September 17, 2014


NASHVILLE (BP) -- Football -- more than theology -– has become one of the Baptist blogosphere's dividing lines this fall.

The debate, waged in congenial fashion, focuses on football's aggressive nature and Christians' response to its frequent violent hits and its effect on players.

"Christians should think hard about involving their children in such a violent game."
-- Owen Strachan
A bit of common ground, however, emerges regarding football's appeal and its character-building qualities.

Football's "grace, precision and the crushing of bone," as Owen Strachan puts it, make the game appealing.

'"Sadly, evangelicals seem to be leading the movement to train bravery and adventure out of our children in favor of a cult of safety."
-- David E. Prince
& Jimmy Scroggins
"There is nothing quite like a hit over the middle. A ballet-graceful wide receiver at full extension grabs a tightly thrown pass only to be smacked down like a rag doll by a heat-seeking safety," Strachan, assistant professor of church history and Christian theology at Boyce College in Louisville, Ky., wrote in a post titled "Our Shaken Faith in Football" at in early September. Boyce College is the undergraduate school of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Strachan also is executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Two other Baptists in the blogosphere, David E. Prince and Jimmy Scroggins, also noted football's appeal in a joint post titled "Is football too violent for Christians?" at the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission's website.

"No other game combines brute force and elegant choreography the way football does," Prince and Scroggins wrote in late September.

Prince is pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., and an assistant professor of Christian preaching at Southern Seminary. Scroggins is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Strachan, Prince and Scroggins noted football's widespread appeal. It "provides a place for people of wildly different backgrounds to come together," Strachan wrote, and serves "a profound communal and civic function." As Prince and Scroggins put it, "the atmosphere and pageantry of football attracts countless people who are fans of the spectacle more than" the actual game.

Among numerous character-building qualities of the sport, the trio agreed that it calls for discipline, determination, courage, teamwork and self-sacrifice.

"Many of these virtues," Strachan noted, "line up nicely with biblical character (1 Cor. 9:27, for example)," while Prince and Scroggins suggested that the Bible "draws a relationship between sport and war" and that "the lessons learned from agonizing and struggling in one can readily prove instructive for the other (Heb 12:1-4, 1 Cor 9:24-27, Eph 6:12, Phil 3:13-14)."

Risks & downsides

Then, however, comes the debate over how Christians should respond to the game's inherent risks as well as its potential cultural downsides. Read More

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