When we use the phrase, “playing God,” it’s often in the context of issues related to science and technology. Example: If humans are seemingly overextending the boundaries of their power and knowledge when they mess with the human genome, then they are “playing God.” In the news once again, a family is demanding that a hospital keep their loved one on “life sustaining machines” even though the individual has been pronounced brain dead (which is the legal definition of death). In such situations, we accuse each other of playing God, as if the only function of God is to “pull the plug.” Playing God—who is this God that we say is at play? A God who steps in now and then to pull plugs? Is this God really nothing more than an all-controlling deity whose sole function is to begin and end life? If so, then I believe as a Christian we have limited God to the fears we have about our own power and control over our mortality. We are fundamentally fearful that we really are mortal and so we try in any way possible to overcome the limitation of our mortality. Death, not life drives our language of “playing God.” Such language finds its roots in the caricature of the classical theistic God—the Omni God—and in our pathological fear of finitude.
But such a God is hardly the one we read about in Philippians whose power is found in weakness, who comes to us in the form of a slave. God comes in the opposite of what we expect. So if we are playing God, might it not be more appropriate to say that such divine interaction is about suffering with the creation that groans in travail? That as Christians, if we are to play God, we must become like Christ so that we can bear our neighbor’s burdens, become witnesses to the suffering of those who are in pain and anguish? To play God is to bear witness to the fragility of our life. The kenotic action of God’s play is a drama lived out in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this play, new life and resurrection comes only when we fully know and acknowledge the death of our old life. To play God is to realistically face death in order to fully experience resurrection. This kind of theological play might transform the decisions we make from fearful ones to faithful ones.