Jason Collins and Tim Tebow: Lessons in Being True to Yourself

On Monday, two stories captivated the sports world: pro basketball player Jason Collins came out as gay, and the outspoken Christian quarterback Tim Tebow was cut from the New York Jets. 

One man belatedly discovered the value in being true to himself, the other has been true to himself all along.” read more…

Both men are claiming to be true to self, but who each is, is a different matter: one came out as gay while the other has always remained an outspoken evangelical Christian despite his many critics.

In light of Jason Collins coming out as gay, ESPN Chris Broussard, a committed evangelical Christians said that Collins’ revelation “is an open rebellion to God.”

For the world, being true to oneself is one thing while for the Christian being true to oneself is quite another.  In the wisdom of the world, being true to self is often “opening rebellion to God.”  For the world’s wisdom, which is not from above, is “earthly, unspiritual, and demonic” (James 3:15).

But the wisdom from above is first pure… (James 3:17ff).

And in being true to oneself as an outspoken Christian, the follower of Jesus must not be surprised at the fiery trials that awaits him or her.

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44 Responses to Jason Collins and Tim Tebow: Lessons in Being True to Yourself

  1. Simon says:

    I wonder about language calling sin “rebellion against God” etc. What sin actually means is to miss the mark, to fall short of what we are created for. St Paul says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It is not simply a legal or forensic matter that we need to be punished for. It is going from true existence to non-existence. Sin is a movement toward death. Sin and righteousness and justification are not legal categories in the Bible. They are ontological realities. Our salvation must be experienced ontologically – I mean it seems redundant to say this. Salvation, I fear, for evangelicals is a legal fiction. Then this is separated from the process of sanctification. But to me it appears that sanctification simply means moral improvement for evangelicals. And because it is not considered part of salvation, it can easily be marginalised or explained away. What salvation is not for evangelicals, is participation in the life of the Trinity. Everything is forensic. Salvation and justification are “imputed”. We are not truly baptised into Christ’s death and resurrection, it is just a symbol of our entry into some ecclesial body (and more often than not these days, just an ordinance to confirm our relationship with Christ or something, performed by pastors who have no Church affiliation apart from their own set up).

    This forensic approach to everything in the Christian life is the reason for these culture wars. It seems that the ability of conservative evangelicals to empathise with those who are different from them is diminished by their rigidly forensic theology. I do think homosexuality is a sin and contrary to true human existence. But I would never use a phrase like that ESPN dude used. Evangelical America is in a sad state I’m afraid. The Reformed simply add fuel to the cultures. One thing they fail to realise is that if you go back to the stifling conservatism of the 50s, you’ll always get the 60s and 70s. If you take us back to the late medieval period, the Enlightenment and liberalism will always follow.

    One of the reasons that I am drawn to the truly catholic Communions is that they are able to transcend these culture wars, maintain the integrity of the faith whilst being truly compassionate. The truly catholic faith is intelligent enough to withstand the cultural winds that blow, confident enough to affirm the best of each culture without compromising the faith. This is the difference between the truly catholic traditions (RC, EOC, Oriental Orthodox, Anglo Catholic) over against the stiffling conservatism of Reformed Protestantism and the doctrinal compromises of liberal Protestantism.

    • TC says:

      Simon, I admire your passion for biblical truths. But along the way, you tend to misrepresent those you often disagree with. (1) After all that has been said about the “righteousness of God,” I fail to see how you cannot understand it as a legal matter. (2) While I agree that some Protestants have muddled the matter of justification and sanctification, this surely is not the case for all. Again, I find your war against “imputation” somewhat dumfounding. Must we examine St. Paul here?

      I’m afraid that I cannot completely agree with your assessment of sin. Yes, it is missing the mark; yes, it is falling short of the glory of God. But it is in our very nature to rebel against a holy God, and that is exactly what sin is. Are we back to King Saul (1 Sam. 15) and President Clinton?

  2. Jon Hughes says:

    TC,

    I wish that we wouldn’t always take the bait as evangelicals in this way. It’s the same here in the U.K., where our responses to every (ubiquitous) story concerning gays and lesbians simply reinforces the (mis)impression that we’ve got nothing better to do than react in a threatened, homophobic manner.

    We don’t seem anywhere near as concerned to deal with our very own sins of adultery, gossip, gluttony and covetousness – all alive and well within Western evangelicalism, I’m sure you’d agree.

    I just think that we need to be ‘wise as serpents’ in how we deal with the above. Otherwise we are not doing ourselves any favours at all.

    • TC says:

      Jon, I understand. But we’re talking about the very fabric of our society here. This is no small matter like overeating. I’m reminded of Paul’s harsh words in Romans 1.

      • Jon Hughes says:

        TC,

        I agree that it reflects a society that has turned from God, a serious matter.

        But ‘supersize me’ evangelicals eating popcorn and cheeseburgers while they await the Rapture, when there’s work to be done for the Kingdom – and many of their brethren around the world going very much WITHOUT – is surely not a “small matter”, either, as far as God is concerned.

  3. TC says:

    Jon, Rapturists is only a fraction of evangelical Christians in American. There are many like me who are nonrapturists and who do care about the Kingdom work here and now. But I do agree that much of our response is reactionary.

  4. Simon says:

    TC, Happy to examine St Paul. However, I do find NT Wright convincing on the Pauline corpus – so you can see where I am leaning here.

    If homosexuality is detrimental to the fabric of our society and the institution of marriage, then so is divorce – probably to a far greater degree. Yet I don’t see any where near the outrage and condemnation towards this. To me it’s crystal clear. The animosity, and sometimes hatred, homosexuals receive from fundamentalist Christians is more a reflection of their prejudice and fear than their commitment to “biblical truth”. The answer is not to go the way of liberal Protestantism I agree. But, equally, the typical reactionary responses from fundamentalists is not the way to deal with this issue.

    The problem is the kind of secular society we live in. This is a worldview problem. The thing that evangelicals can’t realise is that the secular Western society we have created for ourselves is largely rooted in the Reformation, in my opinion anyway. All authority, whether ecclesial or state, is weakened. Individualism reigns supreme. No where have these principles played out most fully than in the US. And when you have the kind of worldview, which assumes from the start, that each individual has a right to do whatever he/she wants, then how can we make the case that homosexual activity is wrong or socially detrimental etc. There is no obligation on anyone to keep the tenets of any religion. This is the kind of society we have created for ourselves in the West. In New Zealand you now have conservative politians making very witty, cogent and logical arguments in favour of gay marriage. Well, when you kick the Church out of politics (as we have done in the West – taking after the US Constitution, despite misguided and desperate attempts by evangelicals to show that that document is based on God), you absolutely cut away the basis for using faith to govern societal norms. Here is the speech by that politian from New Zealand. I’m sure you’ll agree that his arguments are logical given our secular worldview.

    • TC says:

      Simon, I appreciate your reasoned response. (1) Yes, it is indeed a worldview problem. (2) And too bad “fundamentalists” are reactionary. But please don’t continue to make the mistake of lumping everyone together.

      (3) You cited NT Wright on Paul, and rightfully so. Then correct your generalizations. 😉 (4) I understand the minister’s rhetoric, but I don’t think I agree with the implications, somewhat mocking conservative Christians (unless I misunderstood him).

      (5) Regarding the “righteousness of God” we both know what is at stake him. (6) I do agree with your assessment of salvation and sanctification. And if you’ve read the magisterial reformers, you would not see this divorce.

      • Simon says:

        @ (3) Yes i believe he is mocking conservative Christians. But this is the nature of the debate these days – i.e. ultra polemical (though I do think he was being light hearted). Both sides engage in this. Conservative evangelicals engage in this as much as anyone. I guess we all do to some extent – it is the culture we live in

        @ (5) But the magesterial Reformers developed these very distinct categories and most definitely excluded sanctification as the basis for our justification and salvation. As Wright argues, they were products of their time, finding answers to questions that Paul was not addressing.

  5. Simon says:

    TC, (1) I understand the “righteousness of God” as a legal metaphor, not a legal matter. There is a big difference here.

    Again (2) when sanctification is divorced from our salvation, confusion necessarily ensues. Not an intellectual confusion. Protestants explain these categories and how they theoretically play out quite logically. But confusion as to how we live out our lives – even confusion as to our salvation. It’s a practical matter.

  6. TC says:

    Simon, it has been demonstrated by a few scholars that NT Wright has gotten this wrong. For example, in his Institutes, Calvin never made such a distinction. But rather, understood them as a whole. I believe you need to rethink this matter.

    • Simon says:

      TC, Perhaps I do need rethink this. So are you saying that Calvin’s theology says sanctification is a necessary part of our salvation? I.e. similar to theosis in Athanasius?

      • TC says:

        Simon, yes, it’s an issue that Calvin dealt with, “justification and sanctification.” See Bk 3.16.1. It couldn’t be clearer, my friend. 😉

  7. Simon says:

    I’ll have a read. But, to be clear, is he is saying that sanctification must be present for salvation? Come to think of it, I have heard that Calvin does treat sanctifiction this way. The other doctrine we must repudiate is righteousness by faith alone or sola fide, which is a Calvinist doctrine. All these categories get confused. Further this is often labelled as “the Gospel” by Reformed. I think this is where Wright’s critique of the Reformers is accurate.

    • Jon Hughes says:

      Simon,

      I’m reminded that the only time we find the words “faith” and “alone” together in Scripture is in James 2:24, where it reads that a man is justified by works and NOT by faith alone.

      An inconvenient truth for Reformed believers??

    • TC says:

      Referring to justification and sanctification, In Calvin’s words, “Though we distinguish between them, they are both inseparably comprehended in Christ… But you cannot possess him without being made a partaker of his sanctification: for Christ cannot be divided…”

      We do not need to repudiate sola fide. You may, but I do not need to, for it is Scripture. Please, remind me of Wright’s critique of the Reformers here.

  8. Simon says:

    TC, I think that distinction Calvin is talking about is what I was talking about in my criticism of Reformed theology. I always knew the Reformed upheld that those who are justified must also become sanctified. The way this plays out in our lives for the Reformed is very different. Emphasis is on justification – a discrete point in time. Sanctification is less vivid for the Reformed. I think what the Church has been saying since before the Reformation is that our justification as well as our sanctification are continually being worked out – by the Grace of the Holy Spirit for sure. But justification is dynamic as opposed to static. Well might Calvin say that the two belong together. But if this is the case, and justification is an event at some point in time that is necessarily followed by sanctification, how can one ever be sure of one’s justification? Particularly when we doubt and fall into sin from time to time. At what point in time do we cease to be totally depraved and how would we know? I’m not sure there is an answer to this.

    The Church deals with these problems through the liturgy, the sacraments, and prayers and confession and so on. The Reformed, I fear, do not provide their faithful with the framework with which to deal with actual life. It’s all about following a book (not necessarily Christ – because an idol can be made even of the Bible), everything is forensic and outside of ourselves. What about the deep and real wounds that actually have to be healed if we indeed are to be transformed into the image of Christ? It is the practicality of our Christian journey that the Reformed can’t deal with in my opinion. I mean, we are embodied beings. We need people to talk to and be accountable to. Confessing my sins to God whilst in bed at 2am in the morning may be therapeutic for a while. But I do need to talk to someone who is wiser than me and who can give me advice on how to overcome my sins because I actually need to! This is what confession is. It is not the priest pretending that he is Jesus or something like that. We all need this and what the Church is saying is that the complete life of the Church, because she is the mystical body of Christ – Christ being the head, is salvific, is our justification, points us towards sanctification and glorification. Precisely because participation in the Church is literally participation in the life of God in some mystical sense. Because our goal is to be united with Christ, to be transformed into his image. This is an ontological thing. It is not an imputed or forensic or legal thing. And only an ontological approach can really bring God’s Kingdom on earth as in heaven. So this affects missions and just about every other aspect of our Christian lives.

    Wright, in his own side-stepping way, does not take sola fide head on. He is the epitome of the Anglican “via media” approach (this is my main criticism of him). But to be sure, his work on righteousness by faith in Paul does pose serious questions to the Reformation doctrine of sola fide.

    Yes Jon that is indeed a inconvenient truth. Luther wanted to throw James out until he found a suitable interpretation.

    • Jon Hughes says:

      @ Simon: “But if this is the case, and justification is an event at some point in time that is necessarily followed by sanctification, how can one ever be sure of one’s justification?”

      This seems to have indeed been a problem for the Puritans. Many of them were overly introspective and lacked assurance for the very reason you articulate above.

      • TC says:

        Jon, I just did a review of “Life of John Calvin.” Calvin died in calm and peace. He looked forward to it – unwavering assurance is unmistakable.

  9. TC says:

    Simon, (1) for Calvin both justification and sanctification are in Christ and received at that same time, though worked out differently. No need to miss this in Calvin. (2) For Calvin and others, no need to worry about one’s salvation, since such is secured by Christ and sealed by the Spirit.

    (4) Now you need to read Book 4 of the Institutes to correct your misgivings about the Reformed and the place of the sacraments and so on. But I noticed that you have a different notion of the Church, excluding the Reformed from such. I dare not do such a thing, though I differ with you.

    (5) NT Wright is not above criticism in his reading of justification in Paul. (6) Ah! But I hold to the priesthood of all believers, a doctrine recovered by the Reformers.

  10. Simon says:

    (1) Ok you’ve convinced me to read the Institutes thoroughly 🙂 don’t know where i’ll get the time tho!

    (2) Yes I know about the perseverence of the saints and all that. But practically speaking (as opposed to an intellectual exercise), I just don’t think this certainty plays out the way it does in Calvinist theory. How can we be certain all the time about anything – including our salvation? Even St Paul (I believe) writing to the Hebrews recognises and warns against this.

    (3) You skipped three and went straight to (4)!!

    (4) see (1), but I do think Calvin departs from what is apostolic teaching in a number of areas. Including the sacraments. Having said that, I am basing this mostly on what I see from his modern day disciples. I didn’t exclude the Reformed from the Church, the RCC did! And the Reformers did likewise – the Pope being anti-Christ and the synogogue of Satan stuff you find even in the magesterial Reformers clearly demonstrates the mutual excommunication. The EOC also considers Protestants and RCC as not part of the true Church. What I would never do, and this seems to be a penchant of the Reformed, is to speculate as to the salvation of any particular individual. I would never say that a Reformed is not Christian . Again, it seems that many Reformed think that Catholics are not Christian – even supposedly responsible ones like Sproul, who has said that Catholicism is a different religion.

    (5) I agree he’s not above criticism… via media of Anglicanism is unfortunately one of his downfalls.

    (6) Priesthood of all believers does not mean “me, myself and my Bible”. It does not mean that there can’t be any clergy called “priests”. The ordained priests leads the priesthood of all believers in worship. This notion that Luther started has led to many unlearned who twist and distort the Scriptures as Peter warned us. I know, because I once was one of those unlearned men who presumed to be able to teach!!

  11. TC says:

    (1) Make the time to read this great work. 🙂 (2) I don’t know about others, but it’s not just an intellectual exercise or a theory for me. No, sir! I’m fully convinced of both its theological and pastoral import. Here I stand. I can do no other, ala Luther. (3) I’m glad we cleared up who belong to the church and who don’t, of course I’m being facetious here. The Reformers are not without faults and errors. That we both know.

    (4) what you call ordained priests I call something else in my tradition.

    (5) And yes, I’m aware of how contemporary Calvinists have framed the debate, if you will – not often helpful at times. But alas, we must press on.

    Perhaps we both think there are areas that Calvin and others have departed from apostolic teachings. But what are those areas, may I ask?

  12. Jon Hughes says:

    TC,

    I was referring to the Puritans, not John Calvin. I didn’t know that Calvin died in peace. What I do know is that he had Michael Servetus murdered, lame attempts to excuse him as a man of his time notwithstanding. One of Servetus’s ‘crimes’ was to believe in believer’s baptism, like you and I do.

    Have a read of Standford Rives on the subject:

    http://www.amazon.com/Calvin-Murder-Servetus-Stanford-Rives/dp/1439208689/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1367596209&sr=8-1&keywords=did+calvin+murder+servetus

    • TC says:

      Jon, I only referenced Calvin because like the Puritans, he too sought to lead a disciplined life. Regarding the death of Servetus and Calvin’s involvement, that’s quite another discussion. And I’m puzzled by your reference to Servetus’ death in this context.

      • Jon Hughes says:

        I referred to Servetus’s murder “in this context” because of Calvin’s involvement in it, and the irony of being informed that Calvin himself died in peace.

  13. TC says:

    Jon, thanks for the clarification. The burning of heretics was a product of the time. Even Servetus wanted Calvin killed. And this is why Calvin could die in peace.

  14. Jon Hughes says:

    Where did you get the notion that Servetus wanted Calvin killed?

  15. TC says:

    Jon, I don’t know what to say here. I’m sure the author has done his research. I’ve read where others have quoted directly from Calvin on the matter. But I shall check out your excerpt.

  16. Jon Hughes says:

    TC,

    I realise this has nothing to do with your original post, so just briefly:

    Michael Servetus was a brilliant man in multiple disciplines. He effectively described blood circulation in the human body, was an accomplished geographer, taught geography and mathematics at the Sorbonne, having initially studied law and theology.

    An impulsive and explosive man, he was not a violent man (not sure where you got the notion that he wanted Calvin killed). He was a renaissance man, ahead of his time, believing in freedom of conscience and religion – something the Reformers all should have believed in after breaking from the tyranny of Roman Catholicism.

    Calvin., meanwhile, made it clear in an early edition of his Institutes that heretics should certainly not be executed. Something changed. His personal correspondence with Servetus so got under his skin that he said seven years before Servetus’s murder:

    “If he [Servetus] comes [to Geneva], I shall never let him go out alive if my authority has weight.”

    After Servetus’s death, Calvin could say the following:

    “Honour, glory, and riches shall be the reward of your pains; but above all, do not fail to rid the country of those scoundrels [Anabaptists and others] , who stir up the peoples to revolt against us. Such monsters should be exterminated, as I have exterminated Michael Servetus the Spaniard.”

    This is not the heart attitude and actions of a Christ-follower. If you ever have the inclination to read beyond the Calvin apologists, you will be shocked by what you discover.

  17. TC says:

    Jon, I understand. I’m no Calvin apologist. However, I do have quotes to the contrary – so it becomes a matter of who said what, and I don’t think either of us wants that. I sure don’t. For example, one of my sources said Servetus wanted Calvin killed, quoting Servetus along the way. So you get my point.

  18. Simon says:

    TC, Calvin’s departures from apostolic teaching include iconoclasm. Also his teaching on predestination and depravity (the former of which comes very close to Gnosticism)

    Jon and TC, even if Michael Servetus also wanted Calvin executed, this doesn’t excuse Calvin’s actions. But what is striking is that Calvin, like his Roman Catholic adversaries, also had to violently and coercively impose his theology on his subjects. Luther did the same to the anabaptists. The magesterial Reformers persecuted those who disagreed with them. They quickly realised that what they had started was getting out of control. And they wanted to take control back. That is why you here American evangelicals sometimes say “the Reformers stopped reforming”. As if there was a continuum of getting rid of manmade tradition going from the RCC and one end of the spectrum to the magesterial Reformers and finally ending with the most pure radical Reformers like the anabaptists.

  19. TC says:

    Simon, yes, but Calvin’s “departures” from teaching on predestination and depravity is simply a matter of perspective.

    Yes, and there’s the shame of the Reformation.

  20. Jon Hughes says:

    Simon and TC,

    Look, I’m doing a lot of reading on this very subject at the moment, and it strikes me as irresponsible for Calvin apologists to glibly counter with the notion that Servetus also wanted Calvin killed. He was ahead of his time, a champion of freedom of conscience and religion, holding this to be a firm principle of the Protestant Reformation. He was also an intellectual equal to Calvin, but his detractors merely portray him as a trouble maker. He had extensive correspondence with Calvin concerning theological issues over a number of years, and it seems that Calvin didn’t like his theology being challenged so vigorously.

    Let’s be clear. Calvin wanted Servetus dead years before Servetus’s fateful trip to Geneva. And Calvin took pride in his “extermination” of Servetus years after his death as well.

    Calvin was very much involved in Servetus’s murder, as is documented in the book mentioned above. It’s vitally important even for those who admire Calvin’s theology to recognize this.

    Final (provocative) thought. If God predestines the lost to damnation for His glory, as Calvin taught, then surely Calvin was merely speeding things along a bit in his treatment of this particular ‘heretic’.

    See the following link for a woeful panel discussion on Servetus:

    Most of the panelists are speaking with very little informed knowledge of Michael Servetus’s story. One of them got so confused that he quoted Servetus’s last words as he burned as being, “Jesus, eternal Son of God, have mercy on me.” That wouldn’t even have made him a heretic!

    His actual dying words were, “Jesus, Son of the eternal God, have mercy on me.” I for one hope to see him in heaven. For the record, Servetus believed that Jesus was the eternal Word, but not the eternal Son. I seem to recall that John MacArthur taught something similar twenty odd years ago.

    TC, never forget that it was his espousal of believer’s baptism that got Servetus into as much trouble as anything. In this regard, he is our forebear. A great man. Remember him.

    • TC says:

      Jon, thanks for this. (1) As I said, I’m not Calvin apologist. But I can only say that I’ve read admirers and critics of Calvin and have had mixed views on his involvement with the burning of Servetus. (2) As I also said, one book I read recently quotes Servetus as wanting Calvin killed. I mean, who is correct in all this?

      (3) Servetus was anti-trinitarian. There’s no doubt about that. Yes, but MacArthur has changed his position on that.

      (4) I’ve viewed that video before and was not impressed with it, either.

      (5) Well, I’m glad that he got believer’s baptism right.

      • Jon Hughes says:

        TC,

        Actually, Michael Servetus could best be described as a highly unorthodox Trinitarian. He was neither an Arian, nor an early Unitarian. Even modern Unitarians acknowledge this:

        http://www25.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/michaelservetus.html

        It is sad but true to discover that Unitarians are far more objective than Reformed brethren on this issue – they are honest enough not to claim him as their own (which they could easily do) but rather acknowledge his high Christology. I’ve bought into the anti-Servetus spiel in the past, and am beginning to wonder about what other issues Reformed ‘gatekeepers’ have pulled the wool over my eyes.

        Sadly, Calvin pushed for the execution and rejoiced in the “extermination” of the first European to correctly describe the function of pulmonary circulation. It was wicked beyond excuse. By the way, we only know this because of three surviving copies of Servetus’s theological treatise, “Christianismi Restitutio”, that survived burning. Incredibly, this medical discovery was articulated in a theological work!

        Michael Servetus was an all round genius and free-thinking theologian. I imagine he would have had a terrific blog, had he lived in our time.

  21. TC says:

    Jon, I’m not ant-Servetus at all. Rather, I’m only making my statements on what I’ve read. Like you, this might change with more objective information. And if Calvin was as involved as you insist, then so be it. As I said, I’m no Calvin apologist or scholar.

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