I have few loves or passions in life. First and foremost, and without any close equal, is God. All else looks like hate if my doctrinal understanding is correct. Next, is family, the bedrock of human civilization. In close proximity and with a lot of overlap would be friends. Many of my friends, who I do not number in the high volume, I regard just as close as family. Not surprisingly to those who really know me I love to debate topics such as history and politics. Frankly, I love a good debate, especially when it is done correctly, following the laws of logic. It is part of my personality and I stand on the shoulders of many great men and women who knew how to get after it in passionate debate about ideas.
Many Evangelicals claim to cherish the concept of “iron sharpening iron” but it is rarely lived out with any vigor. So many Evangelicals are so fragile if you have the audacity to question or correct their position they see it as a personal affront. My grandmother has a saying that served me well and functions as my philosophical understanding. She said, “A religion that can’t take a lick, ain’t worth a lick.” If you are so fragile that someone disagreeing with you or having the audacity to say, “you are wrong” is threatening then that says more about you than the other person.
Yet, I digress: my last passion is sports. I am an unapologetic Chicago Sports Fan. My only exception is I do not root for the Chicago White Sox. I bleed Cubbie Blue through and through. I love sports and when I am not engaged in something spiritually or politically inclined I am probably engaged in something relating to sports.
After I have finished my biblical engagements for a given day I spend my remaining casual time interacting in the sports world. I usually begin with listening to the Mike & Mike podcast. Mike and Mike are two ESPN personalities who have been hosting a 4-hour sports show for the last 17 years, I believe. Their show is one of the ESPN signature shows. I enjoy it very much. Very recently they spent time dissecting a comment from Kobe Bryant, a recently retired basketball star. Kobe, whether intended or not, made a statement that the results of this year’s basketball playoffs were “foreordained.” What I found most unusual was both of the hosts immediate dismissal that the future results of an event could be “foreordained.”
Now, I have NO idea what Kobe Bryant meant when he made the statement. Was he speaking in strictly secular terms? Was he merely surmising that it was so obvious based on the Golden States Warriors’ addition of Kevin Durant that the Warriors would win the title. I don’t know whether Kobe was making a theological affirmation; in fact, I would be shocked if he was. Kobe, in the making public statements and sentiments has not come off as an Evangelical, at least to the statement attributed to him I have been exposed to.
What I found enlightening and a little alarming was Mike and Mike’s blatant dismissal of the possibility that “events are foreordained.” Mike Golic is a professing Catholic and Mike Greenberg is Jewish but he gives the appearance he is not a person of any particular faith or takes the issue of faith/religion seriously. Do not get me wrong they often speak of things in moral terms. They seem to love their families and exhibit a lot of positive traits we would hope all mankind possess.
When both of the hosts gave commentary to Kobe’s reference to foreordination they reacted as if the possibility of things being foreordained was akin to believing in Martians or the Tooth Fairy. Now, I generally respect and value the insights of Mike & Mike when they speak about sports matter but I would NEVER get my doctrine from them.
My question is how many Evangelical when they heard the hosts dismiss the question of things being foreordained, “pushed back” and said “wait a minute, I am a Bible-believing Christian and the Bible DOES teach God has foreordained all things.” How many believer Christians were like me and even gave thought to how the question of events being foreordained were being dismissed as something not even possible.
Ironically, I had a FB conversation with a male believer who attended the same church I attended when I lived in Chicago. He posted a quote from Greg Boyd who is an Open Theist. Open Theists believe that God does NOT know all things exhaustively. Specifically they believe that God does not exhaustively know FUTURE things. Thankfully, this view is rejected by the vast majority of Orthodox Evangelicals (you will see when discussing theological matters you have to make fine distinctions and particular caveats).
Doctrine is always vitally important. Proper Orthopraxy (proper action) can only take place when we possess Proper Orthodoxy (proper belief). All events, including sporting events, have already been decided in the mind of God. Nothing and I emphasize NOTHING takes place in time and space that has not been foreordained by God. Passages like Exodus 4:11, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord” or Amos 3:6, “Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it” serve as my biblical basis for such a conclusion.
I can never bring myself to pray to God for a particular outcome for a sporting event. I believe that to be beneath the dignity of seeking God’s intervention. Yet, I fully believe that God ordains the “winners and losers” of every sporting event. Why God choose to not allow my beloved Cubbies to win the World Series for 108 years belongs in the Deuteronomy 29:29 category but God orders all things. As R.C. Sproul says there is not even a random molecule that is not under the direct sovereign control of God. If God does not foreordain an event or action it does not take place in history: between the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
For some, this causes great consternation. They jump to the erroneous conclusion this belief makes human “puppet.” That is not the case as Deuteronomy properly reminds us these decisions belong to the secret things of God. For example, the writing of this blog article was foreordained by God, yet I “freely” choose to write it. I freely ate some watermelon and cherries shortly before I sat down to write this article. I freely choose to ride my bike this morning and go to church, to stop by Wal-Mart on my way home. Yet, all of these events were decreed (spoken and pronounced by God) by God before time began.
Foreordination does not preclude human responsibility. The winner of the Cavs-Warrior championship will be decided on a basketball hardwood. The team which scores the most points in a best 4 out of 7 games will be crowned the champion. For reasons only known to God, God has decided that the Cavaliers would meet the Warriors for the third consecutive year with one team each winning one of the prior two meetings. God has already decided the eventual winner of the series but the outcome lies in the hands (humanly speaking) of players like LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry. Both God sovereign control and man’s human interaction are two poles of the same truth.
God is sovereign over a sporting event. God is sovereign over a political election. God is sovereign over who is saved and who is not. God is sovereign over who I marry and how many children will come from that marital union. He has foreordained that I would meet and marry Monique Lanier Collins and that union would produce three children: Tiara, Ricky Jr. and Constance. Since He foreordained it necessarily had to come to be. Otherwise God is not God.
I will continue to listen to Mike & Mike. They are generally entertaining and enlightening in their sport commentary. I just don’t get my doctrinal position from them or even Kobe Bryant. I get my docrine from what God has revealed in His Holy Scriptures.
I welcome your comments and input.
With much fear and trembling