March Madness, Athletic Achievement, and Competitive Sports

March Madness, Athletic Achievement, and Christians in Competitive Sports – Desiring God.

In the light of this weekend’s “Final Four” basketball tournament – and all of this “March Madness” or “Mayhem” (as it is popularly called) of the last few weeks – Matt Reagen posted a few summary thoughts about sports and competition from a Christian perspective at the “Desiring God” website a week ago (March 23, 2012). As one who enjoys college basketball as well as other sports (Cubs baseball is around the corner!), and realizing the dangers the over-emphasis on sports in our society creates for me and all Christians, I need help keeping sports in perspective. Reagan’s thoughts are a good starting point. I could only wish that Reformed-Christians would address the Sunday sports issue clearly and distinctively (You know, God’s fourth commandment!). But that’s another issue. For another time.

Here’s some paragraphs to get you started; read the rest at the link above.

3) How we enjoy image-bearing for his glory (1 Corinthians 10:31) is the issue.

This is at the heart of what makes achievement Christian, and something we’ll still be working on as long as we remain on this side of eternity.

It is vastly oversimplified to say that we simply exert our efforts vertically instead of horizontally, so that when we work hard, we simply do it “for God,” whatever that means. Hard work (or harder work than before) with an upward point of the finger is not enough, though it is a part of the equation in some way, it seems (Colossians 3:23).

4) It is clear from 1 Corinthians 10:30–31 and 1 Timothy 4:4 that thanksgiving is a vital ingredient in the glorification of God through any particular enjoyment.

Gratitude inherently deflects personal credit, as it acknowledges the Giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). All achievers of anything, whether through talent or hard work or both (as is usually the case), should remember the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:7: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” The subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) tendency of the athlete is to boast in his natural-born talent, which is perhaps the least reasonable attribute in which to boast.

5) Our enjoyment of God in the midst of athletic achievement is a critical component of his glorification.

So if we run fast and enjoy it, which we should, we should enjoy it the way the first frog did. According to Chesterton, the riddle goes like this: “What did the first frog say?” “Lord, how you made me jump!” Jumping and running are enjoyable because they give us the capacity to participate in the beauty and power of God, and they are always gifts from him. As Eric Liddell memorably said in Chariots of Fire, “God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.” Perhaps this would be the only legitimate reason for it to be more enjoyable for me to make a jump shot, or run fast, than to watch my friend or teammate do it — just as the Apostle Paul gloried more, it seems, in his experiential participation in the lives of new believers in the early churches than in just hearing about it.

6) God is not fully glorified through any activity where he is not a person’s final Treasure.

Therefore, sports must be put into their proper realm of value, which is vastly less valuable than God.

Clearly, because of their arbitrary and fabricated nature, the sports themselves are somewhere on the value scale beneath real war (where life and death are the line) and relationships (perhaps especially marriage), which deal with eternal souls. When playing a sport is a person’s livelihood, that may change things some, but one of the greatest testimonies that an athlete can give to the glory of Christ is proper perspective.

Making a shot at the buzzer, even if it is for the entertainment of thousands, is still just entertainment, and it’s still just a game, made up by some guy (James Naismith, in this case) who had enough time on his hands to not only assume that it would be fun to try to put a ball in a peach basket, but also to write an entire manual of rules. “It’s just a game” is always one of the more helpful and God-glorifying responses a Christian player or coach can make in an interview.

Talking Over The Hunger Games: One Christian Perspective

Talking Over The Hunger Games: Conclusion | Redeemed Reader.

On the blog “RedeemedReader” a series on The Hunger Games books has been posted; the link above is the final one (March 27, 2012). This book series by Suzanne Collins has been extremely popular with young adults (especially) and has received a lot of attention this past week because of the book-based movie that was just released. I have not read the books myself, though my boys have and tell me they are gripping stories. We’ve talked about a Christian evaluation of these books and I’ve come away with mixed feelings (But then, you probably already know how I feel about most contemporary novels.).

The “RedeemedReader” asks and answers the question whether or not these books are appropriate reads for Christian young adults and helps parents evaluate the books from a Christian worldview. You will not agree with everything that’s here, but you will profit from the discussion. And that is what we need to do. Of course our older children are going to read questionable material. I too wish they would not waste their time on the latest “fad novel”. But our goal as parents is to help them think about the content of all they read in a distinctively Reformed-Christian way, so that they learn to discern, and then (hopefully) aim higher and read better.

Here is a section of the post linked above; you may find the rest there and on the site.

What particular value do you see in these books for Christian readers?

Caity: For Christians, I see this book as valuable because it is it is a cultural phenomenon. In order to engage culture and understand the world that we are living in, we must participate – although discerningly and thoughtfully – in popular culture.  Another reason the I see this trilogy as valuable for Christians is that it does not hold back in its commentary on our society.  The Hunger Games explores the realities (i.e. violence, vanity, gluttony, poverty, etc.) from which Christians often try to shield themselves and their children.

 What would you say to a Christian parent who’s wondering if her kids should read these books?

Morgan: My devotion to Hunger Games primarily rests on just how meaty I see the text.  Unlike my High School Musical craze several years ago, I didn’t just gush about how infatuated I was with the characters, but rather engaged in stirring conversations about truth, sacrifice, reality TV, violence, PTSD and morality in amorality.  I highly recommend you read these books with your children so that you can explore these subject with them in the context of the story, before the characters turn into 2012 action stars [That’s happening already—see Katniss Barbie and Hunger Games action figures].  Suzanne Collins wanted to be provocative—not necessarily for the sake of dollars—but to challenge her audience’s beliefs on all of these issues. Letting your children interpret these beliefs through the lens of pop culture undermines her intentions and makes the violence–the harrowing, stomach-turning, nauseating, jarring violence–gratuitous and pointless.

Caity:  I would recommend The Hunger Games to ages 14 and older.  Parents should definitely allow their children to read this series. I do not believe that the books contain anything that children have not already been exposed to through television, video games, music, or internet but if parents are concerned, they should read them before allowing their children to do so.

Calvin’s Meeter Center 30th Anniversary

This weekend (March 29-30) Calvin College is marking the 30th anniversary of the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies on its campus (in the library building). This morning from 9:00 a.m. until noon they are having a special open house, displays, and presentations. Part of the display is a rare 1536 edition of Calvin’s Institutes from the Van Kampen Collection. The Meeter Center will have its own 1559 edition on display also (which will be available until June 1 – see below). I am planning to attend part of this, and wanted you in the Grand Rapids area to be aware of it in case you get the opportunity to attend also. I am also excited to be given a tour of Heritage Hall, the CRC’s Historical Archives building and collection, by Dr.R.Harms, who has started teaching me the art of archiving (part of my expanding work at the PR Seminary Library).

Here is some information about the Meeter Center,  the display, and the activities of the morning. Visit the website for further information.


The H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies is a research center specializing in John Calvin, Calvinism, the Reformation, and Early Modern Studies that opened in 1981 and is located on the fourth floor of Hekman Library on the campus of Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. The extensive book, rare book, article, and microform collections attract scholars from all over the world to the Center. The Meeter Center sponsors at least two lectures every year, events for the Friends fo the Meeter Center and the local community, offers scholarships for high school seniors, fellowships for ministers and scholars, and periodically holds seminars sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as courses on Early Modern French paleography.


As part of the the H.Henry Meeter Center’s 30th anniversary, John Calvin’s first edition of the Institutes is on display in the Meeter Center through June 1st. This rare volume was published in 1536 in Basle and was Calvin’s first major theological work. Its long Latin title – Christianae religionis institutio, totam fere pietatis summam, et quid est indoctrina salutis cognitu necessarium, complectens; omnibus pietatis studiosis lectu dignissimum opus, ac recens editum makes clear that its purpose is to present the whole sum of piety and what is necessary for understanding the doctrine of salvation. It consists of six chapters in addition to the letter to King Francis I of France in which Calvin defended the “evangelicals” who questioned the authority of the Roman Catholic Church yet wished to promote the purity of the one holy catholic Church. Calvin reworked the text both in Latin and French throughout his lifetime. The 1559 edition, owned by the Meeter Center, was the final and complete work based upon the seedling first printed in 1536, and is also on display in the Center.


Friday March 30, 9:00 AM to noon – the Center will host an open house with rare book and medal collection presentations from 10:45 to 11:45 AM.

Friday March 30, 10:00 AM – the Center will host a special chapel service at Calvin Theological Seminary.

March Madness for Books!

March Madness for Books! « PWxyz.

That’s right – a March madness for Books! As we enter the final weekend of the NCAA basketball classic, it is also time to see what is happening in the other “BB” tournament – the “book bracket! So check out this bracket of best 21st century fiction books and make your picks (at the link above)! I know, it’s rather hard to get excited about this list, but it’s a novel concept anyway (pun intended). And that’s why it’s part of our “Friday Fun” today 🙂

Here’s how this special tournament of books is introduced:

Over at Out of Print Clothing, the purveyor of chic book clothing, they’re holding Book Madness 2012, a bracket of 64 books set to face off, culminating in the champion being crowned April 3rd. Last year, over 41,000 votes were cast and To Kill a Mockingbird was declared king of the classics. This year, the field is focused on 21st-century fiction. You’ll find the entire list below. Which book(s) are you pulling for? Which books are the favorites (can any book prevent a Harry Potter/Hunger Games final?)? Voting has started, so click the link and cast your ballot!

Published in: on March 30, 2012 at 12:10 PM  Leave a Comment  

Books Exploding Out of Buildings

Flavorwire » Enormous Sculptures of Books Exploding Out of Buildings.

It’s Friday, and that means time for the lighter side! We have linked you to the site above (Flavorwire) before for some modest forms of “book art”; but now we can show you some “extreme” forms – like this one. You will be in awe of this display. Here’s the site’s description of it. Click on the link above to see the book art.

There’s book art — many beautiful examples of which are cropping up every day — and then there’s extreme book art. The exhilarating work of Madrid-based artist Alicia Martín clearly falls into the latter category. In her dramatic Biografias series, thousands of books explode out the windows of three buildings, evoking such forces of nature as waterfalls and tornadoes. To us, these massive sculptures symbolize the boundary-busting, life-changing power of literature — but we don’t want to over-think them, either, because they’re also just breathtaking to behold.

Published in: on March 30, 2012 at 12:04 PM  Leave a Comment  

Luther’s “Tabletalk”: “Let us…steadfastly remain by the pure doctrine.”

Time for some vintage Martin Luther today. We continue with quotes from his classic work Tabletalk – excerpts of Luther’s conversations with family, friends, and students at his family table. These are always a Reformation treat – good food for the soul and a smile for Luther’s wit. These selections are also taken from the part treating “Of God’s Works”.



“Since God,” said some one, “Knew that man would not continue in the state of innocence, why did he create him at all?” Dr. Luther laughed, and replied: The Lord, all-powerful and magnificent, saw that he should need in his house, sewers and cesspools; be assured he knows quite well what he is about. Let us keep clear of these abstract questions, and consider the will of God such as it has been revealed unto us.


God is a good and gracious Lord; he will be held for God only and alone, according to the first commandment: “Thou shalt have none other Gods but me.” He desires nothing of us, no taxes, subsidies, money, or goods; he only requires that he may be our God and Father, and therefore he bestows upon us, richly, with an overflowing cup, all manner of spiritual and temporal gifts; but we look not so much as once towards him, nor will have him to be our God.


The wicked and ungodly enjoy the most part of God’s creatures; the tyrants have the greatest power, lands, and people; the usurers the money; the farmers eggs, butter, corn, barley, oats, apples, pears, etc.; while godly Christians must suffer, be persecuted, sit in dungeons, where they can see neither sun nor moon, be thrust out into poverty, be banished, plagued, etc. But things will be better one day; they cannot always remain as now; let us have patience, and steadfastly remain by the pure doctrine, and not fall away from it, notwithstanding all this misery.


Our Lord God and the devil have two modes of policy which agree not together, but are quite opposite the one to the other. God at the first affrights, and afterwards lifts up and comforts again; so that the flesh and the old man should be killed, and the spirit, or new man, live. Whereas the devil makes, at first, people secure and bold, that they, void of all fear, may commit sin and wickedness, and not only remain in sin, but take delight and pleasure therein, and think they have done all well; but at last, when Mr. Stretch-leg comes, then he affrights and scares them without measure, so that they either die of great grief, or else, in the end, are left without all comfort, and despair of God’s grace and mercy.

Libraries and “Cultural Vandalism”

column on New York Public Library research collection | Inside Higher Ed.

This is a great story about what is happening to the great (and small) public libraries in our land and beyond: shipping out books to other places so that more room can be made for the online/digital world – what this author calls “cultural vandalism”. This case involves a prominent New York City library and part of its huge research collection. While I have appreciation for and make use of digital resources online and ebooks every day, I believe this writer is correct in calling this action “criminal”. There are traditional resources in libraries that simply cannot be replaced, nor can all research be done online. To deprive the public of these tools of learning would be detrimental to this and future generations.

Below is the first part of the story and plea; read the rest at the link above or below.


The New York Public Library’s proposed Central Library Plan (CLP) is a case of long-term planning at its most shortsighted. It will effect scholars and writers in both the United States and abroad, and will have a particular impact on some fields of study in which the library has especially important collections, such as Russian literature. And the plan embodies an unreflective approach to the trade-offs between print and digital media that is problematic in the best of cases, but intolerable when it involves a research library.

In short, the CLP needs to be stopped. The stakes are not just local, and I hope readers of this column will do their part in spreading the word, whether they live in the city or on the other side of the planet.

The CLP calls for transferring 3 million volumes from the New York Public Library building on 42nd Street (the one with the lions) to storage facilities in New Jersey so that the space they now occupy can be redesigned to accommodate computers for public use. Not that books will disappear from the 42nd Street branch altogether. It will become a lending library, rather than a research collection that is available to the public but restricted to use within the building.

…Now, I am by no means hostile to e-reading, which certainly has its place. But that place is wherever you happen to be doing it, at the time. The reading possible at the 42nd Street library is far more location-specific. It is a distinct kind of public-intellectual space, where a reader coming from anywhere in the world can sit down with a very copy of a book that Alfred Kazin or M.N. Roy studied there decades ago, and that may never have been removed from the shelf in the meantime.

The links so created are not hyperlinks. And what makes the CLP worrying — beyond its consequences for one research library, however important — is the massive devaluation of “offline reading” it represents. Obviously this is not just a New York problem. A campaign to oppose this tendency is well overdue, and we might as well start now.

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed
Published in: on March 29, 2012 at 12:07 PM  Leave a Comment  

How Do I Read My Bible Better?

With one last quote, we take leave of chapter 8 of Tony Reinke’s new book on reading (Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books; Crossway, 2011). After offering us “20 Tips and Tricks for Reading Nonfiction Books”, he concludes with this final paragraph:

Those twenty tips and tricks are great for reading nonfiction books. Often when I talk about these tricks, there comes a point when someone will say, ‘Yes, thanks for the suggestions, but I want to read my Bible better. How can I do this?’ Great question.

Honestly, I think we read our Bibles poorly because we read all of our nonfiction books poorly. To better read our Bibles, or any nonfiction book, we must work to improve our reading skills. Sharpening our reading skills will improve how we read and how we benefit from all our nonfiction books – including the most important Book of them all.

By pursuing self-discipline and seeking to excel in reading books, we continue to build off our years of foundational reading experience. From learning the ABCs as children to pursuing greater degrees of literacy as adults, we celebrate the amazing miracle we call reading (p.118).

Published in: on March 28, 2012 at 2:04 PM  Leave a Comment  

“Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies”

Sunday night our church’s choir (Faith PRC) gave their annual Spring program, with another beautiful selection of numbers. It included this Charles Wesley hymn, perhaps not so well-known. The arrangement the choir sang was by Dale Grotenhuis, former music professor and director at Dordt College in Sioux Center, IA. While the music is wonderful too, it is the lyrics that make the hymn. These words make for a fitting way to start our day (Notice especially the 2nd stanza.). If you do wish to hear the tune, visit this cyberhymnal page.


Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies

Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only Light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
Triumph o’er the shades of night;
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Day-star, in my heart appear.

Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by Thee;
Joyless is the day’s return
Till Thy mercy’s beams I see;
Till they inward light impart,
Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

Visit then this soul of mine,
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, Radiancy divine,
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more Thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.

– Charles Wesley

What Should You Read?

What Should You Read? « THE CHRISTIAN PUNDIT.

Just posted yesterday (March 26, 2012), the above-linked essay is a thought-provoking article on what Christians should read and why. Written by pastor and professor William VanDoodewaard (Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church/Puritan Reformed Seminary), it contains an in-depth treatment of secular novels and so-called “Christian” novels. While VanDoodewaard argues that Christians may read fictional works, he also provides many good cautions and much good counsel. You may not agree with everything from this post, but his thoughts will at least make you think seriously about what you are reading. And that is a good thing. Remember my little “motto”: “read more, but read better”. I give you a bit of what VanDoodewaard had to say; read the full post at the link above.


What we should read as believers is another question. Every Christian needs to develop what English professors call a critical orientation. What sort of literature should we be putting into our heads? A biblical approach to literature should be a very careful one since novels, plays and poetry engage our minds and emotions. Going into someone else’s mind can be a dangerous thing. Fiction which is fit for Christians to read should be mimetic-pragmatic; accurately reflecting this world, asking the right questions and teaching some truth to readers.

…But Dabney (a Presbyterian theologian he quoted – CJT) points out that the most dangerous aspect about novels is their often covert agendas and the exposure to scenes of sin. Of all such novels, Dabney argues that those calling themselves “Christian” are the worst; they disarm the Christian reader’s criticism while they are often full of social and political liberalism, bad theology and weak characters. In all of this, Dabney is right. This does not mean, though, that Christians cannot read fiction.

Human nature is complex, and though we are surrounded by it, we often do not understand it. Literature helps us in this. A novel records not only characters’ conversations and actions, but their thoughts as well, so that readers can learn about human nature from a gifted author, such as Charles Dickens or George Orwell. In order to accurately reflect this human nature and give readers correct instruction, an author must have a wide experience, but also genius. It is an achievement to understand human character; quite another to be able to write about it with verisimilitude, enabling others to understand it. Works which fail to do this – and that means ninety percent of novels – are simply “casual tales told by casual persons” and have no value for the Christian.

Do we always have to learn from the novels we read, though? Can’t we simply let our minds be entertained? We always learn from what we read. Books are never simply entertainment. They indoctrinate. Either a book will change how you think about an aspect of life, or it will reinforce your worldview. Some authors do not set out to force their ideas onto the public, but almost all of them want to influence their readers and all of them do, because by their very nature, books teach. C. S. Lewis pointed out that “There is nothing in literature which does not, in some degree, percolate into life.”

That is why we have to be so careful that no unbiblical ideas seep into our thinking through the literature that we read. For example, when reading Dickens, Christians must remind themselves that no social action or universal educational programmes will get rid of vice and poverty. Only the gospel can do that. When reading George Eliot remember that your own wisdom and maturation cannot turn your life around. Only Christ can do that.

Can’t an author simply express their own opinions and feelings on a subject in their literature? They can, and they certainly do. But the idea that an author may freely express their subjective views on a topic is relatively new, dating to the nineteenth-century Romantic movement – “a full-scale rebellion against the God of the Bible”. Authors whose novels are simply a vent for their emotions give us no view of reality besides the alternate one that the author creates. Since we always learn from books, Christians should read only books which help us understand this world better, not ones that bog our minds down with an overload of a pagan author’s emotions.