Scott McKnight posted on The Jesus Creed a note titled God and Sports which reported on a new survey that "...finds more than a quarter of Americans believe that God “plays a role in determining which team wins" at sports events." The following is an expansion of some comments I left on that post.
What do you think of that statement? Does God really play a role in determining which team wins the Super Bowl? Does God favor athletes on the basis of their faith or lack of faith?
Let's say, for the sake of argument, God does determine, in the words of one catechism, “the course and outcome of all events” including sporting events. What then? That assertion says nothing about WHY He has one team win or lose a game with another team.
The Gospel tells us the rain, coming from the hand of God, falls on both the just and the unjust. We are not necessarily told why the rain falls on the just in contrast to the unjust, or why it falls on the unjust in contrast to the just. The secret things belong to God and as C. S. Lewis wisely reminded us, God is not a “tame lion” we can manipulate or in some fashion “buy off”. I believe God's determining the outcome of a sporting event falls in the same category as where the rain falls.
In my life time there have been a number of great and successful athletes in both team and individual sports. Some modeled Christian virtue. Others modeled much the opposite. The good guys won some games and lost some games. The bad guys won some games and lost some games. With our presupposition stated above, all those, both wins and losses, come from the sovereign providence of God.
Related to the issue of God's sovereignty in relation to the outcome of sporting events, is how we view Christian athletes. We really need to be wary of a pop-evangelical tendency to view the Christian sport superstar with a sub-biblical pop-theology that has little to do with the hard realities of life in a fallen and broken world. God gives the the Christian athlete the losses as well as the wins.
Most of the world is not living in the atmosphere of success and winning, but of loss, failure, struggle, poverty, and the brokenness of a fallen world. I need a God and theology that helps me live in that reality, not a pseudo-god and pop-theology of an American materialistic view of value and worth as sometimes exhibited in our popular view of sports and athletes.
In the words of the Apostle John, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
(Some further reflections on this can be found in one of my other posts Being Sacked on 3rd and Long.