Saturday, December 9, 2017

Saintly Saturday: Conception of the Theotokos & Ever-Virgin Mary

Today is the Feast of the Conception of the Theotokos & Ever-Virgin Mary. Yes, you read that right: the Orthodox Church is celebrating a sexual act today and glorifying the result of the act. Western Christianity, for better or worse, is heavily influenced by St. Augustine when it comes to sex and he had a major problem with it. In contrast, the East has always had a far more positive view of the marriage bed:
And how become they one flesh? As if you should take the purest part of gold, and mingle it with the other gold; so in truth here also the women as it were receiving the richest part fused by pleasure, nourishes it and cherishes it, and throughout contributing her own share, restores it back to the man. And the child is a sort of bridge so that the three become on flesh, the child connecting, on either side, each to each… What then? When there is not child, will they not be two? Not so, for their coming together has this effect; it diffuse and commingles the bodies of both. And as one who has poured ointment into oil has made the whole one; so in truth is it also here — St. John Chrysostom, On Marriage and Family Life.
Notice the bed...

The origin of this feast, of course, is not to be found in the Bible. Rather, it reflects the story told in the Protoevangelium of James. This brings up a common theme with anti-Christian apologetics, that there were lots of books written in the first couple of centuries after Christ about Christianity and that many of them were “banned,” “suppressed,” or “concealed.” Yes, there are a bunch of books. A lot of them are heretical. A lot of them do not share the tight focus of the New Testament: the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Some of them were written by people who did not know Christ or his Disciples.

A fact that often gets lost in the shuffle is that the Bible was compiled over the course of almost three centuries. The first time we see the books of the bible listed as we know it today was in the fourth century by St. Athanasius the Great. Even he considered books outside this list to be “good for reading.” Examples include the Letters of Clement, The Shepherd of Hermas and the Protoevangelium of James. Some were even read in context of Church Services; however, ultimately, none of these made it into the Bible for a variety of reasons.

This illustrates an important axiom when it comes to the Bible: the New Testament was written by Christians for Christians. They had every right to determine what was going to be in the New Testament and what wasn’t.

This axiom is actually very relevant today in context of D&D because, living in a Golden Age of RPGs as we do, there is a proliferation of different versions of the game. Just in the last couple of months, for example, I have produced three. Not only do we have 0e, 1e, 2e, 3e, 3.5e, 4e and 5e but we have of the various iterations in the world of retro-clones and their ilk.

Imagine for a moment someone who doesn’t play RPGs comes in to say that Rune Quest was “suppressed” and represents true Dungeons & Dragons. While the history of Rune Quest has its origins in D&D, it is rarely accepted by those of us who actually play these games as D&D.

The axiom above is applicable to D&D in the sense that these games are written by gamers and for gamers. Therefore, we, to a large extent, get to determine what is and isn’t “D&D.” I will grant from a legal POV this isn’t entirely true because there are legal ramifications for using “Dungeons & Dragons” on a product without permission from WotC, but you can’t tell me the phrase “We’re playing D&D tonight” cannot be applied to anything from 0e to S&W to LL to Pathfinder to 4e to 5e. Despite all of the edition wars that have been fought over the years, ultimately, it is we who play the game that really determine what is and isn’t ‘D&D.’