Theology Game, Follow-Up

I’m impressed by the possible pedagogical value of Bryan’s suggestion of a “Top Trumps” model for a basic version of a Theology Cards game (in the Cluetrain-ed version of Top Trumps, someone gets word to the manufacturer that requiring people to register in order to learn about your product is not good Gonzo Marketing). Here’s an unofficial online example — I’m linking to Kings and Queens of England (Queen Anne had 19 children?!). The follow-up questions would be, what cards would one want (how many? what categories?) and how would one rate the various possible cards?

Anyone want to brainstorm?

12 comments / Add your comment below

  1. One category could be “date” (ascribed date of death for people, year in which an event took place) — later dates trump earlier.

    For another category, what if one of the indices for the cards were “Orthodoxy,” imagined on a scale of zero to seven, with zero assigned to real heresiarchs (Arius, Marcion) and seven to theologians whose contributions amount to defining orthodoxy (Augustine, Irenaeus). Origen’s orthodoxy is ambiguous: four. Tertullian influenced orthodox thought decisively, but himself adopted Montanism: three. Eusebius of Nicomedia: unapologetic Arian, one. Cappadocians: well, Gregory is the theologian, so he must be a seven, but one can’t have too many sevens, so let’s count the others as sixes. (On reflection, a scale that runs from Heresiarch to Heretic to Heterodox to Ambiguous to Orthodox to [something positive] to Doctor might be less controversial).

    And so on.

    Further arguments about the orthodoxy of participants and proposals of other categories welcome. We need five or six categories, and categories should admit of a non-trivial span of quantities

  2. Number of written works? Or size of work, so Aguinas would trump Tillich.

    Age of death? or year of death, or date most notably associated with said person?

    Orthodoxy? This is a hard one is Luther Orthodox or not???

  3. “Age at death” is hard for many of our characters, whose lives are only vaguely documented. Likewise “number” or “quantity of written works.”

    I’ve been resisting the temptation to make “orders of ministry” a category, although I suppose that one could go ahead (and then let players decide whether to play the secular version, in which “higher” offices count more, or the discipleship version, in which the weak are exalted, such that non-ordained, no-official-order cards trump Popes and Bishops).

    “Degree of Martyrdom”? Confessors trump those who were never persecuted, and martyrs trump confessors?

    “Virginity”? Lifelong virgins trump chaste, chaste without children trump chaste with children, chaste with children trump those who repent from licentiousness?

    That would give us five categories, though: Date (of death), Order of Ministry, Orthodoxy, Asceticism, and Martyrdom. We could stipulate “orders” so that the “minor orders” and religious orders factor in. Anyone care to help compose a roster of cards and qualities (or to propose a sixth, or better fifth, cateogry)?

  4. Hmmm. You’ve already got the ones I was going to suggest… I was thinking year of death, number of extant works (you get into all sorts of difficulties here anyway), and order of ministry from lay to monastic to various ecclesiastical grades.

  5. Now, does a “Top Trump” card have the design on one side only (as I would assume)? That would require a design different from the cards I presently make, with a uniform design on the back and image + attributes on the face.

    If I were making a deck of “Top Saints,” I might add some martyrs who don’t appear among my more doctrinally-oriented cards. What about some legendary saints, too? Would that be too confusing?

    What would be the best size and layout for printing such cards?

  6. I’m not so sure about the legendary ones–how exactly do you mean legendary: St Christopher? I’d think you’d need a death date at least…

    A re-design might be in order which would be a shame given your current layout. (After all, If I could see that my opponent had say, Origen, showing I’d know which stat I wanted to pick and vice versa. I was wondering if you’d need a redesign for my version too… I don’t think so because the Saint cards wouldn’t necessarily need to be surprises…Synod, yes, but not Saints…

  7. Derek, no need to worry about that; all ideas about games would involve a different card layout from the ones I’ve been producing so far, which more nearly resemble a cross between baseball cards and holy cards.

    I was thinking about the copious legendary virgin-martyrs, for instance, for whom dramatic deaths have been supplied (often enough under the name of a persecuting emperor), but without firm basis in any historical record: Catherine of Alexandria, Barbara, Margaret of Antioch, Agnes(?).

  8. OK, I’ll post a table here in a while, with saints and their attributes. In the attribute category of “Orthodoxy,” I’ll rank figures as Heresiarch, Heretic, Heterodox, Ambiguous, Orthodox, [Authoritative?], or Doctor.

    “Asceticism” runs on a scale from Virgin to Celibate (no real distinction, except that Virgins make their sexual autnomy a constitutive part of their identity) to Chaste to Penitent to Impentient (I don’t think we’ll have any impenitent characters in the game, but we’ll see).

    “Martyrdom” runs on a scale from Megamartyr (martyrdom under extraordinary or miraculous circumstances), Martyr, Confessor, Exile, Pious [normal without suffering], to Apostate

    “Orders” — Well, obviously Patriarch, Bishop, Priest, Deacon — then what about minor orders or Religious? — Servant of God [normal, not ordained or vowed].

    What happens when two players play cards of the same rank? Any Top Trumps players out there?

    By all means suggest improvements and refinements!

  9. Here we go. Some questions at the end:

    Name Date Order Orthodoxy Asceticism Martyrdom
    Clement of Rome 98 Patriarch/Bishop Orthodox Chaste? Martyr
    Ignatius of Antioch 110 Patriarch/Bishop Orthodox Chaste? Martyr
    Justin Martyr 165 Servant of God Orthodox Chaste? Martyr
    Eusebius of Caesarea 340 Bishop Ambiguous Celibate Confessor
    Polycarp 156 Bishop Orthodox Chaste Martyr
    Marcion 154 Servant of God Heresiarch Celibate Pious
    Eusebius of Nicomedia 342 Bishop Ambiguous Chaste Exile
    Hilary of Poitiers 367 Bishop Authority Chaste Exile
    Gregory the Great 604 Patriarch Doctor Celibate Pious
    Montanus 170? Servant of God Heretic/Schismatic Celibate Pious
    Bede 735 Presbyter Doctor Celibate Pious
    Pachomius 346 Monastic Orthodox Celibate Pious
    Mary of Egypt 421 Monastic Servant of God Penitent Pious
    John Chrysostom 407 Patriarch Doctor Celibate Martyr
    Jerome 420 Presbyter Doctor Celibate Pious
    Hippolytus of Rome 236 Presbyter? Antipope? Authority Celibate Martyr
    Evagrius of Pontus 399 Deacon Ambiguous Celibate Pious
    Cyprian 258 Bishop Authority Celibate Martyr
    John Cassian 433 Deacon Orthodox Celibate Pious
    Ambrose 397 Bishop Doctor Chaste Pious
    Benedict 540 Monastic Orthodox Celibate Pious
    Augustine of Hippo 430 Bishop Doctor Penitent Pious
    Arius 336 Presbyter Heresiarch Celibate Pious?
    Egeria 395? Monastic? Orthodox Celibate Pious
    Helen 329 Servant of God Orthodox Chaste Pious
    Constantine 337 Servant of God Heterodox Unchaste Pious
    Leo the Great 461 Patriarch Authority Celibate Pious
    Origen 255 Presbyter Ambiguous Celibate Martyr
    Macrina 380 Monastic Orthodox Virgin Pious
    Gregory of Nyssa 395 Bishop Authority Chaste Pious
    Gregory of Nazianzus 390 Patriarch Doctor Celibate Pious
    Basil the Great 379 Bishop Doctor Celibate Pious
    Irenaeus 200 Bishop Authority Celibate? Pious
    Tertullian 225 Servant of God Heterodox Chaste Pious
    Anthony of Egypt 356 Monastic Orthodox Celibate Pious
    Perpetua and Felicitas 203 Servant of God Orthodox Chaste? Martyr
    Clement of Alexandria 215 Presbyter Ambiguous Chaste? Pious?
    Athanasius 373 Bishop Doctor Celibate Exile

    Questions: Is there a more neutral designation for people who die of natural causes, so that we don’t end up calling Marcion “pious” with regard to his suffering?

    I’ve ascribed “chastity” to early figures for whom asceticism was not a defining characteristic, whether I had evidence regarding their sex lives or not. OK?

    Anyone I ought to add? Any characterizations I should correct?

  10. It seems natural to think of Marcion as “apostate” but I guess he didn’t crack under persecution…hard to say. Thank goodness for Constantine–where else we would find an Unchaste Heterodox? 😉

  11. There must be some other way to characterize Marcion and Montanus, Tertullian, et al.

    Oh, and:

    Martin of Tours, 397, Bishop, Orthodox, Chaste, Pious
    Lawrence of Rome, 258, Deacon, Orthodox, Chaste, Martyr
    Nestorius, 452, Patriarch(?), Heterodox? Heretic?, Chaste, Pious
    Cyril of Alexandria, 444, Patriarch, Authority, Chaste, Pious
    Pelagius, 425, Monastic, Heterodox, Celibate, Pious

    (See why I was interested in adding a few legendary virgin martyrs?)

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