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 numerous 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 opponent. Playing MTG, you will take command of humans, zombies, griffins, 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 off-putting. Some of them are very grotesque, depicting hideous 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 game-play 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 others 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 neighbor 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 disagreeable graphics or the theme of sorcery, including Pokémon, Doctor Who Battles In Time, and Star Wars Customizable Card Game. (Munchkin Dungeon, which many of my FB friends are familiar with, is sorta similar in game-play, but lacks the defining deck-building aspect.)