purpose for it, well then we enter into the area of design. We are the children once again who are satisfied with having the toy that we pay no attention to who gave us the toy and why they gave it to us.

So we have a world that lives like there is no God, and many are sure there isn’t, and that our highest good is the satisfaction of our own desires.

We expect that of those outside the fold.

But it’s also showing up within the fold.

Yet what if we could return to that one central truth? There is a God and Father who is in charge of the world and while He doesn’t always interact as we would like, He does interact. It is an incredible interaction every day that He holds all creation together. Yet even still, to say that there is a God is not enough. That can get you deism, but deism really doesn’t answer our existential cravings so much. This is a great danger especially in apologetics. We can spend so much time defending a goal that we forget what difference the goal makes. Lewis said we can defend God so much that we would give the impression that God has nothing better to do than simply to exist.

Theism is indeed an awesome and incredible claim, but we Christians make a more incredible one. This God that we worship exists in Trinity and the second person of this Trinity entered into human history. He walked as one of us, lived a life like one of us, and then He died. He died and then He rose again in a new and glorified body and in fact promised that if we follow Him, that the same thing would happen to us.

Let’s keep one thing in mind. When the skeptic says that this is a unique claim, they are right. They in fact could realize more the greatness of what it is that we are claiming. We do need a lot of evidence to back this and I have given it elsewhere here and there are many scholarly works that do demonstrate that great evidence. Yet here is where the rubber meets the road ultimately. Take Lewis’s statement and apply it here. Could we sometimes be so caught up in defending the resurrection, which we absolutely must do, that we would practically give the impression that the most important point is to show that Jesus arose, though who on Earth knows why He did?

Recently, a cousin of mine who’s a pastor put up a status about following Jesus on Facebook and how important it is. I certainly agree that it is, but I wanted to press the issue some. I did state that I was a Christian, but I was interested in people asking the question about why we follow Jesus. What purpose could we have to it? The sad tragedy is that I don’t think anyone ever responded to that. Now if we are unable to tell ourselves why it is that we follow Jesus, how on Earth could it be that we could tell someone else why they should follow Jesus? Do we do it just for our personal feelings? “Try Jesus! You’ll like Him!” We can in our evangelism and giving our “personal testimony” treat Jesus as if He was some 12-step program that if we follow Him will make us all feel better about ourselves.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s more to following Jesus.

We are right to defend the resurrection as a historical reality. As it is, I want to be adamant on that. Christianity hangs or dies on this being a real event or not. If Jesus is not risen, let us please go on our way and do something else. If He did rise, let us do nothing else than live the way He commanded us to as servants of the Kingdom. The danger is that we take the resurrection of Jesus and make it a past event only and ignore that it is a reality that reaches far beyond itself to touch everything that happens around it. If the resurrection of Jesus is true, then everything else in this world is different. If it is not, then as Paul said “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

If the resurrection is not true, I frankly cannot blame the world for living the way that it lives.

If the resurrection is true, I can greatly blame Christians, including myself, for living the way we live.

Let’s return to that starting place. God exists, well and good. But who is He? What is He like? We could use our Aristotelian proofs, and do not misunderstand me. I think the Aristotelian-Thomistic arguments are powerful and conclusive to show that God exists, but this deity is not necessarily the God revealed in Jesus Christ. He could be, but He is not necessarily. That does not mean the arguments are useless. They are a stepping stone. We must go to the greatest revelation of God and too often, we’ve treated the historical Jesus as the resurrected Messiah, but not in any way revealing to us who God is.

If our theology is not informed by Jesus, our theology is not an informed theology.

I’d therefore like to challenge myself and everyone else to know what it is you believe and why it is that you believe it. I have in fact used this approach in person before. When my grandmother passed away, I was one of three pastors given ten minutes to speak. I had lain out what I wanted to speak on and my own wife and mother at the time were skeptical, but I asked them to trust me on it. Later on, they had to admit my practice was a right one. In the first five minutes, I gave a brief apologetic to show that the resurrection of Jesus was a historical reality. I spent the last five showing what a difference it made, including what it meant and would mean for my grandmother. Both of the other preachers I found out later were impressed and the audience I think overall left in a good mood celebrating the life of my grandmother, which was also helped as after I was done, I was the Master of Ceremonies as it were gathering stories for us to share publicly about my grandmother.

Now was there still sorrow? Absolutely. My grandmother had died. Even as I write this, there is a tinge of sorrow, especially as I realize my wife and I currently live in her old house. This house that I used to go see my grandmother in regularly is the one we live in today and if I thought of it long enough, I could see many memories forming in my mind here. Yet that sorrow is not overwhelming. Paul told the Thessalonians that we mourn, but not like those who have no hope. Yes. We should mourn. Mourning is good and healthy. It is part of grief, but it is not proper to mourn as if we have a lost cause. When we mourn, we mourn not for the loved one in Christ who died. We mourn for ourselves as our lives are forever more lowered without these people in them.

But as we mourn, there is a hint of rejoicing. We know the story is not over yet. There is a God who has acted in Christ.

As I end this, I hope there is a note of joy showing up in you. If there isn’t and you’re a Christian, you might want to ask what it would take. If the fact that God exists and has revealed Himself in Christ and has invited you to join in His Kingdom does not excite you, good grief but whatever could?

In Christ,
Nick Peters