Thinking Out Loud

Should Christians Play Magic: The Gathering?

This started as a post on Chris’ Facebook page.  It went on to becoming the second-most read item on this site.

Should Christians play Magic: The Gathering?

by Chris Wilkinson on Sunday, 27 November 2011 at 17:10

Recently, a friend of mine started playing the trading card game Magic:  The Gathering (henceforth MTG).  His father is concerned that this isn’t the sort of thing Christians ought to be doing, while my friend insists it’s harmless.  There are numberous arguments from both sides all over the Web.  Personally, it doesn’t bother me too much and I’m considering buying a set myself.

 Here are some things to keep in mind if you play MTG or if you’re worried about someone who does:

 1.  Magic is not magick.

    The spelling “magick” is used by “real” sorcerers and witches to distinguish “magic tricks” and illusions from “real” magick.  Magick includes several activities ranging from inquiring of the dead to fortune-telling.  Sorcery, the mythical practice of summoning supernatural beings to do your bidding, is also magick, and MTG is a simulation of sorcery – MTG players “summon” various people, supernatural beings and mythological creatures to fight their opponant.  Playing MTG, you will take command of humans, zombies, gryffins, dragons, goblins, angels and demons, among other things.

    The real-life practice of sorcery is clearly condemned as an abominable sin by the Law, the Prophets and the New Testament.  It also doesn’t actually exist – If you think you have the ability to communicate with or command angels, demons or the spirits of the dead, let me tell you right now that Satan is playing mind games with you and you’re in extreme danger.

    The fact that MTG is a simulation of sorcery is the most serious root of the objections Christians raise against the game, and you ought to consider whether or not you want to fill your mind with that sort of thing.

2.  Magic is not pretty.

    The graphics on the cards can be rather offputting.  Some of them are very grotesque, depicting hidious creatures, mutilated bodies and blood and gore; some are just very nightmarish; and others include bizarre depictions of feminine beauty.  If seeing those kinds of images might make you more likely to sin, it would be best for you not to play.

    Personally, even the most grotesque ones don’t bother me (much), and I’m trying to think how I could have become desensitized to those kinds of images.  My friend has excluded certain cards from his deck just because of the graphics.

    The themes exuded by the graphics are, without doubt, not good, but they aren’t necessarily bad either.  It depends on how those images play on your particular brain.

 3.  Magic eats into your time.

    The actual gameplay of MTG is largely luck-based:  You draw cards from your deck and use them to fight the battle.  The strategy is in building your deck:  Each player plays with his own personal deck, using a subset of the cards you own, and choosing what cards to use determines the probability that you’ll be able to use particular plays in a game.  However, deck construction requires an enormous amount of knowledge about, first of all, what each of the cards does, and secondly how different combinations of cards play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  The current basic set, titled Magic 2012, contains about 250 cards, and there are over 12 000 unique cards in circulation from the many sets that have been published since 1993.  If you’re the type who likes to fill your brain with a lot of minutiae, MTG will give you the opportunity to spend a lot of time this way.  This is true of most other hobbies too (chess has its strategy, sports have their statistics, crafts have their materials and tools, music has its theory and instruments…) but MTG is particularly complex.  It’s up to you to decide whether or not using your time this way is honouring to God and compatible with His plan for your life.  Having hobbies is not a sin, but they have the potential to become idols.

 4.  Don’t “cause your neighbour to sin.”

    If I played, I wouldn’t go around telling everyone I met about it.  The controversy surrounding MTG could potentially cause conflict between a player and his/her particularly opinionated Christian friend, and it’s best to avoid getting into passionate arguments that don’t have an objective right answer.

    Also, MTG could get people curious about real-life supernatural beings.  That could be good or bad:  On the one hand, one might start reading about spiritism and fortune-telling and put oneself in danger, but on the other hand, if you know your real-life supernatural beings as well as as mature Christian ought, then you won’t be caught up in flirting with the occult, and by playing you may even be able to meet and educate someone who’s going down that road.

 5.  There are alternatives.

    If you like the idea of a trading card game but want to steer clear of MTG in particular, there are numerous other games in the same genre that don’t have the disagreable graphics or the theme of sorcery, including Pokémon, Doctor Who Battles In Time, and Star Wars Customizeable Card Game.  (Munchkin Dungeon, which many of my FB friends are familiar with, is sorta similar in gameplay, but lacks the defining deck-building aspect.)

10 Comments »

  1. Hey good post. I am saved by grace through faith, Romans 10:9 John 3:16. When i first received his spirit Jesus told me he would never leave me nor forsake me. Years later I developed schizophrenia and have had a rough life. Magic helps get my mind off religion and focused on a game, hobbies. The devil likes to use the bible and religion to mess with you and scare you.

    The bible is the word of God, but God is good and he is love. The devil knows the word just as well. When he tempted Jesus he used scriptures.

    Comment by Shane McCausland — August 12, 2012 @ 5:04 am

  2. This kinda helped me, my mom doesnt belive i should play mtg and i know she just wants me to be a man of god but she doesnt understand that i just want to hav fun and not screw my life up

    Comment by isaac — October 6, 2012 @ 5:28 pm

  3. Yeah, one thing Jesus commanded was Judge not or you will be Judged. And unfortunately, Christians are some of the most judgmental people sometimes. Games are not idols or worship, Christians get that wrong too. Even if you play a game for 48 hours strait instead of doing your homework, your not bowing down to it and worshiping it as God, big difference. It falls under laziness, and putting play time over working. It has absolutely nothing to do with exalting something to the status of God… Even when people make comments that might suggest it (non believers), they don’t know what they are saying, and are saying it because of pop culture and not because they actually think a magic card is their God.

    Jesus choose us and God knows what he was doing. John 6:37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. Gods not driving you away because you play magic cards, John 3:17 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

    Also, I have not been on lately. But anyone is free to add me on MTGO.. Screen name: LegendofShane

    Comment by Shane McCausland — October 12, 2012 @ 8:57 pm

  4. Unless playing, competing at GenCon MTG slowly take you away from your Bible reading, relationships with God and family, stop going to school and absent from job. Loss of finances, and engage in perverse/undesirable online relationships

    Comment by Concerned parent... — February 12, 2013 @ 9:56 am

  5. What I don’t understand is; how can you be full of the love of God which only generates joy and live and peace (and so much other wonderful things) and still play a game that is not representing that at all, when Gods desire is that we would reflect and mirror His divine nature for the world to see His grace, glory and majesty. Jesus was God and God is love. When you seek God and have a relationship with Him, you probably do that because you’re desiring to know the Father’s Heart. After all, you would like to become more and more like Jesus, that is, speaking for myself, what I would like to pursue in my life. We are in the world, but not of the world, the bible says. We participate in it, but we know that we actually belong to and were intially born into God’s Kingdom. I don’t understand how you can look at these cards or cast those spells and not feel uncomfortable while you are full of God’s love and inspiration. God is light and cannot be in the presence of darkness, simply impossible. Now, we are constantly confronted with darkness in this world, Jesus was confronted with that when He sacrificed his position in heaven, but it never seduced Him to participate in such activities. Understand me well, I am not afraid of evil things, I mean the devil and all his little demons were overcome decades ago by the power of God. Satan has nothing to say about me. He has no authority anymore BUT he has power. These two things are not the same. Authority he has lost, but power he has, and only will he have power AND authority if you give him authority in your live. It’s a choice. I am not judging you, but I simply wanted to speak from my heart through the love I have for our Heavenly Father and big brother Jesus ;) Bless!

    Comment by Anne — April 12, 2013 @ 6:54 am

    • To number 5… Thank you. I wish there were more people who stood up for God and despite all the confrontations on this page you managed to tell people in a loving way. I was unsure of wether or not to play but out of all of these opinions I know you are right. When you are not willing to give something up is when you know it’s controlling you and despite what number 3 said it is your idol. When you listen to that small feeling in your gut people always try to shove aside it gives you answers you never asked the question to. So thank you. I needed to hear that.

      Comment by danielle — September 4, 2013 @ 10:41 pm

  6. Anne,
    I would like to respectfully reply, because this is the same arguement I have had from family around me. God created all things, life, darkness, satan himself. There is no scripture I can think of off the top of my head that would support the idea that God cannot be in the presence of darkness. In fact we know that he went down to hell to take the keys of death and the grave. (Romans I believe)
    Furthermore, you are comparing a game to an actual evil. If you believe the picture or depicition is too evil, then I would suppose that you would avoid any movie with such images such as, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, or any other movie, book, or game with pcitures of evil things.

    If you argue that the intenant of Crhonicles of Narnia is good, then you must give MTG the same chance. And to be completely honest, the only intent is to play, have fun, etc. There is no moralistic message. (or i haven’t found one)

    As for my mind, i don’t find myself dwelling on witches, or hate, or anything that we are not encouraged to. Actually the real danger of MTG (and the auther touched on this) is the time it consumes. That is my battle, and as with most of my hobbies, one that I have to carefully evaluate.

    As christian’s I think it is easy for us to judge by the cover, rather than take the time to actually think things through. Anne. i would caution you to actually challange things from a Bibilcal perspective.

    God bless

    Comment by Aaron Dinwiddie — August 19, 2013 @ 3:31 pm

  7. Well, really Magic: the gathering was invented for ages 13 and up, meaning its mostly directed towards a young adult audience who have more time on their hands than the average adult.(in other words it’s meant to pass time.) Every hobby is meant to be practiced in one’s free time, and playing magic cards is no different than reading, playing a video game, or golf. In fact, it is more social than reading a book; yet no one has a problem with someone reading a book now do they? In the bible sorcery is much different than magick- for sorcery is a reference to drug abuse. Magick is not based on any truth for mankind cannot have power over demons or any other supernatural being; This should be obvious because only God holds dominion over his creation. So being that magic: the gathering is based on something that no Christian should be led to believe is real to begin with, I do not see any problem with playing the game in moderation (That is, if the player sees it simply as a game and nothing more). As Christians we must keep in mind that there are many things of this world that will ultimately have elements to them that challenge our faith, for that is the way it must be for faith to work in God’s favor. But most importantly, as Christians we should not be so quick to condemn hobbies that are practiced by others and use them to summarize their spiritual beliefs. All the while doing so in God’s name and on God’s behalf. If you are truly Christian you should know that this is a big no no! It falls into the category of using the Lord’s name in vain, and those who use his name in vain and damage his character will not be guiltless. You see, it is even done so in vain because children often rebel against their parents and their teachers. Thus, by condemning your child, friend, or sibling, for playing a card game they could take it as God himself is condemning them for something they may have never seen as heresy (many people who play this game view it differently than those who don’t). From here they may begin to feel alienated from both God and their family and thus lose faith in God. At this point it will be the accuser who has done the work of Satan rather than the accused, for they have caused another to turn away from God in sheer bitterness. The bible makes it quite clear for it is the word of God, and to be brief God’s word state something like this: Those who believe in things such as magick and sorcery and openly include them in their spiritual beliefs are lost, for they are led to believe that what is false is actually true. You see magic cards are not a religion; it’s a game and should be seen only as a game. If you cannot see it for what it is than you have lost your way and have misunderstood the word of God. On another note, as a Christian it is probably important to discuss topics like magic cards, sex/violence in movies and books openly with other Christians because there will be content there that as a Christian you’ll find challenging. Fear not, the world is in direct defiance of God; for God is not of this world, yet we are of both worlds. Therefore, we must find a way to tolerate the environment that surrounds us on a day to day basis. And in turn, avoid building our own prison in God’s name.

    Comment by Jacob — October 6, 2013 @ 12:58 am

  8. The Bible says lake no pretence of evil.

    Comment by Kim Kaze — July 12, 2014 @ 4:50 pm

  9. I think this post is great. I stopped playing magic a long time ago, but just recently got back into it. And I’ve often had questions about whether it was “right” to play it or not. This post has answered a few of those questions and helped me decide if I wanted to keep playing, and whether or not my hobbie would interfere with my relationship with God. I guess we can’t let things like this become idols and our faith should always come first.

    Comment by stephen nunez — August 29, 2014 @ 3:13 pm


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