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Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Game of Life - What's Really Going On (Part 3)

C.S. Lewis in the final book in his brilliant book series, The Chronicles of Narnia, describes the Narnian heaven as "The Real Narnia".  Lewis called Earth as it is (what we think of as the 'Real World'), the Shadowlands.  Lewis, from his Christian perspective, believed that Earth is a kind of crucible in which we are all tested, tried and perfected for eternity.  Rather like a video game.

And like a video game, the ending for Christians is assured.  No matter whether we succeed or fail in our efforts to accomplish the goals set before us as we traverse the Shadowlands, we are assured eternal life in the Real Earth or what the Bible calls the New Earth.  Like a video game, we try to follow the rules of the game and figure out how things work.  But we must not forget we are playing in the shadows. God has promised to take us to the real thing when the game of life is over.  Whatever happens, that is assured if you want it.

If you choose to stay with the game, to challenge the rules, give yourself over to the dark side, you get to do that too. The only difference is when the game is over, the game is over.  Scripture is pretty clear on that point. We aren't by nature immortal. An eternal ever-burning hell (borrowed from the Greeks by the way) is one of those add-on ideas like reincarnation; interesting, but not really a good way to organize a universe if you are a merciful God.  Ultimately the eternal wiener roast is a lie about the character of God. The idea that He would condone that makes him a torturer, not a father.  Just my opinion from my own study.

God evidently decided the universe needed creatures with free will.  What this says about angels, I am not sure, but people are created in the image of God. That's clear. We are like God in that we may choose in all things. That ability to choose makes us creative and energetic and purpose driven. It also makes us dangerous. I think God made the Earth as a kind of game, if you will. We are born into it, we try out our choice-making ability and we die. We meet challenges, solve puzzles, build things and face enemies all leading up to what Ms. McGonagal calls the "Epic Event" in gaming and what I think of as the fork in the road.  It's at that moment I think we all experience the decision that led Joshua to say, "As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord."  I think no matter what culture, religion or society we come from, we all meet that epic moment where we choose to serve ourselves or something greater than ourselves.  Like McGonagal's 4 elements you get from gaming, the Christian gets the same effect.

1.  Urgent optimism:  The Christian believes his choices can effect the world for good, no matter it appears while it's happening. He believes that what he is doing, he is doing with God and that God will make it turn out right - hence the optimism.

2. Ability to weave a tight social fabric:  Christians collectively believe the same things and gather together around that shared belief. A Christian, the real variety anyway, are trustworthy, reliable and they have your back.  You may have misunderstandings with your fellow travelers, but in the end, none of it matters but the great goal of reaching the New Earth.

3. Blissful productivity: A Christian on a mission experiences this bliss throughout his work.  He knows he is doing a good thing at the peak of his skills. He is content doing good in partnership with God. Christians are busy people because we are commanded by the rules of the game to do good where our hand finds good work to do.

4. Epic Meaning:  A Christian has purpose and meaning to his life. He is connected to the eternal. Everything he does is part of God's plan.  The moment he leaves the Shadowlands, it is an epic event.

It is little wonder that the practice of Christianity has such a powerful ability to change our lives.  My own experience is that you change from the old self-centered person to a Christ-like person inevitably.  It is not by your own efforts.  We are built to respond to the Christian life as we do.  After all, it was God who designed both us and the game of life that we play.

It explains also why gaming is such a powerful experience.  Gaming is a shadow of living in the Real World as living in the "Real World" is a shadow of living in the eternal "super real" world.

The thing to watch for is that there is someone else out there using the shadows for his own purposes. He is not God. He has claimed the Shadowlands as his own kingdom and sets himself up as the prince. All games are not benign as all things in our so-called Real World are not.  There are lies in lies and layers of deception. Games have traps built into them that lead you astray and kill you.  So does the Real World.  Be careful what games you choose to play and be very careful that you know who designed them.

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