Game Day for the Glory of God: Reviewing Stephen Altrogge’s New Book

I recently read Stephen Altrogge’s Game Day for the Glory of God (Crossway, 2008) and really enjoyed it.  I would encourage parents, sports fans, and Christians who love sports fans to pick the book up.

Here’s a nice excerpt from the book that captures its spirit:

“God has given us the gift of sports so that we might enjoy them for his glory.  Our athletic abilities were given to us by God so that we might use them for his glory.  Let’s not receive these gifts passively!  Millions of people enjoy the gifts of sports without ever uttering a word of thanks or praise to the glorious Giver of gifts.  As Christians we know the author of every of every good and perfect git.  Let us resolve then that whenever we’re enjoying sports, whether playing or watching them, we will thank our extravagantly lavish God who gives us such wonderful gifts.” (102)

Altrogge is a pastoral intern at Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA.  His book is classic Sovereign Grace, filled with enthusiasm, humor, and the gospel.  The text does not probe intellectual or philosophical questions related to sports, instead assuming that sports are intrinsically a field for Christians to enjoy and influence.  Altrogge points out both positive and negative aspects of sports, focusing most of the time on basketball and baseball.  He approaches his subject from a strongly spiritual perspective, seeking to determine how Christian character relates to various issues and attitudes that crop up in athletic competition.  Of note are chapters that relate to the way in which parents prepare their children for sports.  This material, while generally basic, is thoughtful and will prove helpful to parents attempting to fashion a healthy worldview of sports in a world gone mad for them.

I resonated with much of Altrogge’s writing and I enjoyed the humble manner in which he wrote.  The young writer frequently references his own experiences as an overheated amateur, a category which I fit into all too often.  A major reason to read the text is its function as a mirror for people like me.  It brings out fundamental struggles that all athletically competitive people struggle with.  Time and again, Altrogge mentions the need to fight pride, a point that is both simple and essential.  More than almost any other struggle, sports bring out pride.  Athletic competition is, at its core, something of a quest for glory, and it can easily–very easily–bring out one’s prideful attitudes and thoughts.  I sometimes found myself wanting to skip over passages due to their correct diagnosis of my own thoughts and heart intentions.  I’m glad that I did not, though, because Game Day challenged me to rethink the way I compete.

The text is a bit scattered at times and sometimes cyclical, covering material for the second or third time.  In addition, I would have liked a bit more reflection on the nature of sports.  How is the grand system of athletic competition so familiar to our modern eyes infested with ungodly thinking and acting?  One needs to go beyond questions of behavior and immediate spiritual struggle to wrestle with the greater questions behind sports.

With these things said, Game Day is a fun, enjoyable, convicting read.  It would be great for dads to get a couple of copies and read it with their sons (and daughters) who are obsessed with sports.  Beyond this group, Christians of all ages who enjoy playing sports would benefit from the questions it raises and the convicting material it presents relative to one’s heart attitude.  Altrogge has crafted a fine text in Game Day and I hope that we’ll see more from him.  Until we do, athletic and competitive Christians should read the book and use it to image more of the glory of God in competition and far, far less of the glory of self.

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