Why Make Bible-teaching Computer Games?

Intro: A Broken Union

When I was an undergrad, our Christian Union had a thing called a Doctrinal Basis: eleven core truths that we shared with one another – essentially a way of clarifying what we meant by the word “Christian”, so that we could get on with doing the “Union” bit. Sadly, however, despite this we were greatly distracted by a disagreement between two groups within the CU. On the surface, the dispute revolved around the third article of the D.B.:

“The Bible, as originally given, is the inspired and infallible Word of God. It is the supreme authority in all matters of belief and behaviour.”

It’s the doctrine of the Authority of Scripture. One group – let’s call them Team Blue for convenience – accused the other – Team Red – of not living out the implications of this truth, whereas the Reds fervently denied any such thing. Both claimed to uphold the Bible as God’s definitive word. The
issue was never really settled, and in my view the main reason it dragged on so long and caused so much heartache was an unacknowledged twelfth article of faith – a doctrine which the Blues held as fundamental, and which the Reds weren’t committed to at all. It all boiled down to the Centrality of Bible-Teaching.

How God Works

At its heart, it’s a doctrine about how God works in the world. What is the agent by which people become Christians and Christians mature in godliness? Just as it’s critical to know whether your car runs on diesel or unleaded fuel, it’s an issue that has profound implications for the way that we do ministry, and how we expend our energy – I wouldn’t want the engine of my Christian computer games project, for instance, to grind to a halt because I’d filled it with the wrong type of fuel and wasted my time! So how does God work? Team Red acknowledged that the Bible was God’s word, and that Christians should listen to what it says. Team Blue, however, went a step further – they believed that it is the
Bible itself that is God’s agent for gospel growth
. The Centrality of Bible-Teaching says that it’s as the Bible is opened, explained and applied that people are saved and that Christians grow in their faith. To the Blues, the Bible isn’t just a handy manual for life that they can fall back on when they get stuck, it’s the spiritual food that they gobble up day by day to grow and sustain them.

Since both groups claim to trust in the authority of the scriptures, it’s instructive to take a look firsthand at what the Bible says about itself. One passage that we could turn to is 1 Peter
. Peter reminds his readers of how they became Christians, that “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God”. It was through hearing the word of God explained that these people were converted. He then exhorts them with the following words:

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual (lit. “wordy”) milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2)

The picture of a newborn baby and its craving for milk is a wonderfully graphic one – one that’s all too familiar to many sleep-deprived parents! A malnourished baby without its milk would be severely stunted in its growth, and Peter is saying that Christians are equally dependent on the wordy
milk of the scriptures if they’re to grow up to salvation. James says the same thing in his letter – (1:18 – “Of his own will he brought us forth through the word of truth”) as does Paul, e.g. in 1 Thessalonians 2:13:

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you
received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the
word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (emphasis mine)

It’s not just the New Testament, either. Isaiah 55:10-11 speaks of God’s word accomplishing his purposes like the rain watering the Earth, and Genesis 1 shows that even God’s work of creating the universe was carried out through his spoken word. So you see, within the Bible, the word of
God isn’t an optional feature in people’s conversion and subsequent growth – it is the primary agent through which God works in his world. It may seem somewhat pitiful and weak, but the method
he has chosen is the simple proclamation of his truth, whether that be through preaching from the pulpit, friends opening up the Bible together over coffee, a group getting together to discuss a passage of scripture, or any other way you can think of for getting the word of God into people.

Expository Preaching

It’s this conviction, that Christian conversion and growth comes about through the teaching of God’s word, the Bible, that leads to what’s known as “expository preaching“. At its simplest, expository preaching means starting with the text of the Bible and seeking to understand and explain what
the original author of a particular passage was trying to get at – “to think God’s thoughts after him”. It usually means systematically working through a particular book of the Bible bit by bit over several weeks, so that everyone can follow the author’s train of thought, although thematic talks can still be
done in an expository way. The main distinctive of expository preaching is that the Bible is not merely used as a repository of good sermon illustrations, or to lend weight to the preachers preconceived theories, but that it is allowed to govern the content and application of the teaching. The preacher’s job is
not to come up with novel concepts to inspire his congregation, but simply to uncover the message God has already left for us in the Bible.

For some of you, the very word “preaching” probably conjures up all sorts of negative connotations of a droning voice sending you to sleep in the pews. But a belief that God works through his word can’t be used to excuse boring presentation. For the expository preacher, the priority will
always be to get people to listen to and engage with what God’s saying in the Bible – Team Blue doesn’t treat Bible teaching like the incantation of some magic spell, as though the mere saying of the words is all that’s required to produce the desired results, totally bypassing the minds of the listener. No –
we want to get people thinking about what they’re hearing, meditating on things, chewing over what they don’t agree with, trying to get to grips with how the logic works and how the author achieves his purpose. This leads to potential for all sorts of exciting and innovative ways to get people listening to God’s word.

Expository Coding

One such way is what I’ve dubbed “Expository Coding“. In my last article I explained my conviction that the very best use for my gifts as a games developer would be to make games that share the gospel of Christ with people. Combine that with a commitment to expository preaching, and you end up making Bible-teaching computer games. For sure, it’s a challenge to make them genuinely fun and engaging, and for sure, it’s a challenge to faithfully teach the Bible on its own terms – but what a glorious work to be involved in, as day by day God builds his kingdom through the teaching of his word.

One Response to Expository Coding

  1. […] through the word of God. Of all the ways he could do it, God has chosen to work first and foremost through the Bible, faithfully taught, explained and applied. As people recognise the Bible as the word of God and […]

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