God talks to you in The Talos Principle. Audibly. Like Adam in the Garden of Eden. From the very moment you take a step in the game, a voice booms from the heavens:
You are risen from the dust, and you walk in my garden.
Hear my voice and know that I am your maker,
and I am called ELOHIM.
Seek me in my temple
if you are worthy.
Me? I don’t like the way ELOHIM talks to me at this juncture (Sidebar: Did you know ELOHIM is the name of God used in Genesis 1:1?). But I shrug off this ELOHIM’s “if you are worthy” bit and take a few more steps into His garden.
I find a force field, right there in the garden. It blocks my progress. So I change course to find what looks like a mounted yellow video camera. As I grab it, I see it’s called a Jammer. I place that in front of the force field and I’ve got an open door. Obstruction solved! Next, I find a hovering mine coming right for me. But I don’t worry. There’s another jammer that can stun the mine into immobility. Before long, I find that these simple tools and obstructions are a seemingly endless stream of environmental obstacles to overcome. Suddenly I hear ELOHIM talk to me again:
My temple awaits you, child.
How many times has a Christian asked God to speak audibly and heard nothing? But when I’m in this video game, having the voice of God booming in my direction with perfect clarity, I am only filled with suspicion and distrust for it.
This God doesn’t ring true to me. He tells me to seek him in his temple “If I’m worthy.” But Jesus already showed me that I’m worthy. So the notion of a voice that tells me to question my own worthiness is this immediate trigger in my mind that says, “this is an ungodly belief.” And while that’s accurate from a biblical perspective, I have to remember what kind of game I’m playing: The Talos Principle may be a game about biblical ideas like the Garden of Eden story, but it’s not a Christian story.
Please don’t read that as a reason to dismiss The Talos Principle. Though the story is written by by two Humanist authors, I would suggest that this curious exploration of trustworthiness and truth is why The Talos Principle is worth your time.
You earn a shiny prize at the end of each puzzle: a sigil. These tetris-like pieces unlock terminals through puzzles that unlock more puzzles or tools to use on harder puzzles. This puzzles-on-puzzles approach may sound taxing, but every puzzle draws the player deeper into the mystery and that core question being offered by ELOHIM: will you receive your Eternal reward?
Now I’m all about the idea of being told “well done, good and faithful servant” by God one day. But there’s something about my Protestant upbringing that wrangles my feathers when anybody starts offering me salvation through good performance. And I think that’s the idea that authors Tom Jubert and Jonas Kyratzes are after. Truth, especially an inconvenient and questionable one, seems far more attractive than performance-based-salvation.
Because of this saved-by-works approach that ELOHIM offers, this “God” feels nothing like the loving Father in the Bible. He strikes me more like the bearded Zeus in the sky than a Sacrificial Lamb. Over time, I grew convinced that “God” was only worthy of my distrust.
Add to that the fact that I’m some kind of android in this game, that a Serpent shows up in the garden, and that there’s evidence to the notion that humanity is long since dead, and the suspicion on the mysterious-meter goes off the charts.
Do I trust “God” when he’s nothing like the Sacrificial Lamb?
The Talos Principle casts me into the tension between Truth and Eternal Security. The ultimate choice is up to me, of course. Do I step into, “Well done my good and faithful?” Or am I unsatisfied with that? As of writing this, I’m sitting in the midst of that decision. I think I know what’s really going on: what’s the truth. But I also want to know what would happen if I just get my “good doggy” reward.
In my faithful relationship with Jesus, I would never follow a “God” that wasn’t like Jesus. He’s shown me that he’s not going to force me into anything I feel is wrong. But I still hold a lot of things in my faith in active tension: sin and consequences are held in the air right next to grace and forgiveness. I don’t want to say that every situation is simple. I know that some questions don’t have easy answers, but I also know deep in my soul that God is best revealed in Jesus; the one who gave himself and consistently gives of himself not to damn or force “truth,” but to be a revelation of truth in himself. Because of Jesus, I have a very hard time accepting expressions of God that aren’t like him.
I reject the God, ELOHIM, of The Talos Principle, not because of the reward or consequences in the game, but because he’s not worthy of my trust. Jesus consistently shows me that he’s the one who I can trust, even when that’s extremely hard. I know he’s got me. I know he’s got the better way. Elohim in the Talos Principle? I’m an atheist to that God.
This guest post and video are written and created by M. Joshua Cauller. Please check out his Youtube channel for playthroughs, reviews, and previews of the latest indie games from a Christ-centered perspective
M. Joshua Cauller
M. Joshua makes game trailers when he's not writing for Indie Haven, GameChurch, and Theology Gaming. He loves face-to-face conversations, storytelling, and his wife, Jessica.
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