Sport is a major preoccupation of the modern world. It consumes the time and energies of millions of people around the globe. In fact, for many participants, it operates much like a functional equivalent of religion, giving them a way to interpret and understand the world. Sports stadiums are the cathedrals of our time. Sports stars are the saints or demi-gods through whom we access the transcendent. Members of the sports media serve as religious scribes, and sports fans are the worshiping faithful. What is true of sport is also true, more generally, of play. Nevertheless, and quite remarkably, Christian theologians and religious historians have been surprisingly slow to recognize the spiritual and cultural significance of sport and play, or to engage in the study of these concepts. This book attempts to redress that neglect by integrating sport and play with Christian faith and practice. In Sports and Play in Christian Theology, ten Christian scholars and practitioners explore sport and play from theological, biblical, historical, and pastoral perspectives. This rich collection of wide-ranging reflections and focused case studies will help readers locate sport and play within Christian faith and practice.
John Tucker is principal of Carey Baptist College, where he teaches in church history and homiletics.
Philip Halstead lectures in applied theology with a specialty in pastoral care and counseling at Carey Baptist College and Carey Graduate School.
1. “We Played the Flute for You and You did not Dance”: A Theology of Play Myk Habets
2. Sporting Identities: What We Play, and Who We Think We Are Robert Ellis
3. Child’s Play in the New Testament Sarah Harris
4. Identity Formation as an Antecedent to the Practice of Sports Chaplaincy Steven N. Waller
5. Sacred Pilgrimage in Playful, Digital Spaces Stephen Garner
6. An Enemy to be Fought or a Tool to be Used? Baptists and Sport in New Zealand John Tucker
7. Sport and the Bible Class Movement Peter Lineham
8. The Role of Sports Chaplains in Australia B. Grant Stewart
9. The Winter Game in the Autumn Season: An Exploration of Motivations, Masculinity, and Faith among Older Christian Male Rugby Players in Aotearoa-New Zealand Simon Moetara
10. Helping Churchgoers to Develop a Healthy Relationship with Sport: Pastoral Stories from the Hospital Wards, the Slow Lane, and the Mountain Tops Philip Halstead
Until I read this book, I failed to appreciate what a gift God has given us in the gift of amusement, play, and sport. God has created us not only as rational, creative creatures but also as Homo Ludens. This is the best treatment we have on a Christian theology of play, a serious, biblical, vibrantly theological exploration of a joyful human inclination that is a divine gift. Here’s a serious theology of fun that is such fun to read.
This is a delightful collection of papers exploring sport and play from a biblical, theological, and historical perspective. Many important matters bubble to the surface – identity, nationalism, competition, childhood, winning, losing, excellence, and “the other”, being a few. The contributions work well together and build a deep and joyful understanding of what it means to be human, while suggesting insightful contours for a flourishing life. This is a book to savor, enjoy and re-read.
My writing on the Sabbath draws on the significance of play in a Christian understanding of rest, joy, beauty, and identity. I am delighted that the authors of Sports and Play in Christian Theology go even further in describing the role of play in a faithful and fruitful life. Adding sports into their analysis highlights the important components of teamwork, courage, and physical fitness. In an era when recreation often devolves into mindless entertainment, this volume helps Christians understand what we have to offer to the world – and to our faith communities – by teaching and living out the value of stopping work for the sake of nurturing the soul through play.
Play is inherent to the very nature of humans (and some animals). Organized sports are of more recent, though still ancient, origin. Both feature in cultures across the world and, as such are unarguably fitting subjects for theological reflection. These essays contribute new perspectives to that reflection. In particular, they bring the South Pacific experience into the conversation. Intriguing insights into theological and biblical aspects of play and identity are balanced by studies of the ways churches have engaged, supported, or challenged sport in Australasia. This is a fresh and significant contribution to and important theological dialogue.
It is surprising, given the prominence of sport in shaping identity and generating communities of allegiance and opposition throughout the world, that there has been little theological reflection on human sporting activity. Here at last is a book that engages seriously with the phenomenon of sport and play, biblically, historically, and theologically. What is offered here is a rich and stimulating series of essays that help us to think afresh about why sport matters so much and how it shapes our lives. It is a great read for sports lovers and for those who may be baffled by sport’s enduring popularity.