Shirl Hoffman's recent CT article, "Sports Fanatics," questions an evangelical love for modern sports that confuses infatuation for true love. Repentance! For the first 10 years of my 17 years on staff with Athletes in Action, I confess that rarely, if ever, did I question this relationship between faith and sport.
Evangelicals should be grateful that Hoffman is willing to cry from the wilderness, even if it makes us uncomfortable. John the Baptist types always make religious folk uneasy. I am personally indebted to Hoffman, who has contributed to my own intellectual formation as I work on my Ph,D, in theological ethics. No qualms, in general, from me. However, there is a fallacy that lurks behind his call for us to think Christianly about sport. His view comes from a view of human nature that appears to lead him into a kind of dualism. Let me explain.
He states that what is wrong or right about sport is determined by our passions—or what Augustine claims are our loves. This is spot on. Sport, like other practices (education, for example) allows us to experience certain goods that fulfill us as human beings. Human beings, who are made in the image of God, long for those very goods that are integral to their own flourishing. Those longings are a form of love.
Thank God that sport is a sacred space where we meet and greet such loves with other people. For example, there are non-moral goods (e.g., excellence, play, skill, and friendship) and moral goods (e.g., honesty, self-control, prudence, and courage) that a sport can foster.
For Hoffman, play is his lode star for sport. But isn't it amazing how many different reasons people give when they are asked why they participate in sports? Hoffman highlights play theorists, ...1
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