There was a poll released last year by the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service that concluded that 1 out of 4 Americans believe that God divinely intervenes in the game to determine the winner of the Super Bowl. According to this same study, more than half of American sports fans also believe that God rewards those athletes with wins for their own faithfulness and obedience to Him.
So does God “will” certain teams to victory and others teams to defeat? Does God “will” a certain athlete to throw the game winning TD pass if he is an obedient Christian? If God cares about the sparrow (Matt 10:29-31), does He care about the outcome of a sporting event?
Let’s think about what the Scripture says.
God is always accomplishing things that work according to His will (Eph 1:11). And Paul says he accomplished “all things according to His will.” He is continually working towards this end. No purpose of God can ever be thwarted (Job 42:2).
Theologians separate the will of God into 3 categories: decretive will, perceptive will and permissive will.
- God’s decretive will is when He decrees something to occur (Rom 9:19). Isaiah 14:24 says that God’s plans will stand and He intends certain things to happen. Anything God decrees WILL happen.
- God’s perceptive will is what God’s will is for mankind. Some call this His prescriptive will. For example, God wills that we do not sin and, instead, be holy (I Pet 1:16). It is His will that we not be conformed to the world (Rom 12:2). What makes His perceptive will different from His decretive will is that we do sin and we can be worldly. It is His will that we don’t, but because He allows us to have free will, we won’t always live according to His perceptive will.
- God’s permissive will is the idea that God allows things to happen that He did not cause. The best example of this is evil. He allows evil to occur, but He didn’t decree it. He allows it to function under His sovereignty. One example of evil having to function under God’s sovereignty is the story of the demons possessing the pigs in Luke 8. The demons had to ask permission of God to possess the swine (Luke 8:32).
So back to our question about sporting events: has God decreed the winner of the Super Bowl?
My answer is “No. I don’t believe God chooses a winner of the Super Bowl and then makes that team win.”
To conclude such a thing, is to embrace fatalism. Fatalism does not allow for free will. A fatalist might say, “God knows everything. And since He knows everything, He knows what you will eat for breakfast tomorrows. So you MUST eat what He says you will eat.” Fatalists reject the idea that God allows us free will.
The problem is this: fatalism is not Scriptural. God knows what you will choose but He doesn’t force you to choose it. Humans have free will (John 5:40; 15:16). We are commanded to choose who we will serve (Josh 24:15).
Does God know if the Panthers or Broncos will win on Sunday? Yes, absolutely He does. He knows the end from the beginning (Isa 46:10).
Has He determined or decreed which team will win? I don’t believe He has. He will allow the freedom of choice to be exercised by every player on that football field and the winner will be determined not by the decree of God but by whomever scores the most points.