Deathbox: 2013

by Tylor


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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Thoughts from a Christian, June 13, 2013
by strivenword (Utica, New York)

There is a semblance of constructive argument, but that goal is not entirely reached. For some reason, the "game" doesn't seem excessively sardonic to me. I've tread this ground before, as a child and teenager, fearing eternal damnation, unable to believe that I was really on my way to heaven because I said a prayer to receive Jesus Christ as my Savior. The scenes constructed to challenge Christian belief on soteriology seemed only slightly challenging to me, and I wish they could have been more useful.

The disclaimer on the bottom of the main page says that the work is "singularly and only a microgame response to the literal interpretation of the Bible...." A critique of what constitutes a "literal" interpretation of the Bible, and of the ramifications of different kinds of "literal" interpretations, is something I could understand and applaud whether or not I ended up agreeing with it. Unfortunately, that is not what this game really attempts to do. It is yet another anti-Christian apologetic piece, using the well-known tactic of shoving the horrors depicted in the Bible in the faces of the Christian community. Since there is no single "Christian community" except in the deepest spiritual sense that is meaningless to unbelievers, "Deathbox" tries to generalize, mentioning Catholic tradition and Calvinist theology in different branches.

A secondary theme is a cynical condemnation of any notion of a "grand design." The Twine layout has five different threads representing different people that the player can "become" (in the shallowest way possible -- you only ever get to pick between a couple mutually-exclusive pages, which is probably part of the theme). So, the player sees through the eyes of all these lives, woven into God's grand design, a design that incorporates them only as meaningless vapor and seals their destiny in eternal torment. The game is more ambitious than its disclaimer indicates. Many people of diverse religious and spiritual leanings have believed in some kind of benevolent destiny.

So, literal belief in the Bible is immediately associated with belief in eternal damnation for all non-Christians, which in turn is associated with nihilism. Maybe those aren't unfounded associations. That would be an entirely separate discussion, one that "Deathbox" is too lazy to engage in. It also can't resist the indulgence of using racial, ethnic, and political stereotypes.

Since it quotes the Bible a few times, an examination of whether or not the Bible really leads to the inevitable conclusions that this game assumes is relevant. "Deathbox" quotes Saint Peter's defense to the Sanhedrin, in which he said that salvation was found in "no other name under heaven given among men" (Acts 4:12). Christian Evangelists even more frequently quote Jesus' exclusivity claim: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). In any case, Jesus also said "many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 8:11), and the apocalyptic prophecy depicts the host of the redeemed singing, "...for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation....and they shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:9-10).

One of my dirty secrets is that I think it highly probable that people from every identifiable group that has ever existed in human history will be redeemed. There have probably been tribes, languages, peoples, and nations that existed when John wrote Revelation that have since died out, without the Christian story reaching a single member of the population. I don't know how salvation could have come to them without their hearing of the Gospel.... but I don't know how salvation can come to me, either. I reject the notion that I can earn it by the work praying for it, and many Christians rightly condemn the un-Biblical notion that the facts that you believe in your head determine your eternal state. If that were true, I would be saved one moment and then damned the next, as my doubt and belief inevitably trade places throughout the day. (James wrote, "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe, and shudder!" [James 2:19]) Christian doctrine is that we can be saved through faith, and not for it (Ephesians 2:8), and faith clearly has little to do with the facts that someone mentally assents to. I do believe in hell though; I believe we create hell for ourselves by rebelling against the nature of the truth that God has ordained, and that heaven would be a worse hell than hell itself for those who don't want it.

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Christina Nordlander, June 16, 2013 - Reply
I wish that nobody saw it as a "dirty secret" that they don't believe that God would condemn anyone to eternal torture.

(Full disclosure: I'm an atheist, and don't pretend that I can tell Christians, or those of other religions for that matter, what they should believe. But I know plenty of Christians who have no problem with belief in universal reconciliation.)
strivenword, June 19, 2013 - Reply
I probably shouldn't have called it a "dirty secret." It's true that I've never really said that in as many words before writing this review, but not so much because I thought I would get in trouble as because I didn't have direct reason to discuss it. It's a very big can of worms.

I think orthodox Christians are rightfully wary of casual theories of universal reconciliation.
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