For the last 50 years we’ve been reading the Bible as the Story of God’s plan to heal the world. In this meta-narrative, Christ is the protagonist and the rest of us are supporting cast members. Every section of scripture fits into this larger story, and every character in the Bible either supports or impedes the salvation progress of God. We read these characters as both inspiration and disappointment; we learn from these stories-within-the-Story as morality tales and cautionary vignettes.
I LOVE this way of reading the Bible, just as I love seeing my life as part of God’s grand adventure to recreate the earth.
But what if there’s more to it than that?
I’ve long suggested that both our hermeneutics and our homiletics are getting stale. What I mean by that is both our Bible-reading and our Bible-preaching feel tired. Too many great preachers are stealing one another’s lines instead of reading the scriptures with fresh imagination.
The tired line of thinking goes something like this: The culture trades in stories; stories are our currency; therefore, we should preach—and relate—in stories.
Thing is, our culture is shifting away from a story-based culture to a gaming culture. Newzoo estimates there are 195 million gamers in North America and 1.8 billion gamers worldwide. That number is growing exponentially as the variety, availability, and suitability of gaming complexifies.
All of this information makes me wonder: What if we could read the Bible as a game manual? What if we could explore spirituality as an RPG?
Consider some significant differences between games and stories:
- Games tend to be experiential (teach by doing). Stories are experienced vicariously (teach by watching).
- Games are good at objectification (do this!). Stories are good at empathy (feel this!).
- Games tend to quantify, reduce, and classify (this is the only thing that matters). Stories tend to blur, deepen and make subtle distinctions (everything matters).
- Games are external—they are about people’s actions (look what he did!). Stories are internal—they are about people’s emotions and thoughts (look how he feels!).
- Games are generators of player narratives (choose your own adventure). Stories provide a narrative (follow along in this adventure).
The major term in Bible studies used to be “meta-narrative.” What if, in the new world, spirituality is “meta-recreation,” where the Bible creates the story-world and we get to play in the sandbox?