I have been reluctant to say anything about the whole Tebow phenomena in part because I am reluctant to drag the Greatest American Sport into the cultural war that plagues so many of our institutions. It would be nice if there were one public event that didn’t become a battleground for religious freedoms. It does need to be said the conflict is not wholly between Christians and unbelievers – there are many who call themselves Christians who openly disparage Tim Tebow’s public expressions of faith, though to be frank most of these people are Cheeseheads so calling them ‘Christians’ may be a stretch.
That being said, I have seen more than a few theological and philosophical errors advanced by Tebow haters, and as anyone knows I am all about correcting errors.
One of the first problems I see is with the use of the verse in Matthew 6:6 to condemn Tebow’s public acknowledgement of what he sees as God’s provision on the field. For those unfamiliar with the passage, it reads as follows:
But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
I have to admit I find it hilarious that a few folks ‘Tebowing’ caused even atheists to spout Scripture with all the thunder and reverence of an old-time Baptist preacher. One wishes they had such regard for the whole book. Nonetheless the error here is the notion that this verse means no one should ever pray or acknowledge God publicly. This would be quite contradictory given the fact Jesus Himself prayed publicly, as did His disciples. And obviously He commanded His followers to speak openly about their faith in Him. So it would seem odd to use this verse to criticize Tebow for using his public image to do just that. To fully understand the purpose of this statement, one merely needs to read how Jesus began the whole discussion:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you…
Jesus was warning his followers not to seek public displays of piety in order to gain the prestige and favor of men over that of God. It seems quite obvious to me given the fact that he has received so much approbation for expressing his faith that Tebow isn’t doing what he is doing to advance his own ambitions. Certainly the media isn’t ‘honoring’ him for his actions. And given Jesus’ and the apostle’s actual practices there seems to be no reason to assume Jesus meant, “Never display your faith publicly”. So I think this passage has been much misused by those who hate on Tim Tebow.
The second claim I often hear and read from his detractors is some variation of ‘God doesn’t care about football’. The reason God is indifferent to football varies widely – perhaps it is because football players are millionaires and aren’t in need of divine intervention or maybe it is because God is focused on real problems in the world like earthquakes and gay marriage. It could just be that He is simply Very Big and all this muddle about moving a leather prolate spheroid about a field is simply beneath Him. So who is Tim Tebow to invoke the Big Guy on such small matters? Even atheists want to protect God from being bothered by trivialities.
The problem I have with this from a philosophical perspective is that there is no reason to believe anything can ‘distract’ God to begin with. He is after all an omnipotent Being who exists outside of the restrictions of time and matter, so He has full knowledge of every stat and every play even while still considering the plight of the poor. Not only is God aware of the play-offs, He couldn’t not be aware of them and still be God.
Also it is a problem theologically. Jesus assured us that even the “very hairs of your head are all numbered” by God. If even one’s coiffure catches God’s intimate attention, then certainly one’s career success or failure would be of some concern. This is even more likely given the event in question is broadcast on commercial television.
Does the fact that God is interested in Tim Tebow’s career mean He is going to put the Broncos in the Super Bowl? I for one don’t think just because God is interested in Tebow’s activities that it means we can be certain of His uncommunicated will on a particular matter. Though I confess I would love nothing better than to see Tim Tebow defy all expectations and confound those who oppose all that I hold sacred.
Yes, it would be great to stick it to the Packers.