Thursday, September 18, 2014

Should Christians Use Emulators And Abandonware? (Part 2)

This is part 2 of an examination of video game emulation in an effort to answer the question, "Should Christians use emulators or Abandonware."

To answer this question, I think there are four key elements to consider:
1. Is console game emulation legal?
2. What does the Bible say about our obligation to obey man-made laws?
3. To what standard are we held accountable in our obedience to man-made laws and/or the Bible?
4. What are the consequences for Christians who disobey man-made laws or commands of scripture?

In part one I did the best I could to examine the issue from the legal side of things, and concluded that playing unofficially emulated or Abandonware games is illegal in almost every case.

The ONLY scenario I can come up with for being able to play such games legally is if you personally own the original game AND you PERSONALLY created the backup copy (not downloaded it from online) AND you are playing it on an emulator that does NOT use any code from the BIOS of the original console.

But I can't even confirm that THAT scenario would be 100% legal. So even in this best case scenario, proceed with caution. And in all other cases, you are violating the law if you play emulated or Abandonware games.

I've enjoyed playing a number of emulated games and some abandonware as well. So for me that' s a tough pill to swallow. But maybe it shouldn't be. How important is it really for us as Christians to obey the laws of corrupt, man-made government? Especially laws like this that may seem extremely stupid and pointless at times? What does the Bible have to say about Christians and their relationship to man-made laws and governments?

(Romans 13:1-5, ESV) Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

In Romans 13:1-5, the apostle Paul teaches that Christians should submit to the authorities over them, specifically, the government.

The primary reason is that all authority structures and figures are put in place by God, according to what he wants to accomplish on earth in the short or long-term. (v.1, and Romans 8:28) Governing authorities are even called the "servants" of God (Romans 13:4)! This is surprising, since we know from experience that many of our leaders and law-makers are not Christians and they also make and enforce some laws that are flawed.

Despite the shortcomings of man made rulers and laws, however, they still serve God's overall plans. In fact, even their shortcomings and failures will serve God's ultimate agenda to bring about the best possible outcome. God has a history of using unbelieving or corrupt leaders to bring about his will. (See Jeremiah 25:9 and Isaiah 45:1-6) God is also in the business of using flawed or even evil choices to bring about the best possible good.

Joseph tells his brothers, who betrayed him, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." (Genesis 50:20, ESV)

(Romans 8:28, ESV) And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

When we ignore laws our governments have put in place, we’re ignoring the authority that God himself has put in place. We can’t easily separate disobedience to government from disobedience to God.

Copyright laws may seem little or inconsequential. Breaking copyright law in the privacy and secrecy of our homes may seem like a victimless crime. It may seem like many people, including those charged with enforcing these laws, don't care about them or view them as important. But it doesn't change the fact that they are laws established by authorities God has placed over us. Disregarding these laws isn’t just brushing off “the man”, it’s brushing off Yahweh, the God of all creation. And the consequences or punishments that may follow are a part of God’s response. (Romans 13:2)

We are not permitted to pick and choose which laws we want to follow based on our own ideas of how good or important each law is. The only exception we see in scripture is when a man-made law or authority demands that we disobey a command of God.  (Daniel 3:28, Daniel 6:6-10, Acts 4:19, 5:29)

Now if I'm honest with myself and transparent with you, I have to admit that when I am faced with a choice to obey or disobey and it feels to me like the choice to disobey has little consequence and won't hurt anyone, I sometimes tell myself, "Hey, remember! You're forgiven! Your sins of the past, present and future are dealt with. Including the sin you're about to choose right now! So just do it and gain the satisfaction you want. You've had a rough day and choosing this would make you feel better. It's not that big a deal."

Or is it? If believers in Jesus have no reason to ever fear eternal punishment, why obey? Are there any consequences, in this life or eternity, for choose obedience or disobedience? And what about disobeying "stupid little laws" like those related to copyright. Exactly how good are we supposed to be as Christians? Doesn't all this smell like extreme, religious legalism?

We'll take a look at those questions next time in Part 3!

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