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Thursday, April 29, 2004

R.C. Sproul: The Wittenburg Door interview

A great opportunity to discover Sproul's effectiveness as a teacher, will taking a few potshots at him. It includes his response to the question "Can a Semi-pelagian or Arminian be a Christian?" (He says yes and explains how.)

An excerpt:
SPROUL: I believe everything that I believe, and I believe that everything I believe is correct. Let's say, as Calvin said, that no theologian is ever more than 80 percent right. I'm certain that any theologian believes 100 percent of what they teach, and if they knew where their 20 percent was, they'd change it. I don't know where my errors are, or I'd correct them.
DOOR: And Calvin's 80-20 estimate could've been part of his 20-percent error.

Concerning my stand on RPGs

I am changing my stand on RPGs. Not from "for" to "against", but my argument for thinking that they are a potentially acceptible form of Christian entertainment. The may reason for mentioning this is that my previous views were useful to me at the time but with things vastly improving, it's necessary for me to grow out of them.

My main reason for sustaining an interest in role playing after such a long hiatus was because of the psychological benefit that I so desprately needed at the time. Basicly, my argument could be reduced to the claim that roleplaying was better than suicidal dispair -- a life of imaginary accomplishments which required efforts of creative imagination as well as a system of social validation was much to be preferred to a life of thinking that I was hard wired for failure. Role-playing was a natural mechanism for meeting some important personal needs and providing the simulacra of a sesne of acheivement and social recognition that would signal some of the same pleasure to a brain that basiclly canot tell the difference between "real" emotions and "fictional" emotions, and thus overcoming fatal depression. This was useful in overcoming the sense of existential failure of not completing my grad school goals. It had the saluatory value of keeping me from the edge.

But though valuable as an emergency salve, it cannot make a satisfactory sufficient diet, not that I expected it to. All though RPGs are better than depression and suicide they are not sufficient to make a vision of the good life. Real accomplishments are still far better than imaginary ones and a life without them is still almost like trying to be a pig satisfied when you at least could be frustrated at being a "Socrates wannabe". (The Wannabe's Wardrobe!)

My goal is just to make sure that RPGs are helping me fight my obsessions, not helping me feed them. But RPGs are inherently ambiguous. One can approach them activisticly or passivisticly. People tend to interact with RPGs either from the game design - game mechanic aspect in which a person excericises ones authorial and engineering potentials (or dramatic and tactical talents) or one is a vicarious consummer who lays bacl and lets things happen in order to have a vicarious experience. This is much like the film industry: on one side you have all the talent and effort going into making the movie and the next-to-no-effort at watching the movie. There are problems and virtues possible on both sides (for example, a movie goer might cultivate an accomplished sense of criticism and film insight rather than just soaking it in) but I think one has to be watchful if one is becoming too passively involved in RPGs as in anything else.

That's only the begining of criticism. Certainly, there still remains a lot to recommend RPGs as a good hobby. It's social and interactive, it requires imagination and narrative and dramatic skill development, it stimulates learning and research skills, it's fun and can even be transcendentally beautiful at times, it demands more of one's personal potential than other entertainments, etc. But this only means that it has the potential of being a good hobby. But life is certainly more than fictional roleplaying. Real life is more worthwhile than fictional life.

Just an addendum to my wish list: I wish there were more on the web regarding the psychological impact of RPGs and constructive uses and healthy approaches to them. Most such research seems mainly to justify the permisibility of RPgs, particularly against fundamentalists of various sorts. But role players need more than permission, we need some positive guidance beyond apologetics. What motivations are really appropriate to roleplaying and what motivations are not? One cannot simply say that having fun is suffcient because here just as in most areas we must distinguish between various sorts of pleasure. For example, we really don't want our fun to be by using other people as a mere means for our own gratification. In particular, I wish Christian or other religious apologists of RPGs would not just focus on hygenic factors of them relative to spititual growth. Can playing with RPGs be good or are they just okay? Hopefully, to ask is to receive.