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.