One of the reoccurring debates on this blog has been whether cultural forms used in ministry are neutral, or do forms possess inherent value that may or may not be compatible with God's kingdom. For example, Andy Stanley shared his conviction that all leadership principles are created by God, and are therefore available for use in the church. I disagreed, arguing that some popular leadership models contradict biblical values. And Shane Hipps has written about the way technology and video preaching impacts the message we are seeking to convey.
Invariably, when the debate over the neutrality of cultural forms arises many people quote 1 Corinthians 9:22 ("I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some"). Well, a video game producer is poised to test your utilitarian philosophy of ministry.
The game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces, is set for release in October, and its already coming under fire from both conservative and liberal Christians. Set in present-day New York City, the game pits the army of the Antichrist against born again Christians. Players are rewarded for winning converts or killing those who ally with the Antichrist.
Players may also switch sides and fight for the Antichrist with an army of cloven-hoofed demons that feast on the faithful. One of the game's creators finds the "prayer button" particularly nifty. Before going into holy war, a Christian may pray to boost their "Spirit Points." Honestly, I'm not making this up - I wish I was.
Tim LaHaye, author of the Left Behind books, says the video game was created to reach a new population with the gospel. "We hope teenagers like the game," he said. "Our real goal is to have no one left behind." So far Christian video games have been unsuccessful at breaking into the very lucrative youth gaming market, but Eternal Forces' co-creator Jeffery S. Frichner is hopeful. "It's got all the Christian stuff, and it's still got all the cool stuff."
Troy Lyndon, the CEO of Left Behind Games, who licensed the trademark from Tyndale House Publishers, says the game will probably appeal to the same audience that was undisturbed by the violence and gore in "The Passion of the Christ." Lyndon says he anticipates those on the liberal left will criticize Left Behind: Eternal Forces, "but megachurches are very likely to embrace this game." And they will be the main marketing outlets for the product.
Another spokesperson from Left Behind Games, Greg Bauman, says the company's goal is to "become the world's leading independent developer and publisher of quality interactive entertainment products that appeal to mainstream gamers and perpetuate Christian values" [empasis added].
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