The Conflicting Theology of NFL Quarterbacks

blog - quarterbacks 1 Does God care about ___________ or not? And who’s to say? Regardless of whether or not previous thought was given to the topic, whether or not religious disciplines have been previously practiced, whether or not one has had connection to a faith community or not, or even whether or not one has actually researched the documents that claim to be God-given, EVERYONE has an opinion about God and the way God operates. In some respects, this is perfectly justified and natural. According to the Bible, humanity was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; Gen. 9:6), so it’s biblically accurate to say that every human has some innate semblance of God’s will and desire. This is the reason why every human recognizes to some extent that murder is wrong and stealing is wrong and cheating on your spouse is wrong (Rom. 2:14-15). God’s will is written inside us, it’s part of us, and therefore we all, in a limited way, understand God’s will. This becomes problematic, however, when we think we know more of God’s will than we actually know. This was brought to light recently after the Seattle Seahawks dramatic playoff win over the Green Bay Packers.

Russell Wilson’s Take

After the game, respected Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King quoted Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson as saying,

“That’s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special. I’ve been through a lot in life, and had some ups and downs. It’s what’s led me to this day.”

This comment was made in response to King’s question about Wilson’s four prior interceptions on the day, and going from the worst game of his life to the biggest throw of his life in the span of eight minutes. blog - quarterbacks 2Wilson has had a rough week, so I don’t want to pile on. But he is a fairly outspoken Christian. I definitely applaud his willingness to use his unique platform to share the grace of God. But in the same way that all his other behavior, as a celebrity, is put under a microscope, his theological convictions are subject to examination too. Is that fair? Well, he’s disproportionately influential due to his status. In other words, realistically, Wilson’s statements about God sink into a 12-year-old boy’s heart probably deeper than the weekly statements that boy hears from his pastor. So….humbly, I want to ensure that this boy’s father and mother, the only influences bigger than these sports heroes, are able to correct the boy’s misconceptions. Consequently, I’m not trying to be nit-picky and hypercritical, but I do think it’s a learning opportunity. As NBC Pro Football Talk analyst Mike Florio noted, Wilson’s statement is, at best, well-intentioned, but a bit dismissive of the believers on Green Bay’s team. At worst, it’s horrifically narcissistic, assuming that every event that happens in life merely happens for my personal glory. I have no idea where in that spectrum Wilson’s comment fits, but at the very least, albeit in the heat of the emotional moment, it wasn’t the tightest statement on God’s involvement in our lives.

Aaron Rodgers’ Take

In response to this, Green Bay quarterback, Aaron Rodgers (a self-professed ‘more private’ Christian) said on his weekly radio show,

“I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome. He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.”

So, I’ll resist the urge to comment on the validity of theological comments from a guy who openly and unapologetically acknowledges his extramarital sex life, or at least is okay with his girlfriend doing so.  (Although I guess I just did.) Let’s just take Rodgers’ words at face value and see if they’re consistent with the biblical stance. Does God truly not care about what takes place in a football game? Is professional football even just a “game?” The NFL is a multi-billion dollar corporation that generates higher television ratings than anything else on TV year after year. At certain times of the year, it’s arguably the most influential thing going, on the most influential mediums available. blog - quarterbacks 3Since God cares deeply about the affairs of human hearts, what influences human hearts would obviously be of interest. Furthermore, the vast majority of these football games take place on Sundays, the day previously famous in our country for public worship. And now these churches are largely vacated by the God-designed spiritual leaders (i.e. men) who are more interested in publicly gathering together with lots of other guys, in the presence of food, loud music, and female cheerleaders, to praise the efforts of other humans. In other words, if an alien spaceship came down from Mars and observed an NFL game, I’m assuming the captain/leader/guru (whatever ranking system said Martians have) would observe the football game and declare, “Hmmm. Their pagan worship rituals are highly entertaining!” CLEARLY, this activity is tremendously important to many, many people. By the way, I say this as someone who rarely, if ever, misses a Packer game and is convinced that Rodgers will one day be known as the greatest quarterback of all time. That doesn’t change the fact that I believe Rodgers, again, perhaps in the despair of defeat, is greatly misguided about God’s concerns, or lack thereof, regarding professional football. Additionally, even if the NFL wasn’t ludicrously popular, something’s insignificance does not leave it out of the watchful eye of an omniscient God either. Asked by reporters about Rodgers’ retort, Russell Wilson replied by saying,

“I think God cares about football. I think God cares about everything he created.”

While God’s commentary on professional sports is limited in Scripture, biblically, Wilson’s right. God consistently gives the impression that he cares about ALL of his Creation. For instance, making the case that we have no cause to worry, Jesus tells us to “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Matt. 6:26) The lesser to greater argument here suggests that, while God proportionately cares more deeply for humans than birds, he still does, in fact, care about the birds, to such a degree that he goes out of his way to “feed them.” ALL Creation belongs to God and God therefore knows personally, observes carefully, and directs lovingly ALL OF IT. God cares even more deeply and intimately for humanity, the crown of his Creation. Jesus explains this when he says that “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matt. 10:30; Luke 12:7) The point, in context, is not God’s vast knowledge (even though it is unsearchably expansive – Rom. 11:33). The point is God’s extraordinary concern for humans. Consequently, would God be interested in what interests humans? If God desires our hearts, would he be the slightest bit affected by what raptures human hearts? Of course.

Forming Your “Take”

blog - quarterbacks 4Discovering truth about God, guided by Scripture, is a bit like bouncing a ball in a room where the four walls are closing in. The ball bounces wildly in one direction until it hits the obstacle that cuts it off. The ball then returns back in a similar direction to where it first came from, but doesn’t go back as far as when it first started. The trajectory is slightly modified and it caroms in another direction. As each of these walls get nearer to one another, you come closer and closer to the ball coming to a fixed position, i.e. the point of truth. As an illustration of this, ask the question “Why do humans suffer?” in a Bible Study. Someone will give their opinion, perhaps even based on one account from the Bible. But they will likely grossly overstate the case on one side of the argument. Someone else will respond with another opinion referencing yet another account. The pendulum swings, the ball bounces back and forth. And so it continues. With each new statement and each new biblical reference, the debate is navigating closer to home. Similarly, with every NFL quarterback you ask about God’s opinion of football, you’re probably getting some aspects of truth, but not a comprehensive truth. The moral, then, for the day? Perhaps don’t get your theology from YAHOO! Sports, post-game interviews, or guys whom Olivia Munn currently and unrepentantly brags about sleeping with (Shoot. Did it again.). All of this might sound obvious, but these things and comments from these people tend to be surprisingly and disproportionately influential in our lives (not to mention young minds). They do matter because we do care about them. So God does too. If I really wanted to figure out how God feels about something, I probably wouldn’t start with someone saying, “I think God….” I’d probably go to a more credible source. Jesus says,

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Luke 10:22)

and

“even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” (John 10:38)

To validate such claims – authoritative claims to know God’s will –  this man rises from his grave after he voluntarily sacrifices his life for our sins on his cross. This suggests to us that he’s smart enough to know the will of God, powerful enough to carry out the will of God, and loves us enough to share the truth of this God with us. So who’s THE authority? Whatever Russell Wilson says about God, Aaron Rodgers says about God, or, for that matter, Pastor Hein says about God, it’s only authoritative insofar as it latches on to truth about God that Jesus has already said. We all have opinions about God’s will. They’re not all right. But there’s only one measuring stick against which we can hold those opinions and sort out what’s what. That’d be the opinion of God’s Son.

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9 thoughts on “The Conflicting Theology of NFL Quarterbacks

  1. tomas Hinrichs says:

    I think you barely scratched the surface of the real problem here. Yes I am a sports enthusiast. but I think the real problem is that God does care where our priorities are on Sunday morning. Living in Wisconsin you quickly find out that being a Packer fan is close to being a religion or as I like to call it the Packer Cult. built around a so called shrine or Mecca called Lambeau field. when I first moved here I was quickly struck with how much this sport and team mean to people to the point It turned me off so much from the team. it smacks in the face of the first commandment. take a look at how full the bars are with jersey clad fans. waiting for their hero’s to hit the field. take a trip to Lambeau on Sunday morning and observe the behavior inside and out.Then to attendance at our churches it’s staggering where the priorities are. I have seen in our churches meetings scheduled around when the Packer game is. Speakers and Bible classes cut short so people would not miss anything. I know this problem is out of control in many NFL cities. but in Wisconsin it is out of control. the fact that the outcome of a game causes such a emotional response??? Don’t get me wrong I am as despicable a person as the next maybe worse, Much worse. Just saying. scold me If I am way off here. I truly believe there is a serious cultural and a traditional problem in this state.

    • Yeah, I think you’re probably right, Tomas. I think it’s probably one of those criticisms that hits so many so close to home that it’s a bit uncomfortable to talk about. Sports is one of the few things that you can watch on TV and not find something blatantly objectionable with. The problem is that many, Christians as well, dive in without thinking about the issue of idolatry – inordinate love and attachment to something. The depression in Packer Nation after the loss was probably more gloom than most ever experience over their sins (as Matt pointed out below). That is indeed a problem. Not having the same devotion to my devotions as I have to reading Packer articles…that’s a problem. Not missing worship the way I wouldn’t miss a game….that’s a problem. I think it’s considered the lesser of evils, and therefore people don’t want to bag on it. But any good thing can be turned into a bad thing through disordered love, and I have no doubts whatsoever that this happens in the hearts of many football fans.

  2. Matt says:

    I don’t mean to hijack the direction of future discussion, but just to piggyback off Tomas’ comments:

    Imagine if our sin grieved us in such a way that could compete with how we feel after our teams of choice experience defeat.

    What a wonderful world of Biblical repentance that would be.

  3. We have two excellent NFL QBs acknowledging Jesus as Saviour in their own way … That is WAY better than it is reasonable to expect in this culture! Random Pastoral criticism of either their theology or Chrstian walk seems awfully small. If Christians in the public square have to be religious philosophers or theologians before speaking up, they will likely just keep silent — and I don’t find that to be better! Sure, if Aaron’s Pastor wants to council him on fornication, THAT is fine. However since AFAIK, we still don’t have a hierarchy of sins, let those outside his fellowship who have never let their eye hover too long on some female form pluck their eye out and cast the first stone after the self surgery! BTW … I’m a pretty big Packer fan, and until your post I had no idea of what his GF said on a show … So when does it become gossip to pass such “information” on a fellow believer around? Are we CERTAIN that his GF is more reliable than Brian Williams? What if he is completely chaste and she just felt she HAD to answer that we because of “expectations”?

    • 1) Google “Aaron Rodgers Olivia Munn” and tell me if her comments don’t come up on the first page.

      2) “Jesus as Savior in their own way” does not equate to an accurate teaching of Jesus as Savior. “In their own way” – THAT is exactly the problem. They’re creating their own Jesus, not the Jesus of the Bible. This wouldn’t be worth writing about unless, as I mentioned, these individuals are disproportionately influential. What they say about God DOES matter to the American public. I would debate whether or not commenting falsely and influentially about God is actually “WAY better” than not commenting.

      3) “However since AFAIK, we still don’t have a hierarchy of sins, let those outside his fellowship who have never let their eye hover too long on some female form pluck their eye out and cast the first stone after the self surgery!” – is that intended for me? You? I’m not sure. The point is not whether or not someone’s sinful. Yes, we’re all sinful. A Christian bears fruit of repentance though……he/she doesn’t perpetuate it.

      4) How are you a “pretty big Packer fan” and have not heard that story?

      5) I had to Google AFAIK. That’s a real thing? 🙂

  4. thanks, PastorJames. The comments about Wisconsin GreenBayFootball idolaters reminds me of the 30 years I served in north Texas.. Cowboys fans are the same… “shorten the sermon and service if there’s an early game on!”

  5. 1) I didn’t say that it was hard to find gossip — just that passing it on is still a conscious action. Pornography is easy to find on the internet as well, but I’m thinking that doesn’t absolve us from trying to avoid it.

    2). Aaron Rodgers expertise is football, mine is computers, yours is theology. If you make a comment on football and Aaron decides to comment on it, then Aaron will be on will be on the same ground as you are now.

    3). Intended for all Christians — but men are somewhat more prone to that specific sin. You have “convicted” Aaron on the “word” of his GF. Do you have any divorced / re-married people in your congregation? The fact that they are remarried is a sin, right? Just not an unforgivable sin. If Aaron IS involved in fornication with his GF, yes it is a sin — BUT, are we ranking them? Does he get a “scarlet F”? Is feeling lust for some woman passing by “lesser”? My understanding is that Lutherans believe “sin is sin” — but again, my expertise is not theology.

    My understanding is that if we are Aaron’s pastor or Christian friend, we go to him and talk to him about our concern and hope that he will listen. If we are not in that role, then we don’t pass it along — but I was raised a Fundamentalist Baptist, I may just not really understand Lutheran theology.

    4). I grew up in N WI … I’m a stockholder, I watch the games. I’m not going to rank my fandom any more than my Christianity. I may be the chief of sinners, but I’m certainly not the chief of Packer fans — no Pack tattoos, house isn’t green and gold, boys not named Bart and Brett ..

    5). ROFL

  6. Brian says:

    I think debating whether or not football players know theology is akin to debating whether or not musicians know about politics. In this country we are entitled to an opinion, a view, 15 seconds in the spotlight to express our views, but in the end does it really matter?

    At the end of the day, did Jesus die on the cross so that the Packers could play football? How you answer that question, determines whether or not any of this has any relevance.

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