Thursday, June 1, 2017

St. Justin the Philosopher and Deities & Demi-Gods

It has been quite some time since I’ve regularly blogged about the saints and RPGs. Today is the Feast of St. Justin the Philosopher and he let me know that I should get back into the habit, at least once in awhile.

As his moniker suggests, St. Justin was a philosopher, but he was unsatisfied with all of the various attempts by secular thinkers to explain life, the universe and everything. He kept trying this and that until he encountered an old man that told him he would find Truth in the Gospel. In Christianity, St. Justin found the philosophy he had always longed for.

He opened a school in Rome, wrote two Apologetic Letters to the Roman Emperor defending Christianity among other works and was eventually martyred with several of his students in A.D. 165.

Before I get into the meat of this post, I do want to share a hymn sung on this feast that names St. Justin’s fellow martyrs:
Godly Justin great before the Lord, Peon the brave athlete, Valerion, and Chariton the wise, Charito, Evelpistus, and Hierax great of fame now have dyed in their very blood a bright and divine robe for the Sov'reign Lord of all; and being clad therewith, they all stand together rejoicing with the Angels’ hosts in the Heavens at the throne of Christ, the mighty King of all.
My RPG mind reads this and envisions a verse from a bard’s tale about a mighty group of adventurers to inspire and embolden a group of mud-drenched soldiers or to entertain a tavern full of people drinking mead. And talk about some great names! Peon the Athlete, Valerian the Wise, Hierax the Great. Surely these inspire at least an NPC or two.

Back in 2010, I wrote a post on Deities & Demi-Gods, which irked some folks because I took the position that it is good and right that the various pantheons of pagans gods and goddesses should have stats like monsters. I even have a Saintly Saturday post on St. Justin re-iterating that POV using St. Justin’s own words.

Well, here I am again drawn in by the words I find in the hymns of the Orthodox Church which support the view that pagan gods are really just demons dressed up as deities in order to pull the wool over humanity’s collective eyes:
When the chill of ignorance held sway over all creation because of the wanton spite of the foe, and the hoards of demons were adored and served as gods, then with willing and eager heart, O glorious Martyrs, you made chill deception cease through the most fervent heat of your burning zeal and divine faith, when you poured your blood out in longing for Him that poured out His Blood upon the Cross.
Again, in my RPG mind this screams dark fantasy where city states ruled by demons and their cultists dominate the world and the PC heroes must grind away in hopes of bringing some dim light of hope to a world of shadows . . . I sense another bout of Gamer ADD coming on.


Sonhonauta said...

Great post, I fully agree with you, both regarding the status of pagan gods, as well as the association of these gods with demons and their cultists exploring poor cities to be liberated.

I have great devotion to Saint Justin, in black hours when the demented university tried to lobotomize my mind, the study of the life of Saint Justin made me cry.

Conrad Kinch said...

Great stuff. Delighted to see saintly Saturday back.

Ifryt said...

Thanks for another post about the inspiration we can get from saints. I like them very much.

Hardrada said...

This is the sort of post that attracted me to your blog. Thanks for sharing!

FrDave said...

@Sonhonauta, @Conrad Kinch, @Ifryt, @Marcus:
Thanks for the encouragement everybody. I guess I need to get back up on that horse...

Baron Opal said...

Indeed, I enjoy, and have used, your insights.

DeusNihl said...

I wonder if you would as appreciative if your god was characterized as evil and stated up for the slaughter

FrDave said...

He doesn't need to have stats created in order to be slaughtered, He voluntarily chose to be brutally tortured and killed.

DeusNihl said...

That"s not the point. I'm talking gaming here, not theology. What I want to know is were our positions reversed would you embrace it with the same furvor.

For instance, in my home campaign there is a nation modeled on medieval Cathoilism. This nation, while nominally a monarchy, is basically ruled by the cult of Jhonnes, called the Cathedral. The Cathedral actively hunts arcane spellcasters regardless of their morality, is highly discriminatory toward non-humans (dwarves, half elves, and half orcs are barely tolerated as second class citizens, halflings are actively persecuted, elves are viewed as ambominations), orthodoxy is ruthlessly enforced, and evangelism - by whatever means necessary - is encouraged as a means to spread the faith. The Cathedral teaches that Jhonnes is the only trie god, the light of the world, who came to save mankind.

The trutb of the matter is Jhonnes was an epic level mage, and totally insane (he believed his own doctrine). He did save a group of humans and found the nation (and religion) with them, but centuries later engaged in a war with a region controled by dragons (dragons are seen as abominations too). In personal combat with a powerful wyrm Jhonnes was betrayed by his foremost disciple and was killed. The disciple survived, eventually became a lich (was "blessed by Jhonnes with eternal life"), and spread the doctrine thst Jhonnes had returned to the heavens after accomplishing his work. Said disciple runs the Cathedral to this day.

Now, how does that strike you? (Sorry for the length, but twas necessary for effect)

FrDave said...

Sorry, but it isthe point because I am talking both gaming and theology. I am interested in how these two worlds speak to each other. One of the reasons making an entry for Jesus Christ in Deities and Demigods doesn't work is because of the theology of the crucifixion and resurrection.

As to your Catholic "analog" I have no real problem with it at all. Historically it shares far more with Justin the Apostate's attempt at coopting the Church's structure for his neo-paganism than it does Catholicism. Regardless, if I were playing in your campaign, I would happily play the rebel and fight against the Jhonnes religion because it is so obviously evil.

DeusNihl said...

Sorry about the delay, life gets in the way. I must say, your reaction to my faux Catholic religion was a pleasant surprise. :)