February 14, 2006

Article at Authory

The Gospel According to Sudoku

While browsing in the religion sections of chain bookstores, I often find pop-spirituality books with titles like The Gospel According to Peanuts or The Gospel According to Harry Potter. I've even found, I kid you not, The Gospel According to Oprah. I've never even scanned through these titles, so I can't tell you much about them, but I assume they talk about the Christian values you can expect to find in these sources. The Amazon ad for the Oprah Winfrey book says the author "praises Oprah for using her entertainment pulpit to promote such positive spiritual values as gratitude, empathy, forgiveness and self-examination."

Uh huh.

Well, anyway, in light of these contributions to "gospel values," it occurs to me that what the world now needs is The Gospel According to Sudoku.

Perhaps you are unaware of Sudoku? Sometime last year, I started noticing books on the subject popping up in bookstores, but ignored them. Then, at a Christmas party this past year, I was given a book of Sudoku puzzles and started learning. Basically, it's a number-placement logic game popular in Japan that recently became fantastically popular in the West when the London newspaper The Times began running puzzles alongside the crossword puzzles.

In Sudoku (Japanese, "single number"), there is a grid of nine blocks, with each block sectioned off into nine squares. The object is to place numbers from one to nine horizontally, vertically, and within each block without repeating a number. Never a numbers person, I didn't think I'd like the game very much, but I was wrong. It's a fascinating process and a lot of fun.

So, what's my Gospel According to Sudoku? Well, it's more of an Apologetics Lessons Learned while playing Sudoku.

  • Work in small sections, blocking off extraneous information until it is needed. But remember that there is a bigger picture. The information you insert into the puzzle in one block must agree with the rest of the puzzle. If you put the wrong number in even one square, you’ll ruin the whole puzzle. Sweat the small stuff.
  • As you add more numbers to your puzzle, you will be able to solve other sections of the puzzle that you previously were unable to solve. Information in one area increases the information you have to be able to solve the rest of the puzzle.
  • As the numbers increasingly fall into place, you eventually reach a tipping point and soon the whole puzzle falls into place. Where once you could spend ten minutes trying to find a single number to fit, now you are plugging in the numbers in seconds flat.

What does this have to do with apologetics?

  • You should be wary of giving people more information than they request at any one time because they may not yet be ready to accept it. Keep in mind though that there is a larger picture and that the information you give now is not a self-sustaining construct but a piece of a larger puzzle.
  • As you receive answers to questions about the faith in one area, you soon find yourself able to resolve other apologetics difficulties either you or someone else may have. For example, an answer about the proper understanding of the Incarnation here may lead to a better understanding of the Virgin Mary somewhere down the line.
  • In the conversion process, there is eventually a tipping point, after which you are no longer struggling to place the information you've received into its proper place but are merely "filling in the blanks."

Now, I just have to find time to puff these pearls of wisdom into a 80,000-word manuscript and I'll have the next "Gospel According To" book ready to market!

(Image: Newspaper puzzles, eyeglasses, and pen; Pixabay.)