Thinking Out Loud

June 26, 2015

Christians and Magic The Gathering (MTG)

This weekend we’re featuring two highly-watched articles from this site’s history.

The kids playing Magic the Gathering in this picture is a similar scene to the MTG group that meets in a local Cards and Games store where we live. Photo: GatheringMagic.com

The kids playing Magic the Gathering in this picture is a similar scene to the MTG group that meets in a local Cards and Games store where we live.      Photo: GatheringMagic.com

There is not a day that goes by that this article, which appeared on my son’s Facebook page a long time ago, does not come 1st or 2nd as the most-read piece here. It existed out of sequence on a page rather than as a post, so many of you have never seen it. I told him that this weekend we were going to re-post some of the top articles for new readers, and he said there are some things here that he would write differently today.*

Clearly, this article struck a chord with a good number of people. I even had someone in the southern U.S. track me down by telephone to talk about it. That never happens. I think the traffic it generated — albeit thanks to Google — was largely because few were writing about MTG from a Christian perspective. 

Comments have been disabled here so that if you want to leave a response, you can do so with the original article at the original location.

Should Christians play Magic: The Gathering?

by Chris Wilkinson on Sunday, 27 November 2011

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 spiritualism 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.)


*I asked Chris if he would be willing to update this, but he declined. He’s rather distanced himself from this topic, and is always surprised at the amount of traffic it generates. Again, you can leave comments at the end of the article on its original page.

This photo is from the same source as the one above. (Click to link.) The story says the average age in the group was twelve; the youngest were, as the boy in the picture, aged eight.

This photo is from the same source as the one above. (Click to link.) The story says the average age in the group was twelve; the youngest ones were, as the boy in the picture, aged eight.

November 30, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Paragraph containing witty introduction and possible lynx/links pun reference to Lynx canadensis or Lynx pardinus if picture is included.

  • Let’s kick off with a very short video on the influence the King James Bible had on the English language.  This is actually an excerpt from a very interesting eleven minute video on the language as a whole.
  • From there we go to a much longer video; a sermon video where N. T. Wright, the former Bishop of Durham, preaches in, of all places, Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago.  This was recorded just a few weeks ago on November 6th.
  • With church attendance slipping, Christian colleges and universities in the U.S. are cutting tuition costs, some by as much as 50%. “…One of the most pressing issues is that there are fewer prospective students for these schools to recruit. Religious membership has been on the decline, especially among young people.” Read the full story at CNN Money.
  • A new title in the Lego Bible series has been pulled from Sam’s Club outlets for being too violent.  One Facebook comment notes, ““I hear you are banning The Brick Testament for its offensive content but not the Bible which contains all the same content…”  The Brick Bible: A New Spin on The Old Testament is the 4th book in the series by illustrator Brendan Powell Smith.  [Update: Chaplain Mike covers this topic actual pictures!  Well, not violent ones, but one that’s not suitable for young children.]
  • A good friend of ours has recorded a tribute cover for Larry Norman’s song UFO.  Enjoy a limited time free preview.
  • My other blog, Christianity 201 marks 600 posts with some thoughts from James chapter 1 about seeing ourselves as we really are.
  • Eddy Arthur at Wycliffe Bible Translators UK posts a curiosity-inducing review of a new book, Pursuit of a Thirsty Fool by T. J. Macleslie, published by Bottomline Media. If you’re tired of the “then I became a Christian and now everything’s great” genre, this may be the story for you.  Here’s the review for the book pictured at right.
  • Annie Goebel, president and co-founder of the women’s prison ministry Daughters of Destiny, met the son she gave birth to as a teen in 1973 earlier this month.  Read the story at The Christian Post.
  • Laura Ortberg Turner and Owen Strachan discuss whether Scripture dictates that women work inside the home.  First, here’s Laura’s response to Owen’s critique of Tide’s “Dad-Mom” commercial.  Second, here is Owen’s response to Laura.  That this occurs at her•menuetics makes the comments all that much more interesting.
  • Rachel Held Evans hosts guest blogger Kathy Escobar (see blogroll at right) on the topic of spiritual insecurity.  Discussion starter: “The basic premise of Christianity is that there is nothing good in us.  That original sin has ruined us and we are miserable sinners, unworthy of anything good without the blood of Jesus…”
  • Family Feud Department: My one son has been getting into a popular card game, Magic: The Gathering; while my other son — who sees the game played at his college — is not entirely convinced it’s a good idea. He wrote up his thoughts which I’ve posted as a “page” here so you could read them.
  • Concert-goers in Canada already know them, but there’s a lot of buzz everywhere lately for brothers Nathan Finochio and Gabe Finochio aka The Royal Royal. You need to have an iTunes account to get their music.
  • Matt Stone at Glocal Christianity thinks this Coke Lite commercial is actually dramatizing A Catholic Girl’s Worst Nightmare.
  • Something lacking during announcement time at your church?  Adam Stadtmiller takes up the cause of what is often an epic fail.
  • And for all you worship team leaders and aspiring worship team members, here’s how one Canadian church auditions and integrates new musicians.
  • Tony Woodlief guests at World Magazine Online on why he was predisposed to agree the people who were boycotting Black Friday.
  • And this 3-minute video provides all the reason you need to skip the big sale.  Or any big sale.  Some scenes may be disturbing.

That’s it for WLL this week at TOL; try to submit your suggestions by 9:00 PM Mondays.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.