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As a race, we can be pretty optimistic at times. Thousands of years of history tell the sorry story of a species bent on acting in our own interests – selfishly serving ourselves without regard for the consequences for other people. Wars, genocide, social inequality, soaring crime rates – all of it screams to us that there is something wrong with our world, and that the problem is us. Yet we remain confident that, given enough time, these are all problems we can solve if we put our human ingenuity to work.

Generally speaking, the solution we put the most trust in is that great tool “education“: if only people were better informed about the horrors of war and the causes of war, we’d be able to learn from our past mistakes and avoid future conflicts. If only people were better informed about the merits of other cultures and how much we have in common, we’d overcome our prejudices and learn to love our neighbours. If only people were better informed about the health problems associated with obesity and were taught how to put together a sensible diet, they’d stop eating so badly and take charge of their bodies. The message is clear: humans are essentially good, and all they need is more education.

It’s not just problems in the wider society that we seek to address this way, either. Often within the church we apply the same principles: don’t people know what God thinks of that kind of behaviour? we ask ourselves. We decry the biblical illiteracy of our culture and redouble our efforts to educate people in what they’re doing wrong. We make Christian video games that seek to teach people The Ten Commandments, as though they must simply have forgotten that God is opposed to adultery. So often my instinct when I see a Christian brother or sister falling into sin is effectively just to lay down the law and remind them that they shouldn’t be doing this or that. Surely we’re all reasonable people with an innate bias towards doing the right thing, if we were just given a little nudge in the right direction? Once again, we act as though humans are essentially good, and all they need is more education.

But if history teaches us anything it’s that such optimism is surely misplaced – people are not essentially good, in fact we have an inherent bias towards rejecting God, towards selfishness and pride. And if the message of history is too subtle for us to pick up, then Jesus spells it out to us even more clearly:

And he said, What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.'” (Mark 7:20-23)

Our hearts are like sewage plants, pumping out this putrid refuse that wells up within us. We don’t need any external stimulus to teach us how to sin – it comes all too naturally to us, from right within our hearts.

The reason I sin isn’t because I don’t know better. In fact, the opposite is true: I know all too well that my actions are wrong, and sometimes, in my depravity, that’s half the appeal. It’s like those signs that say “Do not walk on the grass”: until I read the sign it had never occurred to me to walk on the grass, but now it seems so inviting! The problem isn’t that I need more education, it’s that I need a whole new heart! I need a miracle in my life, to give me a new heart that wants to obey God, a heart that delights in his commandments. In other words, I need that which God promises in Ezekiel 36:

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

This has huge implications for how we go about trying to effect change in people, and hence huge implications for how we go about designing Christian video games. We need to stop acting as though merely showing people “the right way to live” is going to help anybody. It won’t, and it makes for boring games to boot. We need to listen to what God has to say about his means for bringing new life to dead sinners – and the answer has something to do with preaching. But more on that another time. For now, let me leave you with my video setting out my vision for what Christian video games need to be if they’re to speak to people who aren’t inherently good:

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One Response to Can Education Save Humanity?

  1. […] week I blogged about my convictions regarding human nature and the state of the human heart, saying that I don’t believe the evidence supports the claim that we’re fundamentally […]

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