Experimental theology of Rock, paper, scissors


Suppose you have been given the unique privilege of spending an afternoon with the ascended Jesus Christ. In a surprising moment of the day, he asks you if you would like to play a few rounds of  “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” This hypothetical scenario raises a interesting theological question: Would you win any rounds?

If you are an Ebionist theologian, Jesus is human like any other human. So the odds of winning would be pretty much 50/50. The only problem is that like every other human living in the first century, Jesus wouldn’t be around today to play. The experiment would be, to say the least, uninteresting, and to be sure, unable to be carried out.

If you are a WWJD sort, this hypothetical situation would leave you somewhat in the lurch. Since there’s no clear precedent of Jesus playing any sort of game, it would be difficult to determine what Jesus would do in this situation. But likely, he’d do whatever we think he’d do. So if you are feeling down, Jesus would let you win–as a sort of encouragement. Or if you have a bit too much pride for winning too many rounds, he’d promptly show you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought. But frankly, this theology doesn’t help us too much…

From the perspective of a classical theology of divine omniscience (say in the Thomistic sense), it is clear you would be unable to win any rounds, because Jesus would know in advance (exhaustively from now until eternity) every move you will ever make. The “Thomist Jesus” would make for quite an astounding win record Jesus, but for observers, it would quickly become a pretty dull match. And probably pretty dull for Jesus, too.

From the perspective of “openness theism,” you theoretically have as good a chance of winning rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors with Jesus as you would any other friend. This is because, according to openness theologians, Jesus  would not have exhaustive knowledge of the future, including whether you would pick rock, paper or scissors each round. He may know you much better than you know yourself, so he could predict with greater accuracy what you would pick. But it seems you’d still have a chance of winning an occasional round and Jesus would willingly take the risk of playing with you. I just can’t imagine it would be appropriate to do a victory dance if you did win…

From the perspective of Molinism (the view that God is truly sovereign over creation while giving humans true freedom of the will), Jesus would have knowledge of all actual moves you will make, and every possible moves you could but don’t make (“counterfactuals”). But I can’t for the life of me figure out whether Jesus would let you win some rounds “just because” he’s a good sport and wants to let me know that I have genuine free will. But even if he did let you win, such a “win” would seem to be a bit “empty,” don’t you think?

If you are a process theologian, things become, I think, much more unpredictable. According to Charles Hartshorne, human actions have “a contributing value to God which he would otherwise lack” (Hartshorne, “The Dipolar Conception of Deity,” Review of Metaphysics [1967]: 274). In the process way of thinking, Jesus might actually depend on you to win some rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors so that his own divine character is sharpened and enriched through his interactions with you. Indeed, process theologians generally believe in an open future even for God. Thus, for you to win at Rock, Papers, Scissors with a “process Jesus” makes both you and him better! But if that is the case, then it seems ludicrous to depend on him to be a Saviour when the game is over…

If you are a liberationist theology, then it is clear that Jesus would let you win. In his solidarity with the “poor” (including those who are poor in Rock, Papers, Scissors abilities), he would become the loser to show his solidarity with all the other poor Rock, Papers, Scissors players.

If you are a “Jesus Seminar” kind of scholar, this whole “Rock, Paper, Scissors” thing is obviously a carry-over from ancient Babylonian practices of dispute resolution. So if Jesus wants to play Rock, Paper, Scissors…you better know he has a beef he wants to settle with you.

So what can we conclude?

Rock, Paper, Scissors is a lousy way to settle a theological dispute.


9 thoughts on “Experimental theology of Rock, paper, scissors

  1. RogueMonk

    …you would have a 100% win rate. When you won, you won. When Christ won, you would still win.

    Blessings, RogueMonk

  2. Jon P

    I actually have to disagree with you about the Liberation theology scenario. If you are playing rock, paper, scissors with Jesus and not toiling under some oppressor, you are the oppressor. Expect Jesus to take up literal rock, scissors or paper (gotta hate paper cuts)against you.

  3. I believe that there would be as much chance for Jesus to win as there would be for me. He emptied Himself of all divine “omniscience” over us so as to be fully human. If the Holy Spirit wanted Him to He would reveal to Him your next move. But then again, God would not do that, He would want a fair fight, toe to toe, as equals, heartily laughing and genuinely surprised with results…

    The Incarnation opens amazing vistas of living relationships with God…

    That’s what I think… 🙂


  4. Knowing Jesus He would be the servant and wash the feet of the one agreeing to play the game. Only man would ask who would win and why. Jesus would use the moment to show us the foolishness of our ways and the true heart of a loving servant.

  5. Who knows what Jesus would do? Probably would just want to hang out without any complicated agenda messing the moment up… just being in the moment… now here’s a difficult one for bipedes, eh?

Comments are closed.