Magic the Gathering (Or Christians and fantasy, yay or nay?)

Discussion in 'The Pilgrims Progress' started by austinbrown2, Apr 29, 2008.

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  1. austinbrown2

    austinbrown2 Puritan Board Freshman

    Greetings all,

    I would like some people to offer me their opinions about magic/spells/sorcery in fantasy games. For anyone (Like myself) who enjoys playing video games or card games like Magic the Gathering, or who has at one time or another enjoyed role playing (Such as in AD&D), I have gone back and forth in my mind about the Christian’s involvement with such things.
    What do you think?

    Specifically, do you think the Biblical injunction to avoid sorcery or divination or the like extends to, say, Magic the Gathering? Naturally, one isn’t really casting spells when they play this game, but are the parallels of such a nature that the one playing such a game is committing sin by conceptual nearness (If that makes sense).

    This question has become more real for me because I have two younger boys now who love games like their daddy. Moreover, I have close Christian friends who play Magic the Gathering and they have asked me what I think due to my having walked with the Lord for a longer time. So the issue isn’t academic.

    I fear offering the wrong counsel. I mean really, who wants to mess with something that is an abomination to the LORD.

    So why not just play it safe? Well, I suppose there would be no harm in that, but frankly, if it is permissible, I enjoy it, as do my friends, so why ban it unless one should? Then there is also the question of consistency. If elements of magic should be avoided, then maybe one should also seriously consider violence and other sketchy elements in games. But at the end of the day, maybe raising the slippery slope point clear down to condemning, say, Disney or the Smurfs, is merely an attempt to justify what is clearly wrong.

    So again, have any of you wrestled with these questions? And if so, what do you think?

    Many thanks,


    Member of RPCNA, Kokomo, IN
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2008
  2. ADKing

    ADKing Puritan Board Junior

    You already acknowledge that sorcery, witchcraft etc. is an abomination to the Lord so I won't paste all the several passages which state that. If this is so, why would a Christian enjoy fantasizing about something he knows the Lord hates. I may not actually murder someone, but I dare say pretending to do so and fantasizing about it is sinful. We must hate what is sinful thoroughly in order that we may fill our minds with those things that are holy (Philippians 4.8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.)

    For what it's worth, I think we are too soft on "entertainment" that casually accepts violence and other "sketchy elements".
  3. Grymir

    Grymir Puritan Board Graduate

    Hi AustinBrown2!

    I'm probably the only person on PB who will give a thumbs up to Dungeons and Dragons. I played for years (I was the Dungeon Master) and it can be harmless. I laid a few ground rules for all my players. They had to be 'good', no 'neutral' or 'evil' alignment choice allowed (and this was in my pagan days). I also used Middle Earth as my setting. Ahh, the stories I could tell. Our best was in defeating the Temple of Elemental Evil, or the Desert of Desolation series (that was more like an Indiana Jones movie!)

    It depends alot on the group playing the game. Some use it wrongly, and do things that are not right. Then the game would not be good. But if it's used rightly, (which most do), then it's a good game that has a Knights of the round table feel to it, that fuels the imagination and provides good entertainment. The sorcery used in AD&D is far different than the real stuff, and is categorically different. (Harry Potter was far closer to the real stuff). The Magic card game is even 'lamer' so to speak, and isn't even close.

    Now I am also taking only about AD&D, (and Magic cards). There are some creepy role-playing games out there that should be avoided like the plague. I never got into them as they were sooo lame (or gross), when compaired to AD&D.

    In my final analysis, it depends largely on the group. Have fun and roll that D-20 to make that attack roll on that orc sneaking up behind you.
  4. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    I see no problem with playing these games. The G-man offers a few practical tips in the previous post.

    For those who follow the "why would you fantisize about a sin" line of arguement (as ADKing does), I would say that they are following a reducto ad sillyness path.

    Really do you let your boys play "cowboys & indians"? "Cops & robbers"? If you do then aree you training them to have a fantasy about murder, or life on the run from the law?

  5. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    You are not supposed to admit this in public! I suppose you are now going to tell us about your collection of old "Heavy Metal" magazines?
  6. Grymir

    Grymir Puritan Board Graduate

    Only the one's with the guitar tabs in them! :p
  7. Sonoftheday

    Sonoftheday Puritan Board Sophomore

    I never played D&D or magic, but I spent many many of my teenage hours playing a mage or even worse a necromancer on games such as Diablo and Ultima Online. I will still play games involving such material today if I had the time. Elder Scrolls: Oblivion has been calling my name for a couple years now I just havent had the time and money to give it a go.

    It seems to me this stuff can fall into the same category as eating meat formally sacrificed to gods. You can eat the meat so long as you know beyond doubt that it's only bologna.
  8. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Would it be okay to play fantasy with other things like marriage (acts of marriage), stealing cars, or hating someone? If not then why would it be okay to play fantasy games with things that God calls an abomination.

    Enquiring minds want to know.

    I disagree with games like Grand Theft Auto even. They are stupidly sinful and teach our kids it is okay to fantasize about evil.
  9. austinbrown2

    austinbrown2 Puritan Board Freshman

    To ADKing

    To ADKing: I appreciate your post. And to be honest, that resonates with me.

    Do you think there is a place, whatsoever, for fantasy magic (be it magical weapons, special abilities or mages that can conjure up fireballs, etc.) that doesn't fall under the biblical category of sorcery, etc., and would therefore be something different and permissible?

    Along these lines, might playing, say, Magic the Gathering, not prove to be fantasizing about things sinful? I know that my friends don’t consider the game or playing the game an engagement in the real thing, nor an engagement in fantasizing about doing real sorcery.

    A few more questions. And please consider these honest and sincere questions. What about something like Lord of the Rings and the magic in that? Would it be wrong for a Christian to write in that manner or pretend to use such magic or magical weapons in a game?

    Lastly, might a change in universe alter the circumstances of magic? By change in universe, I’m thinking of a fantasy realm created in literature or gaming environments. If the magic in those worlds aren’t tapping into satanic powers or engaging in what would be equivalent to our real world circumstances surrounding divination and witchcraft and the like, then would they be operating under a different system and not fall under the warning of Scripture? This may smack of 'trying to justify' and maybe it is. But it's a thought. Frankly, I enjoy fantasy. There's a part of me that would dislike chucking it all. But if it's wrong, I will. But if it's not, then I would like to spend my recreational time playing them.

    Just some thoughts and questions.

    Thank you,
  10. austinbrown2

    austinbrown2 Puritan Board Freshman

    To PuritanCovenater

    Greetings friend!

    Nice hat, btw.

    You make a good point about fantasizing about sexual acts or hatred. And yes, Grand Theft Auto is clearly appealing to base instincts. I don't doubt that. That of course creates the rub with 'playing magic.'

    I would first direct my questions posed to ADKing to you.

    Secondly, I would simply say: My fear is twofold with all of this: Becoming overly tight because of a slipperly slope viewpoint and therefore condemning what is permissable, or becoming too loosey goosey in the opposite direction because I see the folly of the slippery slope viewpoint (I mean really, am I going to tell people that Mario is acting cruely because he jumps on tons of turtles, or that Zelda is engaging in witchcraft because he drinks a potion that makes him suddenly jump higher, or Street Fighter for violence and sorcery because they shoot fireballs at other virtual fighters?).

    Thanks for the input.

  11. austinbrown2

    austinbrown2 Puritan Board Freshman

    To Sonoftheday

    Greetings fellow gamer, at least past gamer.

    I wish Paul had said that the games are beyond a doubt like balogna. But beyond not having to deal with the issue, I'm not quite sure that the two equate anyway. Let me think out loud. Meat sacrificed to an idol, according to Paul, doesn't alter the state of the meat so as to make it unholy for consumption. It is still meat and should be enjoyed as meat. But with magic in games, like, let's say Oblivian, you as the player are controlling a virtual entity that emulates (or do they?) actions in our world that the Lord detests.

    What do you think?

  12. austinbrown2

    austinbrown2 Puritan Board Freshman

    To Grymir

    Hey man,

    You said, "The sorcery used in AD&D is far different than the real stuff, and is categorically different. (Harry Potter was far closer to the real stuff). The Magic card game is even 'lamer' so to speak, and isn't even close."

    That, I think, is hiting at the heart of the issue. If the stuff is categorically different, then it isn't engaging or emulating the truly bad stuff. How, if I may ask, is Magic the Gathering "lamer" in your estimation? Both players are supposed to be wizards casting spells and some of the swamp spells, as you probably know, are pretty dark. But forgetting the swamp stuff, how is the whole structure and idea behind the card game different? Again, I think it is the crux.

    Listen, man. I love the strategy of the game. I'm very good at it, and I wish it were different (like some kind of technology or whatever). But it's not.


  13. ADKing

    ADKing Puritan Board Junior

    Brother, your questions do come across as sincere and honest. It is refreshing to see a fellow Christian genuinely wrestle though the issue with a desire to please God.

    First of all, let me say that I am not opposed to fiction as such. Neither am I sure that I can give a comprehensive answer to all your (very good) questions. But let me start with the principle from which I depart. Too often, we as Christians try to "find the line" when it comes to the law. But in addition to being commanded to refrain from certain sinful acivities (and the appearances of them) we also are given positive commands to fulfill, such as I quoted from Philippians 4 above.

    Negatively: We know magic, sorcery etc. are forbidden. But there is more than the overt act included. Consider the following guidlines of interpeting the law (from Q&A 99 in the Westminster Larger Catechism).

    2. That it (i.e. the law) is spiritual, and so reaches the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures.

    6. That under one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto.

    7. That: What is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places, to endeavor that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places.

    8. That in: What is commanded to others, we are bound, according to our places and callings, to be helpful to them; and to take heed of partaking with others in: What is forbidden them.

    I am afraid that games like D&D and Magic the Gathering come too close to being able to meet the above guidlines.

    But secondly, we are also told that in addition to avoiding the negatives in the law we must also fulfill the positive commandments such as Philippians 4.
    We must have our minds and affections conformed to God's. We must hate what he hates and love (positively) what he loves.

    I realize this doesn't get to your specifics, but I think they are helpful principles when thinking critically through these issues. May God give you grace and wisdom as you continue to seek to do his will.
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2008
  14. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I would like to, based on the reasoning of some in this post, also propose the great evil of playing checkers and chess:

    One cannot practice charity when one is trying to kill off the other person's checkers which symnbolize lives and armies do they not.

    Also, chess is even more brutal because it attempts assasination of the King and also the strategizing to kill another's armies.

    Also, while we are at it, CS Lewis's Lion WITCH and Warbrode is occultic as is Tolkien's novels.
  15. Grymir

    Grymir Puritan Board Graduate

    Hi Austinbrown2!

    By 'lamer' I meant less realistic. Magic seems like a card version of AD&D. I like the stories that are involved with AD&D. The grand epic of it all. Being a wizard in these games is very similar to Gandolf in Lord of the Rings. By less realistic, I was saying that it's less involved in Magic, than the AD&D kind. It's a presto, changeo, poof kind of stuff. Like I read in books like Lord of the Rings, or Conan, or the Elric of Melnibone saga. Makes a good story.

    This isn't fantasizing about the sorcery that's forbidden in the Bible. Real witchcraft is another whole breed. And what you learn in Magic or AD&D won't transfer into real witchcraft. That's why I say it categorically different. I really like what Kevin said about playing 'cops and robbers' as a kid. That game had shooting and killing in it, yet it was more about the story. Grand theft auto is different. And a good comparison. AD&D (Magic) is like the cops and robbers game, not Grand Theft Auto. (I just think that Grand theft auto is stupid and boring anyway. Who want to steal a car and shoot people when you could be saving the world from an evil warlord!)

    And I always add the caveat that I'm talking about AD&D (Magic) ONLY!! There are some bad ones out there. There are some boring ones too! (Anybody remember Gamma World?) Dungeon's and Dragon's is light-years above all the others.

    Oh, the memories! Grymir
  16. shackleton

    shackleton Puritan Board Junior

    I read all of the Conan series and Elric of Melnibone. I also read the Gore series and Tarzan. I also like to play Tom Clancy games on PC where I can do things that I could never do in real life. Speaking of things I cannot do in real life, I also like to play Tiger Woods Golf. If I could only play golf half as well as my character in the game I would be set...:lol: My character has beat Tiger pretty substantially on more than one occasion.
  17. austinbrown2

    austinbrown2 Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks ADKing

    Your comments are received with appreciation. At the end of the day, it is hard to deny the force of number 6. Naturally, and of course this 'naturally' might be exactly that, it's hard to give up something that I enjoy and feel isn't a participation in evil, primarily because I make a conscious effort to not think of it as mimicking evil, let alone practicing evil. But feelings often have little to do with making good choices. I'm aware of that.

    Thanks again for your godly counsel.

  18. austinbrown2

    austinbrown2 Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks Grymir

    Thanks man. I appreciate your comments.

    You know, it is much easier in my mind to justify AD&D. I played that for years and, as the GM, I would simply remove or 'sanctify' certain elements. I had control over it. But I wish I had similar control over something like Magic the Gathering. It would be nice to remove all doubt by making it higher technology or whatever.

    Frankly, I like the fantasy stuff, but there is a kernal of doubt in my mind, and that bothers me. I wish I felt certain on the issue, because honestly, the strategy behind Magic the Gathering is brilliant, and I love it. The competetion is great too. I wish there was a substitute out there, but there isn't, so far as I know.

    I'm not quite sure what to do with the whole slippery slope silliness that can come from taking a stand against Magic (like being a terrorist on Counter Strike, not utilizing just war theory in most combat games and yes, tearing down buildings in the old game Rampage, as a monster to boot.). Once one adopts a hard line on this, it's hard to avoid going down other paths that seem a bit extreme.

    Uhg. I don't know. I'll keep thinking about it.

    Thanks again,

  19. Augusta

    Augusta Puritan Board Doctor

    Austin, as an Oblivion fan, I am glad you are asking these questions. I haven't played in a while and so have kind of been able to avoid dealing with it. Our kids really like it though and still play so hubby and I are going to have to talk about this and make some decisions. It is a gorgeous and really fun game but you do end up doing things that are totally wrong in real life, like taking all of the possesions of someone you just killed even if it was in self-defefense. You knew going in that it was a lucrative cave. :p The greed and looting all through the game so you can afford things like magic rings and magical armor can't be good for the soul. :(
  20. staythecourse

    staythecourse Puritan Board Junior

    My two cents

    Waste o' time!

    A young mom asked me what I thought about Potter since her kids were devouring it. My response was not one of legalism but I explained that fantasy is non-reality. There are no such things as "good witches" or "lawful good fighters" (which code of law), clerics, etc (I know I am dating myself). It's hard work to keep out minds on Christ and hold every thought captive therefore spells, witches, and (when I was playing D & D) contemplating Beholders waste precious time and energy which could be put into godly activities. How can you even attempt to "pray without ceasing" in such a context. Am I making a sense?

    In other words, "let's move on" from "when I was a child" activities and onto greater things..."and we will," thank God.
  21. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Regardless whether Dungeons and Dragons is a lawful use of one's time, this argument presents an awfully slippery slope. What else "wastes precious time and energy which could be put into godly activities"? What is a "godly activity"? You'll end up in a monastery if you aren't careful. This is what almost drove me insane before I came to the Reformed tradition and realized that "spiritual activities" are not the only things which please God. Your reasoning leads to monasticism, and would probably prove to be quite hypocritical upon an examination of your own use of time.
  22. staythecourse

    staythecourse Puritan Board Junior

    No doubt I am a hypocrite

    But it's a matter of sanctification. I desire, like any believer, to grow in Christ-likeness and minimize (what I consider in my own life) time-wasting things. For example, I enjoy learning from this site (after a break for a while) but also listen to sermons, read, pray, etc.

    I will make sure it doesn't lead to monasticism. I appreciate the words of concern.
  23. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I understand. There's certainly good in listening to sermons, reading, and praying. Sorry for being so blunt; I just used to drive myself crazy because I always thought that I was "wasting my time" by doing X instead of praying or reading my bible.
  24. Sonoftheday

    Sonoftheday Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think this reasoning can be brought even farther to say that we should not read indulge in any work of fiction whatsoever, and should be very careful when reading biographies. Part of Loving our sovereign God is understanding that all He does is for our the Good of those who love Him, and to bring Himself glory. This means that no matter our position in life whether we are blessed with many riches or experiencing extreme persecution we should be confident that our current position is to serve God's glory. Indulging in any form of fantasy, whatsoever, by this same logic is a denial of God's promise that all will work for the good of his elect. To take in fantasy is to say that I am unhappy with my current position and must pretend or fantasize to be someone else.
  25. Pilgrim's Progeny

    Pilgrim's Progeny Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think it all comes back to motive, why am I doing this, can I take it to God and recieve His blessing. I think we can find God endorsing recreational activity, motive and moderation are key In my humble opinion.
  26. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    :wow: :doh:

    Thankfully the "logic" is very bad. How can you have the White Horse Inn as your avatar??? It was through those guys that I got away from this kind of thinking. You should get a copy of Michael Horton's book "In the Face of God."
  27. Pilgrim's Progeny

    Pilgrim's Progeny Puritan Board Sophomore

    I find myself doing this everytime I read the Bible or pick a puritan book or tract.:lol: I always I fantasize what it would be like to more holy and devoted to God, to experience the boldness and courage of Christ, the prophets, the apostles, the heroes of the faith, and the puritans among an host of others.
  28. austinbrown2

    austinbrown2 Puritan Board Freshman


    there is a slippery slope aspect to this whole question that leads to some form of the rediculous. Surely no one will deny that. That being said, might I refocus my hesitations about magic in games (after pondering the issue at some length today while walking my rounds as a mailman).

    We know that the Bible condemns sorcery and the like. That is very clear. My question then becomes: Why is sorcery so bad? The premier reason seems to be twofold (1). It is concomitant with pagan religions, and (2). It convokes the spiritual realm, and therefore, the dark side (The demonic).

    Now consider the following:

    2Ch 33:6 And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger.

    Deu 18:10 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer...

    Think also of the Egyptian magicians, Simon the sorcerer and those also in Acts who burned their valuable scrolls of sorcery.

    While it is true that, say, Magic the Gathering isn't really casting spells and is therefore simply an engagement of the fantastic and the imaginary, one is hard pressed to deny an element of emulation or modeling in the packaging and structure (As is also the case with Warhammer, video games like Oblivion, World of Warcraft, etc, etc.). There are shamans, druids, psychics, necromancers, wizards and pretty much anything else that all of us would agree are detestable in real life.

    So if we agree that in these games the real act isn't being performed (therefore exonerating any real involvement), is the act of remotely modeling behavior after these acts (to one degree or another) likewise an innocent action? I guess it comes down to that. And of course the issue of degree certainly plays into the equation, as least psychologically (Some things just don't ring as wrong or seem more trivial). I suppose this level of degree will become more and more relevant with the advance of graphics and technology (If we forget, for a moment, the power of the imagination with role-playing).

    Can the Christian play cards, or summon creatures, in Magic the Gathering that are shamans or demons or can they "cast spells" and the like, when we have to recognize (or must we?) that there is surely some connection in thought to what the Bible considers an action of evil? (Rev 22:15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.).

    I genuinely appreciate all the responses everyone has given, but might a little more be said with this line of reasoning held firmly in hand?



    P.S. Of course, this is true for violence also. And to be frank, I just don't feel the same weight of violence for some reason. Maybe that's because I'm a guy or am inconsistent. I dunno. But I grant the parallel. The Bible hates unjustified violence, but when I play Counter-Strike, I play as a terrorist sometimes and blow up special forces cops. I don't deem it as realy killing cops, which is of course true, but it is surely patterned after something ugly in reality that is sinful. So what gives, because I feel the slide towards silliness coming on?
  29. ModernPuritan?

    ModernPuritan? Puritan Board Freshman

    I used to be of the understanding that the sorcery defined in scripture is

    the beilef, and action beileving that the physical world can be altered, changed. foretold. Meaning that when saul went to the fortune teller. she beileved that she could literally see into the future of this world. (understood and expected to be real)

    but MTG, WOW, D&D, are clearly understood to be imaginary, and have no powers at all in altering, or changing the future, (unless you spend to much time and forget to do your homework :lol:) and are not expected to be real.
  30. ModernPuritan?

    ModernPuritan? Puritan Board Freshman

    thats why potter is different, Potter appears to be written as if the story is plausible

    but i cant think of how one could conclude that LOTR, Narnia, MTg, WOW, etc are expected to be even remotely realistic.
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