Category Archives: Geek Theology



I have been a fan of videogames from the time Mario first stomped on a goomba. I remember fondly the first videogame that was mine, truly mine – Bomberman (1990) for the TurboGrafx-16, unwrapped on a Southern California Christmas day. Decades later, my deep-seated appreciation of the art form remains. A well-made videogame can be an experience of pure pleasure, like a continuous dopamine explosion inside your brain with very few negative side-effects. And although videogames are truly meaningless in the grand scheme of things, they offer the closest analogue of God’s creative power compared to just about anything else on Earth.

More so than any other medium, a videogame allows people to “go inside” a unique world created by an intelligent mind, to interact with that environment and often with other people, to express one’s self individually inside that artificial reality, and to live and die according to the rules and boundaries established by the creator. The creator himself can choose to bend or suspend the rules of his created world at will, and he establishes the parameters by which good performance and accomplishment of goals is measured.

I personally enjoy obscure Japanese videogames. The more obscure and “hardcore” the better. That is why I own ‘Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires’ for Xbox One… not because it is that good but because it is pretty much your only option for a semi-obscure Japanese videogame on Xbox One (I am kicking myself for not getting a PS4… there have been more awesome games released for FREE on that system than are currently available for Xbox One. Alas…) Japan is the country that has been most influential in the history of gaming, from Donkey Kong to Pac Man to Mega Man to Street Fighter to Pokémon to the Legend of Zelda and beyond.

But all is not well in paradise. Christians must face the fact that videogames are rife with occultism. Many professing Christians would likely avoid videogames that had explicit sexual or pornographic content. And, in real life, many Christians would choose not to engage in obvious forms of occult activity: engaging in seances, fortune telling and divination, transcendental meditation, praying to false gods, idol worship, human sacrifices on pagan altars, Satan worship… or any other such magical or occult rituals clearly forbidden in the Bible. But when it comes to videogames… many Christians hardly bat an eye when confronted with occult content.


Some Christians reading this will argue for “Christian freedom” and “matters of conscience,” and I quite agree with them. But I have to recognize 2 Corinthians 7:1: “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (NIV). What can contaminate the human spirit more than the occult?

Like the country of Japan, which I deeply love, the world of gaming is neck-deep in spiritual darkness. The CIA World Factbook gives the following statistics on religion in Japan: Shintoism 83.9%, Buddhism 71.4%, Christianity 2%, other 7.8% note: total adherents exceeds 100% because many people belong to both Shintoism and Buddhism (2005). As shrines and superstition permeate Japanese culture, occultism or “magic” fills the shelves of videogame retailers.


This can seem at times benign: the paranormal ghost, psychic, fairy, and dark type Pokemon, the sprites and Harvest goddess in Harvest Moon, the mystical tri-force in Zelda, the fiery netherworld of Minecraft, even the frigging Magikoopa character in Mario games. Other times the occultism can be striking: demonic background art in Mortal Kombat stages, summoning undead minions as a necromancer in Diablo II, learning words of power to create magical shouts as the prophesied Dragonborn in Skyrim (which is admittedly a masterpiece of videogame design).


Drew Koehler at ‘Geeks Under Grace’ writes: “There certainly are things that we, as Christians, just should not partake in. Some of the more obvious ones are hyper-sexual situations or clearly occult, demonic things. There are also things that some of us have deep convictions about, and we could easily slip into sin by allowing only a little bit of it in at a time. We must guard our hearts and minds at all times so we don’t fall into these traps.”

Ultimately, every Christian gamer will have to prayerfully determine where they draw the line in their own entertainment choices, and should never be a stumbling block to others. And yes, there are some awesome games out there that avoid occultism… but not nearly enough of the obscure Japanese variety.



linelandWritten by Edwin A. Abbott in 1884, ‘Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions’ is an excellent, laugh-out-loud satirical novel that provokes deep thought about dimensions beyond our daily experience. You think ‘The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe’ is good allegory? Fuhgeddaboudit! I think Flatland should be required reading for all Christians.

Now, if Flatland existed in videogame form, ‘Fez’ would be it. Fez stars a pale protagonist who has the amazing powers to walk, jump, climb, go through doorways, swim, and pick up small objects! A lot like us, actually. One day, this simple-living character has his perspective radically expanded. Something dimensionally beyond himself impinges upon his 2D universe. He can now perceive a much more complex reality, and one that is in peril.


I have written before in brief about Kierkegaard’s concept of ‘dimensional beyondness.’ God, as an infinite being, is qualitatively different than anything within the created cosmos. But where does the cosmos end and the supernatural realm begin – the realm of spirit which is invisible to our unaided senses? I have been reading Brian Greene’s popular book on theoretical physics, ‘The Fabric of the Cosmos.’ Greene references a version of superstring theory called ‘M-theory,’ which hypothesizes ten space dimensions and one time dimension (we commonly experience three space dimensions and one, forward-moving time dimension). If this is true, at what level of “physical” reality do we find Christ holding “all things together?” (Colossians 1:17).

endworldBack to Fez – I do not believe that videogame creator Phil Fish is a Christian – not based on what I saw in ‘Indie Game: The Movie.’ Fez certainly does not get into deep theological territory, but is pleasantly stimulating aesthetically, philosophically, and is fun to play. It is also rife with mind-bending puzzles that you may never, ever unravel – much like the universe itself! I recommend downloading it after you read Flatland.

So says a Fez NPC, “My favorite shape is a square. Not a cube – those don’t exist!”



Back in 1998, Pokemon promised to be a unique hybrid of RPG / Virtual Pet gameplay. Tamagotchi? Digimon? Eat your pixelated hearts out.

On the spiritual side of things, the nascent series seemed fairly innocuous. Yes, there were a handful of ‘ghost’ and ‘psychic’ and ‘dragon’ type Pokemon adding some para-psychological / occult elements, but for the most part you were collecting and fighting with anthropomorphic radishes, giant butterflies, and Rip Van Winkle-inspired giant panda bear thingies.

There were rumors that Pokemon originated on the moon. I suppose some proponents of Intelligent Design may have chafed at the evolution mechanic… Still, subsequent versions have muddied the theological waters of the Pokemon franchise. Pokemon Gold and Silver introduced ‘dark’ Pokemon (demonic?) and the newest incarnation has added ‘fairy’ type. However, the lowest point in the series is the introduction of the absurd Pokemon God in Diamond and Pearl.

arceusAccording to the source of all some knowledge, Wikipedia, Arceus “shaped the universe with its thousand arms.” It was born “from an egg in a vortex of pure chaos before the existence of the universe” and went on to form other deity-esque lifeforms. More ridiculous, you can capture this “god” and carry it around in your pocket in a Pokeball, summoning it to battle in glorified cock-fights for your enjoyment!

Actually, the God of Pokemon has very much in common with the gods of most religions and mythologies throughout human history except for the One True God of Judeo-Christian belief. Pantheistic and other belief systems have the same basic starting point of gods arising from primordial chaos or some pre-existent cosmic battle. The Judeo-Christian God alone stands completely and utterly transcendent and independent of all created matter and the universe that contains it. God, as an infinite being, has always existed. He did not emerge from any pre-existing matter, form, force, or intelligence. And, you cannot capture him in a Pokeball.



dd3There comes a time in every person’s life when they have to decide… who their favorite superhero is.

Recently I determined the answer to that question for me is Daredevil.

Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil, has a few defining characteristics that make him wholly unique in the Marvel Universe. Apart from being an attorney, being blind yet possessing superhuman senses, being an acrobatically gifted martial artist, being prone to heart-breaking tragedy, and prowling the mean streets of Hell’s Kitchen, he is Catholic.


For a time I thought that Daredevil may in fact be the only Christian superhero in mainstream comics until an acquaintance pointed out that the X-Men character Nightcrawler is also a devout man mutant of faith. Now admittedly, most of the time Daredevil is far more culturally Catholic than practicing his religion in any meaningful way. However, I appreciated the recent nod to the character’s Catholicism in Mark Waid’s volume-ending Daredevil #36.




Proverbs 3:6 is for me a lodestar, a guiding verse I return to time and time again – “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

On November 28, 2010 I posted an entry titled ‘A High Score in Heaven’ on my former blog, ‘Thank You Jesus For These Pop Tarts.’ In that post I explained how, in seeking to live out the above verse, I had agonized over choosing my Xbox Live “gamertag,” attempting to arrive at a clever handle that would also serve to point people toward God. Ultimately I decided on FirstCore925, a reference to just about the only scripture I could find that seemed to apply to video games, 1 Corinthians 9:25 – “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”

However, three and a half years later, I’m not sure that anybody ever caught on to my clever reference. Nobody stopped to ponder just how meaningless their video game achievements really were in the face of eternity. I fear my subtlety was lost in the hubbub of exploding giblets and score multipliers. Indeed, on the face of things FirstCore925 appeared deceptively generic.

Having upgraded to Xbox One, useful for spousal Kinect work-outs and dropping Titans on things (when I take rare breaks from reading voluminous theological texts, of course), I decided that a rechristening of my online username was in order. FirstCore925 is dead; long live FlatlandPilgrim.

Inspired by two works of literature, ‘Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions’ and ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress,’ my new gamertag symbolizes both the lifelong Christian journey from our present plane of existence toward the “better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16), as well as the adventures of a Christian’s avatar in the ‘flat’ virtual reality of video games.