Book Plunge: Saturday Morning Mind Control

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

I have been doing some studying lately in the concept of Christian paranoia over how most every new invention that comes along is something that is going to destroy our children for the next generation. The problem is this happens so many times. It is my desire to find common themes and what can be done when new mediums come up. After all, we don’t want to just follow culture everywhere and jump on every bandwagon, but at the same time we want to be wise and discerning, including with entertainment content.

Phil Phillips writes from a perspective of a therapist in dealing with the issue of TV which he often calls The Box. Certainly, Phillips’s desire is noble and can be applauded. Watch what your children are watching and be aware of it. Try to understand what is going on. He doesn’t say to throw out TV altogether, but he does encourage a vested interest in what your children are doing.

This is something I wholeheartedly agree with. While my Dad and I watch TV together often, including shows like Smallville and the Flash, and we as a family watched Monk and House and other shows like that, but when it came to games, I have often been the lone gamer in my house. Parents. If you have children who are gamers, they would like to see you take an interest in that just as much as you take an interest in your children who play sports.

On p. 54, he does say one main reason that some kids don’t become aggressive in light of what is seen on TV is because of parents. This is the most important insight in the book. It deserves to be recognized by all. If you are raising your children well and teaching them good and evil and giving them a biblical worldview especially, they are far better equipped. I have played games all my life and I am not at all an aggressive person.

However, Phillips does indeed engage in paranoia and many of the rules seem arbitrary. For instance, does a show have more than three weapons on it? If this was followed, you could not watch The LionThe Witch, and the Wardrobe.

I also wondered throughout at times how you could explain the Bible in this position. The Bible has a lot of violence in it and yes, a lot of sexual content. We don’t grant the Bible an exception just because it’s the Bible. If we do that, we are engaging in double-standards.

Phillips does have a bibliography in the back, but the problem is many times in the book, he does not cite sources and does not tell where something is specifically found. Sometimes he will say something like “A boy said X.’ What boy is this? How can I speak to him?

He also sometimes gets his material wrong. For example, he says about Ninja Turtles and this when discussing the cartoon that Splinter was a rat and then became a humanoid rat, but fans of the show know that in the cartoon, Splinter was a human first. In the movie, he was a rat first. (82) He also says Smurfette was a male smurf who became female, but in reality, Smurfette had been created by Gargamel in the show. This is the danger of that if you get something basic wrong, why should I trust you on the others?

He is also vague on what is meant by aggression. It is never defined and sometimes it looks like it is always to be avoided. Sometimes aggression is a good thing. We need to be aggressive, but for Phillips, it looks like there is never a good time for aggression.

The same problem occurs with violence. Phillips is the kind of person who will have a problem with something like Looney Tunes and is convinced that too often children will believe everything on the box is real. Of course, this is where parents need to monitor and discuss, but eventually, children do grow up and realize these things aren’t real and just enjoy them as fantasy.

In looking at the Super Mario Brothers Super Show, which I know very well, he speaks about a three-headed snake that says “Stomp ’em, Tromp ’em, Crush ’em” and of characters being spoken of as belch brains and these are not the kinds of values we want our children to emulate. Good thing that it’s the VILLAINS who do this on the show. Would Phillips really want a show where villains show the behaviors we want to be emulated in society? (p.81)

He gets more bizarre about this show when he starts talking about occultism in cartoons and says that even Mario has a dance, which he connects dancing with the occult. You can do the Mario. You can think the Mario show is the dumbest show ever but you can look at the dance at the end easily and tell that Lou Albano is not leading children into occult practices with a dance.

He uses She-Ra as an example of how She-Ra even cries for an enemy because he was given life and wasted it. When he dies, no one would care. Honestly, this reads as if Phillips is condemning this when I find this admirable. We as Christians should all be sad for those who are given the gift of life and waste it. (120)

Phillips lists several shows he says have problematic and occult themes in them, many of which are just incredibly odd to see. My Favorite Martian should be avoided since it involves UFOs. G.I. Joe should be avoided because it’s too violent.  Other shows to be avoided for various reasons are The MunstersStar Trek, Lost In Space, Dr. Who, Smurfs, Gummy Bears, My Little Pony, Scooby-Doo, and The Archie Comedy Hour. (125-127)

There is a little said on video games, and much of it convinces me that Phillips doesn’t understand video games well. Still, that is minor so I will save that for other works. The emphasis here is still on cartoons.

In conclusion, Phillips means well, but I think his approach will lead to only helicopter parenting instead of teaching children wise discernment skills so they can make decisions apart from their parents that will be for their true good. The goal of a parent is to work themselves out of a job. This doesn’t mean that they play no role in the lives of their children as I can still talk to my parents regularly and go to them for advice, but I certainly don’t need them to make decisions for me anymore, as it should be.

Christians. Avoid paranoia. The problem is not the medium. The problem is discernment.

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

Book Plunge: Grand Theft Childhood

What do I think of Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson’s book published by Simon and Schuster? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I heard about this book while going through The Gaming Mind on Audible. Making a mental note, I went to my library website and ordered it. I’m thankful that I did. This has been an amazing read on the alleged link between video games and violence in children.

This is not a book written from a Christian perspective, at least explicitly. The authors do not state their worldview. However, the authors have interacted with the material they critique and have also included snippets of interviews they have done with children and their parents.

To which, a lot of that information should be encouraging to parents. Older children, for instance, happen to think there are some games that their younger brothers and sisters shouldn’t be playing and they won’t play when those people are around. Surprisingly, something they were often concerned about was swearing. After all, there are a lot of things in a game hard to copy, but swearing isn’t. All you have to do is speak.

Also, something that needs to be said is that many times, children actually do imbibe their parents’ worldviews more than parents realize and learn what to play and not play. Of course, this isn’t across the board, but children are watching and are learning. Quick pro tip here on how parents can better understand what’s going on in the games of their children. Play the games with them and/or talk to them about them. (Yeah. Actual interaction with your children works. Who would have thought?)

The authors also don’t just look at the fact that children play violent games, but often ask why they do. Many times, children say that this actually helps them deal with their anger. In an odd way, that could be saying that rather than cause aggressive behavior in children, video games actually help to alleviate it. Frankly, if there was a strong connection between violent video games and violent children, we would see a lot more violent children.

Also interesting is that if anything, NOT playing video games, especially for boys, could be more of a problematic sign. Remember the Virginia Tech shooter? Something odd his classmates said after about him was, “He never wanted to play video games with us.” Video games are often a tool of social integration and bonding. Kids today get together to talk about games like Pokemon. I started getting more friends in Elementary School and beyond because I had a reputation as being quite good at video games.

The authors also point out that the hysteria over video games has happened over most every new form of media that has come out. Violence and sex in these has never been new. Go back to ancient history? It’s there. Medieval times? Still there. Renaissance and Enlightenment? Yep. What would be an anomaly is a time where such stories did NOT exist.

What about sex in video game? Yep. This is covered. (Odd way of describing it.) Most of us know about Lara Croft and the hope of so many teenage guys to find a nude code to use for her. Now, many games can be even more explicit. Again, this is something that parents need to talk with their children about, but it is not a shock that females are made to be attractive in video games. The Final Fantasy series in X, XII, XIII, and relevant spin-offs from those games all had a protagonist with a very similar look based on what was attractive in Japan at the time.

So when is there a problem? It’s not in the gaming itself. It’s everything around that. If your child is becoming more withdrawn, has a dramatic change in moods, has no or very few friends, and is dropping grades, don’t blame it on the games. The games are often a way of dealing with whatever the real problem is. Find that.

For parents also, the last chapter is all about practical advice for you and it does enforce what I recommend. Play the games with your children, or at least talk about them. Show an interest in them. If the world of the Legend of Zelda means something to your child, find out why. You could get to understand your child better and your child will think they matter when you show interest in what interests them.

If you enjoy gaming and want to deal with criticism, read this book. If you are a parent and you are concerned about your children and video games, read this book. The same applies if you are a teacher or someone in ministry, especially youth ministry.

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

Game Violence And Porn

Is there a difference? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was watching a political commentator talk about the topic of pornography and faithfulness in marriage. Does watching pornography count as adultery and having an affair? It could be said you’re not having sex yourself, but you are watching simulated sex to some extent. Does this count as unfaithfulness to your marriage?

If you are married, I say 100% yes that it does. Some might say, “But we’re doing it together willingly.” Even so, then you are both breaking your vows together by inviting someone else into your bedroom. It’s a private place meant to be for the two of you.

When I was married, we lived this out. There was a time we had someone staying with us who was fleeing a hurricane in Florida. When it came night time and we went to sleep, I told him if you need anything, you can call us and let us know, but don’t come in there. That’s our private place. That rule was always upheld.

However, this is about a different issue. The commentator asked a different question briefly and I wanted to address it since it’s a real question and I believe asked in all sincerity and I have asked it myself. What about video games that involve killing? Is that engaging in actual killing?

At the start, I suspect war games have always been with us to some extent. Little boys grow up playing with toy weapons and I really have no reason to think it was different in ages past. I’m sure little boys back thousands of years ago dreamed of being fighters and soldiers and would play with one another. Boys do tend to be aggressive and we can roughhouse regularly.

Of course, girls do this also some as nowadays, a girl can grow up pretending she is Wonder Woman, for example. There are plenty of other female superheroes that girls can be like. When young children play pretend, they are assuming an interface of interaction where what they imagine is for the time being true. A little boy pretends he’s Superman and a little girl pretends she’s Wonder Woman and for the time being, they live out as if that is reality, knowing that it is not, but it is called pretend for a reason.

Now video games have provided that interface for us where when we play a game, we accept the reality of the game and to follow by the rules that the game has set for us. If you play a game as simple as Pong, you accept that you can only move your blocker in a certain direction and you have to score X number of points before your opponent does. If you play Mario Kart, you accept that you have to drive such and such a way on the track and that you can use power-ups on the field, but alas for you, so can your opponents.

So what about violence in games? Like the children playing pretend, people know it isn’t real. So when kids play a game in pure imagination and one of them “kills” the other, in the end they all get up and go about their own lives or play another game. They know it isn’t real.

However, I think what is really important to ask is why are you doing what you are doing? For most of us who play games, we don’t kill the enemy for the sake of killing itself. Now there is something good about the feeling of taking down a powerful boss in a game, but there’s also the sense of good vs evil and stopping an evil force from hurting others who are innocent.

That means it is not violence for the sake of violence, but violence to protect someone or something else. It is a battle for justice, much like going to war is supposed to be or self-defense. If there is anything tapped into inside of us, it is the idea that we want justice.

Now some have suggested that playing video games leads to violence. Unfortunately for those wanting to argue that, there is no hard correlation that has ever been found, but yet this has been assumed so long most people take it for granted. For those wanting a stronger case on this, I recommend reading Moral Combat: Why The War on Violent Video Games is Wrong.

Let’s also remember that this is not new. It just has a new target. When films started coming into their own, the exact same thing was said about them. Back in the 60’s, there was a war on comic books. I find it amazing that so many of my fellow political conservatives jump on these bandwagons.

Why is that? One of the ideas of conservatism is personal responsibility. We all accept that some people get dealt a hard hand in life, but like playing a card game, if you get a bad hand, well those are the cards you play with. You make the most of them and many people have and played very good games doing such and come out to be successful.

We say that if a man rapes a woman, he can’t blame the action on how the woman was dressed. If a couple gets pregnant, personal responsibility should be accepted and the baby brought to term. If you are able and capable, you need to be part of the working field and providing for yourself and your family.

Yet when it comes to people being violent, we try to blame anything else that is responsible for the violence, except, well, the person themselves. If anything, we should consider looking to what is often most immediate as influences first off before anything else, the family, realizing that this is not also hard-wired. What values and beliefs was a child raised with and how does that influence them?

I will present my own self as an example. I grew up in a Christian home and I was in church every Sunday and when I left home, that didn’t change. I have also played video games all my life and many of them involve combat and battle, yet I am the driver also who if it is safe, will hit the brakes before I hit a squirrel even and don’t relish the taking of life like that.

That doesn’t mean I’m opposed to combat. There is a time and place for it and if someone threatens me or someone I care about, I hope I will rise up to the challenge and take them on if need be. Had I grown up in a different environment and been raised a different way, I could have turned out very differently.

Now having said that, if you do have a problem with any sort of game and think it is wrong to play that game, then don’t do it. I have played Mortal Kombat with some friends before, but I could never do a fatality move. I don’t really like games that show a lot of blood in them. Gore is not appealing to me.

So how about pornography by contrast? When one watches porn, they watch because they want to see sex and sex they don’t really have a right to see. They want to take what is meant for the private sphere and put it in the public sphere. Sexuality is a means in itself and the person or persons being viewed are simply being viewed for their own pleasure and usage, which can affect easily how they see other people.

Not only that, but there is also reason to believe that many boys who grow up watching pornography can struggle with ED. Yes, I know porn is becoming a problem for girls watching it, but ED is not their struggle. It’s harder and harder to find men who are not affected as most of them have watched porn. I am thankful that by the grace of God I have avoided this temptation. It is a real one at times still, but it is overcomable.

But what about you? I have presented my thoughts on the matter of games and violence in them and about pornography. I am always interested in hearing what others have to say, especially my fellow gamers. Feel free to leave a comment.

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

 

On Christianity And Guns

What are my thoughts on the shooting in Texas? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So Sunday there was a shooting in a church. You might not have heard much debate about gun control because this one was stopped early on. There were at least seven people in the church who were concealed carry and I understand one of them was an elderly lady.

It’s kind of interesting to me that when a shooting takes place and no one is there to stop it, we ask how we can stop it. When it takes place and there is someone there to stop it, the message never gets out of “This is how you stop it.” Why not go with the method that works when it’s used? (Kind of like when abstinence is practiced, it works 100% of the time)

It’s also interesting that we also had this right after a rabbi was attacked and I saw people talking about anti-semitism immediately, and they should. However, when a church has a near mass shooting, did you hear anyone talk about the concerns of anti-Christianity? Yeah. I didn’t either.

So Monday I’m browsing on Facebook and see people talk about this and the question is asking how Christians should handle this. The shooter in the church was shot by a Christian. Is this the right response for those who follow the Prince of Peace?

To begin with, let’s talk about who is really destroying peace in these situations. In this church, Christians were going forward to take Communion which should be an especially sacred time in a church service. The peace was interrupted by a man who was bent on evil and he was not open to listening to reason.

Some people might say that Jesus turned the other cheek, but Jesus is talking about receiving a personal insult there in a private setting. He is not talking about anything that is life-threatening. Do we think Jesus could say today, “If anyone shoots your son, give him your daughter to shoot as well. If anyone kills your wife, give him your mother to kill as well.”

Where I have been debating this, I have had someone quoting all of Matthew 5:38-42 to me. In wanting to find out how much they take this seriously, I have brought up that Jesus says to give to anyone whatever they request of you. I then say I request you give all of your money to my ministry. I have yet to see any major deposits yet.

But doesn’t Romans 12 tell us to live in peace? Yes, if it is possible. Sometimes it isn’t. We all know people, sometimes sadly family members, that we just have to avoid. Romans 12 also says to not seek revenge. How does this apply? Let’s consider the movie Joker for an example.

The character who becomes the Joker, Arthur, is on a subway at one point getting beat up by these three Wall Street prep people. Suddenly, he pulls out a gun he has and shoots and kills two of them. The third one is wounded. At this point, Arthur chases after him as the man is trying to flee. He then shoots him again to finish him off.

I contend that the first two deaths in that scene were self-defense. The third one, was not. This was a man trying to get away and it was a kill that was done just for revenge. Sure, he had been doing evil earlier, but at this point he was no longer a threat.

But doesn’t 1 Peter 2 tell us to bear up under unjust suffering? Yes, if we are slaves who cannot do anything against our masters. That doesn’t say anything about real harm being done to innocents that puts them in a life-threatening situation.

But aren’t we told also repeatedly not to cling to our lives? Depends on the situation. If you take it in this hard and fast way, then if you have a terminal disease, it is wrong to seek treatment. If so, then shouldn’t Jesus have condemned all those people who came to Him for healing?

Some people might be concerned about the idea of good guys with guns. Keep in mind that apparently this church had several regular members who had concealed carries. This was the first instance we have heard of violence taking place in that church.

It’s also interesting that so many secularists keep telling me about how good man is and how far we have progressed, and yet at the same time don’t think your average man can carry a gun without wanting to shoot everyone. Now I fully believe that man is a fallen creature, but I also think, as well as I understand Aquinas did, that most of what we do in our lives is not sinful. Most of us do not live in fear of our fellow man constantly. Maybe some fellow men, but not all.

In the end, I contend that Christians ought to be able to defend the innocent from those who want to hurt them. I have often said that if someone wanted to physically assault my wife in any way, the only way they would be able to do so is literally over my dead body. I have a sworn vow to protect her from harm and intend to follow it through.

And if you are concerned about the evil within, well do something about it. I hear Christianity has a great system of repentance set up to deal with evil. Maybe give it a try?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Moral Combat: Why The War On Violent Video Games Is Wrong

What do I think of Patrick Markey and Christopher Ferguson’s book published by BenBella books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Gaming has always been a pastime of mine that I have highly invested in. I have heard for years the panic about video games leading to violence. This has often been assumed and taken for granted. If you let your children play violent video games, they will be desensitized to violence and be more prone to be violent. Besides, look at all these school shooters who played violent video games. What more do you need?

People who think that way need to read this book. It is an excellent look at how these claims are blown out of the water. What is going on is often bad science. People are often tested to see if they’re more aggressive after playing a video game. Question. How do you measure aggression?

You don’t let people walk the streets with a crowbar in their hand seeing if they’ll bludgeon someone. Instead, questions are often asked like would you put hot sauce in someone’s food if they didn’t want it? You could be asked if you would be prone to hurt someone’s feelings. Some people will want to do this anyway. Some people might want to do the hot sauce thing not because they’re aggressive, but because they like to pull pranks on people.

When some games have come out, such as some in the Grand Theft Auto series, it has been speculated that there would be a rise in crime. It was even compared to the Polio scare. Well, the game under question came out and yes, crime was affected.

Crime dropped.

What about school shootings? How about someone like Adam Lanza? He’s the guy who shot up the Sandy Hook school. It was said that he was a player of video games and this without the hard evidence and people ran with it. Well, it is true. Lanza was spending significant time playing video games.

He had a reputation of spending hours at the arcade playing Dance Dance Revolution.

What’s interesting is that sometimes, these killers had a history of NOT playing violent video games. This actually could have made them more prone to violent shootings. Why? Because games are nowadays a way that people come together and bond together socially. People who are not doing that can be social outcasts and feel rejected by their peers and be more prone to shootings.

What about Columbine? Contrary to what is thought, the killers had not made a level of DOOM modeled after their high school. Also, the skills needed in a video game to shoot the enemies do not transfer to real life. My father-in-law is quite good at sharpshooting I have been told. Let’s go back to when I used to play Goldeneye. I could play that all day and still go to a shooting range with him and do horrible even if I was the best player of Goldeneye there was.

Many games nowadays also contain moral judgments. Some people will go through a game again and try to be as ruthless as possible just to see what happens, but most will actually start to think about these moral issues. Final Fantasy X can get one thinking about the relationship between religion and technology and what it requires to atone for one’s sin.

What about video game addiction? This can vary. When Breath of the Wild first came out, many of my friends were spending hours playing this. Does this constitute addiction? No. This is just guys getting a new toy and playing with it. Sadly, there are cases where intense horror has taken place, such as the daughter who starved to death while her mother played World of Warcraft.

A child could play 3-4 hours of video games a day and still function well with their peers and make good grades. If they are able to do this, that does not constitute addiction. By contrast, someone could play 1-2 hours and have their grades suffer and that could constitute addiction.

What about obesity and video games? This sounds like a no-brainer, but again, it isn’t. Take away a child’s video games and it doesn’t mean they’ll jump outside and start running and jumping. They can just as easily find something else to do. If anything, now we have games that require movement which are being good exercise. My wife once decided she really wanted to lose weight and did it with the DDR exercise plan. What’s that? It’s playing the aforementioned Dance Dance Revolution. It worked. She lost 30 pounds.

More and more games are coming out like this. It can also be better than going to a gym because with video games, you can get instantaneous rewards that motivate you, such as a high score or trophies or achievements unlocked or reaching new levels.

Now many of you know that this is an apologetics page. What does this have to do with apologetics? First, we need to be people of truth in every field. I don’t care for football at all, but that doesn’t mean I want to spread a claim that playing football makes someone more violent if it isn’t true.

Second, a work like this can show us how misinformation can spread easily. Many people who complained about certain games revealed by their words that they had never played or seen those games and were going on secondhand information. This never does our cause any good.

Third, if we attack false causes of violence, we never get at the real cause. No one doubts the nobility of the desire of people to want to reduce violence by eliminating violent video games, but if that is not the cause, then you could eliminate all such games and violence would still take place.

Fourth, paranoia should never be our friend as Christians. It’s easier to go after something else rather than saying that maybe we should do a better job of raising our children and teaching them good from evil. How about a parent instead of banning some games, maybe try something like renting through Gamefly first and, I know this is bizarre, playing it with your kid and talking about it. If you fear some of the content, go on YouTube and watch the videos of the game and discuss why or why not the child should be allowed to play it.

Also as Christians, we don’t want to unnecessarily alienate video game players. The overwhelming majority of us, including me, grew up playing games and we are not violent people at all. As someone with Aspergers, I was also pleased to hear about how games have helped people on the spectrum socialize and I can attest that that is true.

So my fellow gamers, game on. Enjoy and have fun. We all want to end unnecessary violence in our world today. Maybe now we can go and find the real culprit.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Some Thoughts On Gun Violence

What is the real cause of the violence we see in our society? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

At the start, I will tell you my political persuasion on the issues involving mass shootings. I am the type that is so conservative that I would only fly on planes that have two right wings. I am very much for the second amendment and the right to bear arms. However, when I listen to the gun debate there is something that is missed. I understand it being missed by the secularist mindset, but I don’t expect it to be missed by Christians.

Many times, we hear talk about needing help for mental illness. It’s true I am sure that many people who do the wicked acts of mass shootings could have mental illness. The problem with this is it creates a stigma on mental illness that keeps people with mental illness who would never do something like this from getting help. Imagine what it would be like if whenever the news talked about something like ALS, we also heard it in connection with mass shootings.

Here’s one of the main problems with this. I am not at all opposed to good therapy and psychiatric medicine. I think such tools are extremely helpful. My wife’s own therapist has said that she thinks everyone should see a therapist and even many therapists see therapists.

If we paint the problem as mental illness, then the solution would be that if we could eliminate this mental illness, we would eliminate these mass shootings. This overlooks one of the most important Christian doctrines. It assumes that man as he is will not do evil and that if we can just fix that defective part in his brain, we can prevent that.

But the real problem is not really mental illness, though it can compound that.

The real problem is sin.

And we all have it.

Earlier I said that some people with mental illness would never do something like a mass shooting. I am not recanting that, but I don’t think it’s entirely accurate. In actuality, I think every single one of us, you and me both, are capable of greater evil than we can imagine.

Maybe you wouldn’t now, but if you were in a position of power, would you take the opportunity? Most of us don’t wake up in the morning thinking of some great wrong we want to do. Consider having an affair. Most husbands and wives don’t wake up in the morning and say “I think I’ll ruin my marriage today and have an affair.”

Instead, it starts with the opportunity to have lunch with a co-worker or just talk to someone casually. Before too long, one is looking for more and more opportunities to be with that person. Then suddenly they find themselves meeting one another in a hotel room. The evil just came gradually.

It’s hard to avoid looking back to Nazi Germany when thinking about this. Look at the evil that they did. We know now it is very easy to lead people to do great evil. Milgram established this with his experiments.

We don’t need to look that far. Consider the abortion industry. We have killed numerous babies in our culture and many people have done so with a clean conscience. This is defended as a moral right. (Ironically, these same people complain about God in the Old Testament putting children to death. Go figure.) This evil has become so normalized many people no longer see it as evil.

Chesterton once said we don’t differ on what we will call evils so much. We differ on what we will call excusable. I really think a lot of gun violence goes back to the sexual revolution and the breakdown of the family. What a shock that many of the evils we tolerate, sex outside of marriage, pornography, abortion, homosexual practice, etc. are all connected to sex. Even now society is trying to make pedophilia more acceptable. Many Christians I know have no problem with the concept of living together before marriage, something Christians for hundreds of years would have condemned immediately.

It’s easy to blame the problem on many other factors. If we remove violent video games, this will help deal with it! I don’t care for many overly violent video games, but at the same time, I am a gamer and one of the most peaceful people I think there is. The overwhelming majority of gamers are not like this.

Maybe it’s guns? Guns can give people a means to do something, but the evil is still there in their heart. Oklahoma City took place with everyday products. 9/11 was done with planes. People have used cars to go on mass rampages. I really don’t think gun control laws will work. Such laws will take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens while criminals who don’t care about the law will use them. If you really don’t care about the law against murder, you’re not gonna care about the one against having a gun.

At the heart, the real issue is sin and we need to return to that. The reality is you and I are both capable of being the next mass shooter. The huge overwhelming majority of us won’t do something like this, but if we dare deny our capability, then we are denying the great evil we have within us. If any of us had the opportunity, we need to be vigilant. One of the surest ways you can fall for an evil is to say it is one you will never commit.

If the issue is sin, there is only one solution. Christianity. It alone is the means to deal with sin in one’s life. Politics has its purpose, but it cannot save society. Only Jesus can do that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/23/2017: Kevin Schut

What’s coming up Saturday? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

People who know me know that while I am certainly big into apologetics, I’ve also had a love of video games all my life. A few months ago, someone gifted me Console WarsThis is a book about the war between Sega and Nintendo, which was a major war in my generation growing up. As I was reading it, I read about Emil Heidkamp who was a devout Christian in the field and helping to produce video games, including such classics as Castlevania. I wondered why it was with my love of games that I had never had someone come on my show to talk about that.

I took to Amazon then to see what I could find. Perhaps you could find some people writing on this, but are there really any professionals in the field? Is there any really scholarly work? Fortunately, I found what I was looking for. I found someone with a Ph.D. in a related field who had written a book on video games and Christianity. He took a very positive approach as he is still a gamer himself and still a devout Christian. I got in touch with him and he was very interested in coming on and now the date has come. The book is Of Games and God and the author is Kevin Schut. So who is he?

According to his bio:

Kevin Schut is the Associate Dean of the School of the Arts, Media, and Culture and Professor of Media and Communication at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC, Canada.  He’s the author of the book Of Games and God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games, and he spends his spare time playing Mario Kart, King’s Quest, and Overcooked with his 3 daughters.

We’ll be talking about various connections between Christianity and video games. How can Christians partake in a field where there is violence as there is in many video games? Does this go against the teachings of Christ? Schut has three daughters, and yet we know that there are many games out there that do in fact highly sexualize women. What are we to say about that?

What about video game addictions? Don’t people spend way too much time playing video games? Some people have even suffered health problems and death due to video game addiction. Are we enabling people to get addicted? Why should we even be playing video games when we have to spread the message of the Gospel?

Also, what about Christians who want to go into the gaming industry and produce games? What do they need to be doing? Are we just going to wind up like we have in other media fields where we will produce media that will be great at reaching other Christians, but not so great at reaching everyone else? Haven’t Christian video games, like Christian movies for the most part, been just awful?

I hope you’ll be listening next time as I combine two great interests of mine for an interview and we talk with someone who has looked in-depth at these kinds of issues. Please be looking for the next episode of the show. If you haven’t yet, also go on ITunes and leave a positive review for the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Of Games and God

What do I think of Kevin Schut’s book published by Brazos Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Dr. Schut’s book is an excellent one that I can easily say that when I got to the end, I was rather surprised. I hadn’t been keeping that much track. This is the kind of book I wish I had had when I was in high school and dealing with issues of doubt and such. I have seen enough damage done by people who are critical of the medium of video games but have not engaged with it.

For my part, I am going to turn 37 later this year and yet I still consider myself a gamer. My favorite kinds of games are RPGs. I am still bothered that I have not got to play Breath of the WildFinal Fantasy is another favorite series of mine and it’s my wife’s hope that somehow we can save up enough money or find someone generous so that we can get a Nintendo Switch so she can play the new Pokemon games.

Like me, Schut is also a gamer. He has seriously wrestled with the arguments on both sides. His favorite games seem to be ones like Red Dead Redemption and Civilization. He also does not deny at all that he is thoroughly committed to Jesus. So what does he say about the games?

Schut does say we need to listen to criticisms. Take time to pay attention to what is being said. At the same time, we should be hoping for critical evaluation and not self-righteous evaluation.

Also, we are living in an age where games are more and more common, including games on our IPhones and Kindles and such. Many people who would likely never play a video game have no problem playing something like Words With Friends for instance. There’s also games that are popular such as Candy Crush which has now become a gameshow, and Angry Birds, which has had its own movie.

He also speaks out against our attempts to Christianize everything. Something is not automatically Christian because it mentions Jesus. Many of us would say the Chronicles of Narnia are Christian, which indeed they are, but you will not find Jesus explicitly mentioned anywhere in them. Our Christian material is usually preachy and we’re very good at reaching ourselves, but not everyone else.

We also have to pay attention to what kind of medium a video game is. One noted difference is that it is interactive. No matter how many times you read The Lord of the Rings nothing new will happen. The story will be the same. No matter how many times you watch the movie, nothing new will happen. Every time you play the game, something different will happen. Of course, there can often be some overriding parameters set for you by the designers of the game, but you have great freedom and influence on the story. No two playings will be the same.

He also does get into the topic of a demonic scare. I was pleased to hear like me, he had a great interest in Dungeons and Dragons as well as Magic: The Gathering. For me, in high school, my friends and I didn’t care for the school lunch at all, so rather than have lunch, we’d go to the library and play Magic all afternoon together.

Unfortunately, too many people have brought into scare stories about such things. Consider the Pulling Report for instance. People who latch onto this do a disservice to those who play the games. Most people who are playing these games are for the most part the same as any other interest. It’s sadly the few that no doubt have other issues going on beforehand that are emphasized.

This naturally gets us into the question of violence in video games. Schut doesn’t shy away from this one, though he does say each person needs to evaluate this for themselves as well. It could be that part of our world is we live in a fallen world and sometimes violence could be what needs to be done. One aspect of this I was considering is that if I’m playing a game like Final Fantasy, one could consider reasoning with a human being, but if a hungry carnivorous creature is coming after me, reason will not work.

Another issue is game addiction. Games do have a tendency to draw us in, reward our achievements, and make us want to do more. There will be a little bit more on this later, but let’s discuss how it relates to addiction. Can some people get addicted? Yes. Still, there is no proven condition like this. Many people do learn to manage their time well. The question is not what do you do, but what do you not do? He also says a temporary obsession is okay. When Breath of the Wild came out, many of my friends were indeed engrossed in that for awhile. (And I hate them for it in a loving Christian way.)

What about sexuality in video games? It is only in the world of video games that a woman can go into battle wearing pretty much a bikini and count that as armor. Video games are usually a world dominated by men, but there are plenty of female gamers. (My wife is playing Pokemon as I write.) The representation on the other hand can be quite different. Women are usually eye candy. There are some exceptions, such as Samus Aran, but we only need think of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider and the obsession with some people on finding a nude code for her.

Now to what I said there would be more on later when talking about addiction. What about education? Video games could be a great source of education. For instance, when I studied Greek in Bible College, we used a program called Parson’s Greek Tutor. I would like very much to get my hands on this again as the interactive format made it much easier for me to learn the material and at the time, I was moving ahead of the class even. Every round was a game and I wanted to get perfect and would settle for nothing less which made sure I learned the material very well. As one working on learning the language now, I look back and wish I still had that.

Video games can be used in such a way for us today. There is something real in the concept of edutainment. Ask a gamer about the information they need in a game and many times they will know it because they have to know it to play well. It is practical knowledge for them.

But what about concerns about the digital age killing our minds? To some extent, this is true. To another extent, the digital age is here to stay and we have to do the most with it that we can. Every new medium brings with it changes. The print medium brought changes as does the internet medium and the video game medium. It’s easy to strike at the medium instead of the human sinful tendency.

Schut also has a section on Christians in the video game industry. Many of these are dedicated people and want to do the best they can. They see their work as an act of service to God in trying to make the best game possible. There are few explicitly Christian video games, and this could be a good thing as sadly, many of those are just awful and only reach those of us who are already Christians. Abandoning the industry will only do for that what it does for Hollywood. We need Christians in every field being salt and light.

No discussion would be complete without the social aspects. I remember years ago getting together with my brother-in-law and some of his friends. No doubt, I was the youngest one there, but we spent all of one afternoon playing Goldeneye together. In Charlotte, I would get together with some friends every Sunday night. After some time playing Super Smash Brothers Brawl we would go bowling. When it came time for my bachelor party, all we did was bring the Wii over to a guy’s apartment complex who had a big screen and played Smash Brothers all night long together.

Games have had a way of bringing people together and uniting them. Gaming conventions are places where people can very often be themselves and form friendships easily. It could be that the gamer today is no longer the single guy sitting in his mother’s basement.

If you’re a gamer, you owe it to yourself to read Schut’s book. It is a gripping looking at a neglected medium and one that we need more of. I appreciate that he sent me a copy for review purposes and I look very much forward to interviewing him on my podcast about this.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

ISIS. We Don’t Hate You

What do we say to our enemies? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometime in our day and age, it’s hard to be able to show love to your enemies. Many of us remember well 9/11. We remember the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil. We see in our minds the image of people on the upper stories leaping out of the windows. We remember watching those towers come down.

We remember also people coming on the news afterwards trying to tell us that Islam is a religion of peace, and so they have told us. They have told us after every single terrorist attack that has happened. It’s really hard to think that it is and we wonder how we as individuals, not as the political entity of a nation, are to respond to ISIS.

ISIS in their magazine recently put out and article called “Why We Hate You And Why We Fight You.” It’s a real article and you can see it here. A commenter on Mike Licona’s Facebook page said when shared that it would be awesome if someone wrote from a Christian perspective to counter about why we don’t hate them.

Well why not?

First, “We hate you first and foremost, because you are disbelievers, you reject the oneness of Allah.”

Naturally, this is about the Trinity. Of course, we could respond and say that Muslims deny the full deity of the Son of God which would also be blasphemous. Many of them have an idea that Jesus was conceived of some sexual union between God and Mary. Not at all. Still, it’s important to note we wish to honor God properly and to honor the Son as we honor the Father per John 5:23. This will get us into apologetics arguments for why we believe the NT is reliable and why we believe in the highest Christology that we can.

The main difference between us is we think God is best to give out the final judgment rather than us. We like you would rather see you converted than see you dead. That is so much for us that as individuals, we are willing to wait it out and pray for our enemies and bless those who persecute us, per Jesus’s instructions in the Sermon on the Mount.

Second, “We hate you because your secular, liberal societies permit the very things that Allah has prohibited while banning many of the things He has permitted”

Some of these things we’ll agree on actually. We don’t care for the way the homosexual lobby has transformed America. Still, the difference is we don’t want to win over our enemy with the sword. It ultimately won’t convince him. It’s also not allowed in the way of Jesus.

As for separation of church and state, we seek to give a place where everyone can worship freely. That may seem risky to you, but to us, ideally it’s supposed to allow everyone to live in freedom. Here for instance, I disagree thoroughly with your religion of Islam, but I would surely defend the rights of Muslims to build a mosque and worship as they see fit.

Next, we also remember that according to Romans, we were all once enemies of God and living our own lives putting ourselves at the center. Okay. Some of us still struggle with that. We also remember that while we were His enemies, God sent His Son to save us. Our fellow Americans and such who disagree with us are in the same boat. Anyone of them could also follow in the footsteps of Paul for all we know.

Third, “In the case of the atheist fringe, we hate you and wage are against you because you disbelieve in the existence of your Lord and Creator.”

And again, we agree. We don’t care for atheism. The difference is we don’t hate atheists. It’s atheism that is the problem. We also think it’s foolish to deny the reality of a creator and yes, we could all bear to think about our final judgment a lot more. Still, as with the second, we prefer to use the methods of Christ and besides, we’d rather show the idea is just wrong instead of killing those who hold it.

Fourth, “We hate you for your crimes against Islam and wage war against you to punish you for your transgressions against our religion.”

We have seen plenty of this towards us as well. In fact, our own military has burnt Bibles sent to our soldiers. Yet still, this all falls under the second theme. We would rather show that the religion is wrong instead of going the path of warfare.

Fifth, “We hate you for your crimes against Muslims; your drones and fighter jets bombs, kill, and maim our people around the world.”

Based on what came first, I’m quite sure that even if this stopped immediately, you’d still have the same attitude. This goes to what we do as a nation. If we look at nations that have been attacked by Muslims, we take that seriously. If an innocent nation was being attacked, we would also take that seriously. Many of us were living in peace when 9/11 took place. That kind of matter is taken by our government as an act of war and like you, we want to defend our women and children as well.

Sixth, “We hate you for invading our lands and fight you to repel you and drive you out.”

In the West, there is no real desire to build an empire. With our nuclear capabilities, we could have done so easily if we wanted to. We have no desire to wipe you off of the map. We would prefer to see people living in freedom. Still, once again, we are not to hate our enemies. We are to love them.

“What’s important to understand here is that although some might argue that your foreign policies are the extent of what drives our hatred, this particular reason for hating you is secondary, hence the reason we addressed it at the end of the above list. The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam…As much as some liberal journalist would like you to believe that we do what we do because we’re simply monsters with no logic behind our course of action, the fact is that we continue to wage—and escalate—a calculated war that the west thought it had ended several years ago. So you can continue to believe that those ‘despicable terrorists’ hate you because of your lattes and your Timberlands, or you can accept reality and recognize that we will never stop hating you until you embrace Islam.”

And here is where we are different. Your reason for hating us is we don’t embrace Islam. Our reason for loving you is God. God loves you and He loved us even while we were enemies. In fact, His love for us never changed. We didn’t earn it at all. We don’t become Christians so He will love us. We become Christians because He loves us.

And what is that love? It is not sentimental warm fuzzies. It is not what you would see in some Disney movie. It is the active sacrificing of your good for the good of the other. For instance, many of us who are husbands frequently put our own desires on the line for the other. You also know this in saying that you want to protect your women and children. You would be willing to die for your women and children. So are we.

What our nation does as a nation we cannot say. What happens if we are attacked directly could lead into that self-defense, especially with our wives and children at stake. It is nothing we take delight over. It has been said that all good soldiers should hate war but sometimes it is a necessity.

An ultimate difference between us is Jesus is our supreme example whereas yours is Muhammad. Jesus has been our greatest incentive to holiness and a life of true love and sacrifice for one another. No doubt, we fail miserably at times, but we all still seek to try.

Of course, if you want to keep going after us, you’re going to do so and that will just perpetuate the cycle. We would prefer you take the way of Christ. Perhaps you should look into the case for Christianity. What have you to lose? If Islam is true, there is no reason to fear. Start by reading the New Testament. At this, you might ask me if I’ve read the Koran. Indeed I have. I hope to someday soon read some of the hadiths as well. I think it’s part of being informed.

Unfortunately, we suspect you will likely keep going down the same path, but we Christians in America should make it a point to pray for you. Our opponents are not flesh and blood but principalities. It is the ideologies that are our ultimate enemy, not the people who hold them. We hope you’ll see things the same way.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Sex And Violence In The Bible

What do I think of Joseph W. Smith’s book from P & R Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

sexandviolenceintheBible

When you see a book called Sex and Violence in the Bible: A Survey of Explicit Content In The Holy Book, it’s tempting to think the worse. Ah Yes. Here we go. Another book from an atheist meant to show us just how incredibly dirty that our Bible really is. Here we go. It’s another claim about how there are so many passages in the Bible that you will never hear talked about in a church service. Once again, we are seeing that the Bible can be a book that has passages that are highly disturbing to read about.

If you thought that, you would be partially right.

Except this book isn’t by an atheist but by an evangelical Christian.

The Bible in fact does contain many passages that would be considered dirty. It does contain passages we don’t talk about in church services. It does have passages that are highly disturbing to read about. Finally, we should be thankful it has those because the world we live in contains a lot of filth and a lot of realities that we don’t want to talk about and yet we have to face them.

The book starts with the story about Smith showing a movie at a church and because the movie had some questionable material in it, it was later said that it was not the kind of movie that should have been shown. Smith thought about this and how the Bible contains such material as well and what would happen if we turned the whole Bible into a movie where we showed everything it talked about. What rating would that movie get? Would we show it in church?

Good questions.

Smith starts with sex. Let’s face it. We think about sex constantly. I know we men do and I’m sure women do far more than I realize. It is on our televisions and it is in our films. We can see this especially since Fifty Shades of Grey is supposed to be hitting the movie screens soon after being a best-selling book. Sex is extremely popular and since we think about it all of the time, doesn’t it make sense that the Bible would mention it?

Sometimes, the Bible does use euphemisms to describe sex. There are very few words that describe the action itself in the good book, whereas in our world, you can find an abundance of claims. (Getting laid, doing it, making love, coitus, etc. Some terms are technical, some are positive and romantic, and some are just dirty) The details of what happens in sex are never really described, though the longings can be quite detailed at times. Just consider what is said about Song of Songs! For some thinking on that, remember with euphemisms that a hand is not always a hand.

One place the Bible is normally quite positive in describing sexuality is in describing the female, and why should this be a surprise? Some might say this is because the Bible was written by men and what are men thinking about but the female body? Perhaps, but it could also be because woman is created as the representation of beauty in creation. Women have a great interest in their beauty and it is celebrated in the Scriptures. Her beauty is seen as a prize and a gift, though certainly a man is to respect that gift. The female body is spoken of quite clearly in many places although some parts of her do indeed have euphemisms.

But there is a dark side. You will find times where sex is seen in a negative light. The sections on violence for instance contain accounts of rape. Other than that, you will also find cases of incest that actually take place in the Bible. You will find stories of adulterous affairs that take place. What has happened? It is because just as in our world, man has taken a good gift of God, sex, and used it for evil.

Violence? Yep. Violence is in there. There are cases of murder and torment and burning and things of that sort. Smith devotes chapters to many forms of violence and where they take place and sees what commentators say about them. Is this graphic? Yes. Is it often matters we do not want to think about? Yes. So why bring them up? Because they are matters we should think about.

That’s the point. If we are to take Scripture seriously, we have to take all of it seriously, including the parts that can be difficult. Maybe we should hear a sermon on Ezekiel 16 or 23. Maybe we should discuss regularly the kinds of violence that show up in the Bible. Could it be the reason so many Christians become atheists is because of what they are stunned to read about in the Bible that their church never prepared them for? Could it be we have a problem with sexual ethics in the church today because we never really discuss what the Bible has to say about sex?

Smith’s work is quite thorough and one worth looking into. These are the kinds of things we need to talk about also to show us how serious the problem of sin is that it distorts sex and that it leads to violence. It is then that we can also truly appreciate the work of the cross and how much we need to embrace sanctification. Those interested in these matters will be benefited by having this book in their library.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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