Gaming against Biblical Literalism

Gaming against Biblical Literalism August 13, 2018

I think that one of the most effective tools to combat the false notion that there are any genuine “biblical literalists” may be to ask people to imagine themselves into the world as the ancient authors of the Bible assumed it to be. Here is what I wrote on this topic recently while sharing a blog post on a related topic on Facebook:

It was interesting reading Steve Wiggins’ blog post about ancient Israelite cosmology, the idea of water as chaos-monster, and heroism while attending #GenCon2018 and talking and thinking about games that feature alternative worlds, classic deities, and of course human heroes.

Might it be a useful teaching tool, to get people to see beyond so-called “biblical literalism,” to create a game that involves pretending to live in a cosmos like that envisaged by biblical and other ancient authors, in which the sky is literally a dome and the stars are literally armies of celestial beings on parade?

Of related interest, Seumas Macdonald posted about playing Dungeons and Dragons in Latin. That seems like a perfect activity for ancient language acquisition. As I noted in a post about learning ancient Greek as a living language, sharing a related meme in the process on this blog, ancient language learning tends to involve vocabulary about warfare, swords, magic, and other things that set this apart from what is typical in the learning of modern languages – but overlaps extensively with the kind of vocabulary required to play a role playing game like Dungeons and Dragons (or in this case, Sepulchra et Serpentes)! As Harry Potter fans (among others) know, Latin has been particularly attractive for use in spells, and Andrew Girdwood has provided the Latin names of D&D spells online for those who may wish to use that as a starting point.

Connecting this back to our starting topic, having to grapple with ancient language in the process could certainly reinforce the alienness of the ancient world in a “biblically literalist role playing game” experience. What do you think?

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  • John MacDonald

    Players need to learn an entirely new world every time they pick up a new game, so why not learn it in another language. I can think of few reasons that would better motivate a potential language learner!

  • Phil Ledgerwood

    Gaming in a world constructed around the ancient Levantine cosmology could be fun, interesting, and educational from the standpoint of showing people what that cosmology was. I’m not sure it would be as valuable in the sense of demonstrating such a world to be fictional to YEC literalists. Even the most strident literalist would agree that the world described in Genesis 1 and 2 is radically discontinuous from the world today. It might help to call out some of the lesser-known/dwelt upon concepts like the stars being heavenly beings.

    As Fred Clark has pointed out many times, the implausibility of the world described in the Left Behind series should be an indicator that the eschatological scheme behind it is implausible. But it doesn’t seem to have that effect. It seems, rather, to cause the true-believing readers to envision a world that runs that way and accept it as a hypothetical.

    • Yes, a Left Behind role playing game might or might not be helpful in this regard…

      • Raymond

        It would depend on who the game-master was.

    • The Mouse Avenger

      Is such a world posited by ancient Levantine cosmology truly fictional…or entirely real, albeit applicable only to alternate universes? (blows on bubble pipe in ponderance)

      • Phil Ledgerwood

        Alas, this universe is the only one I’m familiar with, so I couldn’t say.

  • Widuran

    Jesus Christ was fundemental. So we should be too

    Matthew 12:30
    “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

    Genesis is a true and accurate account.

    • Don’t you think it is interesting how Matthew (and Luke) inverted the saying found in the Gospel of Mark?
      “Whoever is not against us is for us}
      http://bibleapps.com/mark/9-40.htm

      • Widuran

        Yes fundamental talk by Christ Jesus!

    • The Mouse Avenger

      Well, I’ll tell you what: I do believe Genesis to be a true & accurate account…

      It’s just that some particular words & phrases may be true in a more-metaphorical, or abstract, fashion…but true, nevertheless! 🙂

  • The Mouse Avenger

    Might it be a useful teaching tool, to get people to see beyond so-called “biblical literalism,” to create a game that involves pretending to live in a cosmos like that envisaged by biblical and other ancient authors, in which the sky is literally a dome and the stars are literally armies of celestial beings on parade?

    Actually, I’ve heard alternative theories about the writers of the Bible books having different beliefs from their other Levantine counterparts–to wit, beliefs that fall more in line with our modern understanding of cosmology (in this universe, anyway). Pray tell, have you heard any of these theories? 🙂

    • There are certainly people who try to explain away the references to the waters above and the dome that holds them up, and try to read advanced scientific knowledge into texts where they are not present. But the actual genuine differences from their contemporaries often get ignored in that very process – the fact that the celestial bodies, even if understood to be placed in a celestial dome or celestial spheres, are not divine beings worthy of worship. And creation doesn’t occur by splitting apart a sea monster who fights back, but simply by commanding a separation in the waters.