As for the pagan aspect of my cosmology. I choose a more allegorical approach because I never been comfortable in portraying a fictional Christianity in any other than a version of our world.
Probably because I am history buff I am very much aware of the fact that part of the impact of Jesus Christ is that he was born in history, acted in historical times, and was witnessed as part of history. He wasn't some mystical figure out of some golden age like so many religions had at the time.
This got me thinking. I make no bones about being a Christian nor about my belief that despite an early nod to the Christian roots of Medieval Europe with the inclusion of the pseudo-Christian Cleric class, D&D took a sharp turn towards a polytheistic and pagan world-view that it not only hasn't been able to shake, but has been ingrained within the mechanics of the game itself. Thus, there is an inherent conflict between my faith and my favorite hobby. When confronted with the possibility of playing D&D with a Christian world-view, including Christ and all that He stands for, most of us who play D&D have balked at the idea — even those of us who are Christian.
Rob made me aware of how uncomfortable we all can be with taking the historical reality of Christ and all that He has done for humanity and seemingly reduce it to fantasy. Making a fantasy version of Zeus, Set, or any other number of pagan gods is much easier, because they float around in that pseudo-imaginary space called myth. To a certain degree, they are outside of history.
This fear and discomfort, I believe, is misplaced. God chose to reveal Himself through literature — through the writing of men and women who produced both the Old and the New Testaments. As such, He invites a creative and imaginative interaction.
So, it is quite possible that the real reason for our hesitation to play D&D from a Christian point of view is that no one has gone to the trouble of doing that creative leg work to make a template from which we can create fantasy worlds founded in Scripture.
As such, I am going to try and do just that. I will take a basic concept necessary for world building, examine what Scripture has to say about it and then strip it down to a skeletal form. Hopefully, what will emerge is a template that we who love to build fantasy worlds can use to create worlds based on Scripture and a Christian world-view. My first installment:
The Name of God
And the Lord said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" — Exodus 3:15
When God reveals Himself to Moses in the burning bush and Moses asks God His name, God responds, "I AM." Note that this name is a sentence begging for a predicate — I AM . . . what? Scripture is then replete with names, attributes and titles that can all be plugged into God's name: the Most High God, King, Lord, Truth, Life, Longsuffering, Almighty, etc. We are invited to interact with God's name in exactly this manner.
Thus, when C.S. Lewis chose to portray his fantasy version of Christ as a lion named Aslan, he did so on very sound scriptural grounds. In a world of talking animals, it makes perfect sense to have Christ as a lion — the King. As long as the titles and attributes of God remain, the name of God given in Scripture actually invites us to create a name for him within the context of our fantasy worlds.
As a starting point, I offer several examples of the names, attributes and titles given to God roughly translated into other languages:
This is fertile ground that offers a huge variety of names that we can give God appropriate to Him within the context of a fantasy world of our own making.
I found your blog rather late and have just finished reading this particular series of threads. I have to say that I find most of it quite interesting.
This comment got me thinking.
"D&D took a sharp turn towards a polytheistic and pagan world-view that it not only hasn't been able to shake, but has been ingrained within the mechanics of the game itself....When confronted with the possibility of playing D&D with a Christian world-view, including Christ and all that He stands for, most of us who play D&D have balked at the idea — even those of us who are Christian."
It's true that my group never gave this a second thought when we started playing D&D. I guess when you accept a fantasy world where dragons and orcs and elves exist, it's an easy step to accept polytheistic world views and feel the need to create fantastic mythos, too.
Nevertheless, your blog in general and this series in particular has made wonder why we D&Ders aren't more comfortable adding more Christianity into our fantasy gaming. I wonder if there's discomfort over the possibility of appearing sacrilegious, even if you aren't a strong practitioner.
It seems to me that the history of the Church through the Middle Ages provides countless opportunities for incorporating various aspects of Christianity into fantasy play. Whether your interest is cultural, historical or spiritual, there's a richness to the tradition that shouldn't be overlooked.
For example, I would love to see an extensive treatment on saints and martyrs (including their symbols) that could serve as the basis for a variety of class-based orders. It offers many role-playing possibilities.
Information on agnostics, heretical cults and the power dynamics within the Church could serve as the basis for ethical quandaries and political intrigue.
Thank you for this series. It's been good to open the mind a bit.
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