Can sports be a vocation?

David Brooks argues that the nature of competitive sports is in conflict with Christianity and, indeed, all religions.  Not just that sports can be rough–not all of them are–but that sports require pride, whereas faith requires humility.  Here is part of what he says:

We’ve become accustomed to the faith-driven athlete and coach, from Billy Sunday to Tim Tebow. But we shouldn’t forget how problematic this is. The moral ethos of sport is in tension with the moral ethos of faith, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim.

The moral universe of modern sport is oriented around victory and supremacy. The sports hero tries to perform great deeds in order to win glory and fame. It doesn’t really matter whether he has good intentions. His job is to beat his opponents and avoid the oblivion that goes with defeat.

The modern sports hero is competitive and ambitious. (Let’s say he’s a man, though these traits apply to female athletes as well). He is theatrical. He puts himself on display.

He is assertive, proud and intimidating. He makes himself the center of attention when the game is on the line. His identity is built around his prowess. His achievement is measured by how much he can elicit the admiration of other people — the roar of the crowd and the respect of ESPN.

His primary virtue is courage — the ability to withstand pain, remain calm under pressure and rise from nowhere to topple the greats.

This is what we go to sporting events to see. This sporting ethos pervades modern life and shapes how we think about business, academic and political competition.

But there’s no use denying — though many do deny it — that this ethos violates the religious ethos on many levels. The religious ethos is about redemption, self-abnegation and surrender to God.

Ascent in the sports universe is a straight shot. You set your goal, and you climb toward greatness. But ascent in the religious universe often proceeds by a series of inversions: You have to be willing to lose yourself in order to find yourself; to gain everything you have to be willing to give up everything; the last shall be first; it’s not about you.

For many religious teachers, humility is the primary virtue. You achieve loftiness of spirit by performing the most menial services. (That’s why shepherds are perpetually becoming kings in the Bible.) You achieve your identity through self-effacement. You achieve strength by acknowledging your weaknesses. You lead most boldly when you consider yourself an instrument of a larger cause.

The most perceptive athletes have always tried to wrestle with this conflict. Sports history is littered with odd quotations from people who try to reconcile their love of sport with their religious creed — and fail.

via The Jeremy Lin Problem – NYTimes.com.

In terms of this blog, Brooks is arguing that playing sports, professionally, say, is not a legitimate vocation for a Christian.   Do you agree?

I don’t, and this column has precipitated a request from another blog to write about whether or not some vocations are forbidden to Christians.   I’ll link to what I wrote when it comes up on the blog that invited me to contribute.  In the meantime, how would you answer Brooks?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Dan Kempin

    I may end up agreeing with you that a professional athlete can be a legitimate vocation, but I still think this is a good question to ask. Is it? Have we really given it some thought? How does the vocation of athlete really love and serve a neighbor?

    I’m more interested in the larger question, though: Are some vocations forbidden to Christians? We have touched on this before, and I tend to think that yes, there are some vocations that are not fitting for a Christian. Prostitute, of course. Assassin, obviously. Drug dealer? Casino owner? Abortion doctor? Nurse in a hospital that performs abortions, even if you don’t participate yourself?

    Perhaps the point raised by this discussion is not that we have lost our ability to draw the line, but that we aren’t even asking the question any more.

  • Dan Kempin

    I may end up agreeing with you that a professional athlete can be a legitimate vocation, but I still think this is a good question to ask. Is it? Have we really given it some thought? How does the vocation of athlete really love and serve a neighbor?

    I’m more interested in the larger question, though: Are some vocations forbidden to Christians? We have touched on this before, and I tend to think that yes, there are some vocations that are not fitting for a Christian. Prostitute, of course. Assassin, obviously. Drug dealer? Casino owner? Abortion doctor? Nurse in a hospital that performs abortions, even if you don’t participate yourself?

    Perhaps the point raised by this discussion is not that we have lost our ability to draw the line, but that we aren’t even asking the question any more.

  • SKPeterson

    Many of the same traits and qualities Brooks uses to describe athletes also apply to other venues: politics, for example, or even much of what is celebrated in business or finance. What Brooks may be describing is not so much indicative of any doctrinal or moral failings of various professions or occupations as much as he has provided a diagnosis of a culture that celebrates people who are “assertive, proud and intimidating,” while denigrating those who are not. I also think he has a “works righteous” view of religion, or at least he glosses over the very real differences between doctrinal Christianity, Judaism and Islam. A whole lot of “you have to”‘s in his description of the religious life.

    On balance, about what one would expect from Brooks. A keen insight where he didn’t mean to make one, and a complete misread of important differences and distinctions that belie his main thesis.

  • SKPeterson

    Many of the same traits and qualities Brooks uses to describe athletes also apply to other venues: politics, for example, or even much of what is celebrated in business or finance. What Brooks may be describing is not so much indicative of any doctrinal or moral failings of various professions or occupations as much as he has provided a diagnosis of a culture that celebrates people who are “assertive, proud and intimidating,” while denigrating those who are not. I also think he has a “works righteous” view of religion, or at least he glosses over the very real differences between doctrinal Christianity, Judaism and Islam. A whole lot of “you have to”‘s in his description of the religious life.

    On balance, about what one would expect from Brooks. A keen insight where he didn’t mean to make one, and a complete misread of important differences and distinctions that belie his main thesis.

  • Pete

    Well for one, Paul’s reference to athletes was as a positive, not a negative example. A distinction between “sports” and “professional sports” may be in order, as the proper category for pro sports is entertainment – not so much athletics.
    But you and I can, as Christian brothers, play a brisk match of, say, tennis – in the name of exercise and comraderie, give it our all, play to win, call each other names if need be and not have compromised our faith one bit.

  • Pete

    Well for one, Paul’s reference to athletes was as a positive, not a negative example. A distinction between “sports” and “professional sports” may be in order, as the proper category for pro sports is entertainment – not so much athletics.
    But you and I can, as Christian brothers, play a brisk match of, say, tennis – in the name of exercise and comraderie, give it our all, play to win, call each other names if need be and not have compromised our faith one bit.

  • Mike

    David Brooks has already committed the ultimate heresy in American Christianity: he has suggested that there exists something that Christians can’t do that non-Christians can do. He should be expect to be drowned out by calls of “legalist!”. It can even be something trivial — If somebody makes the suggestion that there are even certain clothes a Christian can’t wear, then he must be a legalist.

  • Mike

    David Brooks has already committed the ultimate heresy in American Christianity: he has suggested that there exists something that Christians can’t do that non-Christians can do. He should be expect to be drowned out by calls of “legalist!”. It can even be something trivial — If somebody makes the suggestion that there are even certain clothes a Christian can’t wear, then he must be a legalist.

  • Tom Hering

    “… Brooks is arguing that playing sports, professionally, say, is not a legitimate vocation for a Christian.”

    I don’t see Brooks making this argument at all. Rather, he’s pointing out how, for a religious man like Lin, there can be a conflict between his values and what’s expected of him in his vocation – by employers and others. And how difficult it can be to resolve this conflict. And how some have dealt with it by twisting their values.

  • Tom Hering

    “… Brooks is arguing that playing sports, professionally, say, is not a legitimate vocation for a Christian.”

    I don’t see Brooks making this argument at all. Rather, he’s pointing out how, for a religious man like Lin, there can be a conflict between his values and what’s expected of him in his vocation – by employers and others. And how difficult it can be to resolve this conflict. And how some have dealt with it by twisting their values.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom Hering@5 clarifies our interpretation of Brooks accurately: he doesn’t seem to be proscribing professional sports altogether. Then again, what if he were? Americans are sports-worshipers, to be sure. But can we bracket our idolatry for a few moments to consider whether it is a forbidden vocation? Surely we agree that certain vocations ought to be forbidden: stripper, prostitute, heroin dealer, pirate, etc.

    So let’s look at what Brooks says about modern sports, about what formative practices and priorities orient American professional sports: egoism, self-assertion, self-aggrandization, self-apotheosis, celebrity, sex, appearance. I could go on. None of these things are terribly Christian (and Tebow is guilty of several of them). Sports themselves at the recreational and youth level can be excellent means to physical fitness and community life. But professional sports seem not only to encourage or “tempt” its players–and audiences–to a whole host of vices, but even to require those vices.

    One could say the same about several other modern vocations: demagogic mass politics, rock stardom, and televangelist among others. Egoism is essential to these vocations, and as such, they are un-Christlike at their cores. There is a reason many medieval artists, makers of some of the most sublime creations in human history, are unknown to us. They remained intentionally anonymous, wishing their art to speak for itself and for God. With modernity, however, came artistic celebrity.

    I see only two acceptable answers here: either these egoistic vocations are inappropriate prima facie and should be rejected by Christians, or, like Machiavelli, we agree that some of them are necessary (like political leadership, but not like professional football) for human flourishing, but that in order to be successful we must bracket our commitment to Christian virtue and be willing to be immoral.

    That, or remake modern society. Which is obviously easier said than done. Either way, I don’t think we should be so quick to dismiss Brooks simply because we love football and think Tim Tebow is one rung below Christ in the hierarchy of saints.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom Hering@5 clarifies our interpretation of Brooks accurately: he doesn’t seem to be proscribing professional sports altogether. Then again, what if he were? Americans are sports-worshipers, to be sure. But can we bracket our idolatry for a few moments to consider whether it is a forbidden vocation? Surely we agree that certain vocations ought to be forbidden: stripper, prostitute, heroin dealer, pirate, etc.

    So let’s look at what Brooks says about modern sports, about what formative practices and priorities orient American professional sports: egoism, self-assertion, self-aggrandization, self-apotheosis, celebrity, sex, appearance. I could go on. None of these things are terribly Christian (and Tebow is guilty of several of them). Sports themselves at the recreational and youth level can be excellent means to physical fitness and community life. But professional sports seem not only to encourage or “tempt” its players–and audiences–to a whole host of vices, but even to require those vices.

    One could say the same about several other modern vocations: demagogic mass politics, rock stardom, and televangelist among others. Egoism is essential to these vocations, and as such, they are un-Christlike at their cores. There is a reason many medieval artists, makers of some of the most sublime creations in human history, are unknown to us. They remained intentionally anonymous, wishing their art to speak for itself and for God. With modernity, however, came artistic celebrity.

    I see only two acceptable answers here: either these egoistic vocations are inappropriate prima facie and should be rejected by Christians, or, like Machiavelli, we agree that some of them are necessary (like political leadership, but not like professional football) for human flourishing, but that in order to be successful we must bracket our commitment to Christian virtue and be willing to be immoral.

    That, or remake modern society. Which is obviously easier said than done. Either way, I don’t think we should be so quick to dismiss Brooks simply because we love football and think Tim Tebow is one rung below Christ in the hierarchy of saints.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Given that Paul compares the pursuit of his own vocation to the pursuit of victory in an explicitly competitive sporting event (1 Cor 9:24-27), I think Brooks is off-base from the get-go. He’s working from his own standard of humility–one that is truly odd seeing as how it is so very self-focused. Can pursuit of excellence lead to pride? Sure. However, striving to serve well is also the nature of properly carrying out our vocations.

    As for why he’s wrong, defeating one’s neighbor in a game does them no harm. In fact, it serves them. Sports and games are not only enjoyable recreation, but they give us opportunities to excel in a context that (all other things being equal) harms no one. When it comes to games I enjoy, I would rather play and lose than never have played at all. Pursing victory is the nature of competition, but that doesn’t mean you idolize victory and make it the most important thing.

    When someone is harmed by defeat as-such, we call that person a poor loser. It’s wounded pride that causes such suffering; without pride, losing would be comfortable for us. But when pride is wounded, is that not a good thing by Brooks’ standards? If “You achieve your identity through self-effacement” and “achieve strength by acknowledging your weaknesses,” then surely defeat in a fair contest after trying your best is a great teacher. In this case, defeating your opponent is a great gift you have given. Why focus on the “self-improvement” of trying to generate false humility for your own benefit when you could (by Brooks’ standard) be serving your neighbors by humbling them instead?

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Given that Paul compares the pursuit of his own vocation to the pursuit of victory in an explicitly competitive sporting event (1 Cor 9:24-27), I think Brooks is off-base from the get-go. He’s working from his own standard of humility–one that is truly odd seeing as how it is so very self-focused. Can pursuit of excellence lead to pride? Sure. However, striving to serve well is also the nature of properly carrying out our vocations.

    As for why he’s wrong, defeating one’s neighbor in a game does them no harm. In fact, it serves them. Sports and games are not only enjoyable recreation, but they give us opportunities to excel in a context that (all other things being equal) harms no one. When it comes to games I enjoy, I would rather play and lose than never have played at all. Pursing victory is the nature of competition, but that doesn’t mean you idolize victory and make it the most important thing.

    When someone is harmed by defeat as-such, we call that person a poor loser. It’s wounded pride that causes such suffering; without pride, losing would be comfortable for us. But when pride is wounded, is that not a good thing by Brooks’ standards? If “You achieve your identity through self-effacement” and “achieve strength by acknowledging your weaknesses,” then surely defeat in a fair contest after trying your best is a great teacher. In this case, defeating your opponent is a great gift you have given. Why focus on the “self-improvement” of trying to generate false humility for your own benefit when you could (by Brooks’ standard) be serving your neighbors by humbling them instead?

  • Cincinnatus

    Matt, again, as I noted above, you’re misreading Brooks. He’s not condemning sports as such. He’s criticizing the vices that underlie professional sports. Is it possible to be a good, self-abnegating Christian and a sports hero?

  • Cincinnatus

    Matt, again, as I noted above, you’re misreading Brooks. He’s not condemning sports as such. He’s criticizing the vices that underlie professional sports. Is it possible to be a good, self-abnegating Christian and a sports hero?

  • http://www.christianimagination.com Seth

    I also think it’s a good question to ask, and that we need to ask it more often, though I think it’s less a matter of whether sports (or other vocations) are wrong than whether we are able to live Christianly in that vocation. The culture of professional sports has it’s value challenges. When I hear NFL players imply that all that matters is winning a Superbowl, I think about how most players never do. Winning isn’t everything. Brooks appears to be talking about all sports in general, and I’ve seen plenty of examples where it’s positive for youth, especially girls. When it’s a problem, it’s the expectations of parents rather than the sport which is often the issue. Anyway, as SK says, the same traits can be seen as business, which has competition as a fundamental value. Seen a fair share of ego and pride in the business world. And some days I’m reminded I need to love egocentrical people too.

  • http://www.christianimagination.com Seth

    I also think it’s a good question to ask, and that we need to ask it more often, though I think it’s less a matter of whether sports (or other vocations) are wrong than whether we are able to live Christianly in that vocation. The culture of professional sports has it’s value challenges. When I hear NFL players imply that all that matters is winning a Superbowl, I think about how most players never do. Winning isn’t everything. Brooks appears to be talking about all sports in general, and I’ve seen plenty of examples where it’s positive for youth, especially girls. When it’s a problem, it’s the expectations of parents rather than the sport which is often the issue. Anyway, as SK says, the same traits can be seen as business, which has competition as a fundamental value. Seen a fair share of ego and pride in the business world. And some days I’m reminded I need to love egocentrical people too.

  • Rose

    SK, Good post.
    The ministry is essentially a warrior profession.
    It has been demasculated by many into a ‘just be nice’ philosophy.
    Good coaches, in sports or debate, teach their students to hold their ground. To honor but defeat their opponents.
    This is good training for the day they realize ‘we’re not contending with flesh and blood but with the powers and principalities of this present darkness.’

  • Rose

    SK, Good post.
    The ministry is essentially a warrior profession.
    It has been demasculated by many into a ‘just be nice’ philosophy.
    Good coaches, in sports or debate, teach their students to hold their ground. To honor but defeat their opponents.
    This is good training for the day they realize ‘we’re not contending with flesh and blood but with the powers and principalities of this present darkness.’

  • Tom Hering

    “… I think it’s less a matter of whether sports (or other vocations) are wrong than whether we are able to live Christianly in that vocation.” – @ 9.

    Yes. Read the Lin interview that Brooks links to. I was struck by the way he responds to racial slurs on the court. And by his discovery that winning, like everything else in this world, is disappointing – not as satisfying as one thinks it will be when pursuing it. The true longing of a Christian’s heart is for God’s love.

  • Tom Hering

    “… I think it’s less a matter of whether sports (or other vocations) are wrong than whether we are able to live Christianly in that vocation.” – @ 9.

    Yes. Read the Lin interview that Brooks links to. I was struck by the way he responds to racial slurs on the court. And by his discovery that winning, like everything else in this world, is disappointing – not as satisfying as one thinks it will be when pursuing it. The true longing of a Christian’s heart is for God’s love.

  • SKPeterson

    I don’t know if any of you follow international football (soccer), but I cannot imagine that a game would be called on the account of a player collapsing as it was during the Tottenham-Bolton match this weekend. http://search.espn.go.com/muamba/
    The complete shock and horror on the faces of the players in the video is telling. The event was so shocking the referees were compelled to call the game. Moreover, a subsequent match has also been cancelled. I think that here, the guy would be carted off the field, given the salutary clap of the hands, and then there’d be the calls to “soldier on” and complete the victory “in honor of Player X.”

  • SKPeterson

    I don’t know if any of you follow international football (soccer), but I cannot imagine that a game would be called on the account of a player collapsing as it was during the Tottenham-Bolton match this weekend. http://search.espn.go.com/muamba/
    The complete shock and horror on the faces of the players in the video is telling. The event was so shocking the referees were compelled to call the game. Moreover, a subsequent match has also been cancelled. I think that here, the guy would be carted off the field, given the salutary clap of the hands, and then there’d be the calls to “soldier on” and complete the victory “in honor of Player X.”

  • Tom Hering

    SK @ 12, and just accept the player’s death or brain trauma (if either were the case) after some obligatory hand-wringing.

  • Tom Hering

    SK @ 12, and just accept the player’s death or brain trauma (if either were the case) after some obligatory hand-wringing.

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus:

    “Is it possible to be a good, self-abnegating Christian and a sports hero?”

    That is, in fact, the question. But you might ask it about almost any vocation at the higher levels. Is it possible to be a “hero (i.e. very highly successful and recognized as such) at anything, and still be a good, self-abnegating Christian?

    Businessman?

    Entertainer?

    Lawyer?

    Academic and author?

    I think the issue is now what your vocation is, but, “what happens to Christianity when a CHristian hits the big time?” Or, “Can a Christian do what it takes to hit the big time in the first place without compromising his/her Christianity?”

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus:

    “Is it possible to be a good, self-abnegating Christian and a sports hero?”

    That is, in fact, the question. But you might ask it about almost any vocation at the higher levels. Is it possible to be a “hero (i.e. very highly successful and recognized as such) at anything, and still be a good, self-abnegating Christian?

    Businessman?

    Entertainer?

    Lawyer?

    Academic and author?

    I think the issue is now what your vocation is, but, “what happens to Christianity when a CHristian hits the big time?” Or, “Can a Christian do what it takes to hit the big time in the first place without compromising his/her Christianity?”

  • kerner

    I meant, NOT what your vocation is…

  • kerner

    I meant, NOT what your vocation is…

  • SKPeterson

    The interesting dichotomy between the Great and the Good. When does greatness hinder goodness, and when does goodness bridle greatness? With God we find a unity of the Great and the Good, but for us fallen men, the two are often set at odds.

    I would argue that our culture celebrates greatness and demeans goodness, and that this celebration begins early. How many children are sacrificed to the god of Greatness for their parent’s dreams of vicarious satisfaction? What’s missing another service at church for an 8am Sunday game, when weighed against the kid missing out on the scholarship offer or the scout in the stands that will sign him to that million dollar contract?

  • SKPeterson

    The interesting dichotomy between the Great and the Good. When does greatness hinder goodness, and when does goodness bridle greatness? With God we find a unity of the Great and the Good, but for us fallen men, the two are often set at odds.

    I would argue that our culture celebrates greatness and demeans goodness, and that this celebration begins early. How many children are sacrificed to the god of Greatness for their parent’s dreams of vicarious satisfaction? What’s missing another service at church for an 8am Sunday game, when weighed against the kid missing out on the scholarship offer or the scout in the stands that will sign him to that million dollar contract?

  • TE Schroeder

    Brooks wrote: “(That’s why shepherds are perpetually becoming kings in the Bible.) ”

    I can think of David, and,…. and,…….

    “Perpetually?” That is wrong. This parenthetical remark does not prove his point. In Judah, the kings (after David) grew up in the royal household. Most kings in northern Israel were either of royal or military heritage.

    Excelling at your vocation does not mean you are not humble. Humility is not mediocrity. While many athletes do thump their chest and celebrate themselves, others simply strive for excellence (e.g., Barry Sanders who just tossed the ball to the ref after scoring a TD) without all the self-glorifying hype. If the media props them up to the hero status, I don’t see how that negates their humility.

  • TE Schroeder

    Brooks wrote: “(That’s why shepherds are perpetually becoming kings in the Bible.) ”

    I can think of David, and,…. and,…….

    “Perpetually?” That is wrong. This parenthetical remark does not prove his point. In Judah, the kings (after David) grew up in the royal household. Most kings in northern Israel were either of royal or military heritage.

    Excelling at your vocation does not mean you are not humble. Humility is not mediocrity. While many athletes do thump their chest and celebrate themselves, others simply strive for excellence (e.g., Barry Sanders who just tossed the ball to the ref after scoring a TD) without all the self-glorifying hype. If the media props them up to the hero status, I don’t see how that negates their humility.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Cincinnatus @ 8,

    You might be right, but while I’m loath to find myself saying “that’s just your interpretation,” I do think your interpretation and Dr. Veith’s are both reasonable in this case. The problem is that Brooks really conflates American professional sports culture with sport as such.

    He starts with the specific example of Lin as a man in tension. But what tension? He talks about the very broad “moral ethos of sport” in the second paragraph. So when he goes on to discuss “the moral universe of modern sport” and the “modern sports hero,” it’s hard to say whether he’s providing a broader instructive example or a narrowed topic. He makes no effort to disentangle sport and professional sports, so I don’t think there’s any grounds to say he must be talking about one and not the other. He might be; but he might not be.

    So why did I respond to Dr. Veith’s interpretation when it may or may not be accurate? Because I think it’s more interesting than the other. I mean, it seems pretty obvious to me that there’s a lot wrong with American sports culture. If that was all Brooks is claiming, the column doesn’t even seem worth reading to me.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Cincinnatus @ 8,

    You might be right, but while I’m loath to find myself saying “that’s just your interpretation,” I do think your interpretation and Dr. Veith’s are both reasonable in this case. The problem is that Brooks really conflates American professional sports culture with sport as such.

    He starts with the specific example of Lin as a man in tension. But what tension? He talks about the very broad “moral ethos of sport” in the second paragraph. So when he goes on to discuss “the moral universe of modern sport” and the “modern sports hero,” it’s hard to say whether he’s providing a broader instructive example or a narrowed topic. He makes no effort to disentangle sport and professional sports, so I don’t think there’s any grounds to say he must be talking about one and not the other. He might be; but he might not be.

    So why did I respond to Dr. Veith’s interpretation when it may or may not be accurate? Because I think it’s more interesting than the other. I mean, it seems pretty obvious to me that there’s a lot wrong with American sports culture. If that was all Brooks is claiming, the column doesn’t even seem worth reading to me.

  • LAJ

    What about the young athlete honored on tv for his accomplishments who then gives credit to his teammates and coach. That shows humility.

  • LAJ

    What about the young athlete honored on tv for his accomplishments who then gives credit to his teammates and coach. That shows humility.

  • Dan Kempin

    We seem to be talking mostly of what a given profession, or given level of success, tends to do to a person indivudially and morally. Good discussion. But what about the vocation itself? Does the vocation of professional athlete contribute meaningfully to society as a whole? Perhaps that’s what Dr. Veith will address in his upcoming response.

  • Dan Kempin

    We seem to be talking mostly of what a given profession, or given level of success, tends to do to a person indivudially and morally. Good discussion. But what about the vocation itself? Does the vocation of professional athlete contribute meaningfully to society as a whole? Perhaps that’s what Dr. Veith will address in his upcoming response.

  • DonS

    The modern sports hero is competitive and ambitious. (Let’s say he’s a man, though these traits apply to female athletes as well). He is theatrical. He puts himself on display.

    He is assertive, proud and intimidating. He makes himself the center of attention when the game is on the line. His identity is built around his prowess. His achievement is measured by how much he can elicit the admiration of other people — the roar of the crowd and the respect of ESPN.

    This is certainly descriptive of many modern sports heroes, whether at the professional or NCAA Division I major conference levels. But the best athletes are team players — humble in their individual accomplishments, and always purposing to contribute to the efforts of the team. Pride is the weakness of an athlete — confidence in his God-given abilities and in the contributions of his teammates are his strength. Fame is not a sin — pride and arrogance because of fame is the sin. Brooks mischaracterizes and misses the point as to who is a truly great athlete, and because of that failing, he also is led to a false conclusion that competitive sports are in conflict with Christianity.

    Professional sports is most definitely a valid vocation for a Christian. But, as in any other vocation, the Christian must never forget Who gave him the gifts and abilities to serve in his vocation, or his purpose in living — to bring glory to Christ.

  • DonS

    The modern sports hero is competitive and ambitious. (Let’s say he’s a man, though these traits apply to female athletes as well). He is theatrical. He puts himself on display.

    He is assertive, proud and intimidating. He makes himself the center of attention when the game is on the line. His identity is built around his prowess. His achievement is measured by how much he can elicit the admiration of other people — the roar of the crowd and the respect of ESPN.

    This is certainly descriptive of many modern sports heroes, whether at the professional or NCAA Division I major conference levels. But the best athletes are team players — humble in their individual accomplishments, and always purposing to contribute to the efforts of the team. Pride is the weakness of an athlete — confidence in his God-given abilities and in the contributions of his teammates are his strength. Fame is not a sin — pride and arrogance because of fame is the sin. Brooks mischaracterizes and misses the point as to who is a truly great athlete, and because of that failing, he also is led to a false conclusion that competitive sports are in conflict with Christianity.

    Professional sports is most definitely a valid vocation for a Christian. But, as in any other vocation, the Christian must never forget Who gave him the gifts and abilities to serve in his vocation, or his purpose in living — to bring glory to Christ.

  • MikeD

    I’ve often wondered about a variant of the question, especially since I think sports is legitimate in and of itself (although not the virtual worship of it like in the States). Like, what if my son became a professional body builder? Oy vey! Most of his day is so much effort working against gravity and eating 10,oo0 calories, not for the betterment of his neighbor, but of his pects and gluts!? Then all the fake-and-bake, baby oil, looking int he mirror, and strained smiles as he flexes away like a show pony. I’ve always agreed with Lutheran vocation talk and I can’t help but feel like this particular sport doesn’t pass muster. Any thoughts?

  • MikeD

    I’ve often wondered about a variant of the question, especially since I think sports is legitimate in and of itself (although not the virtual worship of it like in the States). Like, what if my son became a professional body builder? Oy vey! Most of his day is so much effort working against gravity and eating 10,oo0 calories, not for the betterment of his neighbor, but of his pects and gluts!? Then all the fake-and-bake, baby oil, looking int he mirror, and strained smiles as he flexes away like a show pony. I’ve always agreed with Lutheran vocation talk and I can’t help but feel like this particular sport doesn’t pass muster. Any thoughts?

  • Jon

    Brooks is right. Pro sports in America is simply entertainment, and thus obscenely paid athletes are simply entertainers. No more, no less.

    Christ is not glorified by a pass from the pocket to a receiver in end zone or by a home run. As events, they are meaningless. But they’re invested with meaning because they entertain. And we Americans love our entertainment and will go to great lengths to defend it.

  • Jon

    Brooks is right. Pro sports in America is simply entertainment, and thus obscenely paid athletes are simply entertainers. No more, no less.

    Christ is not glorified by a pass from the pocket to a receiver in end zone or by a home run. As events, they are meaningless. But they’re invested with meaning because they entertain. And we Americans love our entertainment and will go to great lengths to defend it.

  • kerner

    Hmmm. I don’t see how professional sports as a vocation helps our neighbor any less than music or drama or any other form of entertainment. Not quite providing our neighbor’s daily bread, I suppose. But it does provide some of our neighbor’s daily fun, doesn’t it?

  • kerner

    Hmmm. I don’t see how professional sports as a vocation helps our neighbor any less than music or drama or any other form of entertainment. Not quite providing our neighbor’s daily bread, I suppose. But it does provide some of our neighbor’s daily fun, doesn’t it?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @7 Bravo

    Brooks can’t possibly know anything of competition writing for the NYTimes as he does. He went for the lowliest of journalism positions so he could serve others humbly, unlike those doing the morning farm report in Comal county. sarcasm

    I had a female professor decry athletes for making too much money. Why is it some people just can’t stand someone else’s success? Personally, I love sports and think it is definitely a proper use of their God given talent. Brooks just comes off as petty and jealous.

    Hey Brooks, quit being such a hater!

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @7 Bravo

    Brooks can’t possibly know anything of competition writing for the NYTimes as he does. He went for the lowliest of journalism positions so he could serve others humbly, unlike those doing the morning farm report in Comal county. sarcasm

    I had a female professor decry athletes for making too much money. Why is it some people just can’t stand someone else’s success? Personally, I love sports and think it is definitely a proper use of their God given talent. Brooks just comes off as petty and jealous.

    Hey Brooks, quit being such a hater!

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @23

    Pro sports in America is simply entertainment, and thus obscenely paid athletes are simply entertainers.

    I strenuously disagree. Those who make top $ earn it fair and square. Do you think the owners of the teams and the TV networks should get all the $$ generated by pro sports? Would that be more fair?

    Also, those guys are beautiful to watch. Why should we not be able to enjoy what God has given us? He made those guys awesome and beautiful and talented. I say have another beer and watch the game. So sick of the phony puritan crap.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @23

    Pro sports in America is simply entertainment, and thus obscenely paid athletes are simply entertainers.

    I strenuously disagree. Those who make top $ earn it fair and square. Do you think the owners of the teams and the TV networks should get all the $$ generated by pro sports? Would that be more fair?

    Also, those guys are beautiful to watch. Why should we not be able to enjoy what God has given us? He made those guys awesome and beautiful and talented. I say have another beer and watch the game. So sick of the phony puritan crap.

  • kerner

    Whoa, Jon @23:

    Taking it for granted that we Americans love our entertainment way more than we should, aren’t you painting with a pretty broad brush? I mean, Mozart is entertainment too. There is not a lot of deep meaning to a lot of Mozart’s works, but they acquire meaning because they entertain (back when he composed them, as well as now). I don’t know that we want to say that entertainment, per se, has no value as a vocation, do we?

  • kerner

    Whoa, Jon @23:

    Taking it for granted that we Americans love our entertainment way more than we should, aren’t you painting with a pretty broad brush? I mean, Mozart is entertainment too. There is not a lot of deep meaning to a lot of Mozart’s works, but they acquire meaning because they entertain (back when he composed them, as well as now). I don’t know that we want to say that entertainment, per se, has no value as a vocation, do we?

  • Cincinnatus

    sg, I think you’re missing the point in two respects, and a personal attack on Brooks’s alleged motives doesn’t help (but it does, unfortunately, remind me of Grace):

    First, I think the question of egoism in vocations is a crucial question for all serious Christians to ask. American popular Christianity exalts wealth, health, and personal achievement/well-being. Real Christianity doesn’t. The real saint lives on the margins, anonymous to everyone but God. It’s possible to engage in some otherwise “public” vocations–like art or music or drama–and retain, even embody, the sort of self-negation demanded of the authentic Christian. The anonymous architects of medieval Cathedrals, icons, and chant/polyphony come to mind. But some vocations–like professional sports in the modern United States–are literally founded upon egoism in the worst sense. We might say the same of big-studio Hollywood movie production, mass politics, and celebrity academia (I know quite a few academics who are in it solely for the ego trip).

    The question isn’t whether these vocations are entertaining, amusing, aesthetically pleasing (“those guys are beautiful to watch”), or even whether they’re necessary. The question is whether people can participate in such egoistic vocations and pursue the sort of radical, self-effacing discipleship to which Christ calls us. I refer again to Machiavelli, who claimed that it is impossible to be a truly virtuous Christian and an effective leader/public figure. Was he correct? If so, we should be reevaluating the Christian comportment toward these activities in the contemporary world.

    Second–and less importantly–you insist that professional athletes “earn it”–”it” being their millions or even hundreds of millions–”fair and square.” Well, I suppose that depends upon what you mean by “fair and square.” Sure, they have certain physical talents (that don’t equip them for any meaningful work outside the world of celebrity entertainment; hell, I’d rather have an hereditary aristocracy than an aristocracy of plastic beauty and money). Sure, they are paid in accordance with the value “we” as a “society” collectively assign them. But in that case, we should seriously consider whether our social values are properly ranked. I would say not.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg, I think you’re missing the point in two respects, and a personal attack on Brooks’s alleged motives doesn’t help (but it does, unfortunately, remind me of Grace):

    First, I think the question of egoism in vocations is a crucial question for all serious Christians to ask. American popular Christianity exalts wealth, health, and personal achievement/well-being. Real Christianity doesn’t. The real saint lives on the margins, anonymous to everyone but God. It’s possible to engage in some otherwise “public” vocations–like art or music or drama–and retain, even embody, the sort of self-negation demanded of the authentic Christian. The anonymous architects of medieval Cathedrals, icons, and chant/polyphony come to mind. But some vocations–like professional sports in the modern United States–are literally founded upon egoism in the worst sense. We might say the same of big-studio Hollywood movie production, mass politics, and celebrity academia (I know quite a few academics who are in it solely for the ego trip).

    The question isn’t whether these vocations are entertaining, amusing, aesthetically pleasing (“those guys are beautiful to watch”), or even whether they’re necessary. The question is whether people can participate in such egoistic vocations and pursue the sort of radical, self-effacing discipleship to which Christ calls us. I refer again to Machiavelli, who claimed that it is impossible to be a truly virtuous Christian and an effective leader/public figure. Was he correct? If so, we should be reevaluating the Christian comportment toward these activities in the contemporary world.

    Second–and less importantly–you insist that professional athletes “earn it”–”it” being their millions or even hundreds of millions–”fair and square.” Well, I suppose that depends upon what you mean by “fair and square.” Sure, they have certain physical talents (that don’t equip them for any meaningful work outside the world of celebrity entertainment; hell, I’d rather have an hereditary aristocracy than an aristocracy of plastic beauty and money). Sure, they are paid in accordance with the value “we” as a “society” collectively assign them. But in that case, we should seriously consider whether our social values are properly ranked. I would say not.

  • Jon

    Kerner @27, Yes, I submit tht “entertainment, per se,” has very little value as a vocation.

  • Jon

    Kerner @27, Yes, I submit tht “entertainment, per se,” has very little value as a vocation.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@24), exactly. Entertainment is a valid vocation. Bizarrely overvalued in today’s society, perhaps, and certainly given to many pitfalls (which many today associate with being a “good” athlete), but still a valid vocation all the same.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@24), exactly. Entertainment is a valid vocation. Bizarrely overvalued in today’s society, perhaps, and certainly given to many pitfalls (which many today associate with being a “good” athlete), but still a valid vocation all the same.

  • Tom Hering

    Right, Cincinnatus. I still can’t see how Brooks is dismissing sports, or professional sports, or professional sports as a legitimate vocation. He’s writing about the conflicts a Christian (or a Jew or a Muslim) can have in that vocation.

  • Tom Hering

    Right, Cincinnatus. I still can’t see how Brooks is dismissing sports, or professional sports, or professional sports as a legitimate vocation. He’s writing about the conflicts a Christian (or a Jew or a Muslim) can have in that vocation.

  • Med Student

    I’m not sure why Brooks is picking on athletes in particular when his list of “un-Christian” attributes fairly well describes many, if not most, politicians, actors, military members (not necessarily the egoism part, but the competitive, intimidating, ambitious traits). There are certain jobs that require a healthy ego to do – if you’re a surgeon who doesn’t think you’re good at what you do, I don’t want you to operate on me. If you’re a politician who doesn’t think you can be a good governor for millions of people, you probably won’t be very good at your job. I think the tricky part is taking justifiable pride and confidence in the talents and skills God has graciously given you while not crossing the line into pure egotism and taking pride in yourself. Athletes have to walk that line as much if not more so than doctors or politicians or other entertainers such as actors and musicians. On the other hand, false humility, or pretending you’re not really good at what you’re good at, is no more Christ-like than self-pride is. Humility isn’t downplaying your talents and skills, but acknowledging them as gifts of God and dedicating them to the service of your neighbor, whether that be by saving his life as a surgeon, governing as a politician, or entertaining him with music, art, or a nothing-but-net 3-pointer.

  • Med Student

    I’m not sure why Brooks is picking on athletes in particular when his list of “un-Christian” attributes fairly well describes many, if not most, politicians, actors, military members (not necessarily the egoism part, but the competitive, intimidating, ambitious traits). There are certain jobs that require a healthy ego to do – if you’re a surgeon who doesn’t think you’re good at what you do, I don’t want you to operate on me. If you’re a politician who doesn’t think you can be a good governor for millions of people, you probably won’t be very good at your job. I think the tricky part is taking justifiable pride and confidence in the talents and skills God has graciously given you while not crossing the line into pure egotism and taking pride in yourself. Athletes have to walk that line as much if not more so than doctors or politicians or other entertainers such as actors and musicians. On the other hand, false humility, or pretending you’re not really good at what you’re good at, is no more Christ-like than self-pride is. Humility isn’t downplaying your talents and skills, but acknowledging them as gifts of God and dedicating them to the service of your neighbor, whether that be by saving his life as a surgeon, governing as a politician, or entertaining him with music, art, or a nothing-but-net 3-pointer.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jon (@29), are you saying that entertainment holds no value for you whatsoever, then? You don’t read, listen to, or otherwise watch anything entertaining? Because that sounds fun.

    If, however, you do indulge in some form of entertainment consumption now and then, then you realize its value to you — and to your equally entertained neighbors.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jon (@29), are you saying that entertainment holds no value for you whatsoever, then? You don’t read, listen to, or otherwise watch anything entertaining? Because that sounds fun.

    If, however, you do indulge in some form of entertainment consumption now and then, then you realize its value to you — and to your equally entertained neighbors.

  • http://www.christlutheran.net Jeff Samelson

    To the matter of whether or not some professions/vocations are forbidden to Christians … you might find it helpful to consider two categories: Those that are forbidden (because they necessarily involve sin) and those that it would be very difficult for a Christian to pursue, though not wrong in an absolute sense.

    In the latter category might be something like “fashion model” for a young woman — while there is certainly nothing wrong with looking beautiful or helping others know what clothes look like (by modeling them), “success” in modeling for a woman very often includes immodest dress and behavior, relying on outward adornment for beauty instead of the “imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Pe 3:4), inviting men to lust, etc. (not to mention the unchristian nature of the lifestyles we often hear of models leading).

    To the matter of sports, and even more specifically to American football, we might find more than one “category” there — for instance, a Christian might faithfully pursue a vocation as a running back, simply trying his best to gain yards and score points for his team/employer; he might absolutely refuse to play linebacker for a particular team or coach because he knows success is defined in terms of seeking to hurt or harm his neighbor/opponent, which he knows to be a sin; and he might have difficulty but ultimately be able to follow a vocation as an offensive lineman, struggling not to hurt others while working to protect and defend his quarterback.

  • http://www.christlutheran.net Jeff Samelson

    To the matter of whether or not some professions/vocations are forbidden to Christians … you might find it helpful to consider two categories: Those that are forbidden (because they necessarily involve sin) and those that it would be very difficult for a Christian to pursue, though not wrong in an absolute sense.

    In the latter category might be something like “fashion model” for a young woman — while there is certainly nothing wrong with looking beautiful or helping others know what clothes look like (by modeling them), “success” in modeling for a woman very often includes immodest dress and behavior, relying on outward adornment for beauty instead of the “imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Pe 3:4), inviting men to lust, etc. (not to mention the unchristian nature of the lifestyles we often hear of models leading).

    To the matter of sports, and even more specifically to American football, we might find more than one “category” there — for instance, a Christian might faithfully pursue a vocation as a running back, simply trying his best to gain yards and score points for his team/employer; he might absolutely refuse to play linebacker for a particular team or coach because he knows success is defined in terms of seeking to hurt or harm his neighbor/opponent, which he knows to be a sin; and he might have difficulty but ultimately be able to follow a vocation as an offensive lineman, struggling not to hurt others while working to protect and defend his quarterback.

  • Jon

    “Humility isn’t downplaying your talents and skills, but acknowledging them as gifts of God and dedicating them to the service of your neighbor, whether that be by saving his life as a surgeon, governing as a politician, or entertaining him with music, art, or a nothing-but-net 3-pointer.”

    You had me until “nothing-but-net 3-pointer.” The ability to toss a ball into a basket may well bring confidence to a high school boy or girl, but – a pro sport? A guy who does that for a living and who makes $1 million a year should give away $999,999 and thank God he can keep the dollar. Same for football.

  • Jon

    “Humility isn’t downplaying your talents and skills, but acknowledging them as gifts of God and dedicating them to the service of your neighbor, whether that be by saving his life as a surgeon, governing as a politician, or entertaining him with music, art, or a nothing-but-net 3-pointer.”

    You had me until “nothing-but-net 3-pointer.” The ability to toss a ball into a basket may well bring confidence to a high school boy or girl, but – a pro sport? A guy who does that for a living and who makes $1 million a year should give away $999,999 and thank God he can keep the dollar. Same for football.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@25), to somewhat second Cincinnatus’ comments (@28), regarding your saying:

    I had a female professor decry athletes for making too much money. Why is it some people just can’t stand someone else’s success?

    Criticizing the amount of money they make is hardly necessarily equivalent to being jealous of their success. I also think they make too much money, though I don’t begrudge them their salary, as such. Rather, I see it as a sign of a society that puts an improper emphasis on things. I don’t think that’s a terribly controversial statement to make.

    Do you think the owners of the teams and the TV networks should get all the $$ generated by pro sports?

    Really, the question here should be: should pro sports earn all the $$ generated by pro sports? I don’t have any numbers on me, but I’m pretty darn certain that pro sports en toto makes more money now from our society than it used to. Why is that, and what does it say about us?

    Of course, the same is true of many other types of entertainment. Top singers make far more money then they ever used to, historically, I’m pretty certain. Historically, being a singer was not really a way to either fame or wealth, was it? I mean, name a famous singer who died before 1900.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@25), to somewhat second Cincinnatus’ comments (@28), regarding your saying:

    I had a female professor decry athletes for making too much money. Why is it some people just can’t stand someone else’s success?

    Criticizing the amount of money they make is hardly necessarily equivalent to being jealous of their success. I also think they make too much money, though I don’t begrudge them their salary, as such. Rather, I see it as a sign of a society that puts an improper emphasis on things. I don’t think that’s a terribly controversial statement to make.

    Do you think the owners of the teams and the TV networks should get all the $$ generated by pro sports?

    Really, the question here should be: should pro sports earn all the $$ generated by pro sports? I don’t have any numbers on me, but I’m pretty darn certain that pro sports en toto makes more money now from our society than it used to. Why is that, and what does it say about us?

    Of course, the same is true of many other types of entertainment. Top singers make far more money then they ever used to, historically, I’m pretty certain. Historically, being a singer was not really a way to either fame or wealth, was it? I mean, name a famous singer who died before 1900.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 28

    I don’t see the anonymity angle. There are plenty of practically anonymous guys on Wall Street making as much as professional athletes by skimming millions off the ups and downs of the market and providing even less value to others than professional athletes.

    I can see the point about evaluating ourselves. That makes sense.

    And yeah, it’s true, Brooks gets on my last nerve anyway. His so annoying. We should all agree that because the NYT hired him, he is so talented and deserving of his position, status etc., but some star athlete’s talent’s are overvalued. Uh, huh. He wishes he were so overvalued.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 28

    I don’t see the anonymity angle. There are plenty of practically anonymous guys on Wall Street making as much as professional athletes by skimming millions off the ups and downs of the market and providing even less value to others than professional athletes.

    I can see the point about evaluating ourselves. That makes sense.

    And yeah, it’s true, Brooks gets on my last nerve anyway. His so annoying. We should all agree that because the NYT hired him, he is so talented and deserving of his position, status etc., but some star athlete’s talent’s are overvalued. Uh, huh. He wishes he were so overvalued.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I see it as a sign of a society that puts an improper emphasis on things. I don’t think that’s a terribly controversial statement to make.”

    Yeah, I agree, but the same applies to Brooks himself!! He gets read because he works at the NYT which is at least as over esteemed as pro sports and for much the same reasons. It is the big paper in the big city.

    “I don’t have any numbers on me, but I’m pretty darn certain that pro sports en toto makes more money now from our society than it used to. Why is that, and what does it say about us?”

    It says there are more of us per franchise. Economy of scale. 20 million fans can spend more on tickets, ESPN, and T-shirts than 2 million fans can.

    “name a famous singer who died before 1900.”

    Luigi Zamboni :D

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I see it as a sign of a society that puts an improper emphasis on things. I don’t think that’s a terribly controversial statement to make.”

    Yeah, I agree, but the same applies to Brooks himself!! He gets read because he works at the NYT which is at least as over esteemed as pro sports and for much the same reasons. It is the big paper in the big city.

    “I don’t have any numbers on me, but I’m pretty darn certain that pro sports en toto makes more money now from our society than it used to. Why is that, and what does it say about us?”

    It says there are more of us per franchise. Economy of scale. 20 million fans can spend more on tickets, ESPN, and T-shirts than 2 million fans can.

    “name a famous singer who died before 1900.”

    Luigi Zamboni :D

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I don’t have any numbers on me, but I’m pretty darn certain that pro sports en toto makes more money now from our society than it used to. Why is that, and what does it say about us?”

    So does Wall Street. And what does that say about us?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I don’t have any numbers on me, but I’m pretty darn certain that pro sports en toto makes more money now from our society than it used to. Why is that, and what does it say about us?”

    So does Wall Street. And what does that say about us?

  • Paul S

    I will admit that I have not read all the comments on the above thread. I apologize if my comments are redundant. I disagree with the notion that sports is in conflict with a Christian’s vocation. Vocation is defined by the law and oriented for the good of the neighbor. Sometimes there are activities that set themselves against God’s Commandments, but just because an activity involves competition we do not need to assume that this competition is inherently sinful. To the contrary, athletic competition is something a Christian can view as a good gift of God given for our joy. It is true that a game can be played as mentioned by the author, in a way that caters to the personal pride of victory and domination. It can also be played for the joy of physical exertion and testing one’s body and training and skill against that of another. God gave bodies that can run and jump and throw and catch and it is good that athletes can use these gifts in ways that serve their neighbors. I believe the author is painting with too broad a brush to assume that all competition must be primal or prideful.

  • Paul S

    I will admit that I have not read all the comments on the above thread. I apologize if my comments are redundant. I disagree with the notion that sports is in conflict with a Christian’s vocation. Vocation is defined by the law and oriented for the good of the neighbor. Sometimes there are activities that set themselves against God’s Commandments, but just because an activity involves competition we do not need to assume that this competition is inherently sinful. To the contrary, athletic competition is something a Christian can view as a good gift of God given for our joy. It is true that a game can be played as mentioned by the author, in a way that caters to the personal pride of victory and domination. It can also be played for the joy of physical exertion and testing one’s body and training and skill against that of another. God gave bodies that can run and jump and throw and catch and it is good that athletes can use these gifts in ways that serve their neighbors. I believe the author is painting with too broad a brush to assume that all competition must be primal or prideful.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jon (@35):

    You had me until “nothing-but-net 3-pointer.” The ability to toss a ball into a basket may well bring confidence to a high school boy or girl, but – a pro sport? A guy who does that for a living and who makes $1 million a year should give away $999,999 and thank God he can keep the dollar. Same for football.

    It’s clear that you personally don’t consider sports much of an entertainment value, but do you really not see that many people do (rightly or wrongly)?

    I mean, regardless of what you think about the societal value of consistently shooting 3-pointers in a professional game, I would think it hard to refute that not a whole lot of people can do that sort of thing. And, given our society’s economy, a very small supply means a very great demand. Which means a big salary.

    Same thing with the ability to hit an A-flat above high C, for instance. Not a whole lot of people can do that, so it is almost certainly entertaining (to some) to watch a human hit that ridiculous note. And a woman who can do that will make money based on her gift. Though she’ll almost certainly make less than the 3-point-shooter, but that gets into societal pressures on the economics of entertainment.

    Still, should opera singers and novelists likewise give away all but $1 of their income? Why?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jon (@35):

    You had me until “nothing-but-net 3-pointer.” The ability to toss a ball into a basket may well bring confidence to a high school boy or girl, but – a pro sport? A guy who does that for a living and who makes $1 million a year should give away $999,999 and thank God he can keep the dollar. Same for football.

    It’s clear that you personally don’t consider sports much of an entertainment value, but do you really not see that many people do (rightly or wrongly)?

    I mean, regardless of what you think about the societal value of consistently shooting 3-pointers in a professional game, I would think it hard to refute that not a whole lot of people can do that sort of thing. And, given our society’s economy, a very small supply means a very great demand. Which means a big salary.

    Same thing with the ability to hit an A-flat above high C, for instance. Not a whole lot of people can do that, so it is almost certainly entertaining (to some) to watch a human hit that ridiculous note. And a woman who can do that will make money based on her gift. Though she’ll almost certainly make less than the 3-point-shooter, but that gets into societal pressures on the economics of entertainment.

    Still, should opera singers and novelists likewise give away all but $1 of their income? Why?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The ability to toss a ball into a basket may well bring confidence to a high school boy or girl, but – a pro sport? A guy who does that for a living and who makes $1 million a year should give away $999,999 and thank God he can keep the dollar. Same for football.”

    How about the Wall Street guy who makes $1 million a year working the short selling desk at his firm? Should he give away $999,999 and keep only $1? I mean getting 100 on those math tests in high school may well bring confidence to a high school nerd, but a Wall Street broker?

    The guys have different talents, so why is one more honorable than the other?

    “That’s all right, That’s OK, You’ll all work for us some day”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvard_University_Band#Cheers

    Guys are competitive.
    Some are sore about not being too athletic. As they get on in years they try to frame it more eloquently, but I am not buying it.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The ability to toss a ball into a basket may well bring confidence to a high school boy or girl, but – a pro sport? A guy who does that for a living and who makes $1 million a year should give away $999,999 and thank God he can keep the dollar. Same for football.”

    How about the Wall Street guy who makes $1 million a year working the short selling desk at his firm? Should he give away $999,999 and keep only $1? I mean getting 100 on those math tests in high school may well bring confidence to a high school nerd, but a Wall Street broker?

    The guys have different talents, so why is one more honorable than the other?

    “That’s all right, That’s OK, You’ll all work for us some day”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvard_University_Band#Cheers

    Guys are competitive.
    Some are sore about not being too athletic. As they get on in years they try to frame it more eloquently, but I am not buying it.

  • Jon

    @42 asks: “How about the Wall Street guy who makes $1 million a year working the short selling desk at his firm? Should he give away $999,999 and keep only $1?”

    A: He should also give away that last $1.

    Todd @41 – good points.
    You’ve made me think.

  • Jon

    @42 asks: “How about the Wall Street guy who makes $1 million a year working the short selling desk at his firm? Should he give away $999,999 and keep only $1?”

    A: He should also give away that last $1.

    Todd @41 – good points.
    You’ve made me think.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg: You keep harping on Wall Street, as if none of us are critical of that endeavor as well. As I see it, Brooks’s critique of professional sports applies to any vocation in which egoism is a danger, including feverish attempts to make (funny) money by exploiting the labor of others on Wall Street.

    Maybe you should explain why a sports celebrity who makes dozens of millions of dollars for flaunting his body for 90 minutes every week (or a celebrity who makes dozens of millions for flaunting his body for 90 minutes per year, etc.) deserves his profits more than a Wall Street banker does? Face it: our cultural priorities are deeply skewed, and as a result, it is difficult, at best, for Christians to participate in a host of vocations with anything like a clean conscience.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg: You keep harping on Wall Street, as if none of us are critical of that endeavor as well. As I see it, Brooks’s critique of professional sports applies to any vocation in which egoism is a danger, including feverish attempts to make (funny) money by exploiting the labor of others on Wall Street.

    Maybe you should explain why a sports celebrity who makes dozens of millions of dollars for flaunting his body for 90 minutes every week (or a celebrity who makes dozens of millions for flaunting his body for 90 minutes per year, etc.) deserves his profits more than a Wall Street banker does? Face it: our cultural priorities are deeply skewed, and as a result, it is difficult, at best, for Christians to participate in a host of vocations with anything like a clean conscience.

  • Paul S

    I don’t think that it is necessarily the ability to throw the ball through the net that is in and of itself entertaining. The entertainment value is in the drama that unfolds over the course of a game due to the athletic competition. If it was just that single ability, that guy could shoot the ball all by himself and we would not have to worry about putting a team to play with him and opponents to play against him. It is the team nature of athletic competition and the value that each player brings to that team. A high priced player brings a greater skill set to the competition that makes him for versatile in the competition that makes him more interesting to watch. Certainly not everyone finds that entertaining. Not everyone appreciates the drama and strategy of unfolding competition. But some do.

  • Paul S

    I don’t think that it is necessarily the ability to throw the ball through the net that is in and of itself entertaining. The entertainment value is in the drama that unfolds over the course of a game due to the athletic competition. If it was just that single ability, that guy could shoot the ball all by himself and we would not have to worry about putting a team to play with him and opponents to play against him. It is the team nature of athletic competition and the value that each player brings to that team. A high priced player brings a greater skill set to the competition that makes him for versatile in the competition that makes him more interesting to watch. Certainly not everyone finds that entertaining. Not everyone appreciates the drama and strategy of unfolding competition. But some do.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@38):

    It says there are more of us per franchise. Economy of scale. 20 million fans can spend more on tickets, ESPN, and T-shirts than 2 million fans can.

    I really think you’re missing the point here.

    Consider that Babe Ruth made $52,000 in 1923 (arguably around the height of his career). That’s about $660,000 in today’s money. Compare that to, I don’t know, A-Rod’s $32,000,000 salary in 2011. You think those numbers solely reflect fan base size?

    And even if they do, that’s still kind of my point: far more people are paying attention to sports than they used to. That says something about our society, and I would argue it’s not entirely good.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@38):

    It says there are more of us per franchise. Economy of scale. 20 million fans can spend more on tickets, ESPN, and T-shirts than 2 million fans can.

    I really think you’re missing the point here.

    Consider that Babe Ruth made $52,000 in 1923 (arguably around the height of his career). That’s about $660,000 in today’s money. Compare that to, I don’t know, A-Rod’s $32,000,000 salary in 2011. You think those numbers solely reflect fan base size?

    And even if they do, that’s still kind of my point: far more people are paying attention to sports than they used to. That says something about our society, and I would argue it’s not entirely good.

  • DonS

    Prostitute, thief, drug smuggler, and other vocations necessarily involving the practice of sin, by definition, are fairly excluded from the list of suitable vocations for the Christian. But, it’s interesting to see the legalistic turn this thread has taken, as many have definitively pronounced other vocations like professional sports, which clearly do not require sinful activity to perform, to be unworthy vocations for a Christian, in fairly absolute terms. It would be even more interesting to see these same commenters develop a more comprehensive list of vocations to avoid. Let the 21st Century legalism commence!

  • DonS

    Prostitute, thief, drug smuggler, and other vocations necessarily involving the practice of sin, by definition, are fairly excluded from the list of suitable vocations for the Christian. But, it’s interesting to see the legalistic turn this thread has taken, as many have definitively pronounced other vocations like professional sports, which clearly do not require sinful activity to perform, to be unworthy vocations for a Christian, in fairly absolute terms. It would be even more interesting to see these same commenters develop a more comprehensive list of vocations to avoid. Let the 21st Century legalism commence!

  • Cincinnatus

    DonS: How is this legalism? “All things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” Please explain to me how an athlete making mega-millions by providing spectacle and spectacle alone, or a Wall Street banker making millions from a necessarily corrupt financial system, can be authentic disciples of Christ.

    I’m not denying the possibility itself, but we have to realize that these things–celebrity/egoism/ambition and discipleship–are in tension. You and sg continue to miss the point by pooh-poohing our concerns as mere legalism or jealousy (seriously, sg? When did you give Grace your computer password?).

    I’ll mention Machiavelli yet again. I only mention his name because he’s a canonical thinker, demonstrating that these concerns aren’t merely the preserve of self-righteous journalists. Machiavelli insists that it is impossible to be a faithful, virtuous Christian and an effective, virtuous leader (for Machiavelli, in politics, but the logic could extend to other fields). Discuss. Is he correct? I think he might be, at least to some extent.

  • Cincinnatus

    DonS: How is this legalism? “All things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” Please explain to me how an athlete making mega-millions by providing spectacle and spectacle alone, or a Wall Street banker making millions from a necessarily corrupt financial system, can be authentic disciples of Christ.

    I’m not denying the possibility itself, but we have to realize that these things–celebrity/egoism/ambition and discipleship–are in tension. You and sg continue to miss the point by pooh-poohing our concerns as mere legalism or jealousy (seriously, sg? When did you give Grace your computer password?).

    I’ll mention Machiavelli yet again. I only mention his name because he’s a canonical thinker, demonstrating that these concerns aren’t merely the preserve of self-righteous journalists. Machiavelli insists that it is impossible to be a faithful, virtuous Christian and an effective, virtuous leader (for Machiavelli, in politics, but the logic could extend to other fields). Discuss. Is he correct? I think he might be, at least to some extent.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS said (@47):

    Prostitute, thief, drug smuggler, and other vocations necessarily involving the practice of sin, by definition, are fairly excluded from the list of suitable vocations for the Christian.

    I can’t help but notice that you’ve picked up on the favorite whipping boys of social conservatives: sex and “drugs” (the scare quotes indicate that, in reality, it’s usually only some drugs that are referred to).

    But the Bible has far more to say about the sinful pursuit of wealth than it does the problem of intoxication, I’d posit. And this is the point we’re discussing here.

    Asking if something is sinful — even inherently sinful — isn’t a matter of going over one’s (apparently) short list of Big, Bad Sins. “Let’s see, no sex is involved, no drugs either, and, just for good measure, it doesn’t seem to involve murder or stealing, so your profession seems to be A-OK!” That misses the whole point of this conversation.

    …professional sports, which clearly do not require sinful activity to perform…

    Actually, it’s “clear” that what you see so “clearly” is not clear to others. Again, thus this conversation. Egotism is sinful. And some careers lend themselves more to ego than others. But egotism rarely makes it onto anybody’s list of Big, Bad Sins.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS said (@47):

    Prostitute, thief, drug smuggler, and other vocations necessarily involving the practice of sin, by definition, are fairly excluded from the list of suitable vocations for the Christian.

    I can’t help but notice that you’ve picked up on the favorite whipping boys of social conservatives: sex and “drugs” (the scare quotes indicate that, in reality, it’s usually only some drugs that are referred to).

    But the Bible has far more to say about the sinful pursuit of wealth than it does the problem of intoxication, I’d posit. And this is the point we’re discussing here.

    Asking if something is sinful — even inherently sinful — isn’t a matter of going over one’s (apparently) short list of Big, Bad Sins. “Let’s see, no sex is involved, no drugs either, and, just for good measure, it doesn’t seem to involve murder or stealing, so your profession seems to be A-OK!” That misses the whole point of this conversation.

    …professional sports, which clearly do not require sinful activity to perform…

    Actually, it’s “clear” that what you see so “clearly” is not clear to others. Again, thus this conversation. Egotism is sinful. And some careers lend themselves more to ego than others. But egotism rarely makes it onto anybody’s list of Big, Bad Sins.

  • SKPeterson

    The short seller plays an important and vital role in providing information and liquidity to a market. In fact, it is the short seller who fills the vital role akin to the young child who declares, “The Emperor has no clothes!” So, in effect he’s like E.F. Hutton, he earns his salary.

    Todd – thanks for the post of Rachele Gilmore. I’m more partial to Bartoli, but I just don’t see her doing the doll sequence. And as to famous 19th century singers – Lily Langtry, although she died after 1900.

  • SKPeterson

    The short seller plays an important and vital role in providing information and liquidity to a market. In fact, it is the short seller who fills the vital role akin to the young child who declares, “The Emperor has no clothes!” So, in effect he’s like E.F. Hutton, he earns his salary.

    Todd – thanks for the post of Rachele Gilmore. I’m more partial to Bartoli, but I just don’t see her doing the doll sequence. And as to famous 19th century singers – Lily Langtry, although she died after 1900.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The short seller plays an important and vital role in providing information and liquidity to a market.”

    Yes, of course. The point is whether his salary matches his value to society. After all, isn’t that really what annoys people about pro ball players? Watching sports is fine. I go to my son’s baseball games. Nothing wrong with sports until some guy who is athletic is making way more $ than I am. Well, that ain’t right. Just saying you could play that same goofy logic on short sellers. They don’t deserve all that profit selling short! It says something bad about “society” or some such.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The short seller plays an important and vital role in providing information and liquidity to a market.”

    Yes, of course. The point is whether his salary matches his value to society. After all, isn’t that really what annoys people about pro ball players? Watching sports is fine. I go to my son’s baseball games. Nothing wrong with sports until some guy who is athletic is making way more $ than I am. Well, that ain’t right. Just saying you could play that same goofy logic on short sellers. They don’t deserve all that profit selling short! It says something bad about “society” or some such.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 49: I picked examples wherein the only way to engage in the particular vocation, at least at present, is to break laws or, alternatively, in the case of prostitution, which is legal in NV, to engage in behavior (prostitution) which is strictly identified as sinful in the Bible. The “sinful pursuit of wealth”, I agree, is a sin, but is endemic in all vocations, because of the sinful nature of man. You may be more prone to the sin of greed if you are engaged in a well-paying vocation, like professional sports, but to assert that it is per se wrong for a Christian to be a sports figure is legalism.

    That is the only point I was making — a vocation which is legal under the law, and which does not require sinful activity (eg prostitution), cannot be said to be wrong for Christians without engaging in legalism.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 49: I picked examples wherein the only way to engage in the particular vocation, at least at present, is to break laws or, alternatively, in the case of prostitution, which is legal in NV, to engage in behavior (prostitution) which is strictly identified as sinful in the Bible. The “sinful pursuit of wealth”, I agree, is a sin, but is endemic in all vocations, because of the sinful nature of man. You may be more prone to the sin of greed if you are engaged in a well-paying vocation, like professional sports, but to assert that it is per se wrong for a Christian to be a sports figure is legalism.

    That is the only point I was making — a vocation which is legal under the law, and which does not require sinful activity (eg prostitution), cannot be said to be wrong for Christians without engaging in legalism.

  • Med Student

    Jon @ 35
    Why do you have an issue with an athlete making money off his/her talent, but seem to have no issue with a musician or painter doing the same? It’s all entertainment, which is a less tangible way of serving your neighbor than making bread or setting a broken bone, but that doesn’t make it in and of itself invalid as a vocation. Entertainment and recreation has its place in society. I enjoy watching people who can play baseball or basketball or hockey at a high level that very few people can achieve, whether they be professionals or amateurs. The same goes for musicians and artists as well.

  • Med Student

    Jon @ 35
    Why do you have an issue with an athlete making money off his/her talent, but seem to have no issue with a musician or painter doing the same? It’s all entertainment, which is a less tangible way of serving your neighbor than making bread or setting a broken bone, but that doesn’t make it in and of itself invalid as a vocation. Entertainment and recreation has its place in society. I enjoy watching people who can play baseball or basketball or hockey at a high level that very few people can achieve, whether they be professionals or amateurs. The same goes for musicians and artists as well.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg@51:

    Come on, be serious. Do you not find it at all problematic that our culture values the entertainment provided by sports so much that the budget of the football program alone at Oklahoma is larger than the entire GDP of Guam? That Tiger Woods has made more money than most people who actually add tangible value to society (while our schools disintegrate, etc.)? That the Dallas Cowboys just spent over $1 billion on a new mega-stadium while our churches and old neighborhoods and civic buildings rot? That my own current university just spent $120 million to renovate the football stadium while the buildings housing humanities departments are literally crumbling? That TV deals for college basketball and football games are worth literally hundreds of millions of dollars while book stores across the country are shutting their doors?

    We can repeat this exercise for other over-compensated professions as well (there’s a reason that Christian polities in the high middle ages reserved particular opprobrium for usurious bankers). Meanwhile, your argument–which amounts to this: “It’s all good; you’re just jealous–is a doltish denial of some potentially serious pathologies in our culture.

    Nothing is wrong with sports per se–I used to play sports in high school and college–but, again, be serious: there’s a different between sanctioning sports as a valuable human activity and exalting the vast, corrupt, egotistical sensorium that is modern American sports.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg@51:

    Come on, be serious. Do you not find it at all problematic that our culture values the entertainment provided by sports so much that the budget of the football program alone at Oklahoma is larger than the entire GDP of Guam? That Tiger Woods has made more money than most people who actually add tangible value to society (while our schools disintegrate, etc.)? That the Dallas Cowboys just spent over $1 billion on a new mega-stadium while our churches and old neighborhoods and civic buildings rot? That my own current university just spent $120 million to renovate the football stadium while the buildings housing humanities departments are literally crumbling? That TV deals for college basketball and football games are worth literally hundreds of millions of dollars while book stores across the country are shutting their doors?

    We can repeat this exercise for other over-compensated professions as well (there’s a reason that Christian polities in the high middle ages reserved particular opprobrium for usurious bankers). Meanwhile, your argument–which amounts to this: “It’s all good; you’re just jealous–is a doltish denial of some potentially serious pathologies in our culture.

    Nothing is wrong with sports per se–I used to play sports in high school and college–but, again, be serious: there’s a different between sanctioning sports as a valuable human activity and exalting the vast, corrupt, egotistical sensorium that is modern American sports.

  • Paul S

    Cant help but notice that the discussion is revolving around the amount of money athletes are paid. That is a different question entirely from the question of whether or not athletic competition can mesh with Christianity.

    To say that it is immoral or unethical that a guy gets paid ridiculous amounts of money to play a sport doesn’t say anything about him as a person. He is paid what the market allows for. Stupid people pay thousands of dollars for a seat in the stands to watch him play. The money is there. Somebody will get it. He deserves his fair share. This says as much about the morality and ethics of the consumer as it does of the athlete.

  • Paul S

    Cant help but notice that the discussion is revolving around the amount of money athletes are paid. That is a different question entirely from the question of whether or not athletic competition can mesh with Christianity.

    To say that it is immoral or unethical that a guy gets paid ridiculous amounts of money to play a sport doesn’t say anything about him as a person. He is paid what the market allows for. Stupid people pay thousands of dollars for a seat in the stands to watch him play. The money is there. Somebody will get it. He deserves his fair share. This says as much about the morality and ethics of the consumer as it does of the athlete.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 48

    I just don’t see the athletes as manipulating the system. They just do what they do. Some of the ones that retire go play in nowhereville just because they love the game so much. Craig Biggio will probably be in the Hall of Fame. He is coaching in a high school. Or Ed Belfour who is like one of the top goalies in NHL history Hall of Famer couldn’t stop and finally ended his career in middle of podunk Sweden second division.

    Blaming the athletes for playing the game is like blaming the engineers at a Fortune 500 company for the failings of Wall Street.

    Misplaced animosity.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 48

    I just don’t see the athletes as manipulating the system. They just do what they do. Some of the ones that retire go play in nowhereville just because they love the game so much. Craig Biggio will probably be in the Hall of Fame. He is coaching in a high school. Or Ed Belfour who is like one of the top goalies in NHL history Hall of Famer couldn’t stop and finally ended his career in middle of podunk Sweden second division.

    Blaming the athletes for playing the game is like blaming the engineers at a Fortune 500 company for the failings of Wall Street.

    Misplaced animosity.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “That Tiger Woods has made more money than most people who actually add tangible value to society (while our schools disintegrate, etc.)?”

    Our schools are the best in the world. That is why everyone comes here to study. They are also the most expensive. You get what you pay for. We spend more per student than any country in the world, but you knew that.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “That Tiger Woods has made more money than most people who actually add tangible value to society (while our schools disintegrate, etc.)?”

    Our schools are the best in the world. That is why everyone comes here to study. They are also the most expensive. You get what you pay for. We spend more per student than any country in the world, but you knew that.

  • Trey

    Sports as long as the goal is not to harm one’s neighbor is a legitimate vocation as much as writing, acting, etc. God has given us His creation to enjoy in line with His purpose and design. Boxing and MMA are examples of illegitimate vocations as their purpose is to harm one’s neighbor- knock him out.

  • Trey

    Sports as long as the goal is not to harm one’s neighbor is a legitimate vocation as much as writing, acting, etc. God has given us His creation to enjoy in line with His purpose and design. Boxing and MMA are examples of illegitimate vocations as their purpose is to harm one’s neighbor- knock him out.

  • Jon

    @53 My issue isn’t w/the money; it’s with the so-called God given skill of throwing a ball into a basket or into a catcher’s mitt. But there’s more bias than logic to my view, I’ll admit.

  • Jon

    @53 My issue isn’t w/the money; it’s with the so-called God given skill of throwing a ball into a basket or into a catcher’s mitt. But there’s more bias than logic to my view, I’ll admit.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “the budget of the football program alone at Oklahoma is larger than the entire GDP of Guam”

    I don’t a thing about Guam, but isn’t the Okalahoma football program a quality organization? And in the words of Dr. Venkman, the kids love it. :D

    Hey, how much of college and professional sports popularity is just due to TV and savvy marketing?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “the budget of the football program alone at Oklahoma is larger than the entire GDP of Guam”

    I don’t a thing about Guam, but isn’t the Okalahoma football program a quality organization? And in the words of Dr. Venkman, the kids love it. :D

    Hey, how much of college and professional sports popularity is just due to TV and savvy marketing?

  • DonS

    The story of Zaccheus (Luke 19: 1-10) is instructive. It’s hard to imagine a less worthy vocation than serving as a tax collector for the godless Roman Empire. Yet this passage of Scripture does not condemn the Roman tax collector, per se, for his choice of vocation, but only for the corrupt way in which he engaged in it. Christ’s visit caused him to promise to give half of his goods to the poor and to restore fourfold anything he had taken from anyone by false accusation.

    It’s not the particular vocation, but how we perform it. No matter what it is.

  • DonS

    The story of Zaccheus (Luke 19: 1-10) is instructive. It’s hard to imagine a less worthy vocation than serving as a tax collector for the godless Roman Empire. Yet this passage of Scripture does not condemn the Roman tax collector, per se, for his choice of vocation, but only for the corrupt way in which he engaged in it. Christ’s visit caused him to promise to give half of his goods to the poor and to restore fourfold anything he had taken from anyone by false accusation.

    It’s not the particular vocation, but how we perform it. No matter what it is.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 59

    Is marketing a God-given talent that deserves high compensation for the value society derives from it for marketing stuff likes sports and other entertainment to us?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 59

    Is marketing a God-given talent that deserves high compensation for the value society derives from it for marketing stuff likes sports and other entertainment to us?

  • Paul S

    Salaries for any occupation are not determined by morality or ethics or by the amount of good they do for society. Salaries are set by economics and the marketplace. The fact that athletes are paid so much says more about the marketplace than it does about the athlete.

  • Paul S

    Salaries for any occupation are not determined by morality or ethics or by the amount of good they do for society. Salaries are set by economics and the marketplace. The fact that athletes are paid so much says more about the marketplace than it does about the athlete.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Social privilege played a much bigger role in David Brooks writing for the NYTimes than it did for Ed Belfour, Jeremy Lin or Michael Jordan earning their accomplishments and $$ in sports. Not everyone is an athlete, and not everyone gets the prestige of writing for the NYTimes. Brooks likes to pretend that he honorably earned his status but those athletes didn’t earn theirs. I disagree.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Social privilege played a much bigger role in David Brooks writing for the NYTimes than it did for Ed Belfour, Jeremy Lin or Michael Jordan earning their accomplishments and $$ in sports. Not everyone is an athlete, and not everyone gets the prestige of writing for the NYTimes. Brooks likes to pretend that he honorably earned his status but those athletes didn’t earn theirs. I disagree.

  • Cincinnatus

    Paul S.: Right, I’ve already said roughly the same thing (although I prefer the term “culture,” in this case, to “marketplace”), which is why sg’s non sequitur about not blaming athletes for making millions is, well, missing the point.

    On the other hand, do you really think professional athletes are not taking advantage of the system themselves, sg? That they’re not ambitious, egoistical, money-loving, etc., in many cases? And that their chosen field, like several others, rewards these unchristian vices?

  • Cincinnatus

    Paul S.: Right, I’ve already said roughly the same thing (although I prefer the term “culture,” in this case, to “marketplace”), which is why sg’s non sequitur about not blaming athletes for making millions is, well, missing the point.

    On the other hand, do you really think professional athletes are not taking advantage of the system themselves, sg? That they’re not ambitious, egoistical, money-loving, etc., in many cases? And that their chosen field, like several others, rewards these unchristian vices?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 63 exactly

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 63 exactly

  • Dan Kempin

    We are chasing many different rabbits here.

    Don S, #47,

    I take issue with you calling this legalism. It is a danger, I absolutely admit that, but I think there is also danger in dismissing a pertinent question without examination by labeling it “legalism.”

    The “vocation of entertainment” is not inherently sinful, that it true. But it is certainly not inherently pure. There are many forms of entertainment that I would consider inappropriate for a Christian to pursue. It is not entertainment, per se, but the nature of the entertainment and the good or harm that it causes.

    Besides, legalism runs both ways. It is just as much pharisaic legalism to acquit one’s self of any obligation by a simplistic “it’s not on the list, so I’m clear.”

  • Dan Kempin

    We are chasing many different rabbits here.

    Don S, #47,

    I take issue with you calling this legalism. It is a danger, I absolutely admit that, but I think there is also danger in dismissing a pertinent question without examination by labeling it “legalism.”

    The “vocation of entertainment” is not inherently sinful, that it true. But it is certainly not inherently pure. There are many forms of entertainment that I would consider inappropriate for a Christian to pursue. It is not entertainment, per se, but the nature of the entertainment and the good or harm that it causes.

    Besides, legalism runs both ways. It is just as much pharisaic legalism to acquit one’s self of any obligation by a simplistic “it’s not on the list, so I’m clear.”

  • Cincinnatus

    And, sg, might I remind you that your continued ad hominems against Brooks himself are tiresome and irrelevant? Upon what grounds are you claiming that Brooks didn’t earn his prestigious position at the Times, and what has that to do with egoistic vocations either way? At worst, it proves him a hypocrite of sorts, but it certainly does undermine his overall point: that certain vocations make it really difficult to follow Christ by definition. It’s always hard to follow Christ authentically, but wouldn’t you agree that it’s even harder when your chosen “vocation” (and I think we’re stretching the term “vocation” here: based on what we know from the Gospels, does God really call anyone to make millions of dollars by indulging their egos in front of the mass public?) actually demands that you gratify and glorify yourself rather than Christ in you? That’s all we’re saying.

  • Cincinnatus

    And, sg, might I remind you that your continued ad hominems against Brooks himself are tiresome and irrelevant? Upon what grounds are you claiming that Brooks didn’t earn his prestigious position at the Times, and what has that to do with egoistic vocations either way? At worst, it proves him a hypocrite of sorts, but it certainly does undermine his overall point: that certain vocations make it really difficult to follow Christ by definition. It’s always hard to follow Christ authentically, but wouldn’t you agree that it’s even harder when your chosen “vocation” (and I think we’re stretching the term “vocation” here: based on what we know from the Gospels, does God really call anyone to make millions of dollars by indulging their egos in front of the mass public?) actually demands that you gratify and glorify yourself rather than Christ in you? That’s all we’re saying.

  • Dan Kempin

    Don S, #61,

    “It’s not the particular vocation, but how we perform it. No matter what it is.”

    But at 47 you said,

    “Prostitute, thief, drug smuggler, and other vocations necessarily involving the practice of sin, by definition, are fairly excluded from the list of suitable vocations for the Christian.”

    So you see, there is a valid conversation somewhere about where to draw the line.

  • Dan Kempin

    Don S, #61,

    “It’s not the particular vocation, but how we perform it. No matter what it is.”

    But at 47 you said,

    “Prostitute, thief, drug smuggler, and other vocations necessarily involving the practice of sin, by definition, are fairly excluded from the list of suitable vocations for the Christian.”

    So you see, there is a valid conversation somewhere about where to draw the line.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 48: You ask, how is this legalism? Dan asks the same basic question @ 67. But consider what you said @ 6:

    But can we bracket our idolatry for a few moments to consider whether it is a forbidden vocation? Surely we agree that certain vocations ought to be forbidden: stripper, prostitute, heroin dealer, pirate, etc.

    So let’s look at what Brooks says about modern sports, about what formative practices and priorities orient American professional sports: egoism, self-assertion, self-aggrandization, self-apotheosis, celebrity, sex, appearance. I could go on. None of these things are terribly Christian (and Tebow is guilty of several of them). Sports themselves at the recreational and youth level can be excellent means to physical fitness and community life. But professional sports seem not only to encourage or “tempt” its players–and audiences–to a whole host of vices, but even to require those vices.

    One could say the same about several other modern vocations: demagogic mass politics, rock stardom, and televangelist among others. Egoism is essential to these vocations, and as such, they are un-Christlike at their cores. There is a reason many medieval artists, makers of some of the most sublime creations in human history, are unknown to us. They remained intentionally anonymous, wishing their art to speak for itself and for God. With modernity, however, came artistic celebrity.

    I see only two acceptable answers here: either these egoistic vocations are inappropriate prima facie and should be rejected by Christians, or, like Machiavelli, we agree that some of them are necessary (like political leadership, but not like professional football) for human flourishing, but that in order to be successful we must bracket our commitment to Christian virtue and be willing to be immoral.

    You are clearly arguing (and you basically repeat this argument @ 46, that you are convinced that some professions are incapable of being engaged in without sins, such as pride, greed, etc. That’s like saying that you can’t drink without sinning, or can’t go to movies, or can’t dance. I don’t have a problem with a discussion as to the difficulties of being in certain vocations without succumbing to temptation — that’s a worthy discussion, as Dan notes. But to declaratively insist that a vocation is off-limits, because in your opinion it is impossible to engage in it in a way that glorifies Christ, even when there is nothing about that vocation that is inherently sinful (i.e. the ones we agree on — prostitution, piracy, etc.), that is the very definition of legalism. You have no right to make such a definitive call for others.

  • DonS

    Cincinnatus @ 48: You ask, how is this legalism? Dan asks the same basic question @ 67. But consider what you said @ 6:

    But can we bracket our idolatry for a few moments to consider whether it is a forbidden vocation? Surely we agree that certain vocations ought to be forbidden: stripper, prostitute, heroin dealer, pirate, etc.

    So let’s look at what Brooks says about modern sports, about what formative practices and priorities orient American professional sports: egoism, self-assertion, self-aggrandization, self-apotheosis, celebrity, sex, appearance. I could go on. None of these things are terribly Christian (and Tebow is guilty of several of them). Sports themselves at the recreational and youth level can be excellent means to physical fitness and community life. But professional sports seem not only to encourage or “tempt” its players–and audiences–to a whole host of vices, but even to require those vices.

    One could say the same about several other modern vocations: demagogic mass politics, rock stardom, and televangelist among others. Egoism is essential to these vocations, and as such, they are un-Christlike at their cores. There is a reason many medieval artists, makers of some of the most sublime creations in human history, are unknown to us. They remained intentionally anonymous, wishing their art to speak for itself and for God. With modernity, however, came artistic celebrity.

    I see only two acceptable answers here: either these egoistic vocations are inappropriate prima facie and should be rejected by Christians, or, like Machiavelli, we agree that some of them are necessary (like political leadership, but not like professional football) for human flourishing, but that in order to be successful we must bracket our commitment to Christian virtue and be willing to be immoral.

    You are clearly arguing (and you basically repeat this argument @ 46, that you are convinced that some professions are incapable of being engaged in without sins, such as pride, greed, etc. That’s like saying that you can’t drink without sinning, or can’t go to movies, or can’t dance. I don’t have a problem with a discussion as to the difficulties of being in certain vocations without succumbing to temptation — that’s a worthy discussion, as Dan notes. But to declaratively insist that a vocation is off-limits, because in your opinion it is impossible to engage in it in a way that glorifies Christ, even when there is nothing about that vocation that is inherently sinful (i.e. the ones we agree on — prostitution, piracy, etc.), that is the very definition of legalism. You have no right to make such a definitive call for others.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “On the other hand, do you really think professional athletes are not taking advantage of the system themselves, sg?”

    By that definition, we are all taking advantage. What if what I have to offer couldn’t be traded for an optimal lifestyle? Or what if your abilities couldn’t be marketed for your position and earnings? We are all flawed. I just don’t see athletes as somehow being more so.

    Anyway, the recreational leagues have plenty of players because people like sports. If pro athletes could not get paid, they would still do it. But the miracle of TV lets us enjoy watching and allows them to get paid. win-win. Then of course the really big win for the marketers and business part of it, and their talent is not near so amazing and cool.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “On the other hand, do you really think professional athletes are not taking advantage of the system themselves, sg?”

    By that definition, we are all taking advantage. What if what I have to offer couldn’t be traded for an optimal lifestyle? Or what if your abilities couldn’t be marketed for your position and earnings? We are all flawed. I just don’t see athletes as somehow being more so.

    Anyway, the recreational leagues have plenty of players because people like sports. If pro athletes could not get paid, they would still do it. But the miracle of TV lets us enjoy watching and allows them to get paid. win-win. Then of course the really big win for the marketers and business part of it, and their talent is not near so amazing and cool.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Upon what grounds are you claiming that Brooks didn’t earn his prestigious position at the Times, and what has that to do with egoistic vocations either way? At worst, it proves him a hypocrite of sorts, but it certainly does undermine his overall point: that certain vocations make it really difficult to follow Christ by definition.”

    By definition? Well, then Brooks definitely needs to look in the mirror. Sure a writer for the Times could pursuit it well, I just don’t think Brooks does. How about Nicholas Wade. He writes for the NYTimes and seems to do it with integrity.

    Have I mentioned I can’t stand Brooks?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Upon what grounds are you claiming that Brooks didn’t earn his prestigious position at the Times, and what has that to do with egoistic vocations either way? At worst, it proves him a hypocrite of sorts, but it certainly does undermine his overall point: that certain vocations make it really difficult to follow Christ by definition.”

    By definition? Well, then Brooks definitely needs to look in the mirror. Sure a writer for the Times could pursuit it well, I just don’t think Brooks does. How about Nicholas Wade. He writes for the NYTimes and seems to do it with integrity.

    Have I mentioned I can’t stand Brooks?

  • DonS

    Dan @ 69: Of course, if the vocation requires illegal activity, or explicitly sinful activity, like prostitution, then it is no longer man presuming to define for other man what the sin is. The line is drawn at explicit sin. Not a gray area.

  • DonS

    Dan @ 69: Of course, if the vocation requires illegal activity, or explicitly sinful activity, like prostitution, then it is no longer man presuming to define for other man what the sin is. The line is drawn at explicit sin. Not a gray area.

  • Paul S

    I think it’s irrelevant to discuss who makes how much money and then judge them for receiving the amount of money that the marketplace determines. Professional athletes make a lot of money. They just do. Are they necessarily wrong for accepting that amount of money? Is it up to us to judge whether their hearts are right or wrong? Moral or immoral? The question is are they fulfilling their Christian vocation in doing their work and service as an athlete assuming they are Christians.

  • Paul S

    I think it’s irrelevant to discuss who makes how much money and then judge them for receiving the amount of money that the marketplace determines. Professional athletes make a lot of money. They just do. Are they necessarily wrong for accepting that amount of money? Is it up to us to judge whether their hearts are right or wrong? Moral or immoral? The question is are they fulfilling their Christian vocation in doing their work and service as an athlete assuming they are Christians.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    All those folks who studied in high school and college to make better grades so they could make more money are just taking advantage of the system. They are egotistical and money loving and unchristian! So are the businessmen who build better widgets and provide better service and charge higher prices and make more money by getting more customers by doing a better job. You can hear those egotistical jerks on the radio always claiming how great they are for being on time to fix your air conditioner!! Some even claim to be the best in the city!!! How unchristian.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    All those folks who studied in high school and college to make better grades so they could make more money are just taking advantage of the system. They are egotistical and money loving and unchristian! So are the businessmen who build better widgets and provide better service and charge higher prices and make more money by getting more customers by doing a better job. You can hear those egotistical jerks on the radio always claiming how great they are for being on time to fix your air conditioner!! Some even claim to be the best in the city!!! How unchristian.

  • fws

    what an interesting conversation. I am going to sit this one out and eat some popcorn.

    someone here seems to be implying that if prices or salaries are the result of a free market then there is nothing at all immoral about those salaries. There seems to be something missing in that analysis.

    Is anyone here able to put there finger on it? I can at the moment, but something smells wrong with that.

  • fws

    what an interesting conversation. I am going to sit this one out and eat some popcorn.

    someone here seems to be implying that if prices or salaries are the result of a free market then there is nothing at all immoral about those salaries. There seems to be something missing in that analysis.

    Is anyone here able to put there finger on it? I can at the moment, but something smells wrong with that.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    There is a reason many medieval artists, makers of some of the most sublime creations in human history, are unknown to us. They remained intentionally anonymous, wishing their art to speak for itself and for God. With modernity, however, came artistic celebrity.

    Huh, all those antique Chinese vases and the Terra Cotta warriors were intentionally anonymous cuz the artisans were so into being humble and Christ like? Who knew?

    Can we stop with the silly historical revisions? It just wasn’t the thing back then to sign artwork.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    There is a reason many medieval artists, makers of some of the most sublime creations in human history, are unknown to us. They remained intentionally anonymous, wishing their art to speak for itself and for God. With modernity, however, came artistic celebrity.

    Huh, all those antique Chinese vases and the Terra Cotta warriors were intentionally anonymous cuz the artisans were so into being humble and Christ like? Who knew?

    Can we stop with the silly historical revisions? It just wasn’t the thing back then to sign artwork.

  • Paul S

    I am not saying that there is not something out of balance. Nor am I saying that the market is beyond judgment. I am saying that it does not make any sense to pass judgment on someone who earns a lot of money just because of they are a professional athlete and assume that they are doing something immoral. That is legalism. That is making a law where God has not.

  • Paul S

    I am not saying that there is not something out of balance. Nor am I saying that the market is beyond judgment. I am saying that it does not make any sense to pass judgment on someone who earns a lot of money just because of they are a professional athlete and assume that they are doing something immoral. That is legalism. That is making a law where God has not.

  • fws

    paul @ 78

    not necessarily. greed is a sin. the problem is that greed is alot harder to identify as such than is sexual sinning. Greed is often even declared at times to be a virtue.

    Luther here poses some challenging thoughts on business. I myself am a CPA. I dont agree with all he writes by far, but I am challenged by alot of what he says….

    http://www.lutherdansk.dk/Martin%20Luther%20-%20On%20trading%20and%20usury%201524/ON%20TRADING%20AND%20USURY%20-%20backup%20020306.htm

  • fws

    paul @ 78

    not necessarily. greed is a sin. the problem is that greed is alot harder to identify as such than is sexual sinning. Greed is often even declared at times to be a virtue.

    Luther here poses some challenging thoughts on business. I myself am a CPA. I dont agree with all he writes by far, but I am challenged by alot of what he says….

    http://www.lutherdansk.dk/Martin%20Luther%20-%20On%20trading%20and%20usury%201524/ON%20TRADING%20AND%20USURY%20-%20backup%20020306.htm

  • Paul S

    That may be true. But receiving a high salary doesn’t necessitate greed.

  • Paul S

    That may be true. But receiving a high salary doesn’t necessitate greed.

  • DonS

    Frank @ 79: “I am going to sit this one out and eat some popcorn. ” (from comment @ 76). Well, that didn’t last long ;-)

    Neither Paul S nor I are arguing that greed is not sin. What we are arguing against is the legalism that because professional athletes have high market salaries, and achieve great fame, it necessarily follows that they must be greedy and that they must be prideful, and therefore that vocation is per se not suitable for a Christian. This isn’t “that Footloose town”, and it is not the place of Christians to declare that the vocations of other Christians are inherently sinful, except, as we’ve all acknowledged, for those relatively few professions that necessarily require activities expressly identified as sinful by the Bible, or which are illegal.

  • DonS

    Frank @ 79: “I am going to sit this one out and eat some popcorn. ” (from comment @ 76). Well, that didn’t last long ;-)

    Neither Paul S nor I are arguing that greed is not sin. What we are arguing against is the legalism that because professional athletes have high market salaries, and achieve great fame, it necessarily follows that they must be greedy and that they must be prideful, and therefore that vocation is per se not suitable for a Christian. This isn’t “that Footloose town”, and it is not the place of Christians to declare that the vocations of other Christians are inherently sinful, except, as we’ve all acknowledged, for those relatively few professions that necessarily require activities expressly identified as sinful by the Bible, or which are illegal.

  • Med Student

    Every vocation has its danger areas and temptations to sin. Some are just more obvious than others. Professional athletes are sorely tempted by greed, pride, causing intentional harm to their neighbor. Businessmen are also tempted by greed and pride and ruthlessness, politicians by pride, corruption, and power, doctors by the desire to “play God” and often by greed, students by laziness and the desire to cheat. Some may even be tempted to think their vocation is unimportant since society has determined it to be bottom rung, like a burger-flipper or janitor. The value of a vocation in God’s eyes is not determined by its value in society – the vocation of doctor is no better than the vocation of phlebotomist. Is it wrong, though, for a Christian to accept the compensation that society/culture/the market has set for their particular vocation? If someone’s willing to pay Albert Pujols $25 million a year, should he decline it? Or is it better to accept that salary and use the money for the betterment of his neighbor? If society values my future skills as a physician to be worth six figures, should I decline it so as not to be greedy and demand less? Scripture makes it clear that desiring wealth is evil. However, if our vocation is something highly valued by society, is it greedy to accept that value, or only so if we act selfishly with what we have been given? I’m looking for other people’s thoughts on this matter – it’s not something I’ve really contemplated that deeply before.

  • Med Student

    Every vocation has its danger areas and temptations to sin. Some are just more obvious than others. Professional athletes are sorely tempted by greed, pride, causing intentional harm to their neighbor. Businessmen are also tempted by greed and pride and ruthlessness, politicians by pride, corruption, and power, doctors by the desire to “play God” and often by greed, students by laziness and the desire to cheat. Some may even be tempted to think their vocation is unimportant since society has determined it to be bottom rung, like a burger-flipper or janitor. The value of a vocation in God’s eyes is not determined by its value in society – the vocation of doctor is no better than the vocation of phlebotomist. Is it wrong, though, for a Christian to accept the compensation that society/culture/the market has set for their particular vocation? If someone’s willing to pay Albert Pujols $25 million a year, should he decline it? Or is it better to accept that salary and use the money for the betterment of his neighbor? If society values my future skills as a physician to be worth six figures, should I decline it so as not to be greedy and demand less? Scripture makes it clear that desiring wealth is evil. However, if our vocation is something highly valued by society, is it greedy to accept that value, or only so if we act selfishly with what we have been given? I’m looking for other people’s thoughts on this matter – it’s not something I’ve really contemplated that deeply before.

  • Esh

    I believe that Brooks is unfairly forgetting about many of the professional athletes in sports and is focusing on only the most obvious ones. It seems that the athletes which often catch the broad attention of the public definitely fall victim to the vices that Brooks mentions, however he seems to be attributing this to professional sports as a whole. This does not seem to be the case. For all the vices that he mentions there are virtues that come also. Pride runs rampant in sports certainly, but, as a former collegiate athlete, I never learned greater lessons in humility than when I was training and competing. I have never been a part of a team nor have I ever participated in a sport where the theme was “It’s all about you” rather I find that people with that mentality rarely succeed. I also see this being a similar argument that people use when discussing other types of entertainment (music, movies, television).

  • Esh

    I believe that Brooks is unfairly forgetting about many of the professional athletes in sports and is focusing on only the most obvious ones. It seems that the athletes which often catch the broad attention of the public definitely fall victim to the vices that Brooks mentions, however he seems to be attributing this to professional sports as a whole. This does not seem to be the case. For all the vices that he mentions there are virtues that come also. Pride runs rampant in sports certainly, but, as a former collegiate athlete, I never learned greater lessons in humility than when I was training and competing. I have never been a part of a team nor have I ever participated in a sport where the theme was “It’s all about you” rather I find that people with that mentality rarely succeed. I also see this being a similar argument that people use when discussing other types of entertainment (music, movies, television).

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I believe that Brooks is unfairly forgetting about many of the professional athletes in sports and is focusing on only the most obvious ones.

    Ja, eben.

    I believe that Brooks is unfairly forgetting about many of the professional journalists and other media types who like himself have an inflated image of themselves and are rather greedy relative to the value of their contributions and condescending in their view of what those in other vocations contribute to the quality of our lives.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I believe that Brooks is unfairly forgetting about many of the professional athletes in sports and is focusing on only the most obvious ones.

    Ja, eben.

    I believe that Brooks is unfairly forgetting about many of the professional journalists and other media types who like himself have an inflated image of themselves and are rather greedy relative to the value of their contributions and condescending in their view of what those in other vocations contribute to the quality of our lives.

  • http://www.whenisayrunrun.blogspot.com Andrew

    I disagree with Brooks.
    What kind of teacher would I be if I did not push my students to succeed and fail; to learn from their mistakes and grow.

    Even is PE the kids need to be competitive. To strive and try to have success in any venture and their success does not rely on the failure of others, but the growth of the individual. It is fun to win, but far more is learned from a loss. My second year of Basketball coaching did not go well, we only won two games. The following year, with the same students, they were undefeated and took the city championship. They learned and succeeded.
    Serving your neighbor is important, but not to the detriment of your neighbor by not giving your best and using the talents God gave.

  • http://www.whenisayrunrun.blogspot.com Andrew

    I disagree with Brooks.
    What kind of teacher would I be if I did not push my students to succeed and fail; to learn from their mistakes and grow.

    Even is PE the kids need to be competitive. To strive and try to have success in any venture and their success does not rely on the failure of others, but the growth of the individual. It is fun to win, but far more is learned from a loss. My second year of Basketball coaching did not go well, we only won two games. The following year, with the same students, they were undefeated and took the city championship. They learned and succeeded.
    Serving your neighbor is important, but not to the detriment of your neighbor by not giving your best and using the talents God gave.

  • http://www.whenisayrunrun.blogspot.com Andrew

    @ #85 I guess I am the teacher that does not punctuate well.

  • http://www.whenisayrunrun.blogspot.com Andrew

    @ #85 I guess I am the teacher that does not punctuate well.

  • Booklover

    “Brooks is arguing that playing sports, professionally, say, is not a legitimate vocation for a Christian. Do you agree?”

    I think that playing professional sports may possibly be a legitimate vocation for a Christan if that is one’s gift. Although it is hard to reconcile that with “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” And we as fans should be careful about “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.”

    Tim Tebow came to our town recently. It seemed that everyone and their dog went, and they brought their children. Prices were exorbitant but at least they went to a good cause. Kids talked with glee about how Tim said “hello” to them. I just remember thinking, I wonder what fraction of those people would have gone to see a visiting missionary. We do idolize our sports heroes.

  • Booklover

    “Brooks is arguing that playing sports, professionally, say, is not a legitimate vocation for a Christian. Do you agree?”

    I think that playing professional sports may possibly be a legitimate vocation for a Christan if that is one’s gift. Although it is hard to reconcile that with “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” And we as fans should be careful about “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.”

    Tim Tebow came to our town recently. It seemed that everyone and their dog went, and they brought their children. Prices were exorbitant but at least they went to a good cause. Kids talked with glee about how Tim said “hello” to them. I just remember thinking, I wonder what fraction of those people would have gone to see a visiting missionary. We do idolize our sports heroes.

  • Tom Hering

    Where is Brooks saying people, including religious people, including religious people in sports, shouldn’t strive to perform well in their vocations?

  • Tom Hering

    Where is Brooks saying people, including religious people, including religious people in sports, shouldn’t strive to perform well in their vocations?

  • Med Student

    @88
    Brooks does make it sound like in order to be a great athlete, you have to be proud, egotistical, self-aggrandizing, intimidating guy, traits which are definitely not Christ-like. Therefore, in his view of what it is to be a great athlete, a Christian should not strive to perform well because it would be sinful to do so. I happen to think his idea of a “sports hero” is greatly skewed to focus on a certain type of great athlete (like a Terrell Owens) instead of the ones who quietly get the job done and don’t draw attention to themselves (i.e. Barry Sanders). Humility and confidence are not mutually exclusive traits; humility and ego are. I think Brooks wrongly conflates ego and confidence – great athletes are necessarily confident, but not necessarily egotistical. My two cents.

  • Med Student

    @88
    Brooks does make it sound like in order to be a great athlete, you have to be proud, egotistical, self-aggrandizing, intimidating guy, traits which are definitely not Christ-like. Therefore, in his view of what it is to be a great athlete, a Christian should not strive to perform well because it would be sinful to do so. I happen to think his idea of a “sports hero” is greatly skewed to focus on a certain type of great athlete (like a Terrell Owens) instead of the ones who quietly get the job done and don’t draw attention to themselves (i.e. Barry Sanders). Humility and confidence are not mutually exclusive traits; humility and ego are. I think Brooks wrongly conflates ego and confidence – great athletes are necessarily confident, but not necessarily egotistical. My two cents.

  • http://www.christianimagination.com Seth

    Being a professional athlete may make one more of a celebrity, but not everyone is exactly famous. How many NFL offensive linemen do you know? Perhaps some. How many NFL practice squad players? How many minor league baseball players? How many MLS players? How many niche sports athletes (like say, frisbee golf)?
    For most, it’s also a lot more work than a certain amount of time on the field. Not only is there a lot of practice, there’s also a lot of scrutiny. This doesn’t even take into account the potential downsides of a celebrity lifestyle that some live. And while there’s certainly idolatry of athletes, there’s also plenty of people who rejoice when people who seem like positive role models fall, like say, Tiger Woods. There are also some discussions about whether the concussions and ‘beating up one’s body’ is worth the money in the NFL. Some players can barely walk later in life, and thus, those millions are dollars can be quite hollow. Also, I think it’s very important that if Christians go into vocations that may challenge their faith, that we actually pray for them, encourage them, help them stay focused on God, and hopefully they seek these things out as well.

  • http://www.christianimagination.com Seth

    Being a professional athlete may make one more of a celebrity, but not everyone is exactly famous. How many NFL offensive linemen do you know? Perhaps some. How many NFL practice squad players? How many minor league baseball players? How many MLS players? How many niche sports athletes (like say, frisbee golf)?
    For most, it’s also a lot more work than a certain amount of time on the field. Not only is there a lot of practice, there’s also a lot of scrutiny. This doesn’t even take into account the potential downsides of a celebrity lifestyle that some live. And while there’s certainly idolatry of athletes, there’s also plenty of people who rejoice when people who seem like positive role models fall, like say, Tiger Woods. There are also some discussions about whether the concussions and ‘beating up one’s body’ is worth the money in the NFL. Some players can barely walk later in life, and thus, those millions are dollars can be quite hollow. Also, I think it’s very important that if Christians go into vocations that may challenge their faith, that we actually pray for them, encourage them, help them stay focused on God, and hopefully they seek these things out as well.

  • Tom Hering

    “Therefore, in his view of what it is to be a great athlete, a Christian should not strive to perform well because it would be sinful to do so.”

    Not his point at all. The title of his piece is “The Jeremy Lin Problem.” As in: being both a Christian and a modern American sports hero is a problem. Because of conflicting values. How hard is this to understand? Brooks is pretty much just reporting what Lin revealed.

  • Tom Hering

    “Therefore, in his view of what it is to be a great athlete, a Christian should not strive to perform well because it would be sinful to do so.”

    Not his point at all. The title of his piece is “The Jeremy Lin Problem.” As in: being both a Christian and a modern American sports hero is a problem. Because of conflicting values. How hard is this to understand? Brooks is pretty much just reporting what Lin revealed.

  • Gary

    The article as quoted here presents a strawman caricature and knocks it down. Any athlete that come close to the ones described is painted as a primadona or villain even in today’s culture.

    The celebrity of pro athletes means they are more scrutinized. If we had thousands of people looking at our meager vocations, they could paint just as dastardly a picture.

  • Gary

    The article as quoted here presents a strawman caricature and knocks it down. Any athlete that come close to the ones described is painted as a primadona or villain even in today’s culture.

    The celebrity of pro athletes means they are more scrutinized. If we had thousands of people looking at our meager vocations, they could paint just as dastardly a picture.

  • Med Student

    @91 You’re just proving my point. Brooks think being a Christian and being a modern sports hero is a problem because he seems to believe it’s well nigh impossible to reconcile love of sport with one’s religious creed, being as according to Brooks you have to have a whole list of sinful traits in order to be a sports hero. His starting premise is wrong, so his conclusion is wrong. If he had wanted to say that it’s hard to be a Christian and a sports hero because the temptation is so great, he certainly could have said so in a much better way, without strongly implying that being a sports hero absolutely necessitates un-Christian behavior. Maybe we’re reading the same thing from different frames of mind, but I see Brooks saying pretty categorically that it’s impossible to be a professional sports hero. Of course, I haven’t read the whole thing, just the part posted here.

  • Med Student

    @91 You’re just proving my point. Brooks think being a Christian and being a modern sports hero is a problem because he seems to believe it’s well nigh impossible to reconcile love of sport with one’s religious creed, being as according to Brooks you have to have a whole list of sinful traits in order to be a sports hero. His starting premise is wrong, so his conclusion is wrong. If he had wanted to say that it’s hard to be a Christian and a sports hero because the temptation is so great, he certainly could have said so in a much better way, without strongly implying that being a sports hero absolutely necessitates un-Christian behavior. Maybe we’re reading the same thing from different frames of mind, but I see Brooks saying pretty categorically that it’s impossible to be a professional sports hero. Of course, I haven’t read the whole thing, just the part posted here.

  • kerner

    You know, my mom (another kerner) mentioned something to me that I believe deserves to be brought up.

    Do we have the same concerns about those whose vocations it is to manufacture football helmets, golf clubs, basketball shoes or baseball gloves? Or how about sellers of hotdogs, gatorade, or beer?

    The point is this. These talented athletes make the money they do largely because they enable a lot of other people to make money. And the athletes have learned to cash in on a very small percentage of the money generated by their industry.

    A lot of what we know about physical health we have learned from athletics. We got “tang” from the space program, but we got gatorade (and its competitors) from sports. On the other hand, we got steroids too.

    But, there are a lot of vocations that might not exist, or would not have developed to the point at which they now are, if there had been no professional sports. All those neighbors in alld those industries: have our “sports idols” helped them indirectly at least?

  • kerner

    You know, my mom (another kerner) mentioned something to me that I believe deserves to be brought up.

    Do we have the same concerns about those whose vocations it is to manufacture football helmets, golf clubs, basketball shoes or baseball gloves? Or how about sellers of hotdogs, gatorade, or beer?

    The point is this. These talented athletes make the money they do largely because they enable a lot of other people to make money. And the athletes have learned to cash in on a very small percentage of the money generated by their industry.

    A lot of what we know about physical health we have learned from athletics. We got “tang” from the space program, but we got gatorade (and its competitors) from sports. On the other hand, we got steroids too.

    But, there are a lot of vocations that might not exist, or would not have developed to the point at which they now are, if there had been no professional sports. All those neighbors in alld those industries: have our “sports idols” helped them indirectly at least?

  • Abby

    “Much of the anger that arises when religion mixes with sport or with politics comes from people who want to deny that this contradiction exists and who want to live in a world in which there is only one morality, one set of qualities and where everything is easy, untragic and clean. Life and religion are more complicated than that. ”

    . . . Sounds like when “religion” mixes with any occupation of one’s life–even as a caregiver to a dying mother or a student in college– or anything! Sounds like Law talk. I read nothing of the Gospel in the article. This is what happens when you lump Christianity together with Jews and Muslims. The only common ground is the Law. There is only one with the Gospel.

  • Abby

    “Much of the anger that arises when religion mixes with sport or with politics comes from people who want to deny that this contradiction exists and who want to live in a world in which there is only one morality, one set of qualities and where everything is easy, untragic and clean. Life and religion are more complicated than that. ”

    . . . Sounds like when “religion” mixes with any occupation of one’s life–even as a caregiver to a dying mother or a student in college– or anything! Sounds like Law talk. I read nothing of the Gospel in the article. This is what happens when you lump Christianity together with Jews and Muslims. The only common ground is the Law. There is only one with the Gospel.

  • Abby

    The article also, I think, displayed an antagonism towards people who “display” or “speak” their Christian values publicly. When Christians do this, everyone is on edge just waiting for the person to sin — and then label him/her a hypocrite and not really a believer in what they “say” they believe. So in order to protect oneself from the label of hypocrite one better not tell anyone what or Who he believes in. That is what everyone wants — for Christians to be quiet and keep their religion a secret so as not to infect anyone else. I thank God for those strong public Christians. And we Christians should not be looking for any perfection. We should be there to offer the Gospel.

  • Abby

    The article also, I think, displayed an antagonism towards people who “display” or “speak” their Christian values publicly. When Christians do this, everyone is on edge just waiting for the person to sin — and then label him/her a hypocrite and not really a believer in what they “say” they believe. So in order to protect oneself from the label of hypocrite one better not tell anyone what or Who he believes in. That is what everyone wants — for Christians to be quiet and keep their religion a secret so as not to infect anyone else. I thank God for those strong public Christians. And we Christians should not be looking for any perfection. We should be there to offer the Gospel.

  • Tom Hering

    I’m dumbfounded by the things people are able to read into Brooks’ article.

  • Tom Hering

    I’m dumbfounded by the things people are able to read into Brooks’ article.

  • Abby

    Maybe I did get it wrong.

  • Abby

    Maybe I did get it wrong.

  • SKPeterson

    Soli Deo gloria! The Peyton Manning saga is over. Now it is, Whither Tebow? All true Christians must tremble at the outcome.

  • SKPeterson

    Soli Deo gloria! The Peyton Manning saga is over. Now it is, Whither Tebow? All true Christians must tremble at the outcome.

  • Med Student

    @97
    I’m still not sure what you think people are reading into in this article. Brooks flat out says that the sporting ethos of achieving victory and supremacy is in direct conflict with the religious ethos, and in fact violates it. How is that not saying that professional athlete is not a valid vocation for a Christian, since it requires (according to Brooks) violating your religious ethos of humility and self-abnagation?

  • Med Student

    @97
    I’m still not sure what you think people are reading into in this article. Brooks flat out says that the sporting ethos of achieving victory and supremacy is in direct conflict with the religious ethos, and in fact violates it. How is that not saying that professional athlete is not a valid vocation for a Christian, since it requires (according to Brooks) violating your religious ethos of humility and self-abnagation?

  • Cincinnatus

    Guys (and Ladies),

    Please pause for a moment, bracket your love for sports, and consider this point a friend and I were discussing offline earlier this morning: pride is the sin that Christians are counseled to avoid. Pride goeth before a fall, pride turned Lucifer into Satan, pride corrupts everything. It is the ruination of the Christian life. I know “sin is sin,” and we’re not supposed to rank sins in any kind of hierarchy (allegedly), but allow me to suggest that, per Scripture and the Christian tradition, pride is the worst sin, the most cardinal of the cardinal sins.

    Let’s construct an argument, then:

    1) Pride is the most devastating of sins. Or, if you’d like, pride is a sin that, like all sins, we should strive to avoid.

    2) Certain activities and ways-of-life foster and encourage pride more effectively than other activities.

    3) Professional sports (among other prominent activities in our culture) are, by nature, extremely conducive to personal pride. I’d be surprised if I were controversial in claiming that a professional athlete making millions of dollars, immersed in the adulation of an idolatrous public, witnessing my own face splashed across sexy advertisements, etc., is confronted far more viscerally with the intense temptation to pride than, say, your local garbageman, a subsistence farmer, a sales clerk, or a housewife. Note: Yes, everyone is susceptible to pride, and it would be foolish to claim that all housewives are humble while all pro athletes are prideful. But it’s difficult to dispute my premise, here. It’s simply much easier for a successful (by worldly standards) pro athlete to have an inflated opinion of himself.

    Conclusion: Christians should be, at the very list, willing to “think what we are doing,” to examine the phenomenon of professional sports in the United States, and come away skeptical. Why is this so hard? Why is this so controversial? Are we really so enslaved by our devotion to sports that any criticism is unthinkable?

  • Cincinnatus

    Guys (and Ladies),

    Please pause for a moment, bracket your love for sports, and consider this point a friend and I were discussing offline earlier this morning: pride is the sin that Christians are counseled to avoid. Pride goeth before a fall, pride turned Lucifer into Satan, pride corrupts everything. It is the ruination of the Christian life. I know “sin is sin,” and we’re not supposed to rank sins in any kind of hierarchy (allegedly), but allow me to suggest that, per Scripture and the Christian tradition, pride is the worst sin, the most cardinal of the cardinal sins.

    Let’s construct an argument, then:

    1) Pride is the most devastating of sins. Or, if you’d like, pride is a sin that, like all sins, we should strive to avoid.

    2) Certain activities and ways-of-life foster and encourage pride more effectively than other activities.

    3) Professional sports (among other prominent activities in our culture) are, by nature, extremely conducive to personal pride. I’d be surprised if I were controversial in claiming that a professional athlete making millions of dollars, immersed in the adulation of an idolatrous public, witnessing my own face splashed across sexy advertisements, etc., is confronted far more viscerally with the intense temptation to pride than, say, your local garbageman, a subsistence farmer, a sales clerk, or a housewife. Note: Yes, everyone is susceptible to pride, and it would be foolish to claim that all housewives are humble while all pro athletes are prideful. But it’s difficult to dispute my premise, here. It’s simply much easier for a successful (by worldly standards) pro athlete to have an inflated opinion of himself.

    Conclusion: Christians should be, at the very list, willing to “think what we are doing,” to examine the phenomenon of professional sports in the United States, and come away skeptical. Why is this so hard? Why is this so controversial? Are we really so enslaved by our devotion to sports that any criticism is unthinkable?

  • Cincinnatus

    Sorry about the rampant italics, by the way. HTML fail.

  • Cincinnatus

    Sorry about the rampant italics, by the way. HTML fail.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@102), you’re just jealous of Tim Tebow’s success.

    … Wait, hold on a second. [Puts finger to ear] Really? He was? … When? … Well that’s going to put a dent in my argument.

    Anyhow, as I was saying, you’re jealous of Tim Tebow’s success.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@102), you’re just jealous of Tim Tebow’s success.

    … Wait, hold on a second. [Puts finger to ear] Really? He was? … When? … Well that’s going to put a dent in my argument.

    Anyhow, as I was saying, you’re jealous of Tim Tebow’s success.

  • Abby

    “It’s simply much easier for a successful (by worldly standards) pro athlete to have an inflated opinion of himself.” Much easier? I don’t think so. I know plenty of common people–and people in the church–who have this problem.

    “. . . biggest anomaly. He’s a religious person in professional sports.”
    [Anomaly: irregularity; oddity --Oxford Dictionary]

    “. . . we shouldn’t forget how problematic this is.” — I don’t think so. What really makes it a problem?

    “The odds are that Lin will never figure it out because the two moral universes are not reconcilable. Our best teacher on these matters is Joseph Soloveitchik, the great Jewish theologian. In his essays “The Lonely Man of Faith” and “Majesty and Humility” he argues that people have two natures. First, there is “Adam the First,” the part of us that creates, discovers, competes and is involved in building the world. Then, there is “Adam the Second,” the spiritual individual who is awed and humbled by the universe as a spectator and a worshipper. ” [The misunderstanding here is that Jesus is the second Adam. Our new Adam comes from being baptized into Christ's death and resurrection.]

    I can also compare this to Chrsitians in the military. Most of the same things Brooks alleges about pro athletes compare to military training as well. “His job is to beat his opponents and avoid the oblivion that goes with defeat.” — “The modern sports hero is competitive and ambitious.” — “He is assertive, proud and intimidating.” — “His primary virtue is courage — the ability to withstand pain, remain calm under pressure and rise from nowhere to topple the greats. ”

    So is it also not possible to function in the military as a Christian? Should all Christians quit sports and the military?

    I still feel like Brooks is reducing Christianity to a mere philosophy. And as primarily Law-driven. Which would make it incompatible with the Gospel as a means of salvation.

    Pride is a great sin. But our “main sin –the sin under the rest of your sins, is your self-salvation project. (Unbelief in the sufficiency of Christ as our substitute and Savior.) Both in our bad deeds and in our good deeds we are seeking to be our own Saviors and Lords.” [Tim Keller, "The Reason for God"]

    “Are we really so enslaved by our devotion to sports that any criticism is unthinkable?” — No.

    There are many Christians in sports. As of late we’re only hearing about Lin and Tebow. Both of them acknowledge Christ as their Savior. That is what I believe makes them a mockery and a target. What they believe is more than a philosophy. They choose to display their faith publicly. I still applaud their conviction.

    David Brooks must really hate King David! He fits it all. Even the proper humility before God and man. He ruled very successfully for 40 years. The people, and God, loved him. “And God prospered David wherever he went.” Because David didn’t have a “self-salvation project” — he prophesied of Jesus who was his Savior.

  • Abby

    “It’s simply much easier for a successful (by worldly standards) pro athlete to have an inflated opinion of himself.” Much easier? I don’t think so. I know plenty of common people–and people in the church–who have this problem.

    “. . . biggest anomaly. He’s a religious person in professional sports.”
    [Anomaly: irregularity; oddity --Oxford Dictionary]

    “. . . we shouldn’t forget how problematic this is.” — I don’t think so. What really makes it a problem?

    “The odds are that Lin will never figure it out because the two moral universes are not reconcilable. Our best teacher on these matters is Joseph Soloveitchik, the great Jewish theologian. In his essays “The Lonely Man of Faith” and “Majesty and Humility” he argues that people have two natures. First, there is “Adam the First,” the part of us that creates, discovers, competes and is involved in building the world. Then, there is “Adam the Second,” the spiritual individual who is awed and humbled by the universe as a spectator and a worshipper. ” [The misunderstanding here is that Jesus is the second Adam. Our new Adam comes from being baptized into Christ's death and resurrection.]

    I can also compare this to Chrsitians in the military. Most of the same things Brooks alleges about pro athletes compare to military training as well. “His job is to beat his opponents and avoid the oblivion that goes with defeat.” — “The modern sports hero is competitive and ambitious.” — “He is assertive, proud and intimidating.” — “His primary virtue is courage — the ability to withstand pain, remain calm under pressure and rise from nowhere to topple the greats. ”

    So is it also not possible to function in the military as a Christian? Should all Christians quit sports and the military?

    I still feel like Brooks is reducing Christianity to a mere philosophy. And as primarily Law-driven. Which would make it incompatible with the Gospel as a means of salvation.

    Pride is a great sin. But our “main sin –the sin under the rest of your sins, is your self-salvation project. (Unbelief in the sufficiency of Christ as our substitute and Savior.) Both in our bad deeds and in our good deeds we are seeking to be our own Saviors and Lords.” [Tim Keller, "The Reason for God"]

    “Are we really so enslaved by our devotion to sports that any criticism is unthinkable?” — No.

    There are many Christians in sports. As of late we’re only hearing about Lin and Tebow. Both of them acknowledge Christ as their Savior. That is what I believe makes them a mockery and a target. What they believe is more than a philosophy. They choose to display their faith publicly. I still applaud their conviction.

    David Brooks must really hate King David! He fits it all. Even the proper humility before God and man. He ruled very successfully for 40 years. The people, and God, loved him. “And God prospered David wherever he went.” Because David didn’t have a “self-salvation project” — he prophesied of Jesus who was his Savior.

  • Med Student

    Cincinnatus @101
    I agree with you. I think it would be very hard to be both a professional athlete and a Christian who avoids falling into the sin of pride. (I have that problem in my own current vocation, in fact.) Some vocations have far greater temptations attached to them in regards to pride than others, and require great discernment to perform them in a manner that truly serves one’s neighbor instead of serving one’s self. Perhaps a Christian would decide that the temptation is too great and avoid entering a vocation such as professional sports, entertainment, or politics.

  • Med Student

    Cincinnatus @101
    I agree with you. I think it would be very hard to be both a professional athlete and a Christian who avoids falling into the sin of pride. (I have that problem in my own current vocation, in fact.) Some vocations have far greater temptations attached to them in regards to pride than others, and require great discernment to perform them in a manner that truly serves one’s neighbor instead of serving one’s self. Perhaps a Christian would decide that the temptation is too great and avoid entering a vocation such as professional sports, entertainment, or politics.

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus:

    OK, you’ve been asking fair questions which no one has addressed directly. Maybe this will do so.

    “The division, control, and possession of property are civil ordinances, approved by God’s Word in the commandment, Ex. 20:15: Thou shalt not steal. The abandonment of property has no command or advice in the Scriptures. For evangelical poverty does not consist in the abandonment of property, but in not being avaricious, in not trusting in wealth, just as David was poor in a most wealthy kingdom.

    47] Therefore, since the abandonment of property is merely a human tradition, it is a useless service. Excessive also are the praises in the Extravagant, which says that the abdication of the ownership of all things for God’s sake is meritorious and holy, and a way of perfection. And it is very dangerous to extol with such excessive praises a matter conflicting with political order”

    and

    “Callings are personal, just as matters of business themselves vary with times and persons; but the example of obedience is general. 50] Perfection would have belonged to that young man [the one Christ told to sell everything and follow Him] if he had believed and obeyed this vocation. Thus perfection with us is that every one with true faith should obey his own calling. ”

    The above quotations are from the Defense of the Augsburg Confession, On Monastic Vows (except the bracketed part in the last paragraph, which I inserted for clarification).

    The thrust of the whole Article is that poverty was, in Reformation Europe, as much a source of pride as great wealth. It is as easy to take pride in one anti materialism as it is to take pride in one’s material accomplishments.

    I bring this up because I agree with your first proposition.

    But I question your second.

    And, in answer to Nicolo Machiavelli, I suggest that it is not impossible to simultaneously be a good ruler and a faithful Christian. In fact, a lot of Lutheran theology is premised on the opposite conclusion. They didn’t have super rich entertainers back in the 16th Century, but generally Lutheran theology is pretty emphatic that it is not the vocation, but the Christian’s approach to it, that is good or bad.

    Do the enormous worldly temptations available to sports superstars create a stumbling block that many people (including Christians, trip over? Sure. Does the Bible say that there are not many rich and mighty who enter heaven? It does. But there is plenty of temptation to sin everywhere, and despair can be just as dangerous as pride.

    One last thing. You asked @54 whether it was at all problematic…
    ” That my own current university just spent $120 million to renovate the football stadium while the buildings housing humanities departments are literally crumbling?”

    Are you kidding? 99% of the Humanities faculity at the University of Wisconsin should thank a merciful and forbearing God that He doesn’t strike them down with bolts of lightning. That they have roofs over their heads at all is the very height of undeserved blessings (present company excepted, of course). ;)

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus:

    OK, you’ve been asking fair questions which no one has addressed directly. Maybe this will do so.

    “The division, control, and possession of property are civil ordinances, approved by God’s Word in the commandment, Ex. 20:15: Thou shalt not steal. The abandonment of property has no command or advice in the Scriptures. For evangelical poverty does not consist in the abandonment of property, but in not being avaricious, in not trusting in wealth, just as David was poor in a most wealthy kingdom.

    47] Therefore, since the abandonment of property is merely a human tradition, it is a useless service. Excessive also are the praises in the Extravagant, which says that the abdication of the ownership of all things for God’s sake is meritorious and holy, and a way of perfection. And it is very dangerous to extol with such excessive praises a matter conflicting with political order”

    and

    “Callings are personal, just as matters of business themselves vary with times and persons; but the example of obedience is general. 50] Perfection would have belonged to that young man [the one Christ told to sell everything and follow Him] if he had believed and obeyed this vocation. Thus perfection with us is that every one with true faith should obey his own calling. ”

    The above quotations are from the Defense of the Augsburg Confession, On Monastic Vows (except the bracketed part in the last paragraph, which I inserted for clarification).

    The thrust of the whole Article is that poverty was, in Reformation Europe, as much a source of pride as great wealth. It is as easy to take pride in one anti materialism as it is to take pride in one’s material accomplishments.

    I bring this up because I agree with your first proposition.

    But I question your second.

    And, in answer to Nicolo Machiavelli, I suggest that it is not impossible to simultaneously be a good ruler and a faithful Christian. In fact, a lot of Lutheran theology is premised on the opposite conclusion. They didn’t have super rich entertainers back in the 16th Century, but generally Lutheran theology is pretty emphatic that it is not the vocation, but the Christian’s approach to it, that is good or bad.

    Do the enormous worldly temptations available to sports superstars create a stumbling block that many people (including Christians, trip over? Sure. Does the Bible say that there are not many rich and mighty who enter heaven? It does. But there is plenty of temptation to sin everywhere, and despair can be just as dangerous as pride.

    One last thing. You asked @54 whether it was at all problematic…
    ” That my own current university just spent $120 million to renovate the football stadium while the buildings housing humanities departments are literally crumbling?”

    Are you kidding? 99% of the Humanities faculity at the University of Wisconsin should thank a merciful and forbearing God that He doesn’t strike them down with bolts of lightning. That they have roofs over their heads at all is the very height of undeserved blessings (present company excepted, of course). ;)

  • kerner

    P.S.

    I notice that nobody has addressed my point @94, i.e. that a whole lot of people make a living off the sports industry, of which the athletes’ share is only a small part. There are people who make more than the athletes. And there are many many more people who make middle class livings off the sports industry. Maybe I can add to my examples the construction workers who stayed warm and dry this winter because they had work renovating Camp Randall Stadium.

    Sure the sports industry generates a lot of money. But it gets spread around and trickles down(even to the Humanities department) like the money from any other big money making enterprize. All those people who work in the humbler jobs fueled by the sports industry are our neighbors too. And they all get “helped” every time UW gets a good TV contract, don’t they?

  • kerner

    P.S.

    I notice that nobody has addressed my point @94, i.e. that a whole lot of people make a living off the sports industry, of which the athletes’ share is only a small part. There are people who make more than the athletes. And there are many many more people who make middle class livings off the sports industry. Maybe I can add to my examples the construction workers who stayed warm and dry this winter because they had work renovating Camp Randall Stadium.

    Sure the sports industry generates a lot of money. But it gets spread around and trickles down(even to the Humanities department) like the money from any other big money making enterprize. All those people who work in the humbler jobs fueled by the sports industry are our neighbors too. And they all get “helped” every time UW gets a good TV contract, don’t they?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@107, or maybe 94), well then, I suppose we dare never criticize Hollywood, and the large salaries movie stars pull in, or the emphasis our culture puts on consuming movies. Because, you know, that industry is keeping all those key grips warm and dry.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@107, or maybe 94), well then, I suppose we dare never criticize Hollywood, and the large salaries movie stars pull in, or the emphasis our culture puts on consuming movies. Because, you know, that industry is keeping all those key grips warm and dry.

  • kerner

    tODD:

    Criticize them all you want. But not for making money per se.

  • kerner

    tODD:

    Criticize them all you want. But not for making money per se.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I think it would be very hard to be both a professional athlete and a Christian who avoids falling into the sin of pride…. Some vocations have far greater temptations attached to them in regards to pride than others,”

    Like, NYTimes writer?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I think it would be very hard to be both a professional athlete and a Christian who avoids falling into the sin of pride…. Some vocations have far greater temptations attached to them in regards to pride than others,”

    Like, NYTimes writer?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I suggest that it is not impossible to simultaneously be a good ruler and a faithful Christian. In fact, a lot of Lutheran theology is premised on the opposite conclusion.”

    Hey, that reminds me, wasn’t it the case that the Lutheran confessions were approved not only by theologians but by the princes?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I suggest that it is not impossible to simultaneously be a good ruler and a faithful Christian. In fact, a lot of Lutheran theology is premised on the opposite conclusion.”

    Hey, that reminds me, wasn’t it the case that the Lutheran confessions were approved not only by theologians but by the princes?

  • Cincinnatus

    sg: Enough, already. I get it: you don’t like Brooks. I’m not really a fan either, but that doesn’t render everything he puts to writing is invalid.

    kerner: I think this discussion is somewhat played out, but one thing I do find problematic in your postings. Namely, I am bothered by your radical but very Luther-an interiorization of righteousness here. In other words, I find it problematic to claim that the vocation itself is largely irrelevant as long as one’s “approach” to said vocation is appropriate, whatever that means. As if our external piety bears no relation to the internal condition of our souls? There is a kind of reverse hypocrisy that seems to be going on here: I’m not even pretending to be a humble, authentic disciple of Christ in my embodied actions; but my soul is somehow in a “righteous” condition. I am making millions of dollars by spending all my time on physical fitness participating in a perverse entertainment spectacle, but I’m right with God! I’m making millions of dollars playing with funny money on Wall Street, thus exploiting the labor of many thousands of less fortunate people, but, hey, I’m redeemed in God’s eyes!

    I realize that Luther makes precisely this external/internal division (though he obviously does not dispense with the social necessity for virtuous deeds altogether), and that this complaint of mine probably won’t fly with my audience. Note, though, that I am not arguing against the idea of justification by faith (so hold your horses, fws). It just seems to me that Christ should be manifest in the Christian’s life, that the discipleship to which Christ calls us requires self-denial, self-abnegation, self-emptying in our visible, bodily lives and practice. Needless to say, I don’t see much of Christ on the NFL field or on Wall Street or in mass political demagoguery, etc. Maybe I’m not looking closely enough, but it simply seems to me that, in principle, these vocations do not conduce toward a Christlike life. I’m preaching to myself here too, of course: there is a temptation to pride in my vocation as well, but I’m grateful that my vocation isn’t premised on pride, self-assertion, etc.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg: Enough, already. I get it: you don’t like Brooks. I’m not really a fan either, but that doesn’t render everything he puts to writing is invalid.

    kerner: I think this discussion is somewhat played out, but one thing I do find problematic in your postings. Namely, I am bothered by your radical but very Luther-an interiorization of righteousness here. In other words, I find it problematic to claim that the vocation itself is largely irrelevant as long as one’s “approach” to said vocation is appropriate, whatever that means. As if our external piety bears no relation to the internal condition of our souls? There is a kind of reverse hypocrisy that seems to be going on here: I’m not even pretending to be a humble, authentic disciple of Christ in my embodied actions; but my soul is somehow in a “righteous” condition. I am making millions of dollars by spending all my time on physical fitness participating in a perverse entertainment spectacle, but I’m right with God! I’m making millions of dollars playing with funny money on Wall Street, thus exploiting the labor of many thousands of less fortunate people, but, hey, I’m redeemed in God’s eyes!

    I realize that Luther makes precisely this external/internal division (though he obviously does not dispense with the social necessity for virtuous deeds altogether), and that this complaint of mine probably won’t fly with my audience. Note, though, that I am not arguing against the idea of justification by faith (so hold your horses, fws). It just seems to me that Christ should be manifest in the Christian’s life, that the discipleship to which Christ calls us requires self-denial, self-abnegation, self-emptying in our visible, bodily lives and practice. Needless to say, I don’t see much of Christ on the NFL field or on Wall Street or in mass political demagoguery, etc. Maybe I’m not looking closely enough, but it simply seems to me that, in principle, these vocations do not conduce toward a Christlike life. I’m preaching to myself here too, of course: there is a temptation to pride in my vocation as well, but I’m grateful that my vocation isn’t premised on pride, self-assertion, etc.

  • Tom Hering

    “How is that not saying that professional athlete is not a valid vocation for a Christian, since it requires (according to Brooks) violating your religious ethos of humility and self-abnagation?” – Med Student @ 100.

    Brooks argues that the religious value of humility is challenged by the realities of hero worship. But he doesn’t flat-out state that a Christian can’t ever be a sports hero. Just that a Christian is going to have a really hard time being humble when lots of people are idolizing him or her, and everyone with a financial stake in his or her career encourages that idolatry.

    Of course, we want (need?) to believe our Christian sports heroes have a strength of character (a portion of the Spirit?) that matches their exceptional talent and ability.

  • Tom Hering

    “How is that not saying that professional athlete is not a valid vocation for a Christian, since it requires (according to Brooks) violating your religious ethos of humility and self-abnagation?” – Med Student @ 100.

    Brooks argues that the religious value of humility is challenged by the realities of hero worship. But he doesn’t flat-out state that a Christian can’t ever be a sports hero. Just that a Christian is going to have a really hard time being humble when lots of people are idolizing him or her, and everyone with a financial stake in his or her career encourages that idolatry.

    Of course, we want (need?) to believe our Christian sports heroes have a strength of character (a portion of the Spirit?) that matches their exceptional talent and ability.

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus @112:

    I guess I see your point, but I still think you are making judgments that seem arbitrary to me. I mean, I kidded you about it before, but do you really believe that the humanities department at a University is intrinsically more virtuous and deserving of financial support that the department of athletics? Other than it is your particular interest and or taste, what is it about becoming a really really good (and well paid) athlete that you find morally inferior to becoming a really really good (and well paid) author and scholar?

    Your comments suggest that the moral inferiority of athletics is self evident, but it is not to me. I grant you that big time sports is rife with occasions to sin, but I am hard pressed to say that there are more and greater occasions to sin in big time sports than there are in big time anything else.

    You don’t seem to be a big fan of successful capitalists either, so maybe we agree about more than we realize. I mean, I do understand that in todays culture doing your best at being a quarterback is more likely to generate the degree of fame and wealth that can go to a person’s head than, say, doing your best at being an insurance claims adjuster. But I’m not convinced that a Christian necessarily must give up a vocation he is suited for and loves simply because there are temptations associated with it. Not because there is something intrinsically sinful about the activity, but becausetoo many other people seem to value that vocation highly.

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus @112:

    I guess I see your point, but I still think you are making judgments that seem arbitrary to me. I mean, I kidded you about it before, but do you really believe that the humanities department at a University is intrinsically more virtuous and deserving of financial support that the department of athletics? Other than it is your particular interest and or taste, what is it about becoming a really really good (and well paid) athlete that you find morally inferior to becoming a really really good (and well paid) author and scholar?

    Your comments suggest that the moral inferiority of athletics is self evident, but it is not to me. I grant you that big time sports is rife with occasions to sin, but I am hard pressed to say that there are more and greater occasions to sin in big time sports than there are in big time anything else.

    You don’t seem to be a big fan of successful capitalists either, so maybe we agree about more than we realize. I mean, I do understand that in todays culture doing your best at being a quarterback is more likely to generate the degree of fame and wealth that can go to a person’s head than, say, doing your best at being an insurance claims adjuster. But I’m not convinced that a Christian necessarily must give up a vocation he is suited for and loves simply because there are temptations associated with it. Not because there is something intrinsically sinful about the activity, but becausetoo many other people seem to value that vocation highly.

  • fws

    Cincinatus @ 112

    Question: why is it that the posts of cincinatus tend to drive me to respond? answer: they are really good.

    CINN Namely, I am bothered by your radical but very Luther-an interiorization of righteousness here…As if our external piety bears no relation to the internal condition of our souls?
    … Luther makes precisely this external/internal division…[yet I am missing in this the idea that] Christ should be manifest in the Christian’s life….[ that calls us to.]..self-denial, self-abnegation, self-emptying in our visible, bodily lives and practice.

    FRANK: Try this: Mercy and sacrifice as God does them is Gospel. Mercy and sacrifice as we do them is Law. Even when God does them through us it is still Law.

    This is STILL true when we are attempting to follow Christ as Example. Pagans too follow Christ as example or even as Example, because the Law written in their Reason agrees with that Example since it is the same Law. (romans 2:15). There is nothing uniquely chritian about that exercise is what I am suggesting.

    Cinn, your attempts at being Christ-like here on earth a Lutheran would suggest is all about you, as New Man in Christ, driving and killing your Old Adam with the Law and extorting the Fatherly Goodness and Mercy out of him that is God’s ultimate will.

    The eternal consequences then of all of this activity then is what? It is death. Death is , alone, what the Law works. there is no Life in doing the Law at all. Life is only found in the Works of Another. We are to be terrified at all we see in all we do in thought, word and deed and so hide because ALL we can see and do is full of sin that damns us.

    This exercise you , along with all the pagans, need to practice daily looks exactly like what pagan Aristotle suggests: you practice the virtue that a virtuous person would practice until those practices become a habit. So what is the visible or even essential difference here between you and a pagan Cinn in what you are doing in thought word and deed? None at all!

    And should you strive to follow the Example of Christ? Yes! If you are not trying to do this does it say something about your spiritual condition? Indeed it does! How can someone who has been freed from the slavery of sin be trying on for size the very chains he was freed from? That wouldn’t make sense would it?

    But if we are trying to follow Christ’s example, and if we are actually succeeding in good measure, as we should, at following that Example, then we are still doing precisely what any pagan can and should also be doing . And we can know that it is God driving this Goodness and Mercy out of us even though it looks like it is us doing it. cf Luke and the story of the Antinomian judge nagged by a concscience dead even to love for how God makes this happen in all Old Adams.

    But it is God using the Law and not the Gospel to make this happen Cinn. This part, that is ALL we can see and do, is about our death for the sake of the creaturely, transitory, comfort and life of other Old Adams. There is no Life for us or others in any of this. Not even a little bit. There is only death and the eternal consequence is that.

    Life is alone in the Works of Another and the faith that is in those Works and that faith, for certain , is in , with and under the works of a believer that are all about death. This is because God recognizes in the Believe the entire act of Worship that are our good works. He sees the works that are full of sin and also sees the covering up of those works that is faith in Christ. See an excellent treatment on this in the Lutheran Apology to the Augsburg Confessions where they treat the story of the woman who was saved because she loved much in the section “on love and the keeping of the Law”. It will bless you dear cinn.

    So by synectoche then, it is actually true to say that a believer is saved by his works! But only by sinectoche!

    By the way, I would never ever even think that you do not accept that we are saved alone by the Works of our dear Lord. I am happy to be able to say that dear brother!

  • fws

    Cincinatus @ 112

    Question: why is it that the posts of cincinatus tend to drive me to respond? answer: they are really good.

    CINN Namely, I am bothered by your radical but very Luther-an interiorization of righteousness here…As if our external piety bears no relation to the internal condition of our souls?
    … Luther makes precisely this external/internal division…[yet I am missing in this the idea that] Christ should be manifest in the Christian’s life….[ that calls us to.]..self-denial, self-abnegation, self-emptying in our visible, bodily lives and practice.

    FRANK: Try this: Mercy and sacrifice as God does them is Gospel. Mercy and sacrifice as we do them is Law. Even when God does them through us it is still Law.

    This is STILL true when we are attempting to follow Christ as Example. Pagans too follow Christ as example or even as Example, because the Law written in their Reason agrees with that Example since it is the same Law. (romans 2:15). There is nothing uniquely chritian about that exercise is what I am suggesting.

    Cinn, your attempts at being Christ-like here on earth a Lutheran would suggest is all about you, as New Man in Christ, driving and killing your Old Adam with the Law and extorting the Fatherly Goodness and Mercy out of him that is God’s ultimate will.

    The eternal consequences then of all of this activity then is what? It is death. Death is , alone, what the Law works. there is no Life in doing the Law at all. Life is only found in the Works of Another. We are to be terrified at all we see in all we do in thought, word and deed and so hide because ALL we can see and do is full of sin that damns us.

    This exercise you , along with all the pagans, need to practice daily looks exactly like what pagan Aristotle suggests: you practice the virtue that a virtuous person would practice until those practices become a habit. So what is the visible or even essential difference here between you and a pagan Cinn in what you are doing in thought word and deed? None at all!

    And should you strive to follow the Example of Christ? Yes! If you are not trying to do this does it say something about your spiritual condition? Indeed it does! How can someone who has been freed from the slavery of sin be trying on for size the very chains he was freed from? That wouldn’t make sense would it?

    But if we are trying to follow Christ’s example, and if we are actually succeeding in good measure, as we should, at following that Example, then we are still doing precisely what any pagan can and should also be doing . And we can know that it is God driving this Goodness and Mercy out of us even though it looks like it is us doing it. cf Luke and the story of the Antinomian judge nagged by a concscience dead even to love for how God makes this happen in all Old Adams.

    But it is God using the Law and not the Gospel to make this happen Cinn. This part, that is ALL we can see and do, is about our death for the sake of the creaturely, transitory, comfort and life of other Old Adams. There is no Life for us or others in any of this. Not even a little bit. There is only death and the eternal consequence is that.

    Life is alone in the Works of Another and the faith that is in those Works and that faith, for certain , is in , with and under the works of a believer that are all about death. This is because God recognizes in the Believe the entire act of Worship that are our good works. He sees the works that are full of sin and also sees the covering up of those works that is faith in Christ. See an excellent treatment on this in the Lutheran Apology to the Augsburg Confessions where they treat the story of the woman who was saved because she loved much in the section “on love and the keeping of the Law”. It will bless you dear cinn.

    So by synectoche then, it is actually true to say that a believer is saved by his works! But only by sinectoche!

    By the way, I would never ever even think that you do not accept that we are saved alone by the Works of our dear Lord. I am happy to be able to say that dear brother!

  • fws

    Kerner,

    It warms my heart to see you actually putting to work what our confessions say , in the apology, no less, about moral issues.

    home run!

    Note that their argument is precisely that such “good works” are USELESS. They do not serve the needs of neighbor. When they say that such works are not found in Scripture, I suggest that that is precisely what they mean.

    That is their argument.

    It is not that we can’t find that good work in a list somewhere in the Bible.

    Atter all, the Blessed Sacrament is in just such a list that we are commanded to do.

    Yet the Apology calls this act of celebrating the Holy Supper, when done as Rome does it, the very worst form of idolatry and sin!

    It is useful to see the distinction the Apology makes that forces them to make that assertion about the roman mass. Then what the Apology says about love and the fulfillment of the Law comes alive.

    A good work here on earth, to be truly good, must be aimed, always , at serving the need of our neighbor. If our good works are aimed at Obedience to God by following a list of dos and donts, then we are committing the idolatry of attempting to do what alone Christ could do.

    So does that mean we are freed from following lists of dos and donts in the bible? Or that we can simply ignore such lists? Nope!

    But we do this, alone and only, to kill our Old Adam and so make him serve others. it is about death. it is not about some life giving obedience or even an obedience that demonstrate or proves that we have Life in us.

    So if we are following a list just to follow it, and cannot reasonably see how the following of that list is providing goodness and mercy for othersor is robbing others of goodness and mercy, then we are to suspect that we are not being a moral person in the way God would have us be moral in the way we are following those rules.

  • fws

    Kerner,

    It warms my heart to see you actually putting to work what our confessions say , in the apology, no less, about moral issues.

    home run!

    Note that their argument is precisely that such “good works” are USELESS. They do not serve the needs of neighbor. When they say that such works are not found in Scripture, I suggest that that is precisely what they mean.

    That is their argument.

    It is not that we can’t find that good work in a list somewhere in the Bible.

    Atter all, the Blessed Sacrament is in just such a list that we are commanded to do.

    Yet the Apology calls this act of celebrating the Holy Supper, when done as Rome does it, the very worst form of idolatry and sin!

    It is useful to see the distinction the Apology makes that forces them to make that assertion about the roman mass. Then what the Apology says about love and the fulfillment of the Law comes alive.

    A good work here on earth, to be truly good, must be aimed, always , at serving the need of our neighbor. If our good works are aimed at Obedience to God by following a list of dos and donts, then we are committing the idolatry of attempting to do what alone Christ could do.

    So does that mean we are freed from following lists of dos and donts in the bible? Or that we can simply ignore such lists? Nope!

    But we do this, alone and only, to kill our Old Adam and so make him serve others. it is about death. it is not about some life giving obedience or even an obedience that demonstrate or proves that we have Life in us.

    So if we are following a list just to follow it, and cannot reasonably see how the following of that list is providing goodness and mercy for othersor is robbing others of goodness and mercy, then we are to suspect that we are not being a moral person in the way God would have us be moral in the way we are following those rules.

  • fws

    Kerner:

    you posted something from the Apology about how the rejection of material wealth is useless because that “good work” does nothing to serve one’s neighbor.

    I cant find that post scrolling back but I would like to make a point:

    lutheran morality, vs pagan (aristotle: “virtue is it’s OWN reward’) is that anything we do, in order to truly be God pleasing, MUST render some form of Goodness and Mercy to our neighbor.

    So we reject monastic vows of poverty precisely because they are useless in this endeavor of doing goodness and mercy to others. For the same reason we reject that celebacy should be demanded of anyone.

    at the same time Kerner, those who are weathly are not off the Lutheran moral hook. Lutheranism teaches that God grants wealth or fame or power precisely for the possessors of those things to be enabled to help those in need with those blessings.

    So a Lutheran ethic would mandate a very modest lifestyle where the rest of what we have would be directed towards the poor or to those who need our help. I agree that “modest” is a very subjective word. what is modest for me would be extravagant for many in bangladesh. but that does not remove my point does it?

    Agree?

  • fws

    Kerner:

    you posted something from the Apology about how the rejection of material wealth is useless because that “good work” does nothing to serve one’s neighbor.

    I cant find that post scrolling back but I would like to make a point:

    lutheran morality, vs pagan (aristotle: “virtue is it’s OWN reward’) is that anything we do, in order to truly be God pleasing, MUST render some form of Goodness and Mercy to our neighbor.

    So we reject monastic vows of poverty precisely because they are useless in this endeavor of doing goodness and mercy to others. For the same reason we reject that celebacy should be demanded of anyone.

    at the same time Kerner, those who are weathly are not off the Lutheran moral hook. Lutheranism teaches that God grants wealth or fame or power precisely for the possessors of those things to be enabled to help those in need with those blessings.

    So a Lutheran ethic would mandate a very modest lifestyle where the rest of what we have would be directed towards the poor or to those who need our help. I agree that “modest” is a very subjective word. what is modest for me would be extravagant for many in bangladesh. but that does not remove my point does it?

    Agree?

  • Med Student

    fws,
    I must admit your posts about Law/Gospel and the distinctions you made about which one rules in which “realm” of our lives (numerous posts over numerous topics) used to confuse me quite a bit – until I recently started reading Luther’s Commentary on Galatians. I think I get it now, at least a little better. (I’m not trying to criticize your writing/explaining skills, just trying to say I appreciate you driving me to figure out where you were getting that from and discovering such a wonderful work of Luther’s. So thank you).

  • Med Student

    fws,
    I must admit your posts about Law/Gospel and the distinctions you made about which one rules in which “realm” of our lives (numerous posts over numerous topics) used to confuse me quite a bit – until I recently started reading Luther’s Commentary on Galatians. I think I get it now, at least a little better. (I’m not trying to criticize your writing/explaining skills, just trying to say I appreciate you driving me to figure out where you were getting that from and discovering such a wonderful work of Luther’s. So thank you).

  • fws

    med student @ 118

    the Distinction of Law and Gospel along with its twin Two Kingdoms doctrine is the great gift of Lutheranism to the modern church. It is how the Lutheran Confessions ask to be read, and how they in turn ask us to read Holy Scriptures. The point of all that is to see clearly how it is Christ alone and his Work in which we need to seek comfort and refuge.

    My writing skills need lots of polish. here is where I get to practice. I am glad if what I am constantly talking about has been of some comfort you you dear brother.

    our old adam constantly finds some new creative way to make things about Christ+something. which then is about no Christ at all. And so every generation needs to rediscover for its own self , in its own words, how to cling alone to Christ. Repetition of what we have received over and over , as I am trying to do , applying the same thing to different contexts, is a good start i think.

    I would love for other to come along who are better equipped than me to put what Dr Luther says in his wonderful Galatians commentary into our current context.

  • fws

    med student @ 118

    the Distinction of Law and Gospel along with its twin Two Kingdoms doctrine is the great gift of Lutheranism to the modern church. It is how the Lutheran Confessions ask to be read, and how they in turn ask us to read Holy Scriptures. The point of all that is to see clearly how it is Christ alone and his Work in which we need to seek comfort and refuge.

    My writing skills need lots of polish. here is where I get to practice. I am glad if what I am constantly talking about has been of some comfort you you dear brother.

    our old adam constantly finds some new creative way to make things about Christ+something. which then is about no Christ at all. And so every generation needs to rediscover for its own self , in its own words, how to cling alone to Christ. Repetition of what we have received over and over , as I am trying to do , applying the same thing to different contexts, is a good start i think.

    I would love for other to come along who are better equipped than me to put what Dr Luther says in his wonderful Galatians commentary into our current context.

  • fws

    kerner @ 106

    that was posting excellence dear brother. I hope you continue to connect the dots in the Apology in just that way, and then also to challenge what you currently think and not just look for support of the free market etc….. ha!

  • fws

    kerner @ 106

    that was posting excellence dear brother. I hope you continue to connect the dots in the Apology in just that way, and then also to challenge what you currently think and not just look for support of the free market etc….. ha!

  • Dan Kempin

    I think you get flagged on comments to old posts, Dr. Veith, so I’ll put this here in hope of catching your attention.

    I recently posed a question that might want to be taken up by this group, in light of some previous discussions:

    Is a beggar a legitimate vocation?

    I’d be interested in your take, whether or not you share it with the whole group.

    fwiw

  • Dan Kempin

    I think you get flagged on comments to old posts, Dr. Veith, so I’ll put this here in hope of catching your attention.

    I recently posed a question that might want to be taken up by this group, in light of some previous discussions:

    Is a beggar a legitimate vocation?

    I’d be interested in your take, whether or not you share it with the whole group.

    fwiw

  • fws

    Dan

    Great question. I am not sure my answer will be right.
    Here is what I present:

    The equivalent word for Vocation is “The Disciplines”.
    That suggest that vocation is biblical righeousness.
    How.

    Biblical Righteousness =
    Mortification/Aristotelian self-virtues +
    evidential , tangible utility/love/mercy for neighbor.

    Luther:
    dont hurt or harm (mortification) but help and befriend (utility/love)

    So where is the utility Dan other than pricking the consciences of others.
    The Law is death/mortification for US to fruit in mercy for OTHERS.

    You are asking if sinning is a vocation. Lets take beggar out of some biblical abstract concept and reduce it to a real one:

    Beggars today are that often because they have made a bad series of life choices and are alcoholics or addicts or refuse to be ordered about by others or sometimes, by circumstances beyond their control, but today there ARE homeless shelters etc, and most simply reject the structure those solutions demand for whatever reason.

    Dan we are to do mercy. Mercy, by definition is to receive the opposite of what Justice (aka mortification ) demands. it is to receive the opposite of the consequences that we righeously deserve as the result of what we have done and the decisions we have made.

    To be an object of mercy is not to be doing a vocation.
    That would be the sum of what I am trying to say.

    The story of the blind man. Was blindness his vocation. IF being gay is like blindness is being gay a vocation in some sense? I say no, but those situations DO perhaps present us with vocations. Vocations, like any good work, requires at least 1+1. it never exists in solitude.

    Here is a wonderful passage from the Confessions that has to do with the sufferings that are the causes of being a beggar etc….

  • fws

    Dan

    Great question. I am not sure my answer will be right.
    Here is what I present:

    The equivalent word for Vocation is “The Disciplines”.
    That suggest that vocation is biblical righeousness.
    How.

    Biblical Righteousness =
    Mortification/Aristotelian self-virtues +
    evidential , tangible utility/love/mercy for neighbor.

    Luther:
    dont hurt or harm (mortification) but help and befriend (utility/love)

    So where is the utility Dan other than pricking the consciences of others.
    The Law is death/mortification for US to fruit in mercy for OTHERS.

    You are asking if sinning is a vocation. Lets take beggar out of some biblical abstract concept and reduce it to a real one:

    Beggars today are that often because they have made a bad series of life choices and are alcoholics or addicts or refuse to be ordered about by others or sometimes, by circumstances beyond their control, but today there ARE homeless shelters etc, and most simply reject the structure those solutions demand for whatever reason.

    Dan we are to do mercy. Mercy, by definition is to receive the opposite of what Justice (aka mortification ) demands. it is to receive the opposite of the consequences that we righeously deserve as the result of what we have done and the decisions we have made.

    To be an object of mercy is not to be doing a vocation.
    That would be the sum of what I am trying to say.

    The story of the blind man. Was blindness his vocation. IF being gay is like blindness is being gay a vocation in some sense? I say no, but those situations DO perhaps present us with vocations. Vocations, like any good work, requires at least 1+1. it never exists in solitude.

    Here is a wonderful passage from the Confessions that has to do with the sufferings that are the causes of being a beggar etc….

  • Dan Kempin

    Wow, Fws! How did you find this, and so quickly? Your Cran(ach)-Fu is far beyond mine.

    Thanks for the reply, though.

    This comes up in a context that I cannot discuss specifically, my name being my actual name and all, but let’s say in the hypothetical that a man has had a rough life, done bad things, done hard time, and spent his adult life without ever really having a traditional vocation. He has developed a vocation of sorts, though: Beyond whatever government and community aid he gets, he supplements his income by asking people–Christians in particular, and specializing in pastors–for help. He has reached a point where he is not involved in crime, nor does he lie, but he asks. It is as simple as that–he asks for help. He does not exactly have a high standard of living, but lives on what he gets, even when that puts him on the street.

    He is really quite good at what he does, and his people skills are very adept for getting what he needs. He does not threaten, but at the same time is very good at using social awkwardness to his advantage and tends to use up and destroy relationships.

    Let’s just say I knew a person like this and that we had made progress in the way we related personally. Let’s say also that said person expresses an interest in attending corporate worship. . . perhaps even adding that some years before they had been banned from the premises. (Not for any breaking of the law.)

    Here is the real question:

    Would it be appropriate to be concerned that placing him in an environment of Christian company would tempt him to manipulate others according to past patterns, or would it be out of line to “interfere” with charitable giving that might take place? How would you proceed on this?

    p.s. Doctor Veith, in the event that you think this scenario would be worth discussing, would you please remove my name as the source?

  • Dan Kempin

    Wow, Fws! How did you find this, and so quickly? Your Cran(ach)-Fu is far beyond mine.

    Thanks for the reply, though.

    This comes up in a context that I cannot discuss specifically, my name being my actual name and all, but let’s say in the hypothetical that a man has had a rough life, done bad things, done hard time, and spent his adult life without ever really having a traditional vocation. He has developed a vocation of sorts, though: Beyond whatever government and community aid he gets, he supplements his income by asking people–Christians in particular, and specializing in pastors–for help. He has reached a point where he is not involved in crime, nor does he lie, but he asks. It is as simple as that–he asks for help. He does not exactly have a high standard of living, but lives on what he gets, even when that puts him on the street.

    He is really quite good at what he does, and his people skills are very adept for getting what he needs. He does not threaten, but at the same time is very good at using social awkwardness to his advantage and tends to use up and destroy relationships.

    Let’s just say I knew a person like this and that we had made progress in the way we related personally. Let’s say also that said person expresses an interest in attending corporate worship. . . perhaps even adding that some years before they had been banned from the premises. (Not for any breaking of the law.)

    Here is the real question:

    Would it be appropriate to be concerned that placing him in an environment of Christian company would tempt him to manipulate others according to past patterns, or would it be out of line to “interfere” with charitable giving that might take place? How would you proceed on this?

    p.s. Doctor Veith, in the event that you think this scenario would be worth discussing, would you please remove my name as the source?

  • fws

    Pastor Dan @ 123

    May we do some free thinking just to see where it takes us.
    Let´s say that you, as either a pastor or christian see this as the prime directive:

    52] Now, all who wish to be saved ought to hear this preaching [of God's Word]. For the preaching and hearing of God’s Word are instruments of the Holy Ghost, by, with, and through which He desires to work efficaciously, and to convert men to God, and to work in them both to will and to do.

    53] This Word man can externally hear and read, even though he is not yet converted to God and regenerate; for in these external things, as said above, man even since the Fall has to a certain extent a free will, so that he can go to church and hear or not hear the sermon. http://bookofconcord.org/sd-freewill.php#para52

    It is only here that this man will find a real cure for sin. Prison or the police or AA or the rotary Club, or his parents and family or wherever it is he needs to have his sin CURBED so far have not done the job. And that is NOT the church´s job to do.

    Let´s ALSO assume that the man WILL have secondary motives to come to church. As to we all. fellowship, tradition, hot babes, the music. seeing a man in a dress (er vestments). whatever.

    Let´s also assume, from past experience, that this man´s intentions can be disruptive and damaging. We get to do that. It would be stupid and even immoral for you not to consider this.

    Ok.

    So you not only invite him to church, you BEG him to come. And you go out of you way to make the man feel welcome and urge others to do the same.

    So far so good. FC art II is why you do all that. Good. Do that.

    Here is the part where I see Lutherans and Lutheran pastors get things twisted up and actual this is a confusion of law and gospel.

    Art VII and other places teach that God has sanctioned 3 EARTHLY (catch that… earthly, carnal…) governments on … earth. the household/matrimony, society, and … drum roll… the visible Holy Catholic Church.

    Earthly. Government. As in sword bearing (metaphorically in the case of moms, dads, and pastors we hope), as in reining in Old Adam.

    So st paul has all sorts of rules about hair lengths, head coverings in church, women with duct tape over their mouths as a church accessory, um, ordering his assistants to get circumcized (ouch!) Imagine YOU doing that! THEN throwing a fit and FORBIDDING circumcision later on. and …. the like.

    And we read these rules as being ETERNAL rules. Nope. The pastor as ruler, governor, mayor etc. diferent strokes for diff folks. when in rome…. do as…

    And so we have Father Chemnitz ordering, (yes ORDERING) the women in his church to wear black and no jewelry, not even a bulova watch or a well decorated ipad, when they go up to communion rail.

    Imagine YOU doing that. YOU know the reaction. Legalist!

    Why? we confuse the spiritual kingdom of grace and think that is church. we have learned that Two kingdoms is church vs state and need to UNlearn that.

    So you are the ruler of your congregation Dan. How would a father deal with an unruly child in his household? Do that. How would a judge deal with someone panhandling in his courtroom? do that? How would a restaurant manager deal with a con man who keeps showing up at his restaurant and it aint cuz of the excellent steaks?

    etc. etc etc

    Stop spiritualizing this situation.

    I hope that helps.

  • fws

    Pastor Dan @ 123

    May we do some free thinking just to see where it takes us.
    Let´s say that you, as either a pastor or christian see this as the prime directive:

    52] Now, all who wish to be saved ought to hear this preaching [of God's Word]. For the preaching and hearing of God’s Word are instruments of the Holy Ghost, by, with, and through which He desires to work efficaciously, and to convert men to God, and to work in them both to will and to do.

    53] This Word man can externally hear and read, even though he is not yet converted to God and regenerate; for in these external things, as said above, man even since the Fall has to a certain extent a free will, so that he can go to church and hear or not hear the sermon. http://bookofconcord.org/sd-freewill.php#para52

    It is only here that this man will find a real cure for sin. Prison or the police or AA or the rotary Club, or his parents and family or wherever it is he needs to have his sin CURBED so far have not done the job. And that is NOT the church´s job to do.

    Let´s ALSO assume that the man WILL have secondary motives to come to church. As to we all. fellowship, tradition, hot babes, the music. seeing a man in a dress (er vestments). whatever.

    Let´s also assume, from past experience, that this man´s intentions can be disruptive and damaging. We get to do that. It would be stupid and even immoral for you not to consider this.

    Ok.

    So you not only invite him to church, you BEG him to come. And you go out of you way to make the man feel welcome and urge others to do the same.

    So far so good. FC art II is why you do all that. Good. Do that.

    Here is the part where I see Lutherans and Lutheran pastors get things twisted up and actual this is a confusion of law and gospel.

    Art VII and other places teach that God has sanctioned 3 EARTHLY (catch that… earthly, carnal…) governments on … earth. the household/matrimony, society, and … drum roll… the visible Holy Catholic Church.

    Earthly. Government. As in sword bearing (metaphorically in the case of moms, dads, and pastors we hope), as in reining in Old Adam.

    So st paul has all sorts of rules about hair lengths, head coverings in church, women with duct tape over their mouths as a church accessory, um, ordering his assistants to get circumcized (ouch!) Imagine YOU doing that! THEN throwing a fit and FORBIDDING circumcision later on. and …. the like.

    And we read these rules as being ETERNAL rules. Nope. The pastor as ruler, governor, mayor etc. diferent strokes for diff folks. when in rome…. do as…

    And so we have Father Chemnitz ordering, (yes ORDERING) the women in his church to wear black and no jewelry, not even a bulova watch or a well decorated ipad, when they go up to communion rail.

    Imagine YOU doing that. YOU know the reaction. Legalist!

    Why? we confuse the spiritual kingdom of grace and think that is church. we have learned that Two kingdoms is church vs state and need to UNlearn that.

    So you are the ruler of your congregation Dan. How would a father deal with an unruly child in his household? Do that. How would a judge deal with someone panhandling in his courtroom? do that? How would a restaurant manager deal with a con man who keeps showing up at his restaurant and it aint cuz of the excellent steaks?

    etc. etc etc

    Stop spiritualizing this situation.

    I hope that helps.

  • Dan Kempin

    That is very helpful, Fws. Thanks.

  • Dan Kempin

    That is very helpful, Fws. Thanks.

  • fws

    Pastor Kempin

    Thinking more about this…
    AA meetings are rooms full of the character you describe. A huge MO for addicts and alcoholics and also their alanon counterparts is manipulation to get stuff you want.
    Often sex or other forms of relationships are dangled as bait in and with all that
    Messy.
    And those AA meetings cant just excommunicate the ones like that.
    This really is PART of the disease.
    YOu would think the other AA members would be savy.
    Not.

    So what to do . Let the guy come to your church and warn everyone about him?
    no. that 8th commandment thing….
    warn the staff/elders. yeah. good idea (remember the example about the restaurant manager.)
    will some members get fleeced a little and maybe learn some hands on lessons about dos and donts about helping others?
    probably.

    Will all learn the limits of their vocations?
    as in….

    “I need shelter, food, etc….”
    Appropriate response:
    Here is the address to happy face roman catholic shelter for homeless men. Let me help connect you with that….. My church and I are simply not equipped for that.
    We dont know how to deal with a professional like you…..

    You MIGHT want to seek out some other pastor or… who has experience in AA. Just a creative suggestion.

  • fws

    Pastor Kempin

    Thinking more about this…
    AA meetings are rooms full of the character you describe. A huge MO for addicts and alcoholics and also their alanon counterparts is manipulation to get stuff you want.
    Often sex or other forms of relationships are dangled as bait in and with all that
    Messy.
    And those AA meetings cant just excommunicate the ones like that.
    This really is PART of the disease.
    YOu would think the other AA members would be savy.
    Not.

    So what to do . Let the guy come to your church and warn everyone about him?
    no. that 8th commandment thing….
    warn the staff/elders. yeah. good idea (remember the example about the restaurant manager.)
    will some members get fleeced a little and maybe learn some hands on lessons about dos and donts about helping others?
    probably.

    Will all learn the limits of their vocations?
    as in….

    “I need shelter, food, etc….”
    Appropriate response:
    Here is the address to happy face roman catholic shelter for homeless men. Let me help connect you with that….. My church and I are simply not equipped for that.
    We dont know how to deal with a professional like you…..

    You MIGHT want to seek out some other pastor or… who has experience in AA. Just a creative suggestion.

  • fws

    Dan

    What is Your vocation toward this man?
    preacher.
    YOu are not a psychiatrist, social worker ,etc
    ya got a food pantry. ok. can help with that.
    referals for the rest.

    and your members. what would be THEIR vocation towards the man.
    They have their families to attend to.
    Are there NO social services in the community available to this guy?
    What would YOU do in his situation?
    You can expect him to do the same.

    Nothing is free.
    Shelters have LOTS of rules. Its necessary why? most persons in shelters are there because the dont really either like structure or have never learned how to conform to structure for whatever reason. but to get those services, obedience to the structure they demand is the price that has to be paid.

    So if someone doesnt like that it and is not in a shelter, then what….
    We learn through suffering unfortunately.
    If there ARE other options to the problems he has, you folks are not the ones…

    is it ok to warn the members of your church what they are dealing with with him. I have thought about it.
    Yes. why not?

    tell him in advance.
    “You desperately need to be in church every sunday.
    YOu do NOT get to ask anyone for any sort of assistence besides the elders or me or the staff. Period.
    I WANT to see you in church every sunday.
    ANy infraction of the rules I have just given you will be quickly dealt with…

    And trust God for the rest. Good Luck!

  • fws

    Dan

    What is Your vocation toward this man?
    preacher.
    YOu are not a psychiatrist, social worker ,etc
    ya got a food pantry. ok. can help with that.
    referals for the rest.

    and your members. what would be THEIR vocation towards the man.
    They have their families to attend to.
    Are there NO social services in the community available to this guy?
    What would YOU do in his situation?
    You can expect him to do the same.

    Nothing is free.
    Shelters have LOTS of rules. Its necessary why? most persons in shelters are there because the dont really either like structure or have never learned how to conform to structure for whatever reason. but to get those services, obedience to the structure they demand is the price that has to be paid.

    So if someone doesnt like that it and is not in a shelter, then what….
    We learn through suffering unfortunately.
    If there ARE other options to the problems he has, you folks are not the ones…

    is it ok to warn the members of your church what they are dealing with with him. I have thought about it.
    Yes. why not?

    tell him in advance.
    “You desperately need to be in church every sunday.
    YOu do NOT get to ask anyone for any sort of assistence besides the elders or me or the staff. Period.
    I WANT to see you in church every sunday.
    ANy infraction of the rules I have just given you will be quickly dealt with…

    And trust God for the rest. Good Luck!

  • Dan Kempin

    Fws,

    Thank you for your thoughts. You clearly have an appreciation of just the sort of issues that are raised. I will ponder on what you have said. Once again, it is very helpful. Thank you, brother.

  • Dan Kempin

    Fws,

    Thank you for your thoughts. You clearly have an appreciation of just the sort of issues that are raised. I will ponder on what you have said. Once again, it is very helpful. Thank you, brother.

  • fws

    Pastor Kempin

    Feel free to email me on the side
    If you have particular questions you dont want to air here.
    I have been in more situations like that than you might imagine.

    I am glad that something I said was useful .
    Some churches host AA chapters and the help can be a two way street for exactly these sorts of situations….

  • fws

    Pastor Kempin

    Feel free to email me on the side
    If you have particular questions you dont want to air here.
    I have been in more situations like that than you might imagine.

    I am glad that something I said was useful .
    Some churches host AA chapters and the help can be a two way street for exactly these sorts of situations….


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