God and Role Playing Games

Sometimes an analogy or metaphor can more powerfully illustrate a concept than a philosophical argument.  In the Divine Life Communion, everything in this life is an aspect of God’s life. This includes humans, animals, bacteria, rocks, elementary particles, etc.  Each exists within its own constraints.  While there is an abysmal depth of God that Tillich called “the God above the God of theism”, for some reason God chose to live.  In religious systems, this represents an emptying or taking on constraints to live. For Christianity, this is called kenosis where Christ sheds the divine nature to become incarnate in human form. In Hinduism, there are avatars —  a manifestation of a deity in this world.

RPG Analogy/Metaphor
Now it is important to remember that each aspect is part of God’s life, but each also lives within certain constraints. So, one metaphor that might illustrate this is a type of game called role-playing.  In these games, the player takes on the role of some type of character. Those roles can vary dramatically just as personalities can. There can be noble, evil, good, childlike, magical, non-human, conflicted, etc. roles, each with its own personality, characteristics, powers, frailties, and histories.  There is also the environment within which the RPG is played. It could be realistic or fanciful. In essence, it is an imagined world with imagined characters that navigate the dynamics of a certain broad narrative. Now, one key to how good the gamer is, is how well they take on that role and behave according to the attributes of that character.  They must suspend their own personal attributes and take on the role, even if it is contrary to how they would normally think or behave.  A similar analogy is found in acting where the actor takes on a role that may be very different from how they are themselves.

MMORPGs Analogy/Metaphor
MMORPGs is an acronym for — Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games.  In this case, there is not just a single RPGer within some setting but many people playing different roles in a setting together. Since it is essentially a group simulation of life all the intricacies of psychology, sociology, culture, and challenges are in play.  Why do people seek out and participate in these games? Similar to the Actor/Role analogy, because it offers opportunities to embrace the multidimensions of life in an alternate reality that is both fun, interesting, and satisfies our need to be challenged, grow, be social, and reach out beyond the limitations of our ordinary life.

So, what’s the analogy? The analogy is that whereas in an MMORPG where there are many separate people playing the roles, in the Divine Life Communion, God is playing all the roles including the role of the environment. Each of us and everything else is an aspect of the Divine Life, created (imagined) in the Mind of God.  We are in God’s unitary mind but also distinct and somewhat independent, having a finite share of free will and living our lives within the grand divine narrative. Here are a couple of Venn diagram metaphors for this ontology:

God Venn God as Living

Divine Life Venn God as Living

While these analogies/metaphors are not perfect, perhaps they can partially illustrate how God takes on an aspect in the Divine Life.  Each aspect has its attributes, limitations, strengths, etc.  For some reason, God wanted to experience life in all these different “roles” — to embrace the limitations, struggle with challenges and experience both the positive and negative consequences of that constrained being.  And just like in an MMORPG, it is not only the individual role that is important but also how all the characters act towards each other and how the community fares in their adventure together.  God’s aspects do not live in isolation.  They occur within the communion of all God’s aspects, each playing its part in the unfolding of God’s purposes in living.  They all also participate in the divine transcendent depth within that guides and navigates through all the vicissitudes and challenges that life has to offer.