Tom Krattenmaker has taken a whack at Tim Tebow in a recent article for USA Today. He complains that Tebow’s conservative Christianity has afflicted sports culture in general:
“Jesus’ representatives in sports aren’t just practicing faith. They are also leveraging sports’ popularity to promote a message and doctrine that are out of sync with the diverse communities that support franchises, and with the unifying civic role that we expect of our teams.”
The problem, Krattenmaker argues, is that Tebow’s brand of religion is too narrow and exclusive for pluralistic American sports fans.
“Tebow does his missionary trips to the Philippines under the auspices of his father’s Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association. The Tebow organization espouses a far-right theology. Its bottom line: Only those who assent to its version of Christianity will avoid eternal punishment. The ministry boldly declares, ‘We reject the modern ecumenical movement.’ . . . The Bob Tebow organization is working at cross purposes with the majority of Americans â€” indeed, the majority of American Christians â€” and their more generous conception of salvation.”
Krattenmaker also alleges that Tebow’s Christianity is abusive to non-Christians:
“This exclusiveness sometimes morphs into a form of chauvinism and mistreatment of non-Christians. Witness the incident with the Washington Nationals baseball team in 2005, when the Christian chaplain was exposed as teaching that Jews go to hell. Then there was the New Mexico state football team, which was the target of a religious discrimination lawsuit in 2006 after two Muslim players reported being labeled ‘troublemakers’ and were kicked off the team by their devoutly Christian coach. The case was settled out of court and the students transferred.”
What are we to make of Krattenmaker’s charges? Are Krattenmaker’s complaints valid? In short, the answer is no. Here’s why.
Tim Tebow didn’t invent the idea that Jesus is the only basis for eternal salvation. That idea is the 2,000 year old teaching of the Christian church. Jesus himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). The apostles taught this as well saying that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Tebow is no innovator on this point. He’s merely holding forth the ancient faith in hopes that others might come to Christ. If that’s too narrow, then so be it. Culture may change, but the gospel doesn’t. Faithful Christians must never trim their theological sails to accommodate the prevailing winds of a godless culture.
That is what makes Krattenmaker’s examples of “mistreatment” appear pretty lame. The Christian message is not that “Jews go to hell,” but that everyone apart from Christ will go thereâ€”including Jews, Baptists, Muslims, and all others who do not know Christ. There is no singling out of any particular group. Every person is spiritually destitute apart from faith in Christ. Krattenmaker makes it sound like conservative Christianity singles-out Jews for persecution. That is simply not the case.
At the end of the day, Krattenmaker’s problem is not with Tebow, but with Christ. Christ is the world’s true King to whom we all owe our allegiance. Christ was crucified and raised to provide forgiveness and eternal life for humanity in rebellion against Him. That’s the message that offends Krattenmaker. This should be no surprise, for unbelievers often find Jesus to be “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (1 Peter 2:8). Krattenmaker is tripping all over the stumbling stone, Jesus. Nevertheless, God’s arm is not too short to save. I’m living proof of that. I hope and pray that somehow Krattenmaker might be too.