“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21
This verse is used in the article to suggest that we should use the Bible to test an obvious non-Biblical game (that makes no attempt at all to be religious). The question is, is this was the verse is intended for? Well, as I’ve been told repeatedly, the first three rules of properly understanding a biblical verse are context, context, and context (making reference to the old adage of the first three rules of real estate are location, location, and location). Let’s look at the verse in its context. To capture it completely, I believe I need to start with 1 Thess 4:13:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:22 (ESV)
I know, that’s a lot of reading but hey, you’re reading a blog post. And…. it is important. The verse in question above is: “but test everything; hold fast what is good.” The problem I see right away is the word “but”. Because, as my 4th grade daughter would tell anyone, that is a conjunction, a word that connects clauses of a single sentence together. Which means the verse is half a sentence. The first half is: “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.”
So the question is, what is a prophecy? Popular culture tells us that is predictions of the future. However scriptures tell us that it actually is speaking the words God gave you to speak, verbatim. Sometimes it is of the future, sure. So in this context, what prophesies would St. Paul be talking about? This is why I went back to chapter 4. See, there were people claiming Christ already had returned, and were using that to manipulate the church in Thessalonica (to which this letter was written). And…. this was totally false. He points out how it was false, and that it is impossible for us to know when Christ returns.
So, he is admonishing the church in Thessalonica (and by extension, everyone else in the Church) to test *all* prophesies, that is, to test everything anyone says is the word of God against the known word of God, the scriptures. Everything someone says, even someone who is a Ph.D and pastor, who is claiming that the scriptures (God’s word) is, let’s say, opposed to Pokémon. So basically, the verse Dr. Brown uses to support his opposition to Pokémon, in fact says to test his own arguments against the written Word of God, because he is making a claim that he is speaking for God. Interesting, no?
“Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” 1 Corinthians 10:31
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
1 Corinthians 10:23 – 33 (ESV)
This particular passage is continuing a point that was started in chapter 8, about eating food that is offered to idols. In his argument, Paul makes it clear that the idols are nothing, and that eating such food will do nothing to you. However also in the line of arguments he makes it clear to be careful about not damaging our neighbor’s conscience and to not do something that will cause problems for your neighbor. Thus, by the time you get to verse 31, he says if you eat or drink, do it in such a ways as to not cause offense or to cause a problem with your neighbor’s conscience. So… you can eat and drink food offered to idols if there is nobody making a connection to that food and the idol. If someone makes that connection, we are told to not eat it. This holds true for a great many things.
The doctrine we are dealing with is often referred to as Christian Freedom — those things that are neither explicitly condemned by scripture, nor explicitly required by the scriptures, we are left free to decide based on our needs. In this case, Paul is saying that under certain circumstances it is not correct for a Christian to eat food sacrificed to an idol, but under other circumstances it can be. And that we are to use our heads when we are making that determination.
Applied to Pokémon, which there is no explicit statement against Pokémon in scriptures, nor are there any explicit requirements about Pokémon, we are left free to choose based on our own needs. It most definitely is not something that says “you can only do a specific set of things that we have determined are acceptable to God and nothing else”, which is kinda how Dr. Brown is intending to use the verse.
“…Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” Romans 12:9
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:9 – 21 (ESV)
An interesting quote from Martin Luther actually helps us understand Chapter 12 of Romans:
“In chapter 12 [Paul] teaches what true worship is, and makes all Christians priests. They are to offer not money or cattle, as under the law, but their own bodies, with slaying of the lusts. Then he describes the outward conduct of Christians, under the spiritual government, telling how they are to teach, preach, rule, serve, give, suffer, love, live, and act toward friend, foe, and all men. These are the works that a Christian does; for, as has been said, faith takes no holidays”
Further, the Lutheran Study Bible has this note about these verses:
12:9–21 Here is what a life of genuine love (v 9) looks like in specific detail. It is a life that follows Christ’s example (Php 2:1–11) and models His words from the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5–7). We all fail to live up to this standard. However, as living sacrifices, we have been transformed to live according to God’s loving will (vv 1–2). This serves as a powerful witness to others (cf Mt 5:16; Jn 13:34–35). God in Christ has first loved us in this way and, by His mercies (v 1), our salvation is secure and not dependent on how we love. • Father, thank You for loving me first and forever by sending Your Son and making me a part of His Body. Train my heart in hope and my hand in mercy in harmony with Jesus’ words and deeds. Amen.
So, these verses are about what genuine love looks like in detail. It is not saying anything at all about anything like staying away from Pokémon itself, but rather about how we interact with our neighbors and show them love. So, if anything it says if, let’s say, you play the Pokémon game, don’t hate the person you are playing against, abhor (stay away from) doing evil to the other player, like don’t cheat, don’t steal his or her cards, don’t lie about or besmirch his or her name. Play fairly and rightly, and congratulate him or her if he or she wins, don’t be a “bad sport” about losing, or a braggart about winning.
Verses 4, 5, & 6:
There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.
Deuteronomy 18: 10-12
The context of the entire book of Deuteronomy is needed to truly understand what is going on here. Deuteronomy was written after the Children of Israel had blatantly disobeyed God and broke their covenant they had made with him at Mt. Sinai. As they had broken their covenant, it was important to renew it before they could enter the promised land. So Deuteronomy is a retelling, or second-telling of the law (which interestingly, is what the name of the book means).
This is part of that covenant, the law of Moses where Israel had to make certain promises to God, and if they did them, they were richly rewarded with prosperity in the land, and if they failed to do them they would be severely punished, the “blessings and curses” part of the covenant. In the new testament, we are told that Christ is the fulfillment of this law, and the only part we are admonished to continue with is the moral law, also known as the 10 commandments. St. Paul even warns the Galatians that adding even one of the old covenant Mosiac laws (that is, the law of Moses) puts us under those very curses of the old covenant, and takes Christ from us. In that case, he was talking about the laws concerning circumcision.
That said, this particular set of verses are important, because they do flesh out details of the 10 commandments, specifically the first commandment. However the question is, does this pertain to Pokémon, specifically the one creature Kadabra? The pictures of Kadabra are notable in that the creature is yellow, has a long mustache invoking a picture of the wizened old asian man caricature popular in martial arts movies, and holding a spoon, which invokes the fantasy depiction of people with mental powers frequently nicknamed “spoonbenders” while waving his other three-fingered hand in front of him like a hypnotist. There is no satanic imagery here. There is a lot of cultural references to invoke an idea of what Kadabra is like. Kadabra is absolutely nothing like what God is speaking against in Deuteronomy. If Kadabra is satanic because of its name or some other obscure detail, then you better chuck the Lord of the Rings, which depicts a wizard as saving people. Or the entire Chronicles of Narnia which has magic being used for good. These are not the same thing as real witchcraft, which is abominable to God because it specifically goes against him, and violates the first commandment in its nature. Kadabra does no such thing.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23
The context for this one verse would be:
My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.
Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.
Proverbs 4:20-27 (ESV)
This particular set of verses in an address from a father to a son to serve and honor God with the parts of our body. The one verse in question, verse 23 specifically is telling that son that as water gushes from an underground spring, so wise action originates in inner convictions and drives. Through God’s Word, the Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of the believer, from which flows life-giving power (Jn 7:38–39). Only by God’s power will the young man be able to follow his father’s advice.
It is not, in fact, warning us to be careful what we occupy our minds with as Dr. Brown suggests. In fact, that kind of thought police can be extremely dangerous, especially when we end up filling our heads with what all we need to watch out for and keep ourselves from based off of what appears to be arbitrary and subjective lines. It would place a huge burden on everyone to have to do this.
I would recommend: https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-freedom.html
Verses 8 & 9:
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
2 Corinthians 10:4-5
The context for these verses are:
I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we. For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed. I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters. For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present. Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.
But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
2 Corinthians 10:1-18 (ESV)
The context is about Paul making a defense for his ministry. Outsiders had come into the church of Corinth and questioned Paul’s authority, and this is the beginning of his defense for his authority.
Specifically, verse 4 speaks of the weapons, his tools for which he does ministry: Word, Sacraments, prayer, merciful kindness, etc., these are not of the flesh, but are far greater. Verse 5 is explaining how Paul doesn’t just win people by moving sermons capturing their hearts, but also captures their minds, to accomplish what Jesus himself had defined as the summary of the first table of the ten commandments (to love God “with all your mind”).
The question is — does this speak about screening every thought to be sure Christ approves of it? Nope, not at all. The context is clearly not talking about that, but rather about Paul’s defense of his ministry. Dr Brown is trying to make these verses say something they don’t say.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:2-9 (ESV)
So this is near the end of the letter, and St Paul is wrapping things up after all he wrote to the church in Philippi. He does command that we continually keep these virtues, which are the fundamental ideals of life according to God’s design, in the forefront of our minds, in out very consciousness, so that they inspire and guide all that we do. Now, does that mean “so don’t play Pokémon”? Hardly. It isn’t “do this to the exclusion of doing anything else ever”. It means to keep these things fresh in your mind. How? Go to church, receive God’s gracious gifts of forgiveness and mercy through word and sacrament. feed and nourish your soul. Hear the word preached, properly divided. And keep this all fresh in your mind while you go about your business.
If you play a game — be it a sport, a board game, a card game, a video game, remember what the Lord says about how to treat your neighbor in these things. don’t cheat, don’t lie, don’t swindle, don’t steal. Be fair, and a good sport whether you win or you lose. This will be both good for you, and more importantly, good for your neighbor.
About Christian Freedom
“But what about keeping our minds on ‘good things’?”
“But what about all the dangerous occult symbology?!!?!!”
Pokémon has nothing occult in it. If it does, it is purely by accident, and only because it ties in cultural references that might have originated in the occult, but by the time they are brought into Pokémon, they have been stripped of any real occult meaning. Dr. Brown’s article, quite honestly, isn’t something fit for anyone who has a Ph. D. behind his name. I could imagine someone in maybe high school writing such things, but I read his article in disbelief over the inane fearmongering that he trumped up over a popular entertainment source.
I will leave with a thought that a pastor I know had left me over it: “if we make up idols to fear, we never have to confront our own”