Friday, January 16, 2009

Faith in sports

Reader Darren sent me a great article on sports, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, and faith. My initial reaction was to write a fun post, but I think there is something deeper there. First, the writer believes that faith-full athletes possess a built in psychological advantage during competition:
And I can't help but think that the religious guys are, well, blessed with an advantage, a big one at that.

Actually, the issue isn't really religion. It's faith. I don't care what or whom a ballplayer believes in: Jesus, Moses, Buddha, L. Ron Hubbard. I don't care what his position is on stem cell research, abortion, gay rights. But a system of belief — any system, really — that stills the mind and quells doubt is of obvious benefit, particularly if you're an athlete.

In this light, the writer argues that Warner's faith has allowed him to overcome the long odds - from grocery store clerk to Super Bowl MVP, from down-and-out backup to another chance at starting a Super Bowl. Money excerpt:

"It's an advantage for any individual, when you have faith and believe in something," Warner told our Greg Boeck Thursday after the Cardinals broke practice. "In my case, it's the power of Jesus ...

"I walk by faith and not by sight. I walk according to what I believe, and what I believe the power of God is, as opposed to what the world tells us, or what circumstances appear to be."

Put another way, belief can liberate you. You need not dwell on the long odds. You're free of the thoughts that crush so many comebacks — the assortment of self-involved, self-inflicted self doubts.

"So much of this business is 'Me, me me,'" Warner told Boeck. "... My faith has allowed me to step back from that and say, 'Hey, this isn't about me.'"

We've talked about how faith has a self-less component - losing the self in a transcendent power - and some of the possible benefits therein. Kinda cool to hear the argument in the context of sports. Maybe more football athletes should give themselves over to the Football God(s).

Now if only Christian sports stars like Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow won't wear John 3:16 on their eye strips while getting unsportsmanlike conduct/taunting penalties.


Darren Staley said...

Glad you enjoyed the article. It (and you) make a compelling case. But I think that a God-less person through hard-work, perseverance, and a healthy attitude could accomplish the same.

Alicia said...

Great article and good points but I will say that it reminds me of the following quote:

Geroge Bernard Shaw once wrote, " The fact that a beliver is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one".

Drew said...

Alicia, that is a cool quote, and I know that some of my atheist friends will eat it up.

Me personally, I just can't equate faith with drunkenness. Like faith is a vice that impairs our senses and alters a "pure" understanding of reality.

Alicia said...

Ah but religion is a vice (in my opinion) and one that alters our perspective and vision with greater intoxication than any drink could ever yield. Furthermore it is safe to say that it makes us act in ways that the confidence and self righteousness harnessed from a bottle pales in comparison to the same harnessed though the bible.

Kent H said...

Wow Alicia,
I don't think that I've ever heard a more cynical statement. Religion is a vice (def. "wicked action, defect or flaw, bad or harmful trick or habit) that alters perspective and vision??
It is true that "religion" widely defined has done damage and has been guilty of atrocities. But what does that prove other than a human condition that needs redemption?
You would never stop going to the doctor just because the Nazi doctors did human experiments. You don't stop voting because some officials are unworthy of your vote. You don't refuse education just because many institutions are not worthy of your confidence.
In my opinion, the dark velvet of false religion brings to light better the diamond of true faith. Yes, in my definition, that is a faith based in the consistent and honest consideration of Jesus Christ in Scripture.
The abuses of religion are just that - abuses. And everyone knows that because we all know what a true faith should look like. We can see them and expose them. But the abuses and inconsistencies can only determined against the truth of a genuine faith.

Alicia said...

I won’t lament on this much more on this particular post but yes, I do see religion as a trick. We as Christians just don’t want to admit to it. I could list hundreds and hundreds of "facts" about the life of Jesus and critical parts of the Bible that have been altered, changed, edited, made up, and manipulated to the point that if it were ANYTHING else but in the bible we all would think it crazy and hocus-pocus. For some reason, the Bible gets a free pass.

There is a great psychological predisposition within humans to need religion. Christianity certainly wasn’t the first nor will it be the last, but one day just as we no longer believe in Zeus, we will no longer believe in Jesús.

Kent H said...

I'm going to have to call your bluff. What exactly would you object to in regards to biblical account of the person, purpose, or life of Christ. Don't let the cynicism of a post-modern world force you into their mold.
I would encourage you to actually consider the claims of Christ for yourself and don't regurgitate the mindless meanderings of some philosophy prof someplace.
There's a lot more there to see, believe, and be encouraged by. And that's the truth (a powerful word).

Alicia said...

Faith by definition is “belief that is not based on proof”. If I am up against one who has faith, it is very challenging to highlight some of the blatant questionable points of the life of Jesus and the bible in a fair and objective way.

The purpose of Christ, yes—all for it. There are a lot of people who absolutely need this sort of ‘direction and example’ in their life in order to be productive citizens etc. I do absolutely have a problem with us not admitting that we have used and exploited Jesus for this purpose. We still pretend that the Gospels are fact and his life was real despite glaring contradictions. The claims of Christ are great and hold value but they are nothing more than myths written to control and give guidance to people who ‘desperately’ needed it. I will give you that. Who could argue with the teachings of Jesus?

But once you start to chip away at the facts surrounding the man and recognize them to be false, how does that not taint the fruit? Why wont we admit that he was just a man if he existed at all and still follow the WWJD philosophy? We wont admit it because then the whole deck of cards would fall. Christians MUST hang on to the myth for their very existence exists on it. Just as an example here are some issues with the man, Jesus.

For starters, how about some of the following:
• There is not one single thing written about Jesus during his lifetime by anyone! There are mentions of scribes witnessing events that took place but there is not one written description of the man at ALL when he was alive. No the miracles, not the healer, not about a man who came back alive. Nothing from a contemporary. Jesus was alive during the life of Pontius Pilate. The Romans were prolific writers and historians. Writings exist from the time frame when Jesus walked the earth yet again NOTHING exists in description or writing that was done so when Jesus was alive. Odd don’t you think?

• Philo, a prolific Jewish writer who lived from 20 BCE to 50 CE, wrote extensively about the political and theological movements throughout the Mediterranean, and his views foreshadowed Christian theology, yet he never once wrote anything about Jesus. Not only this, but he actually wrote about political conflicts between the Jews and Pontius Pilate in Judea

• Mistranslation of the word virgin: All of the Gospels were written in Greek, and, we do know that they used a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures knows as the Septuagint. The Septuagint was created by Jewish scribes who translated the Jewish texts into Greek because the Jewish community outside of Judea typically spoke Greek instead of Hebrew or Aramaic. Though the Septuagint was claimed to have been a "flawless" translation, it did in fact contain a number of errors. Once of the errors is the word virgin. The Hebrew word in Isaiah is (almah), which undisputedly means 'young woman', with no implication of virginity. If 'virgin' had been intended (bethulah) could have been used instead. The 'mutation' occurred when the translation rendered almah into parthenos which really does usually mean virgin. In short, the word was written as young woman and NOT virgin. So much is built around this mistranslation that its scary.

• “Star of Bethlehem” - No record of such a celestial event outside the Gospel of Matthew.

• Roman census in Jesus birth story – No record of any census that matches this description.

• “Massacre of the Innocents” - No record of this event outside the Gospel of Matthew.

• Death of Jesus – Accompanied by blackout of sun, earthquakes, and raising of the dead in the Gospels, no record of this by others.

• Between the works of Paul and the writing of the four canonical Gospels several other Christian works were written. Neither the works of Paul nor any of these other works give us details about the life of Jesus. Prior to the Gospels there are various works that talk about Jesus in a variety of ways, but none of them provide any details about a birth, life, ministry, or death of Jesus.

• There is no evidence of any knowledge of a tomb of Jesus (empty or occupied) prior to the Gospel stories. It is interesting that so much effort goes into defending the claim of the "empty tomb" of Jesus that appears in the ending scenes of the Gospels, yet there is nothing in any of the writings that precede the Gospels that makes any mention of either an "empty tomb" or any burial site or even a crucifixion site. Would Paul have said nothing about the site of Jesus' burial? Would Paul not have mentioned a visit to Golgotha, the location of Jesus' crucifixion?

It's not just Paul, but indeed there is no evidence of any veneration of any locations that are associated with Jesus in the Gospels until after the Gospels were circulated. Most importantly, though, we find no evidence of any veneration of the supposed tomb of Christ, which to this day remains an unknown and unidentifiable locale.

This is certainly a significant issue. If Jesus were a real but mortal person, and the Gospels are based on his real life, then we should expect that there would have been some knowledge of his real death and his real burial, yet we find no evidence of this. The earliest alternative stories that we find about what happened to Jesus after the crucifixion didn't come along until centuries after the Gospels were written.

• There were many conflicting beliefs about who Jesus Christ was in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd centuries, including beliefs that he had never existed on earth "in the flesh". Prior to the adoption of Catholicism by the Roman Empire in the 4th century, there were many different beliefs about Jesus Christ. The Catholics held a specific view of Jesus Christ as a real live, historical, person, who was both God, the only son of God, and a fully human being. During the first 300 years of Christian belief, however, this was not the case. There were many different groups of Christians early on, some of them include:
• Marcionism – Christ was a purely spiritual entity
• Nestorianism – Jesus and Christ were two different entities
• Docetism – Jesus appeared physical, but he was really incorporeal
• Apollinarism – Jesus had a human body and human soul, but a divine mind
• Arianism- Jesus was the son of God, not God himself
• Catholicism – Jesus was fully human and fully divine, both God and the son of God

Basically everyone for 300 years after Christ died, were completely confused about his life until the Catholic church came along and straightened it out.

I wish I had more time to devote to this today but this is just a touch of the issues with the story of Jesus. I also promise to research how to link and quote and bold. I am new to 'blogging' but will bone up on my posting skills. I just don' think that we can overlook some of the points I bring up and shove them aside becuase we happen to like his message.

Like I said, people of faith need not look at this because they need no proof.

Kent H said...

First of all, the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth is absolutely beyond questioning. It's like questioning the existence of George Washington or Julius Caesar. The current textual evidence for the life of Christ is about 5000 manuscripts (some dating back to within around 100 years of His death).
The evidence for other ancient personalities we never question is much weaker. Our textual evidence for Plato is nine copies (earliest being 1300 yrs after he lived), Heroditus is eight copies (from 1350 yrs after), Aristotle is five copies (from about 1450 yrs after he died).
To say that no contemporaries of Jesus wrote of his life and ministry is ridiculous. Matthew and John were both in his inner 12 and Mark and Luke were accomplices of Paul. Just because you have a predisposition against the scriptural report does not diminish the historicity of it. Also, the Roman's did write of Jesus. Tacitus wrote of "Christus" and his death penalty under Tiberius (Annals sv.44). Suetonius is a Roman historian who wrote of the Jews being expelled from Rome at the instigation of "Christus" (Life of Claudius xxv.4). Lucian was a Roman satirist who wrote of Christ as the one "who was crucified in Palestine" for beginning a new cult. He ridiculed Christians for "worshipping that crucified sophist" (The Passing of Peregrinus, 1, 11, 13). No time here, but the census under Cyrenius (governor of Syria)has been documented.
The evidences given in the Bible for Jesus' resurrection (as an example) are even given with the added benefit of still having some 500 eyewitnesses with whom they could still speak (1 Cor 15:6).
Your definition of almah is simply incorrect. The sexual dimension of almah is prevalent. The word is only used about four times in the Old Testament and it is clear in Song of Solomon 6:8 to be referring to those women before a sexual relationship.
An unidentifiable tomb location is a mighty strong evidence in favor of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. The apostles were declaring Jesus raised on the third day after his burial. Surely if any one of the Pharisees or Romans could have taken someone back to a tomb with Jesus' body inside, they would have. And the sleeping soldiers story is no good. That would have cost them their lives.
The claim that no one before 300 AD or so held to the deity of Christ is also quite absurd. John was already arguing against the gnostics and heretics toward the end of the first century. The church councils did systematize what the early church believed, but they did not develop said doctrines. And of course there were variations of theology. That's what happens (then and now) when some avoid an objective standard of truth (epistemology).
I'm always amazed when someone today makes the declarative statement that "we know" the gospels are false even though, they were written by real eye-witnesses to the facts and we are just about 2000 years too late to know what we're talking about.
Now my education is in the area of biblical studies and my earlier work was in pastoral ministry. I currently teach the Life of Christ at the collegiate level. I don't like the tenor our discussion has taken so I'm going to gracefully bow out. But I challenge you again to step away from the contemporary pop-theology and get down to some real investigation of the facts using primary sources. Such evidence has been systematized very well in books like "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" by Josh McDowell or "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel. Both were avowed agnostic/atheists before doing the work I challenge you to do.

P.S. Jesus didn't just come with a message and an example. He came to "seek and to save" the lost.

Alicia said...

Ken-the life of Jesus really is not the reason I question or have questions about religion and faith. It is far greater and more complex an issue with me than that.

I also am not even convinced that we landed on the moon! :) There is enough evidence pointing to the contrary. All you need to do is look at the Van Allen belt and it puts a ton of legitimate questions into the picture. The same holds true with religion. If god was so perfect that he can create man and such complex life such as salamanders, giraffes, wolves, dirt, trees etc why did he make man with such flaws? Don’t give me the garden of eden choice part. Wouldn’t he have known that man would have failed and shouldn’t he have created an alternative ending? Why can’t children who get an arm lobbed off in war regenerate one like some animals can? Because of free will? Why if a tornado tears up a street and leaves one house standing does the family always “thank god” for sparing them? Did he not give a *&*% about the other 10 families? Did people on the recent downed plane on the Hudson really pray harder then say people on one of Sept 11 flights. I have read an article attributing a “lot of praying” to why the plane didn’t crash. Hummm. If that’s the case the priest in Round Hill, Va wouldn’t have died from a fallen limb in the road.

The whole thing of religion just bothers me now. It didn’t really before until I moved into a small town. Why should a person in China who knows nothing of God, go to hell because he hasn’t accepted God before his death. Also there are a billion billion planets (conservatively). We are so naive that we happen to think that if God was so involved in creating all of them he just happened to only place life on earth. Do we really really think Mary was a virgin???? What about Jesus having brothers and sisters and Mary being a perpetual virgin. Anyway—none of this needs to be addressed. Just giving me ½ cent.

Kent H said...

All legitimate questions for consideration. I must say, when my logic fails me, I realize that what God does I may not understand - much like things my Mom and Dad did. But if this is God's program, He has the right to determine what is right and wrong. But if there is a God -- part of His resume' is perfection that is above my understanding.
As to your last particulars, God did know Adam would fail (same answer as above) Mary was not a perpetual virgin. Only Catholicism holds that. As you pointed out, she had other children after Jesus.
A search and questioning of faith issues is a valuable strength. It means you still have a heart to be taught - and that is always a good thing. I would only encourage you to be careful of the merit you put on sources of truth. Not all sources are equal.
Thank you for the challenge. Good searching. God bless.