Here is a helpful video describing how the game works if you are unfamiliar with it.
My focus is on the spiritual concerns of Pokémon...which many Western/American Christians are not aware of...
This post is not meant to create debate or argument. The spirit of this post is not paranoid, arrogant, self-righteous (I've played the old school version), or condescending. The hope of this post is to inform Christians of some of the backgrounds to games, movies, TV shows, etc. like Pokémon so that they think more biblically about the decisions they make.
Ultimately I understand that Pokémon is just designed as a game or form of entertainment. But it is not merely neutral territory, there is a demonic connection. Here is a more detailed description that you may find helpful.
So here are some of my personal, basic Christian concerns with Pokémon:
Pokémon derives from and promotes an animistic worldview.
- A worldview is the lens through which you look at and interpret the world.
- Animism (spiritism/tribalism) is foreign to many Westerners/Americans but dominates the majority worldview.
- Animism is “the belief that personal spiritual beings and impersonal spiritual forces have power over human affairs, and consequently, that human beings must discover what beings and forces are influencing them in order to determine future action and, frequently, to manipulate their power” (Gailyn Van Rheenen, Communicating Christ in Animistic Contexts, 20).
- If you study more about animism/tribalism/spiritism you will see the connections more and more clearly with the game of Pokémon.
- Animism focuses on BEINGS (gods, ancestors, ghosts, angels, nature spirits, spirit guides) and FORCES (magic, astrology, witchcraft, the evil eye, etc.) that influence the seen world.
- Animism believes the seen world is clearly and definitively related to the unseen world, so animists are often constantly in fear of the powers behind events.
- Power is the essence of animism, especially power to bring about evil.
- Discovering, determining, and warding off the powers is critical in the animistic worldview.
1. Controlling and capturing Pokémon to do your will.
2. Summoning and attracting Pokémon using incense items and lure modules.
3. Actively searching for Pokémon with time, energy, resources, and money (pokécoins).
4. Seeking and using factions and battles between Pokémon.
5. Using potions or revives to heal and restore Pokémons to life.
6. Types and Categories of Pokémons (fire, electric, ghost, poison, psychic) with correlating supernatural powers.
- Just try substituting the concept of "demon" or "spirit" or "ghost" in the place of Pokémon in the above descriptions and you will see the obvious connections with animism.
Well here are my thoughts.
1. Spiritual Warfare is real. Pokémon depicts a false, but widely believed and popularized version of the spirit world. Playing and investing in such games just deepens and broadens the worldview of animism, and also makes it seem like a more fictional or fun world to some. It is important to have an understanding of the spirit world, but we should seek and teach a spiritual worldview that is consistent with the biblical reality. There is a real unseen battle going on between the followers of God (Christians and angels) and the followers of Satan (demons/fallen-angels and non-Christians) (Ephesians 6:10-20).
- Check out "What does the Bible say about Angels, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare?" and "Bible Verses on Spiritual Warfare"
"Study Satan’s tricks, and acquaint yourself with his tactics." William Gurnall
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1 ESV)
“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his Servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15 ESV) "so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs." (2 Corinthians 2:11 ESV)
3. Church History and secular history both took the demonic seriously. The demonic is directly connected to Greek and Roman god worship in early church history. The supernatural world has real monsters and they are called demons. Demons are not cute, friendly, or helpful. The goal and work of demons is to destroy and oppose God, His work, and His people. If people truly understood the spiritual battle going on around us, they would not take it so casually.
“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” (1 Corinthians 14:20 ESV)
Here are just a few examples from early church history:
- Justin Martyr (AD 110-165) in The First Apology explains “since of old these evil demons, effecting apparitions of themselves, both defiled women and corrupted boys, and showed such fearful sights to men, that those who did not use their reason in judging of the actions that were done, were struck with terror; and being carried away by fear, and not knowing that these were demons, they called them gods, and gave to each the name which each of the demons chose for himself.” This description and others how some of the false religions, specifically in the temples of Greek gods, are but demonic imitations of biblical worship. Martyr also points biblically in The Dialogue with Trypho to the Magi in Egypt and the false prophets in Elijah’s days but then connects such false worship to Greek gods such as Bacchus son of Jupiter, Semele, Hercules, Jove of Alcmene, and Æsculapius.
- Irenæus (AD 120-202) “Thus, then, the mystic priests belonging to this sect both lead profligate lives and practise magical arts, each one to the extent of his ability. They use exorcisms and incantations. Love-potions, too, and charms, as well as those beings who are called ‘Paredri’ (familiars) and ‘Oniropompi’ (dream-senders), and whatever other curious arts can be had recourse to, are eagerly pressed into their service. They also have an image of Simon fashioned after the likeness of Jupiter, and another of Helena in the shape of Minerva; and these they worship. In fine, they have a name derived from Simon, the author of these most impious.” (Irenæus, Irenæus Against Heresies (ANF 1:348))
- Minucius Felix (c.AD 210) “…. Saturn himself, and Serapis, and Jupiter, and whatever demons you worship, overcome by pain, speak out what they are; and assuredly they do not lie to their own discredit, especially when any of you are standing by. Since they themselves are the witnesses that they are demons"
- Origen (AD 185-254) “Hence we are determined to avoid the worship of demons even as we would avoid death; and we hold that the worship, which is supposed among the Greeks to be rendered to gods at the altars, and images, and temples, is in reality offered to demons” (Origen, Contra Celsus (ANF 4:640))
4. Our supernatural battle is only won through the power and sacrifice of Christ. Our own abilities, talents, time, and experience will not help us defeat the demonic.
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14-15 ESV)
"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" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ESV)
"Enemy-occupied territory - that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign in sabotage." C.S. Lewis
5. We will answer to God in how we use the time, energy, and resources He has entrusted us with. Pokémon Go requires a lot of time and energy. Wouldn't this time and energy be better invested in chasing after Jesus through the Bible, prayer, evangelism, missions, and church instead of chasing Pokémons?
"So then each of us will give an account of himself to God." (Romans 14:12 ESV)
"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." (Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV)
6. Christians should ultimately ask themselves... does this game of Pokémon glorify God or Satan? Does this please God or provoke Him to jealousy?
"What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?  No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.  Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?  “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up." (1 Corinthians 10:19-23 ESV)
"Your perspective should be very different from the unregenerate." William Gurnall
If you have never read Spirit of the Rainforest: A Yanomamo Shaman's Story by Mark Ritchie or watched The Enemy God, it is extremely helpful to see and understand the animistic worldview. Here is a short interview with Bautista, a former witchdoctor who became a Christian.
This same man, Bautista, a former Yanomamo shaman was asked specifically about Pokémon by looking at their pictures. Read his response here: "Is Pokemon Safe for Christian Kids" THIS IS A VERY HELPFUL BLOG POST...I'd encourage you to read this before you make a final decision on what you think about Pokémon.
“Tell the people from your churches, that if there are things that make them feel uncomfortable, it is probably not good. God’s Spirit will speak to them about what is right and wrong.” Bautista
NOTE: Since writing this, I had two church members who were just on a mission trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. They explained to me (having not read this post or the above links to Bautista) an event that happened on their trip... another American in their group was playing Pokémon Go when a former Mexican witchdoctor noticed a picture of Pikachu on the American's phone. The former witchdoctor, having never seen it or heard of Pokémon before, asserted that the image of Pikachu he saw was a demon he had seen and experienced before and questioned this Christian individual as to why they were playing such a game.
Again the purpose of this post is not to berate, put down, or insult. Unfortunately I have played many of these sorts of games myself in the past and watched some of these genres of entertainment. The purpose of this post is to encourage Christians, and especially Christian parents, to think biblically about the content that is before their eyes and ears and in their hands.
"Are Pokémons demons?" may be the question that brought you to this post. I think the better question that a Christian should be asking is, "Does Pokémon honor God?" and unfortunately, I think the clear answer is "No."
"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)
Here are three of my favorite resources that I hope you'll take the time to check out!