Christian Liberty: Dungeons and Dragons
Q: I volunteer with Set Free Ministries at a Missouri prison. A Christian inmate asked me about Dungeons & Dragons and similar games showing violence and murder. Could you please help me get a better grasp on what you would like for him to know about the Christian viewpoint concerning games such as these?
A: As I commented to the previous questioner, we may bind ourselves to our own invented laws. Most of the time, why we do something counts for more than what we do. You and this inmate are asking, “Does God say, ‘Thou shalt not play Dungeons & Dragons’?” I’ve read all 66 canonical books of the Bible and most of the Apocrypha and have never seen this prohibition.
I suggest that the inmate instead ask, “Is playing this game uplifting — or at least value-neutral?” He should be concerned about his reasons for playing and the message his play gives to others. The game itself has less impact than his reasons for playing and his actions while playing.
A game’s origin and content aren’t enough by themselves to prejudice me against them. After all, I regularly learn valuable information from nonchristian writers. They don’t bring harm because I come to them knowing my place as a baptized child of God.
Even the “violence and murder” you mention are not surefire signs of ungodly games or literature. J. R. R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings uses fighting and dying to tell a tale of good’s triumph over evil. While they don’t proclaim the Gospel, these books help illuminate its truth for those whose eyes are already opened by God’s Holy Spirit. Holy Scripture contains more violence than do many games, books, or films. Examine the lives of Jacob, Judah, Samson, or David and you begin to realize how much violence and immoral behavior was part of these men’s lives.
However, both the Bible and much good literature also remind us that we cannot view violence or other upsetting, often wrong behavior in a vacuum. If it’s not gratuitous but helps to tell a good story and make a valid point, violence may be a necessary part of the work. Similarly, the mere presence of sexual immorality doesn’t automatically make a text salacious or its readers sinful. For instance, would we appreciate the depth of God’s forgiveness if we didn’t fully understand both David’s sexual sin with Bathsheba and the violence he worked against her husband Uriah?
I encourage you to lead this inmate to examine his own motivation for playing to determine his reasons for playing, the effect he receives from the game, and the Christian witness he makes by participating in it.
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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.
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