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Football Christianity

Bible verses, Christianity, and atheismTim Tebow of the Denver Broncos has made a name for himself (and added his name to the dictionary) with his flamboyant public appreciation whenever God helps him out with a football play.  The interesting thing about his kneeling in praise is that it’s self-aggrandizing while pretending not to be.  It was precisely anticipated in Matthew: “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others” (Matt. 6:5).  The verse continues: “Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

Mr. Tebow, are we to imagine that the Creator of the universe took time out of his busy schedule of not saving starving children to help you make a good football play?  I understand that it’s important to you, and it’s nice to see a professional athlete not bragging about how great he is, but doesn’t football seem a little trivial?  Doesn’t it make your religion look bad to even suggest that?  And doesn’t it seem illogical to imagine God being yanked first one way by you and then in the opposite way by some guy praying for the opposite result on the other team?

Perhaps I’m being harsh.  Let me try to view this more charitably.

Tebow is also known for evangelizing through Bible verses painted in the eye black on his face.  Above, he’s proclaiming Ephesians 2:8–10: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

That’s good advice.  But Tebow has promoted a variety of verses, not just the standard John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world …”) or Luke 2:10–11 (“I bring you good news of great joy …”).

Here he gives us Exodus 22:29, which says, “Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats.  You must give me the firstborn of your sons.”  God’s demand of child sacrifice is often forgotten, but it’s good to be reminded of the basics.

Other verses that show how God used child sacrifice within Israel are Ez. 20:25–6.

Of course, the size constraints of eye black makes Twitter look like an encyclopedia, but these messages are worth parsing.  This one is a nice reminder of God’s limitations.  2 Kings 3:26–27 tells of the end of a battle against Moab.  The prophet Elisha promised Judah a victory.  But when the king of Moab saw that he was losing, he sacrificed his son and future heir.  This magic was apparently too much for Yahweh, because “there was an outburst of divine anger against Israel, so they broke off the attack and returned to their homeland.”

A verse with a similar message is Judges 1:19: “The Lord was with the men of Judah.  They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron.”

Another oldie but goodie.  Psalms 89:7 says “In the council of the holy ones Elohim [God] is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him.”  How often do we forget that God is part of an Olympus-like pantheon?  Ps. 82:1–2 gives a similar message.

I’m waiting for someone to reference Deuteronomy 32:8, which describes how Yahweh’s dad divided up his inheritance (all the tribes of the earth) among his sons: “When El Elyon [the Most High] gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided up humankind, he set the boundaries of the peoples, according to the number of the heavenly assembly.”

You rarely see an entire chapter reference, but Leviticus 20 is a meaty one with a lot of good fundamentals.  Everyone knows that homosexual relations are abominable, and verse 13 gives the death as the appropriate penalty.  But it’s easy to forget the other demands of this chapter: eat no unclean animals (:25), exile any couple that has sex during the woman’s menstrual period (:18), death to spiritual mediums (:27), death for adultery (:10), and death for “anyone who curses their father or mother” (:9).  It comes as a package, people!

Eye black references to divine genocide are common—1 Samuel 15:2–3, Deut. 20:16–18, and Judges 21:10 for example—but it’s nice to see this one.  Deuteronomy 2:34–5 says, “And we took all [Sihon’s] cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain.”

I’ll skim through a few more that I’ve seen.  Why aren’t more sermons taught on these verses?

  • In our modern unbiblical and slavery-free society, we too often forget that not only did God permit slavery, but he regulated it.  Exodus 21:20–21 says, “And if a man smite his slave with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.  But if [the slave] live for a day or two, he shall not be punished, for [the slave] is his property.”
  • I guess with football players, you’ll find lots of verses about violence.  Isaiah 13:15–16 is a popular one: “Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword. Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.”  Another that’s so common as to almost be cliché is Ps. 137:9: “Happy is the one who seizes your [Babylon’s] infants and dashes them against the rocks.”
  • It’s not surprising that sexual slavery interests football players.  Numbers 31:15–18 says, “Now kill all the boys.  And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”
  • I like to see reminders for racial purity.  Ezra 9:2 says, “They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them.”  Other verses in this vein are Nehemiah 13:1–3 and Deut. 23:3.
  • Finally, a helpful reminder that even Jesus can be wrong: “There be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28).  Two thousand years later, and we’re still waiting.  Ah well, we all make mistakes!

I think of these as the Forgotten Verses, and I praise athletes like Tebow for putting them front and center where they belong.  It’d be great to get them back into circulation by making them the subject of sermons.  After all, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

I’ll finish with a Saturday Night Live sketch that shows Jesus visiting the Broncos after he won another game for them.

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About Bob Seidensticker
  • http://www.facebook.com/karludy Karl Udy

    In our modern unbiblical and slavery-free society

    There are more slaves in the world today that at the height of the Atlantic slave trade. And if you think that in modern, prosperous Western nations there aren’t slaves, think again. Many people are brought into the country either undocumented, or their travel documents are held by their “employers” as they are forced to work, often in prostitution, but also in legitimate industries too.

    Bears thinking about, every time we think our society is morally superior to those of other times.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      There are more slaves in the world today that at the height of the Atlantic slave trade.

      I was thinking in the West, but that’s a good point. I have heard, however, that as a percentage of the population, it’s at a historic low.

      Bears thinking about, every time we think our society is morally superior to those of other times.

      A helpful reminder, thanks.

  • Bob Calvan

    So all Bob is saying, is what his buddy Eddy Tabash says. That Bob does no like the way God does things. But keep in mind Bob is a moral relativist. So there is no absolute good and bad in Bob’s worldview. So all Bob can say in his relative subjective view he does not like what God does. And that is just one relative view in 7 billion. Because others may like what God does. So what is true for Bob mat not be true for someone else.

    Bob also said;
    “..Finally, a helpful reminder that even Jesus can be wrong: “There be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28). Two thousand years later, and we’re still waiting. Ah well, we all make mistakes!…”

    Sorry Bob, Jesus was not wrong. The Jewish apostles Jesus was talking to knew exactly what Jesus was saying. The Son of man coming, and the Lord coming on the clouds, etc refers to coming in Judgment. And that is exactly what happened in this prophesy. When the Roman army destroyed the Temple and 1 million Jews were slaughtered.
    In fact at that time the apostles never knew Jesus was leaving, yet expecting a second physical coming. Before you put you foot in your mouth at least do some studying.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      So there is no absolute good and bad in Bob’s worldview.

      You keep saying that as if there is something wrong or contradictory in that. Because you provide nothing, I assume that you understand the logic of my position completely.

      So what is true for Bob mat not be true for someone else.

      Isn’t this how you see life in society?

      Before you put you foot in your mouth at least do some studying.

      That’s good advice. You might consider following it.

      The New Testament says that the end will come shortly many times. Let’s look at one of these instances. Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matt. 24:34).

      So “all these things” refers to the destruction of the temple? Nope: “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (24:29). Didn’t happen.

      Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet. The end was coming. In fact, this helps us understand why the gospels were written when they were. Why not write them immediately? There was no point—the end was just around the corner. As the generation of eyewitnesses was dying, the church saw that they needed to adapt for the long haul and wrote down the gospels.

  • Bob Calvan

    Bob said:

    ‘..So “all these things” refers to the destruction of the temple? Nope: “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (24:29). Didn’t happen…”

    Still got you foot in your mouth. They sure did happen! And the Apostles of that generation did see it! If you would like a commentary on what that means just ask. But here is a hint.
    In our generation the 21 century I was writing you a letter and I said ” Hi Bob, what a day we had today it was raining cats and dogs it was an unbelievable storm. You would know exactly what I meant. Then lets say it is two thousand years later and a future human finds your letter and reads it. And says Wow! There must have been some supernatural storms in those days. Or said what a stupid generation that was thinking cats and dogs could fall from the sky.

    Just as coming on the clouds is defined in the old testament as coming in judgment. So does “The sun darkening, moon giving no light, stars falling from the sky” have specific meanings all through the OT. The Apostles knew exactly what Jesus was saying.. Just like you would if I said it was raining cats and dogs.
    Maybe you should do a Bible study and find out what those terms mean, before misrepresenting Matt 24. That generation saw everything Jesus said, and historians from that time confirmed it .. ( non- Christian historians)

    • Bob Seidensticker

      You give yourself license to reinterpret the statements of the NT in whatever way best suits your theology. OK, but don’t expect that to give you any credibility to anyone hearing you.

      This statement in Matt. 24 about the stars falling from the sky was taken from Isaiah. You’re saying that this time, it was just hyperbole, like “raining cats and dogs.” How do you know?

      You say that it was common knowledge in OT times and NT times that this was hyperbole? Let’s look at the two places in Isaiah where this came from. Isaiah 13 says:

      9 See, the day of the LORD is coming
      —a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—
      to make the land desolate
      and destroy the sinners within it.
      10 The stars of heaven and their constellations
      will not show their light.
      The rising sun will be darkened
      and the moon will not give its light.

      11 I will punish the world for its evil,
      the wicked for their sins.
      I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty
      and will humble the pride of the ruthless.
      12 I will make people scarcer than pure gold,
      more rare than the gold of Ophir.
      13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble;
      and the earth will shake from its place
      at the wrath of the LORD Almighty,
      in the day of his burning anger.

      And Isaiah 3:

      2 The LORD is angry with all nations;
      his wrath is on all their armies.
      He will totally destroy[a] them,
      he will give them over to slaughter.
      3 Their slain will be thrown out,
      their dead bodies will stink;
      the mountains will be soaked with their blood.
      4 All the stars in the sky will be dissolved
      and the heavens rolled up like a scroll;
      all the starry host will fall
      like withered leaves from the vine,
      like shriveled figs from the fig tree.

      “Make the land desolate”? “Destroy sinners”? “[God] will totally destroy [all nations]“? “The mountains will be soaked with their blood”? I’m pretty sure there would be much historical evidence of this happening.

      What about the other times the author of Matthew pulled from the OT–Jesus riding a donkey, Bethlehem being the birthplace, the virgin thing, and so on. Are they hyperbole too?

      And tell me how you know that the stars did indeed fall from the sky. Or fall figuratively. Or something.

  • Bob Calvan

    The Bible itself give rules for how to interpret it. For instance, here is an interesting passage that demonstrates this. David is describing how God delivered him from Saul, and he says:

    2 Samuel 22:8–13: Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of heaven quaked and were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth; Coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down with darkness under His feet. He rode upon a cherub, and flew; and He was seen upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness canopies around Him, dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him coals of fire were kindled.
    This passage, and others like it, bear remarkable similarities to the Olivet Discourse. ( MAtt 24) Now, no one believes that YHWH actually saddled up a cherub and rode on it to Dodge to rescue David. No one believes that the heavens bowed down and the whole wide world shook. No one. However, we recognize Hebrew idiom and hyperbole in the OT all of a sudden turn daffy when the exact same language is used by a Hebrew prophet in the NT!!! The argument often goes, “But the text says the stars will fall from the heavens. . . ” etc. But that misses the point entirely. We can ALL read what the text says, what we need to determine is what it means by what it says, and we must allow the Bible to interpret the Bible wherever possible, and throughout the whole OT, “collapsing universe” language is used to describe God’s temporal judgments Basic principles of interpreting the Bible presented in http://defendchrist.org /hermeneutics.html state that passages are not to be taken in a wooden literal way. Rather, they are to be considered in context, not just the words surrounding the passages, but their cultural context as well. We should try to read them the way the first-century Jew would. One could state that we should read them not literally but Biblically.

    So when we go back then to the “de-creation” imagery used in Jesus’ descriptions, the disciples would immediately have recognized almost the exact same words used of past judgments in the OT. Thus if we allow the Bible to interpret the Bible, and apply the basic principles of hermeneutics, Jesus is clearly making an allusion to God’s historical past judgments on nations described in the OT and telling His astonished disciples that that is exactly the fate of Jerusalem . The language is identical to things happened to ancient Babylon, Egypt, and Edom:

    Isaiah 13:9–10: Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine.
    The context makes it clear that this is a description of a past judgment on Babylon. The language is almost identical to Jesus’ words in the Discourse, Jesus’ words indicated as being a direct quote from this passage.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      No one believes that the heavens bowed down and the whole wide world shook. No one.

      I doubt that. But you’ve changed the passages (maybe because facing them squarely was inconvenient to your argument?). Let’s focus on the ones we’re been discussing all along–Matt. 24 plus the precedents in Isaiah.

      You seem to be saying two things. (1) The Isaiah passages are hyperbole. They weren’t to be taken literally. And (2) this actually did happen.

      Y’know what’s weird? Your interpreting things in the Bible to suit your theology–literally or figuratively as you please. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Aren’t you supposed to be pliable, taking your cues from the Bible? Instead of hammering your faith against the anvil of the Bible, you hammer the Bible against the anvil of your faith! (Ouch! Someone’s gonna get taken behind the celestial woodshed for a whoopin’ when he gets to heaven!)

      Matt. references passages in Isaiah that talk about “the day of the Lord is coming.” OK–what’s that all about? “a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger,” “to make the land desolate,” the sun and moon will be darkened, the Lord “will totally destroy [all nations' armies],” etc.

      So you’re saying, (1) Isaiah was just foolin’, he’s just messin’ with you. In that case, what does, this mean? And (2) Matt. was correct and this actually happened shortly after Jesus’s death. What “this” happened, since you forbid me from taking the plain meaning of the text?

      passages are not to be taken in a wooden literal way

      … unless it suits you! I’m sure you’re delighted to interpret the Bible in a literal way when it supports your preconceptions! Am I right?!

      Rather, they are to be considered in context, not just the words surrounding the passages, but their cultural context as well.

      I’m afraid alarm bells are going off in my head. Whenever anyone says, “OK, this passage is a little tricky, and you need to work with me so we can figure this out,” this means, “this passage is inconvenient to my theology, but with a little work we can reinterpret this so that I needn’t challenge my own beliefs.”

      We should try to read them the way the first-century Jew would.

      Your song and dance is very good! Did you learn this in seminary or just pick it up through reading?

      I would’ve thought that we should interpret proto-Isaiah the way a 7th century BCE Jew would, since that’s when it was written.

      The context makes it clear that this is a description of a past judgment on Babylon.

      But it’s in future tense. And what about Is. 34? How do you explain that one away?


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