Tim Tebow, Faith and Blasphemy

I won’t pretend to be an expert in the world of sports. I can tell you if a given team is at the professional or college level for most sports, and at one point I followed both baseball and basketball well enough to name specific players on my favorite teams, but aside from that I am not what anyone could rightfully call a sports buff. It isn’t that I don’t find sports interesting or entertaining, I just have not invested my time and effort into knowledge about players or in-depth strategies usually associated with those who are considered ‘fans.’

But when I saw a story about Tim Tebow, a football player for the Denver Broncos (that’s a professional team; see, I know my stuff!), that has sparked some controversy, I could not pass up providing some commentary.

It is important to first read the original statements from Tim Tebow. You can find Tim Tebow’s comments (and the article the above story talks about) here. The quote in question, however, is when Tim said this:

Others who say I won’t make it are wrong. They don’t know what I’m capable of and what’s inside me. My family and my friends have been bothered by what’s gone on [in regards to controversy over him not being transferred to the Dolphins and the media’s response], and I tell them to pay no attention to it. I’m relying as always on my faith.

The statement itself does not strike me as unreasonable. In fact, while it may come across to some as a bit prideful in the beginning, it does sound to me as if he is expressing some humility by the end. In spite of his abilities and accomplishments, he still relies on faith to get him through the controversy. He believes he will make it, partially because he is good at what he does, and partially because he is convinced that God has a plan for him. He may be mistaken about the plan God has, but that discussion is not what caused some controversy.

The controversy comes from a column over at CBS by Gregg Doyel, which concludes with the words “That’s more than wrong. It’s blasphemous.” While I do think Gregg takes Tim’s speech out of context and presumes a meaning upon the words that he did not necessarily intend, I don’t intend to unpack that aspect of the post any more. I also won’t throw any hate-speech at columnist Doyel, in spite of what many claiming the name of Christ have done. For those people, I do apologize, Gregg. Christians aren’t always reasonable, and telling someone outright they are going to hell for a single article strikes me as not only unwise but terribly ungracious.

What I do want to address is the notion that what Tim Tebow said could be considered blasphemy. If Doyel’s interpretation of Tebow’s statement is correct, we must weigh Tebow’s statement and decide if it is mistaken, sinful, or full-blown blasphemy.

Blasphemy, as I understand and mean it, is intentional or intense irreverence towards God. That is an incredibly simple definition, but for now it will suffice. If an individual seeks to honor God in what they say and do, approach that action or belief with humility, and do not contradict what is clearly taught in Scripture, I suspect they should not be called blasphemous. Mistaken, yes. Sinful even. But the term blasphemy has a weight and a force behind it that I do not think Tim Tebow deserved, even with Doyel’s interpretation.

Doyel brings up an ever present question: what about those times when we have faith and God does not answer our prayers? He specifically speaks to the parent who prays for healing and their child dies anyway. Surely Tebow does not believe that his faith necessarily correlates to God’s action while the faith of a parent with a dying child, or so goes the argument. I don’t agree that one succeeds if faith is great enough and that one fails if faith is weak, and so I think here is where I must depart from Doyel’s interpretation: I simply do not think Tebow was saying that. For the Christian, “God coming through” in regards to faith may mean “God giving me grace to make it through this situation, in spite of what happens.” It does not always mean that our prayers are answered the way we ask them: be that the life of a child or the future of a professional football player. It is hard to know what Tebow believes, and I admit I may be uninformed, since I am not one who keeps up with the profession, but from the quotes I have read of him, he strikes me as one filled with confidence and faith.

Ultimately, I simply disagree with Doyel, though I admit I could be proven wrong. I also find myself suddenly curious about Tebow and his future both as a Christian and a quarterback. I do genuinely wonder how he will respond should he be denied the position on the Broncos he is expecting.

image via flickr.

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J.F. Arnold

James received his MA in Philosophy of Religion at Talbot School of Theology in 2013. He holds a BA in Biblical Studies from Biola University, and is a graduate and perpetual member of the Torrey Honors Institute. James blogs on a number of subjects, including technology, theology, and hip-hop. He has written for Biola’s Center for Christianity, Culture, & the Arts, The Gospel Coalition, and he is an editor for Mere Orthodoxy. You can also keep up with him on Twitter (@jamesfarnold).