Life Is A Game Walkthrough Part 4

What is a danger we don’t talk about in our society? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As we continue our look at Edward Castronova’s book Life Is A Game, we come to him diagnosing a major problem in our world today. We are bored. Now some of you might be odd to think that is a problem. “What? So the remedy to the world’s problems is to just have some fun and all is well?”

Not necessarily.

Let’s start by looking at the problem. To some extent, we all know that he is right. I sit here in my apartment at the seminary. I have a TV with multiple streaming services and free services as well so I can watch virtually anything that I want. I have a PS4 and a Switch so I can play a huge multitude of games. I have the internet so I can find many more things to do. I have numerous books and I have a Kindle so reading isn’t a problem. I have a smartphone with even more things to do on there.

Even if you don’t have everything I have, odds are you have plenty of things. I wager still that you are likely bored sometimes. How many times have you gone channel surfing through streaming and said “There’s nothing on.”? How many times do you open up Facebook and just stroll for half an hour or so because you’re just looking for something?

Castronova tells us the monks actually had a word for the boredom. Acedia. It’s a restlessness in life so much so that just to get some excitement, some monks would actually put themselves in places of temptation. Acedia is a real problem.

We have that problem in our society because there is very little struggle. Our ancestors had to fight and work hard just to survive. They couldn’t go to the grocery store and didn’t have central heat and air and indoor plumbing and couldn’t go from place to place super easily. They didn’t have countless medications to treat most every disease out there.

And guess what happens when you play the game and it gets too easy.

I love doing math, which I’m sure is odd for you, but I would hate the thought of being asked to come and do some math problems, thinking it would be something complex, and get to a sheet of paper that just has adding single digit numbers together. Boring.

Now it could be there could be some degree of excitement in it if, say, I was put in a room with other math geeks and we all tried to see who could finish all these simple problems first, but the problems in themselves are not problems for me anymore. Without challenge, life is boring.

The same can happen in church services. I understand pastors want to speak on a simple level to reach everyone, but you can’t always speak on the lowest common denominator or the people who are not there do get bored. Yes. I get bored often in a church service because very rarely is anything new said.

Now to an extent, there is some good in this. If I stayed at a simple level in theology forever, my life would be lacking. I can even take those simple concepts and go deeper with them. Let’s consider the song we grew up with. “Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so.”

Okay. Who is Jesus? He loves me? What is love? Why does He love me? The Bible tells me so? How do I know that’s what it really says? How do I know it’s reliable? How do I know it’s authoritative? Those simple questions can drive you endlessly into deep theology, but if you just stay on the surface, you miss that.

That’s just one of many reasons men hate going to church. This also ties us into quests. We need quests because we need excitement in our lives. We need to be challenged.

If we don’t have that, we fill it up with artificial entertainment. Castronova says that we have sex with one another as if wolves were about to devour our species. (No need for them to. Through abortion, we do that ourselves.) Whereas our forefathers would see sex as something pleasurable, yes, (Aquinas even said had the fall never taken place, the pleasure of sex would be even greater so thanks a lot Adam and Eve.) they also saw it as something deeper, a sacred demonstration of a covenant between two people and a revelation of God Himself. Turn on most any sitcom today and all you see is the pleasure principle.

We have a problem with obesity in our country. We often don’t eat to live, but we live to eat. We gorge ourselves and snack because we are bored. Many people on diets trying to lose weight are often told, and I think rightly, that they are eating not because they are hungry, but because they are bored.

Today, we have people on social media sites doing stupid challenges, like the Tide Pod Challenge, and while these challenges are stupid, note what they are called. Challenges. People want to do something risky. They want a goal to live for. They want something greater in their lives than just 9 to 5.

And often, we will invent grand problems so we can say we are fighting against a great enemy. It’s easy to talk about climate change and present it as a great disaster and then fight so you can say you’re fighting something. While I am skeptical of it, I understand that it can be fulfilling for people to have something to fight against.

Could this also be one reason why wherever the church has it easy, it tends to lose its effect? The church is growing in nations where persecution is rampant. Here in America, persecution is not yet rampant and yet people who identify as transgender, less than 1% of the population, seem to have more say than so many people that say they are Christians.

Without challenge also, it’s easy to wonder what we are living for. I have been pondering lately that could it be part of our educational troubles is our livelihood does not often depend on what we are learning. Do tests really help us learn? I don’t know if anyone has done the study, but I would be curious to see. After all, how many people study hard for a test and then promptly forget it all? They got the passing grade. How many of us passed tests in high school and now don’t remember what we learned?

Could this also be why gaming works so well? In 6th grade I used one of those geo-safari toys, I think that’s what they’re called, and got bored with North American stuff so I went and learned South American capitals. I don’t remember them all perfectly, but I know a lot more of them today than I normally would.

As someone who plays video games, I could still to this day turn on the original Legend of Zelda and go through both quests and find where everything is and beat the game. Did I ever have to sit down and take a test on this? No. I did it because it was fun and challenging and I learned.

When I first arrived at Southern Evangelical Seminary years ago with my roommate who I knew through TheologyWeb, we found we were doing quite well with our peers in knowledge. Why? Because we had been arguing this stuff for years online long before Facebook on that site. (If you want to debate my articles, go there also.) We had to know this stuff and it became a challenge. We used apologetics so much that we just knew it. We didn’t need to take a test on it.

When I was in Greek in Bible College, I did very well. Why? We had Parsons Tutor as our guide and it was a game of sorts and I would keep going through a lesson over and over until I got 100%. The challenge made it fun!

I am not saying this as someone who hates tests. I normally do great on them so there’s no reason for me personally to want to abolish them, but I am asking what really helps us learn and not just for the moment, but long-term?

When I am doing a game also, I voluntarily look up the information and research it. I want to know how to finish this quest? I will look it up. Back in the day also, something young gamers do not understand, we had to buy strategy guides and there was a lot of trial and error. There was no internet to look things up. We had to try again and again and work hard, but it was fun! When someone managed to beat a game, and normally that was me, the game prodigy, that was a cause of awe and admiration. What’s the result? I know this information long-term.

The prescription for our society then? Challenge. We need quests. We need to know what we are living for and why. Every man wants to provide for his family, but he also wants meaning and purpose. Wives will often want to provide and usually by being good housekeepers, but they also want meaning and purpose.

Christianity gives us that and we don’t know it. We sit on it not realizing our birthright. The Christian life is meant to be hard, but should it also be, dare I say it, fun?

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

Book Plunge: Why Men Hate Going To Church

What do I think of David Murrow’s book published by Thomas Nelson? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m someone active in ministry and I strive to live a holy life before Jesus, but honestly, church can seem like just doing my duty often. I sit there and I hear the same thing I’ve heard over and over and think about what’s on TV when I get home or a game I’d like to play. I could often easily go with skipping all the music and going straight to the sermon, but then when we get to the sermon, it can be just as boring for me.

If David Murrow is right, and I think he is, I’m not alone. Men don’t really care for church. Christianity is the only major world religion that has a shortage of men in it. Why is it that we don’t care for church? Is it we don’t really believe in God or we don’t really care about Jesus?

Murrow contends that one of the most important things in the mind of a man is to be a man. A man does not generally want to do anything feminine. If there was something like that, he would only care if he knew he was connected with other men with a similar interest. Being one of the guys is of great importance to a man.

This is also something that is not just shut off. Men are constantly trying to prove themselves and show what they are made of. Challenges are taken very seriously in the world of a man. The problem is that church often doesn’t fit into that. Church has become very feminized.

Please understand. Murrow is in no way saying the Gospel is feminine. He is also not saying we make any change whatsoever in the content of the Gospel. How we present the Gospel and what we emphasize of the Gospel is often what really needs to be changed.

Consider what I said earlier. Men hear the same things repeatedly in a church service. What are they usually about? Relationships. It’s not that men are opposed to relationships. We have plenty of them. It’s that men don’t really define themselves by their relationships. You won’t have two guys out hiding in some trees in the woods hunting deer and one of them says, “Hey man. I think we need to sit down sometime and talk about our relationship.” (And especially not since the other man likely has a loaded gun.)

Many churches become all about the family of God, which is true, but not about the Kingdom of God, which is more outwardly focused. Men who tend to be aggressive want to go out and do things. We don’t just want to be internally focused.

The music is often also not really pleasing to a man. Much of the music relies on an emotional high of sorts and are really songs sung to Jesus that could be sung to your boyfriend as well. Many CCM stations play songs to reach women.

We also have a problem when we present gentle Jesus meek and mild. Jesus was certainly the Lamb of God, but He was also the Lion of Judah. Look at the pictures of Jesus on many covers of Bibles and in Christian bookstores. This Jesus often looks like a wimp to men. Men don’t want to follow a wimp.

This doesn’t mean either that we chase out the women. Not at all. Women need to be in church and when men start going, women start going more as well. Statistically, if you want to reach the average family for Jesus, focus on the father. There is even research that one of the leading factors in keeping a teenager of either sex from apostasizing is if their Dad takes his Christianity seriously.

If you’re looking at this and thinking it’s about the patriarchy or something like that, then you are missing the point. If anything, you’re giving men the picture that to be true Christians, they should cease being men. It’s not going to work to reach them.

Instead, make church a place that lets men be men. The book even ends with Murrow asking a group of pastors how many of their churches had more men than women. Only one pastor raised their hand. Not only that, that pastor had nail polish on her hand.

This was a woman who had read Murrow’s book and took it seriously. She took out feminine decor in the church and removed a lot of songs and got others like “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and “Onward Christian Soldiers” and allowed days for guys to even wear sports jerseys to church. She started preaching sermons about guy topics including a series on “God loves sex.” Result? Her church grew among men and women both.

Murrow’s book is the kind of book I wish I could put in the hands of every pastor in the country. It’s a book I thoroughly enjoyed and when I had to interrupt my reading of it, I was always looking forward to getting back into it. It is one of the most important books I think I have read and I highly recommend it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Problem of Boredom

Is it a problem that we live in a bored society? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, I wrote a blog post about finishing Clay Jones’s book on the problem of evil. One topic he talked about in that book was Heaven and how many people, not just skeptics, have a fear that they will be bored in Heaven. To be fair, if Heaven was like the way it is depicted in popular media, it would be boring. Sadly, if it was also the way it is often described in many churches, it would be boring.

As I thought about this, I considered that what if boredom isn’t just a problem with Heaven, but also with this life? Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the purpose of our life is to be entertained, but isn’t joy listed as a fruit of the Spirit? Are Christians supposed to be bored?

When I was single and living in an apartment in Knoxville, I had two friends I hung out with regularly. One wasn’t a Christian at the time. One was. The three of us would regularly go out together and stop at bookstores. I would buy one or two apologetics books. My non-Christian friend would buy several fun things from there, sometimes books, and I don’t really remember what the other would get.

Inevitably, I’d be sitting alone in my apartment on the internet with either a book or watching TV or playing a video game and I’d get a call from my non-Christian friend saying he was bored. This would be just after going to the store a few days ago. It always amazed me that I got far fewer things and things that weren’t designed for fun, but the problem of boredom never struck me.

Today, we live in a society where one can pick up the remote and go through all the channels, normally over 200 of them, and say “There’s nothing on.” We can then go through Netflix and just say “Nah. I don’t want to watch that.” We look at our library of video games and think “No. I don’t want to do that one now.” No matter what it is, it’s like we don’t really find interest in anything.

Even more, we don’t find interest in God. Sadly, I can understand it. When we start to think about God, it’s hard to know what to think about. One of the reasons I think God gets boring to us is because unlike Aslan, we have made God a tame lion. We have these neatly defined ideas of what God is, and yet we don’t expect God to rock the boat. We don’t expect God to do much. He kind of just sits on His throne being God. We can think about all of His attributes and such, but it doesn’t seem to move us.

This is also a problem because boredom is really showing a lack of appreciation. Romans 1 says that part of the problem of the rebellion of mankind was that man was not thankful. When we are too easily bored and not interested in the things that have been made, we are insulting them and in turn, insulting their maker. We are saying there is not enough good in them to captivate us.

One exception to this that a skeptic in Jones’s book mentioned was the subject of sex. I think this person is on to something. Sexuality is something that does not lead to a law of diminishing returns but rather a law of increasing returns. I want to stress that this is in the case of marriage.

Outside of marriage, sex becomes more about just fun instead of really bonding. No doubt, there is fun involved, but for people who are married, the joy is getting to be bonded to that person. If you make it just about fun, you will wind up viewing the other person as an object to be used for pleasure and wondering if a different body can bring you more pleasure.

Sex doesn’t seem to lose its interest because that’s about a person, and persons are interesting. Couples who have been married for 50+ years wind up still learning new things about one another. The more one is intimate with the same person, the more one comes to enjoy and appreciate that person as even your own bodies learn how to work better together.

The more we get interested in the person of God, the more we will delight in Him. If we think of God in too abstract a way, it could be that He ceases to be a person of wonder to us. This is something that I will freely admit I still struggle with. The same has happened with the Bible. We’ve heard the stories so much that they no longer have a shock value to us. We read “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” and think nothing about it. Any reader in the ancient world would have dropped the scroll in absolute shock. If we pictured John writing the words, he must have had an exceedingly difficult time writing that sentence as it seemed to be too unbelievable.

We really need to return wonder. Our society being so bored is a problem in that we don’t see the good and we don’t see what living is all about. In fact, I think this has something to do with our culture of suicide. It’s all too easy to decide that there’s nothing in the world worth living for.

There is indeed. Every day of your life is filled with wonder if you will look. Everything in your life that is good might not have been. Every good thing is a gift. You are owed nothing. That means all that is yours is a gift so accept it with joy. This includes the reality of God.

Go out and enjoy your life. Christians need not be bored. We have a wonderful world God gave us to enjoy.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

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