Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Eavesdropping on a Bunch of Gamers, Part I (Classic)

Back in the day, this was the first of two posts in my church e-newsletter stemming from my "appearance" as Geek of the Week. I've spruced it up a bit for your reading enjoyment. (You can read Part II as well.)

Right around Christmas 2006, I was given the opportunity to write & answer questions for folks from around the world at the premier boardgaming website, BoardGameGeek. (Of course, the honor has the unfortunate title of Geek of the Week. Oh, well.) I talked about my favorite games, how I got thrown out of Disneyland as a teenager, traded quips with folks, and generally had a very good time. (If you'd like to read the whole conversation, you can check it out here.)

But I'm known in the gaming hobby not just for my love of "fluffy" games but also for my former "day job" as a pastor - and so I got some very insightful questions about Christianity & faith. What follows is an extended exchange with Virre AnnergÄrd (from FÀrgelanda, Sweden), David Seddon (from the East Midlands, United Kingdom) and myself.


David: Do you see any conflicts/tensions between evangelicals and more traditional Christians (of whatever denomination)? If so, how do you personally deal with and feel about that?

That's a tough question... I assume by "evangelicals" you mean "those who believe in the need for a personal decision to surrender your life to Jesus Christ" instead of some kind of political affiliation. [I was wrong, btw - David was asking about worship style issues... but that's a subject for another day.]

If that's true, then the tension between evangelicals and what commonly gets called "mainline" churches is not about worship style or organization but instead about theology - the prime question is the nature of Jesus Christ & our relationship to Him.

A blog I particularly like (GetReligion) has suggested over & over that the following three questions could tell you a great deal about the theological bias of religion reporters. I'd suggest that they would also help clarify the tension you're observing:
(1) Are the biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus accurate? Was this a real - even if mysterious - event in real time? Did it really happen?
(2) Is salvation found through Jesus Christ, alone? Is Jesus the Way or a way? Thus, it was highly symbolic that the Episcopalians tabled a resolution declaring the church's "unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved" and acknowledging "the solemn responsibility placed upon us to share Christ with all persons when we hear His words, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me' (John 14:6). . . ."
(3) Is sex outside of the sacrament of marriage a sin? The question is a matter of moral theology, not national policy. The controversial word is sin.
My answers, btw, are "yes", "yes" and "yes".

How do I personally deal with that tension? I choose to work with pastors/churches who disagree with those statements only as far as I can continue to express my personal convictions. When I'm considering whether or not to be involved, the explicit or implied pressure to "sit down & be quiet" is a deciding factor in me walking away.

A different question - one you didn't explore - is how do I deal with non-Christians as individuals? Maybe someone will ask that. :-)

Virre: OK, how do you deal with non-Christians as individuals?

Excellent question. :-)
When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn't talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don't even eat with such people.
It isn't my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, "You must remove the evil person from among you."     1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (NLT)
Shortened down, the real problem for people who claim to be believers in Jesus is not how they relate to non-Christians... it's how we relate to those who claim to follow Jesus but then live something else.
The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips but deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.     Brennan Manning
As long as folks who believe differently from me allow me the freedom to speak about my faith & live it out, I'm a happy camper. It's my job to do the same - to give others freedom to worship in ways that I think are wrong & spiritually dangerous without interference.

BTW, let's define "interference" - that means I don't physically or emotionally intimidate or prevent people from doing what they want. That doesn't mean I can't criticize, debate or point out the foibles of a religious system. (Of course, any critique I offer should be seasoned with grace & respectful.)
Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don't miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.     Colossians 4:5-6 (MSG)
Does that make sense?

Quote to Ponder
We are witnessing the emergence of a new world... The phenomenon has been noted by many who tag the emerging culture as post-Christian, pre-Christian, or postmodern. The point is, the world is profoundly different than it was at the middle of the last century, and everybody knows it. But knowing it and acting on it are two different things. So far, the North American church largely has responded with heavy infusions of denial, believing the culture will come to its senses and come back around to the church.
     Reggie McNeal, The Present Future

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