Jesus Scored A Touchdown…Maybe

Tim Tebow is known for at least two things: a curious football success and, being an outspoken Christian.  Tebow uses every opportunity to voice his Christian faith, and has at times caught some negative attention for it.  In response to former Denver Broncos quarterback, Jake Plummer’s criticism of wearing his faith on his sleeve, Tebow had this to say:

(The Blaze) —  [I]f you’re married and you’re a [husband] is it good enough to only say you love her on the day you get married or should you tell her every single day when you wake up and have an opportunity?

And that’s how I feel about my relationship with Jesus Christ. It is the most important thing in my life so anytime I get an opportunity to tell Him that I love Him or give Him an opportunity to shout Him out on national TV, I’m gonna take that opportunity. So I look at that as a relationship that I have with Him that I want to give Him honor and glory anytime I have the opportunity and then right after I give Him honor and glory, then I want to try and give my teammates honor and glory and that’s how it works because Christ comes first in my life. Then my family, and then my teammates.

I think it would be safe to say that most people who take issue with his public expression of his faith do so in respect to its prevalence and persistence.  I too have a [slight] problem with it, but not for any of the reasons posed in the media.  I applaud Tebow for his unwavering proclamation of his faith.  He hasn’t backed down and refuses to be silenced.  That is quite a commendable virtue coming from someone of fame.

I take umbrage with the association of Tebow’s success to his Christianity.  I fear that while he is a success, his vocality is not a liability for the credibility of Christianity.  However, what happens if he hits a slump, or suffers a Theismann-like injury, or he just ends up being a flat out failure?  Of course, the truth of the Christian view is not made or broken on Tim Tebow.  But for some people, the truth of Christianity rests on their relative success or failure, or professing Christians’ success or failure (See: Try Some Of My Jesus).

In other words, if Tebow suffers a career-ending injury, or just flops as a quarterback, Christianity’s critics will ask: Where was Tebow’s God?  or Why did his God allow him to fail?  And they would be right to do so.  Why?  Because if Jesus is credited with helping throw the game-winning touchdown, He can be equally credited with having the pass intercepted. But we never hear in a post-game interview: We would have won, but Jesus made me drop the ball.

Believe me, I know how this is coming across to Christians reading this right now.  But I think evangelism and praise has its place.  When Jesus is made the centerpiece for our successes, He will be seen as the centerpiece for our failures by non-Christians.  Tebow certainly should not shy away from his faith, and should speak freely about it.  But he should tread lightly as to not bring discredit upon Jesus should his success wane.  There is a fine line between a cautious prudent public profession of Christ, and setting Him up as a potential perceived failure.  Because Tebow’s faith is so outspoken, his failures will be — by many — laid at the feet of Christianity.

Comments

  1. I did a post on Tebow last week. I don’t think that he is saying that God is “on his side” pertaining to wins and losses. What Tim is saying is that God has blessed him with athletic ability and he wants to let others know how blessed he is (in the hopes that they, if not saved, would become believers).

    • I’m not suggesting that Tebow is making explicit claims about God being on his side or anything — he might, I just don’t know.

      However: “God has blessed him with athletic ability and he wants to let others know how blessed he is (in the hopes that they, if not saved, would become believers).”

      This is the problem I have with the issue. Becoming a Christian for what blessings it can offer is a poor reason, and I have my concerns with someone’s motives if this is the case for them. It smacks of treating God as your own personal consierge. When people come to Christ under these conditions, they will abandon Him as soon as the blessings run out. Trust me, I know what you mean and the point you are making. But I think what you said is how too many people come to Christianity, and it is a recipe for disaster.

      Now, enjoying and praising God for blessings that do come our way is entirely warranted. But I know people who expect blessings in virtue of being a believer due to the kinds of preachers they are following. TBN makes milquetoast Christians.

      Thanks for your thought and clarification on Tebow. Personally, I hope he continues to be a success and prospers in the NFL. He has the potential to be a great witness for Christ

  2. If God “blessed him with athletic ability”, what did God “bless” the kid with Cerebral Palsy with?
    The point is, as John Barron says, what do Christians say when things go South — as they did for Job?

    As for wearing your faith on your sleeve:

    In Japan it is considered bragging and arrogant to talk about one’s affections for one’s wife or tell of the wonderful things your own children do. Likewise, telling all about how Jesus is your friend and how he blesses you would be consider very poor form for a Japanese Christian.

    When thinking about this issue, it may be helpful to think about how a Christian would feel about Muslims on the team who did rug-prayers before a game in public and talked about Allah every chance he got. Or what about a Pagan who did the same. Or how about an Atheist who talked every chance he had about the beauty of not needing an imaginary friend to play with all his heart? He used his TV celebrity time to push testify about Atheism.

    • Sabio

      I wouldn’t be opposed to other public expressions per se, however it would foster and encourage a sense of pluralism not before seen. Anyone making claims of exclusivity (soteriologically) will be seen as bigots and hateful (sound familiar?).

  3. Sorry, John, not following you. Perhaps what I wrote was not clear.

    • You asked about how Christians would feel about other expressions of different religious faiths. I wouldnt be opposed as far as that is concerned. But the unintended consequence would be that of a hyper-pluralism, where religious exclusivism is treated the same way as opposing same-sex marriage. I am not going to get into that here and wont entertain any discussion on homosexuality or samesex marriage, but the tactics would be similar. Any disagreement with pluralism would be chalked up to hateful bigotry, not because of a genuine disagreement in worldview.

  4. I must be misunderstanding you. I seems like you said:

    We religious-exclusivists (who feel those who don’t think like us will all burn in hell) will be treated meanly if we encourage everyone to share their religious passions.

    • Of course it seems like that when you reduce it to that. The point is people who think they are correct, regardless of the view, if their view says opposing views are incorrect will be looked upon as hateful and bigoted.

      Let me know if you want to discuss the post.

  5. Unfortunately, I guess I am not surprised that I did not misunderstand you.

    I did actually discuss the post when:

    (1) I tried to show how Tibow’s rationale for his enthusiastic witnessing was culturally determined and not as common sense as he thinks.

    In Japan it is considered bragging and arrogant to talk about one’s affections for one’s wife or tell of the wonderful things your own children do. Likewise, telling all about how Jesus is your friend and how he blesses you would be consider very poor form for a Japanese Christian.

  6. Very well parsed John. You are right to counsel caution in attributing success to Jesus, precisely because it works both ways. But how then does it work for believers who pray and expect results? What is, ultimately, the relationship between God, believers, and supplication? Does God intervene, or not? Does prayer move God to act, or not? Much turns on these questions.

    • @Kendrick

      Of course God intervenes. Not necessarily to our specifications though. Certainly skeptics view this as a liability. But imagine if every prayer were answered. I can think of a few prayers that, if answered would have proven disastrous. But lets entertain the pasly sufferers that Sabio thinks I should be writing about. If there is someone with palsy who is a believer in spite of their affliction, how much more genuine is that faith than someone who is only a believer for all the goodies God has given?

      @Sabio

      I like how you do everything that you can to make silly the Christians claims. I imagine you amuse yourself. But as someone who once told me you were no longer going to waste your time here because the discussion wasn’t serious enough, you seem to an awful lot of mocking lately. So what am I to expect from you?

      You don’t view explanations of God’s action or inaction as worthy of consideration. You see them as excuses, right? So yes, offering an opportunity for non-Christians such as yourself who only look for what they consider to be special pleading, is not prudent. No amount of discussion will put you into a place where you’ll say “I disagree with the worldview, but that explanation is reasonable”. Explanation=excuse, am I correct?

  7. @ John B.
    Kendrick is right. The underlying Issue is the perennial question of Lot: “When good things happen to you, is it because your god stepped in and gave you prosperity. But how do we explain the bad”. That is why my first comment made the Cerebral Palsy allusion. But your post does not address this question. It drops it. Instead, it sounds like you are simply saying:

    Yes, Jesus gives us believers blessings and we should be thankful, but if you brag too much about our special blessing-tickets, then when something bad happens then those Pagans will jump all over us, so keep it a little more quiet please. The pagans wouldn’t understand our subtle explanations of why we can brag about God’s special help one second and dismiss our suffering with “God knows Best” the next minute. So don’t put up a stumbling block for those who don’t honor God’s Wisdom like we do.

    Is that close to accurate?

  8. @ John B
    Well of course I think some Christian claims are silly — heck, I am an Atheist. Since I don’t believe in any gods, of course it is true that:

    You don’t view explanations of God’s action or inaction as worthy of consideration.

    Nor would you consider ‘worthy of consideration’ any claims I made of the miracles done by Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, who you no longer believe in. Right?
    And I wouldn’t expect you to say:

    “I disagree with the worldview, but that explanation about Rudolph is reasonable”

    If you didn’t even think Rudolph existed, would I?
    It seems you are frustrated simply because I point out some of the obvious problems with your view and rephrase them succinctly.

    You never answered Kendrick’s question. You only put it off with another question. Thus what I paraphrased as your probable reply still apparently holds:

    Shhhh, don’t brag about Jesus cause it can turn on us and become bad PR when bad things happen.

    Right?

    • Sabio

      Like I said, people like you chalk up “blessings” as coincidence and “hardships” as evidence against. So if you must reduce it in the manner you have then so be it. The majority of non-Christians view explanations as excuses. So it makes the evangelistic enterprise that much more difficult.

  9. @ John B
    I classify good things and bad things that happen to us in the same way — complex. But I don’t have a god involved in the story. Your typification was incorrect. What would you do with blessing stories that Krishnavites tell us or Allah-worshippers tell us if you didn’t think their god existed. It is the same Rudolph point you avoided.

    But you are still avoiding the question. So let’s stick to the point of your post. So I will repeat:
    Doesn’t your post say nothing more than:

    Shhhh, don’t brag about Jesus’ blessings cause it can turn on us and become bad PR when bad things happen.

    If it says something more than that, please let me know. I must have missed it.

    • Of course you missed it, but that’s only due to your insistence on over reduction. You apparently automatically do it as you read. There isn’t anything I can do to help that.

  10. @John Barron Jr. A good post. This is the kind of post that really interrests me in your blog. It brings up a proplem and a question, that is not as simplistic as that the answer was obvious. You can write a very good post when you decide to ask a question.

    A person has every right to use his public arena to bring up issues he feels important. Like Muhammed Ali used his career to support civil rights movement, but it is inevitable, that there are those who see it also as inappropriate. I as an atheist would not find god any more plausible because an athlete declared a god helped him. Nor would I expect a god to help them out all the time even if such an entity actually existed.

    A public figure may draw attention to important issues, and in that sense declaring ones faith or conviction is proactive. How about all those athletes that are used to promote consumer products? There was this famous runner Ben Johnson that was used by a dairy company here in Finland to advertize milk. Now, you would expect milk is such an everyday commodity it would not need advertizing, but for sure it was worth the effort by the dairy company to pay expensive promotion to the athlete and somehow his part in advertizing the milk caused more people to drink and more importantly to buy milk. Then he got caught of using steroids and was banned from sports. You can imagine how people made fun that the steroids were from all the milk he had drank. I have no idea wether or not this decreased the consumption of milk by the dairy company, but of course it was an embarresment they were not responsible for. Just like in your example Jesus is not responsible for the failures of any sportsman, but is Jesus responsible for their talents either? What evidence is there for that? Certainly milk alone had not made Ben Johnson a great athlete, not even before he decided to use steroids.

    People do buy into advertizing. Often not consciously, but subconsciously we are diverted to make consumer choises by advertisments. Athletes are very often used for that. If someone is subconsciously diverted to make a fundamental choise of faith, is that choise of any value? Our backround culture gives us such subconscious diversions towards this or that religion to be true. The problem being, that there is by far too much “information” about all the different religions for most people living their busy everyday lives to make very informed decisions on issues like this.

    What it all comes to, is people making the choise of faith on similar basis as they make consumer choises. By the subconscious diversions of what ever culture they were brought up in and what messages on these issues they have gotten from people they respect for a reason or a nother. So many people will choose wrong (and end up in eternal torment), not because they are evil at heart, but because they felt a certain kind of choise was natural, even thought they have no idea as to why exactly it felt right. Why is it that, if there actually is a supreme being capable of so much, as creating a universe and it is willing to save us from the eternal pain and torture, that entity does so little to inform us of our predicament, and gives so much power to our subconscious choises?

    Do you understand?

    @ Sabio. I agree that the cultural sphere makes all the difference to what is seen as appropriate. The world is globalizing and we all need to take more into account the views of others and how different cultures react to something. Does this athlete not act correctly in his own cultural frame?

    The other point about religious folk not being very willing to give excuses why their gods let all the evil happen is also good. But you have to give it to John, that it is rare that a true believer gets even this close to that issue at all.

  11. Terrance H. says:

    John,
    I agree there is a time and place for evangelism, but I’m having trouble understanding your point – if you have one. The same could be said of you, John. You openly profess and defend your faith, and some (ME) would consider that a form of evangelism, and you do it to a rather large audience —- the Internet.

    What if – God forbid – you lose your job, house, or are stricken with sone terrible disease or injury. Couldn’t the same guy who wonders where Tebow’s God is wonder where yours is? Any Christian who openly professes his faith can tarnish the Christian religion in the eyes of those who don’t hold it in high regard to begin with, but those who suffer from TB (True Believerism) know better.

    I juat don’t see much substance here, John.

    • Terrance,

      You’d be correct if I was using this blog to declare all the blessings God has given me. I’m not suggesting that evangelism is wrong, but when done in the context of “look at all the great things I have and all the talent God has given me” is a dangerous way to evangelize. And it seems that Tebow’s evangelism and praise seems to be tied to his success, that is my point.

  12. Terrance H. says:

    John,

    I’m pretty sure it’s a given that you consider certain things in your life blessings from on high. You would be hard-pressed to find any serious believer who didn’t see things that way.

    But if you don’t believe God has given you anything or done anything for you, then what the hell is the point of religion? If He has done nothing, then it would follow that He will do nothing. So, what’s the point? There isn’t one. It’s nothingness without end at that point.

    Tim Tebow is doing what all serious Christians do: THANK and PRAISE God. It’s what happens each Sunday in Churches across America, so whoever wants to be critical of the Christian faith need not wait on Tebow to break his leg like Theismann. There are plenty of believers out there who do and say the same things and I’ll bet some of those have had some horrible, awful things happen to them in their life. Things that a non-believer could use to be critical of the Christian faith. Tebow is irrelevant, is my point.

  13. Cerebral palsy is as a result of our sin and rebellion. Mankind brought evil to life by disobeying God. Unfortunately, sin has consequences for more than just the sinners. You can’t blame disease on God.

  14. John, I think Sabio has made every effort to engage you rationally and civilly. And to some extent, the question still dangles. What are the guiding principles of divine intervention? When and why does God choose to lessen/increase suffering or confer/withdraw blessings? Is this one of the mysteries we’re not meant to understand? I suppose you could make the case that God imposes suffering or blessings according to a Master Plan, and that some perpetuated suffering in that Master Plan produces net benefits. Maybe FDR’s polio, for example, was a net social and political positive, and maybe God works it all out according to a Master Plan that we’ll never fully comprehend but nevertheless must respect. And maybe, to get back to what I think is the narrower point of your post, the distinction is between abilities (blessings) and particular achievements, on the one hand, and disabilities (curses, or blessings withheld) and particular failures, on the other hand. God is responsible for the former, in both cases, but not the latter. Is that what you’re saying?

    If so, you’re making a rational case for the uneasy marriage of divine determinism and human free will. What we make of God’s blessings, and blessings withheld, is up to us. God seeds us, so to speak, and then sees what happens.

    For an atheist (like Sabio) and even an uneasy pro-God agnostic (like me), such a framework presupposes way too much omnipotence for comfort (and it can’t be omniscience — or else we’re living in an entirely God-dictated universe with no free will). What we’re asking, ultimately I think, is whether your God really Knows Everything and has Total Power over Everything. If yes, the consequences are profound, disturbing and probably conversation-shuttering. If no, there’s much more to explore.

    • Kendrick

      I do think God brings good times and bad. Health and ailment. Now how often and to what degree He intervenes I dont know. My opinion is more often than not, time and events run their course. But I am not one to say all the good comes from God, and all the pitfalls are my fault. God permits or causes all events. I really don’t see why God’s knowledge and power and benevolence creates such mayhem with un-believers. I understand the argument, I just dont see it as the hindrence you guys do.

      on a tangent, omnipotence does not entail determinism. It took me quite awhile to work through it, but I think one can argue that case.

  15. I was watching the end of Facing the Giants the other night, and the pregame speech seems appropriate. Seems like the coach character says something like “God has done some amazing things to get us her, and no matter what happens were going to praise Him.” Seems like a good plan to me.

  16. John, omnipotence may not entail determinism (assuming God frequently chooses not to exercise His total power) — but to your question — why does God’s knowledge and power and benevolence create such mayhem with un-believers? — it’s because a total-powerful, total-knowing, total-Good God sounds more like a convenient caricature than a reality — like an elegant equation that solves a physics problem, rather than an entity that engages with actual human beings. This paradox has long been a problem for me. Either God is a super-duper ultimate Everything, much like the ultimate computer, in which case no such thing as “love” or “happiness” or “sadness” or “anger” or any of the human emotions repeatedly ascribed to God in scriptures are meaningful, or even possible — or, God actually does experience “love” and “happiness” and “sadness” and “anger,” and by the way, He changes His mind occasionally (as frequently happened in the Old Testament stories) — in which case He is plainly not total-powerful, total-knowing, and total-Good. A being that changes his mind cannot be total-knowing. A being that can be surprised by events and get angry cannot be total-powerful or total-knowing. A being that can wipe out nearly all of His creation because it looks like a mistake cannot be total-knowing or total-Good. If we are left with something less than omnipotence and omniscience, if God begins to look a bit more human, then some of the theological problems raised by your post disappear.

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