This is Faith in Play #35: Seekers, for October 2020.
The “magic” in our role playing games is “make believe.” It’s not real, and no one could by reading any of the Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks or source books learn how to do any “real magic,” if such a thing exists. Indeed, you can’t learn it from any of our fantasy fiction, not Narnia, not Middle Earth, not even the Harry Potter books in which young “wizards” and “witches” attend classes in which the teacher characters explain to the student characters how to do it. It’s just not in there.
Yet once in a while someone tells about how the game was a sort of “gateway” for him to become involved in paganism and occult practices. What should our concern be for such individuals? How should we respond in such situations?
The first point that should be noted is that such people aren’t casually drawn into magic by the games or books. They are looking for something, and they use fragments of information from the books as a starting point to help them look. Magic in games such as Dungeons & Dragons is inspired by a wealth of sources, including the Bible (healing, parting water, calling fire, raising the dead, and more are all miracles from scripture), but also from other sources, mostly fictional, some of which have tapped popular culture and books about occult practices. It is apparently not impossible to use books about fictional magic to help search for occult magic, and easier now in the world of the World Wide Web than it was forty-some years ago when such searches required hours in library card catalogues. But these people aren’t stumbling into magic because it happens to be included in game books; they are seeking it, and using game books as a reference.
That matters because people who are seeking such things can usually find them. Game books and fantasy fiction are hardly the only sources for such information; they’re not even very good ones. Yet fantasy games do something in relation to these seekers that other sources do not: they bring them into contact with other people. This is why it is so important that Christians be involved in these games—if we leave the games to the Pagans and Wiccans and occult practitioners, then when someone is seeking magic, there will be people there to point them to Paganism and Wicca and the occult, and no one will be there to point them in the right direction.
While that is critical, it might seem that the second point contradicts it: it is not our job to prevent people from falling deeper into sin; it is our job to point them to the way out. Many people cannot be saved until they recognize just how lost they are, and we are often trying to prevent them from becoming that lost, damaged enough that they recognize their own need. At least sometimes we need to let go and let them fall, so they can grab the hand that really can save them.
But to help them at all we need to understand why they are looking for something at all. My impression is that people who want magic feel inadequate; they need something to make them feel more important, more empowered, than other people. We have the answer to that. We are in touch with the greatest of all powers, the Name above every Name, and He tells us that each one of us is infinitely important, important enough that Jesus died for us, not just for all of us, but for each of us. We need to communicate that to these lost people. Those of us who have truly connected with God don’t need the paltry substitute that they call magic. Our reality is much greater than that. We need to offer that to those who are seeking magic in their lives.
The author has previously written on this subject in Difficult Question: What if Non-Christian Friends are Interested in Magic?.
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