Playing To Win

What if this is a game? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve been speaking about my talk at Defend 2023 lately and the research I have done as a result has been fascinating to me. For those who don’t know, we had to bring in chairs for people to sit in during my talk and at the end, an organic discussion broke out among the audience. Something about this topic really hits home and connects people.


Before the talk, I went to the Unbelievable? facebook group and I asked participants to talk about a time they were emotionally moved by a game. Now in most threads there, you will see a lot of antagonism towards others. It’s Facebook. It happens. Atheists and Christians and everyone in between don’t always get along.

I didn’t see any of that here. If someone didn’t say explicitly and I didn’t know, I wouldn’t have been able to tell who was who since everyone was getting along amicably and sharing together their experiences.

I don’t count that as a bad thing.

But why was it happening?

Then I thought about being at a seminary and how our semesters go. You can remember this from your schooling times even if it was never higher education. You would often learn and study hard for that test, take it and pass, and then you would gradually just forget everything. Why? You never used it. It was never relevant. I love math and I enjoyed my math classes, but that doesn’t mean I can tell you how to do quadratic equations off the top of my head.

However, I do have two experiences from 6th grade I remember. One was instead of Math, I took computer keyboarding and used Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing and learned to type in that class. Today, I still maintain that skill and I can type about 80 words per minute.

I also remember free time in my Social Studies class which was also a lot of geography. I remember going to the GeoSafari system and I knew my state capitals already and so I decided to do the game to learn the South American capitals. I still remember a lot of them to this day.

And how did I know my state capitals? We played a game in the class regularly in 5th grade to see how well we knew the state capitals. We had a map of the states on the wall. Two students would see who could identify which state got hit with the teacher’s pointer first and the winner would progress. It was the goal to see who could have the longest streak.

Then I compared this to growing up gaming. You know how many times we failed at a game and yet we got up and tried time and time again? I learned a lot of perseverance with that. I played RPGs where you had to save up money to get the best equipment and I would regularly not progress forward until I had all the money I needed to buy what I wanted. You know what? To this day, I’m still a money saver and I try to get the most out of every penny.

As long as I can remember also, I have had good versus evil built in me. My DivorceCare leader explained it to my parents. I have played games all my life. I want the real adventure. The fantasy adventures I go on are meant to build in me a yearning and a desire to seek the real adventures, and that is the result.

Also when we were growing up, we didn’t have the internet. I didn’t have that until I was in high school. Want to know how to beat a boss or find a secret in a game? You have to go with word of mouth, read it in a magazine, write to Nintendo themselves, buy a strategy guide, etc. Did you hear that rumor about Mew being under that truck in Pokemon? Many people tried many rumors to see what was true and what was not. You couldn’t just go to GameFaqs or you couldn’t just watch a YouTube video.

In other words, we worked at play.

This isn’t just me either. Paul says the same thing in 1 Cor. 9. Every runner trains, but only one gets the prize. People training for the Olympics of their day would work to no extent to be the best. There were great rewards for them after all. They had great honor and sometimes their could be tax exemptions for them and their people as a result.

We still have similar today. People that want to be good at sports work really hard. I have heard that Michael Phelps swam several several hours every day and ate well over 10,000 calories a day to keep up.

Today, fans can be the same way. There are fans that know pretty much every statistic about the sports teams that they watch. I don’t understand this honestly. I think it’s foolish, but they probably think the same about my interest. I still remember Peter Kreeft saying sometimes he fears he’s a bigger Red Sox fan than he is a Jesus fan.

We had a speaker at Defend saying about our faith that what we are doing is not a game. I suspect the implication was “Therefore, take it seriously.” I get what he was saying, but here’s the problem. It’s often the things that we don’t really enjoy that we don’t take seriously.

I shared this on my wall last night and was told there are already people working on this and it’s called Gamifying. This is where we use the principle that game makers have learned on how people want challenges and to succeed and they will take on a big challenge if they think the payoff is worth it. As Thomas Sowell has said, it’s all about tradeoffs.

So what if we treated it this way? What if evangelism became a quest, a quest for the glory of God and He does promise a reward. Why would He promise a reward unless He wanted us to pursue that reward? Jesus regularly points to our own self-interest. What we do brings glory to God, but we benefit as well.

There’s a saying that if you enjoy what you do, you never work a day in your life. Think back to what was likely the best job you ever had, or maybe you have it now. Why is it the best? Is it because the pay is really great or the benefits are really good? How about this? It’s the best job you’ve ever had because you enjoy what you do.

I would honestly prefer a job with less money where I enjoyed my work than a job with more money where I hated my work. I suspect I am not alone. Work is something that we also do for fulfillment. We want to make a difference in what we do and if workers think they’re replaceable cogs in a machine, rightly or wrongly, they will not work as well.

What if we made our education enjoyable? I remember my first semester in Greek in Bible College and I did really well. What do I remember most? We had a computer program that was a game of sorts and I being a perfectionist wanted to get perfect on every single section of that program. I would not move on until I could do perfect three times in a row in every lesson.

Guess what? I did well in that class.

This could be especially so for men who love to compete for the most part. I am also remembering again in 6th grade that in my science class I had the top average for the first 6-week period. That kept happening and then the teacher gave an assignment so that you could increase your class average by 20 points. Did I need that to pass? Nope. Did I take that task on even though I didn’t need to? You bet I did. Why? Because I wanted to keep up my top average all year long, and I did just that.

So ultimately, this is all asking why do we do what we do and what can we do to make us want to do more of what we ought? For myself, if there’s something I enjoy a lot, it is a good debate. I have had gaming sessions when I lived with my parents where I had my laptop right next to me and then someone would respond to me on Facebook in a debate and I would pause immediately and jump in. As much as I enjoy gaming, I enjoy a good intellectual exchange even more.

I contend also that Christianity promises us this great adventure and this adventure extends even into eternity. Eternity is not the end. It is if anything the glorious beginning for us. I don’t know what work we will do in eternity, but we will do it, and we will enjoy it.

So the speaker here said this isn’t a game. I know what he meant, but I want to contend the opposite. This is one. You have to play it, but you better play it well.

When we have that excitement about the game and that this actually has a purpose and there is a great benefit, I think we can actually take it more seriously. I know when I have a big debate coming up, I certainly spend a lot of time reading on the topic and usually much more than for other things because I willingly take on the debate and can see immediately what the serious ramifications are. I know I will be before an audience and I want to do well.

So could this all be a great game the creator has made for us? Perhaps it is, and if so, we had better play it well. He does not allow any do-overs, cheat codes, or anything like that. (Although I hear he left us a great strategy guide.)

We are on the ultimate adventure. The plot is far better than any we could have dreamed up because God Himself is beyond it. There is no greater good in this world worth fighting for and if need be, worth dying for.

Play this game well. It is worth it.

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

How To Play A Game?

How do you win in a game? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As long as I can remember, I have been playing games. I am now 41 years old and I am still an avid gamer. If you are playing a game against someone else, and I don’t care what it is, there is a rule to follow. You could play a board game like Monopoly, Chess, or Connect Four. You could play a card game like Uno or Poker. You could play a sporting event like baseball or football. You could play a video game as simple as Pong or more like Halo or Smash Brothers. How can one rule apply to all of these? It can easily.

Be aware of how your opponent can respond to you.

It’s really that simple. This would even work in a real-life dangerous situation. Before the military goes in somewhere, I guarantee you they prepare for any counter-responses that could happen. The police are prepared for as many contingencies they can think of before approaching the suspect’s residence.

So now let’s talk about Raymond Bradley, author of God’s Gravediggers. One saying he has in chapter 3 is about Christian philosophers who hold to inerrancy. I do plan on reviewing the whole chapter, but this one quote is worthwhile.

“Are these guys serious? What would be their line when confronted by 2 Chronicles 4:2, which gives a false value for the mathematical constant pi (the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter)? What would they say about countless inconsistencies the Bible contains? For example, between 2 Samuel 24:1, which says the Lord commanded King David to “number the people of Israel”, and 1 Chronicles 21:1, which says it was Satan, not the Lord, who issued the command. What account would they give of scientific absurdities such as that of a six-day creation, the fixity of species, and the world-wide flood, an event that some biblical genealogists calculate as occurring on the 27 February 2267 BCE, an event that, as Australian geologist Ian Plimer points out, was “spitefully” ignored by the Egyptians of the time? I simply don’t know what answers these notable theistic philosophers would give. They proclaim inerrancy as a general doctrine without considering its specific applications. They preach it from their pulpits yet ignore it in their philosophical writings. Yet where inconsistencies abound, so does falsity; for at least one of each inconsistent pair must be false.”

Let’s even go through these.

How about pi? Hint: If you can find something answered on a google search, don’t use it. I have no reason to think Purple Math is a Christian site, but even if it is, this is still an answer to this kind of question. Just take a look.

In the case of Chronicles and Samuel, I actually don’t think Satan refers to the being, but rather the word means an adversary. In both cases, God used an adversary to rise against David such that he wanted to count his army to prepare for battle. You may not think that is true, but it is an answer and even a potential answer is enough to refute the idea that something is a contradiction.

The Genesis information all assumes that everyone holds to a YEC worldwide flood account. I don’t. I would hope many YECs would even accept that there are Christians who disagree and are simply trying to be faithful to what they think the text and other data indicates.

The only complex one is the Exodus. Well first off, nations would have a tendency to not want to report their slaves getting the best of them. There is also material available like here.

Now here’s the thing. If Bradley were debating me and he says “I have no idea how he would answer these” and I pull up these responses, Bradley has to come up with something on the fly. Odds are, it will not be convincing. Why? Because he doesn’t know what I really think.

That is the main issue here. I could be wrong in everything I said, which I don’t think, but even if I am, I at least do have a response. I would also need to anticipate what he could say in response to this.

However, if Bradley has no idea how anyone would reply, he really shouldn’t be arguing. Not only that, it tells me he hasn’t really looked at the material. These objections are not new. They have been debated back and forth for centuries. Even the rabbis and early church, for example, debated how to read Genesis.

If you are a skeptic of Christianity then, you need to read Christian books to argue against Christians. “Well, I think all that stuff is stupid!” Okay. You might think the material is stupid and no rational person could believe it. Your opponent thinks otherwise and not only that, the people who agree with him think so and if they can tell you don’t know what they believe well, they won’t take you seriously. When I encounter someone who espouses Jesus mythicism or the pagan copycat thesis, I know to not take them seriously. (That includes Bradley.)

You see, Bradley does have a doctorate, but I notice when he argues against what I believe, he treats mythicism like a serious contender. Since I have studied this and know that that’s nonsense, I am less inclined to take his argument seriously in other areas because I have to wonder about the research he did. This is shown further to me when the first time he gives the cosmological argument, he first phrases it claiming that everything that exists has a cause. No serious defender of the argument has ever treated it that way.

I have hammered the skeptics today, but Christians do the same thing. Many of you are incredibly skeptical of evolution for example, which is fine, but I am sure that the staunchest YEC scholar would agree with me on this. If you argue against evolution without studying it to someone who has studied it, you will make embarrassing mistakes and they won’t take you seriously. Why should they?

This is also why you should be careful sharing information online that you haven’t checked on. Imagine you share a story about a political event that your opponent can see is a hoax with just a couple of minutes of research. Then you tell them that you believe God raised someone from the dead 2,000 years ago? They can’t answer that in a couple of minutes, but if they saw you false on the simple matter, why spend all the time on the deeper one?

Don’t be like that.

If Bradley then is in a debate sometime and pulls out weak objections and gets tough replies back, only two words need be said.

Game over.

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

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