UK law is changing. We would like to place cookies on your computer to help us make this website better. We've always done this (it's how websites work!), but the law now says I must ask your permission first. To find out more about the cookies, see the privacy notice.

I accept cookies from this site

UK Registered Charity 1117093
Company Number 5947088

"Lord, I don't ask that I should win, but please, please don't let me finish behind Akabusi."

Innocent Egbunike's prayer at the 1988 Olympics

Christian or Catholic?

On the 8th day,(A Catholic theology of sport), Matt Moven, JJ Carney, Max T Engel, Eugene, Cascade Books (Wifp and Stock), 2022.

While the sub-title of the book is “A Catholic theology of sport”, much of content would fit equally under a little of “Christian theology of sport”.

When sentences include both the word Catholic and the word Christian, I was at times unclear if the authors were making a distinction between Catholics and other Christians or for stylistic reasons or using Christian to avoid repeating Catholic. Examples of this include:
“Among the many virtues, seven stand out in the Catholic tradition…theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, which for Christians are believed to perfect the cardinal virtues” (Page 133)
“a virtuous life is fostered in the light of the Catholic moral tradition…it is important that Christians help shape sporting organizations” (Page144)
“we have examined sport in the context of the Catholic social tradition. The Christian gospel has deeply social ramifications” (Page165)

Equally when they use the formula: “The Christian and Catholic response” (Page 90) or “Christians and Catholics unite their lives with Jesus” (Page 92) or even “Catholics, Christians, and other people of good-will live out these social virtues in their daily lives” (Page 149), I am left wondering if they are making a subtle difference between Catholics and other Christians. Page 102 is a confusing page with three references to Catholic and seven to Christian!

The distinctively Catholic perspectives of the book would include Chapter 1 “From Saint Paul to Pope Francis – Sport in Catholic history”, which concludes that there had historically been a positive attitude toward sport that could be traced throughout the historical Catholic tradition. In contrast (though not stated in the book) the influence of the Puritans on protestants often led to a view that sport was sinful and inappropriate for Christians.

Another distinctly Catholic dimension would be the quotations from Popes which from a Catholic perspective are seen as authoritative in a way that no human would be in the protestant tradition. On the subject of Popes, I was bemused by the reference (page 149) to “Catholic popes”. Weren’t all Popes Catholic? The sacramental perspective outlined in chapter three would be another example of Catholic doctrine which would not be familiar to, at “low-church”, protestants.

There is a reference on Page 91 to adult baptism, very familiar to Baptists and others, yet, as I understand it, not practised by Catholics. The full quote is: “Consider the ritual symbol of adult baptism: one is submerged underwater and ritually enters Christ’s death to then emerge, dripping wet, reborn into new life with Christ”.

There is one place where the authors make a distinction between Catholic and protestant belief: “For the Christian, then, the proper eschatological attitude is one of hope… This Catholic perspective of uncertain hope contrasts with the salvific certitude that can emanate from some (if by no means all) Protestant and Pentecostal circles, as reflected in the title of the classic Evangelical hymn, ‘Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine’. This contrast between hope and certainty reflects the Catholic conviction that people are free, not compelled, to love God and their neighbor”. (Page 168)

However, I am 100% with Chad Carlson of Hope College, quoted on the back cover, in his view: “This is a groundbreaking, book, standard reading for anyone interested in sports and Christianity – whether Catholic or not”.

Weekly sports email

Leave your email address if you wish to receive Stuart's weekly sports email: