Saturday, February 6, 2010


This morning I read two posts about the relationship of the faith to sports. Although addressing rather different aspects, each of them, it seems to me, is about keeping things in proportion.

First, Michael Mckinley, at the 9Marks Blog: "The New York Times seems to be on a mission to make Christians look stupid, and we keep giving them the stick with which to beat us about the head and neck." He is referring to an article about how some churches are using mixed martial arts as an evangelistic tool. Mckinley has some concerns about that approach:
  1. It's derivative and unoriginal. It was lame when Billy Sunday was doing it 100 years ago.
  2. It makes the gospel man-centered. Coming to Jesus isn't a way for you to deal with your daddy issues. I get it, your dad didn't hug you when you were little and you want to be a different kind of man. How about you go hug your kid then? Jesus didn't come to help you get in touch with your inner MMA fighter.
  3. Like it or not, the gospel is at least in part about weakness. It's about the almighty becoming weak to save us. It's about us being helpless and unable in our sins. There's no way to Christ that doesn't start with brokenness and an admission of impotence. Yes, Jesus is the strong man who binds the adversary, but he bound him by suffering, humiliation, and weakness.
  4. It discourages and mocks godly men who aren't macho. There is an undercurrent of disdain in all of this. Proponents of this testosterone Christianity can't help but take shots at guys who wear pastels and drink cappuccino. You might not like guys with manicures, but there's absolutely nothing morally wrong with it. A reserved, quiet, well-groomed man can be a good Christian. Believe it or not. [more]
Kevin DeYoung writes about a Christianity Today cover article, "Sports Fanatics." DeYoung responds at length, thinks the concerns are overwrought, and concludes "A Simpler View of Sports" with this:
Hoffman [the author of the article], it seems, wants sports to be in the realm of special grace, where I am happy to have them in the world of common grace. Sports are games. They’re fun. They can bring out the best in us and the worst, just like everything else in life. They are blessings. And they can be idols. If Hoffman had talked about that, I would be all over it. God knows we need conviction for deifying sports teams and sports stars.

But in the end, I don’t think a theology of sports needs to be terribly complicated. Sports is yet another avenue to live out rebellion or another way to glorify God. But the glory is not because the perfect backstroke gives us a glimpse of heavenly play and heavenly bodies. Rather, because the backstroker, or point guard, or slot receiver, is humble, honest, and works hard unto the Lord. Let’s not make things more difficult than they have to be. Sports can be a waste of time, a wasteland of vice, or an oasis of God-glorifying people and principles. It depends on what you make it. [more]
Church Matters: The 9Marks Blog, A Simpler View of Sports – Kevin DeYoung


  1. I agree with the article from McKinley and DeYoung (as you would expect) but two side notes:
    1. Jesus did not call us to be in touch with our inner MMA fighters. However, He did not call us to sing prom songs (a lot of modern contemporary worship) to Him in church either. Men as heads of homes need to be reached for Jesus and encouraged to be men.

    2. Sports is often an avenue for idolatry but it is a critical component of our culture that must be addressed to contextualize the gospel.

  2. I agree with each of your qualifications. Especially [you will not be surprised to know] with the second sentence of number one. We might not agree on the remedy, though...


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