The Monday feature of the Worldly Saints blog focuses on a story from the sports world – current or historic. The point is to recognize athletes who are using their sports and athletic abilities to further the kingdom of God or to show how some athletes or teams are wasting their days by not giving God the glory.
Just a few short days ago, Houston Texans’ running back Arian Foster declared himself to be an atheist. According to a 2015 Pew Religious Landscape survey, about 20% of Americans claim to have no religious affiliation. So is it a “that big of a deal” that a professional football player is saying he is one of the 20%?
#1 – Foster plays for a team in a very conservative state – Texas. He plays for a team in a state that might label their priorities like this “God, country, family, guns.” Even though the Houston and Austin areas tend to be more liberal than other parts of the state, to declare yourself an atheist in an historically moralistic (and Christian) part of our country is provocative, to say the least.
#2 – The NFL is more known for it’s toleration and allowance of freedom of religious practice than it’s denial of God. Examples – Tim Tebow praying in the end zone, the John 3:16 sign, players taping Bible verses on their uniforms or under their eyes, post-game interviews of acknowledging God’s presence, etc.
Here is what Foster said in a recent interview with ESPN: The Magazine –
“Everybody always says the same thing: You have to have faith. That’s my whole thing: Faith isn’t enough for me. For people who are struggling with that, they’re nervous about telling their families or afraid of the backlash … man, don’t be afraid to be you. I was, for years.
“I get the devil-worship thing a lot. They’ll ask me, ‘You worship the devil?’
“‘No, bro, I don’t believe there’s a God, why would I believe there’s a devil?’ There’s a lot of ignorance about nonbelief. I don’t mean a negative connotation of ignorance. I just mean a lack of understanding, a lack of knowledge, lack of exposure to people like me.”
It’s too bad that Foster thinks his athletic abilities are not given by a Creator. It’s unfortunate that he thinks that all of his accomplishments and money made has been from his own doing and not the sovereignty of God.
But Foster is not unique. He is like every other atheist in America. He goes through life every day not aware of how involved God really is in our lives.
If I had an opportunity to talk to Foster today, I would share these words from Jonathan Edwards, who also doubted God’s sovereignty:
“From my childhood up, my mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, in choosing whom he would to eternal life; and rejecting whom he pleased; leaving them eternally to perish, and be everlastingly tormented in hell. It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me. But I remember the time very well when I seemed to be convinced, and fully satisfied, as to this sovereignty of God, and his justice in thus eternally disposing of men, according to his sovereign pleasure. But never could give an account of how, or by what means, I was thus convinced, not in the least imagining at the time, nor a long time after, that there was any extraordinary influence of God’s spirit in it; but only that now I saw further, and my reason apprehended the justice and reasonableness of it. However, my mind rested on it; and it put an end to all those cavil and objections. And there has been a wonderful alteration in my mind, with respect to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, from that day to this; so that I scarce ever have found so much as the rising of an objection against it, in the most absolute sense, in God showing mercy to whom he will show mercy, and hardening whom he will. God’s absolute sovereignty and justice, with respect to salvation and damnation, is what my mind seems to rest assured of, as much as of any thing that I see with my eyes; at least it is so at times. But I have often, since that first conviction, had quite another kind of sense of God’s sovereignty than I had then. I have often since had not only a conviction, but a delightful conviction. The doctrine has very often appeared exceedingly pleasant, bright, and sweet. Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God. But my first conviction was not so.”
Let’s pray that Foster find the Lord Jesus Christ!