Why Tim Tebow Is So Important For Christianity

At the present moment, Tim Tebow is the poster child for American football. No matter where he goes, he wins. He wasn’t supposed to make it into college football. He wins Heisman Awards, National Championships. He wasn’t supposed to make it very far in the NFL. He was drafted 25th overall. In all of the games he has started at quarterback, he has lost only once. Tim isn’t a great quarterback— but he wins.

Tim was a missionary kid, he was home schooled, and everywhere he goes, he takes the message of his faith with him. When I read what others have to say about Tim, some of it is negative (speaks too much about it, gives Christians a bad name, makes outsiders to Christianity uncomfortable) and some of it is positive (the message he is bringing, his humility, his spirit). A friend and I were talking about Tim a few days ago, and he told me that he believed that Tim is good for Christianity because he is a stage three faith poster child. Stage three faith is institutionalized, constructive; they love God for God’s sake and look to accomplish his will.

Having spent (and still spending time) in stage four faith (deconstructive, individualized, loving myself for God’s sake), I know that we can’t do stage five faith (integrative, holistic, inclusive) until we do our work in stage four. Just as we can’t do stage four faith until we do our work for stage three. As Christians, we need to forgive, accept, and embrace the previous stages as part of our faith.

Just as Tim spent time with level three people to do enter into level three, he’ll need level four people to enter level four. We need to accept the simplicity, the sacrifice, the mission of Tim Tebow and what he is doing. It’s a part of our journey as a public faith. It’s a part of his journey in his private faith. We as Christians need to learn to accept, transcend, and include all people in their journeys. Just as God invites us to himself as we are, so we should do for others. He’ll affirm in us the good, the truth in where we are, and guide us through the work that only he can complete. Tim is one of the most popular athletes alive and his faith seems to indicate a general love and care for others on God’s behalf. His stage three faith, even though filled with all of the Christianese that drives stage four people crazy (and people who aren’t Christians), is a very positive one for Christianity to be identified with. His good spirit, his care for the world and his teammates, is why he is so important for Christianity.

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17 thoughts on “Why Tim Tebow Is So Important For Christianity

  1. From what I understand in this article, “stage four” faith is better than “stage three” and more advanced in the Christian walk – and stage four is “loving myself for God’s sake.” Though an interesting philisophical musing, there is nothing biblical concerning these “stages” of faith – and if it is not biblical, how can it be of Christ? Jesus said this: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). So, to be a true disciple of Jesus, we cannot “love ourselves for God’s sake” but actually live for God so passionately that it is as if we hated our own lives. Paul, the great apostle, said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Unless we do as Jesus commanded and “deny” ourselves, take up the cross and follow Him, we cannot be His disciple – no matter how many Christian terms we use to describe ourselves.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Michael,
      No stage is better than the other. It’s just a progression. A stage four faith can do as much harm with it’s cynicism, anger, apathy, and rejection of other faith models.

      To love God, is to love your neighbor as yourself. We can do lots of things for other people in the name of God but not listen to ourselves. Service towards others can cost human beings a lot. To love God is not only to love others, but it is to love ourselves.

  2. Shana Boshart says:

    Thanks for this, Mike. I am a huge fan of Fowler and his stages of faith theory has been so helpful in helping me understand myself and others. But I really struggle with the judgmentalism that seems to be inherent in the model. It’s occurred to me lately that we probably can’t get away from that sense of judging each other when we are talking about faith maturation. Yet, I am also grasping for a model of faith development that is more inherently gracious. I’d be interested in your thoughts on this. I appreciate that you convey appreciation, grace and understanding toward Tebow’s stage three faith. BTW, I just updated my Twitter profile, and there you can see a bit more about who I am and why this matters to me. : )

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Thanks Shana,
      I try not to think of these things as a system of hierarchy. You can’t get to four, without doing three, same as two, and one. Hopefully if someone can reach a stage five faith, they’re able to not care about any form of status, or need to be labeled as a “stage five” Christian.

      I used some of Clairvaux’s stages of faith. Sometimes, I will also use something called spiral dynamics, which is used by people like Richard Rohr, to help measure levels of consciousness.

      Does that help?

      • Shana Boshart says:

        Yes, thanks. I also try not to think of them as hierarchical, but progressive. Nevertheless, the human tendency is to blur that line between progressive and hierarchical. It wouldn’t be so hard if it was just a personal matter, but as a church leader who provides resources on faith formation, I need to find a way to talk about this that is both truthful and gracious.

        Thanks for pointing me to Clairvaux and spiral dynamics. They were new to me.

  3. What a great discussion. I’d like tweak the Bernard stages a bit, to clarify what I meant on Monday. Here’s how I would describe them. (I just finished re-reading Bernard’s ‘On the Love of God’ and I’m partway through my re-reading of John OTC’s Dark Night, so it is pretty fresh, but there is some Kohlberg/Gilligan/Fowler/Peck Mixed in).

    Stage 1) Love of Self for Self’s Sake / Pre-Conventional Faith / Reward and Punishment

    Stage 2) Constructive Hedonism Transition to Stage 3

    Stage 3) Love of God for Self’s Sake / Conventional Faith / Social Conformity / Law / Rule / Exclusive Boundaried Set / Arrogance

    Stage 4) Deconstructive Skepticism Transition to Stage 5 (The Dark Night) / Often includes a season of Stage 4/2 “Regressive Hedonism”

    Stage 5) Love of God for God’s Sake / Post-Conventional Faith / Integrative Mystery / Grace / Principle / Inclusive Centered Set / Humility

    Like Bernard, I DO think there is progression in maturity in these steps. (Stage 5 is more “mature and desirable than Stage 3, etc.) But, like Shana notes, it should NOT be a vessel for judgmentalism. None should judge a 9-year old for acting 9. In the same way, none should judge a young believer for being Stage 3. Like a parent who rewards a child for right actions and punishes them for wrong actions so that they might internalize the behaviors of righteousness, God woos us to begin seeking Him through answered prayers, ecstatic experiences, warm feelings, miracles, signs, and wonders. There is nothing wrong with following God because “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him” (Heb 11:6).

    Never-the-less, it SHOULD be a cause for concern when a 19-year old is still acting 9. In the same way, it SHOULD cause concern (but not judgment) when someone is old enough in their faith to enter stage 4, but refuses to enter “learning obedience through what they suffer” (Hebrews 5:9-11). John of the Cross warns that such people often become more like the Pharisee—“I thank God that I am not like other men”, than the Publican—“God be merciful to me a sinner.” They hold so tightly to the logic of Stage 3—“God will reward my righteous and punish my sin”—that they make God into an idol one worships only to appease or gain favor.

    The prevailing self-righteous arrogance of “foreclosed” Stage 3 Christians is part of what gives contemporary American Christianity such a bad name.

    That is why I love Tim Tebow. Tim Tebow is a Stage 3 Christian, but that is only because it is highly appropriate for 20-something believer to be in Stage 3. Healthy, age-appropriate Stage 3 faith is, in fact, wonderfully refreshing. We live in such a reconstructed age that few Christians make it into their 20’s in without a tortuous journey through Stage 4 (and/or Stage 4/2), or clinging to a false identity pseudo-self of foreclosed Stage 3, that to encounter a real live dynamic Stage 3 Christian actually brings tears to my eyes. Healthy Stage 3 faith is what propelled David to defeat lions, and bears, and then Goliath, what drove Josiah to reform Israel, what led Daniel to refuse the king’s royal food, what drove Peter to drop his nets, and an entire generation of Student Volunteers to sail for foreign shores and nearly certain death to preach the gospel where Christ was not yet known.

    Frankly, healthy Stage 3 faith is so rare in this cynical age, that neither Sports Center nor the church even knows what to do with it. But his teammates do. Why? Because healthy Stage 3 faith is contagious. David’s Stage 3 defeat of Goliath immediately infected Saul’s entire Stage 4/2 army with the faith they needed to trust God again.

    Certainly a dark night of the soul (or two) waits in Tim Tebow’s future. Whether by defeat, betrayal, injury, or old age his incredible run will end. But I have no doubt that when that time comes, Tim will embrace the hardships of “learning obedience through what he suffers and enter into Stage 4 faith and press on into Stage 5.

    Until then, my fervent hope and prayer is that Tim Tebow’s outrageous, audacious, infectious, Stage 3 faith in the living God will not only sweep the Denver Broncos to victory, but an entire generation to genuine faith.

  4. M.J. Teston says:

    I like Tebow but in the end it is remarkable that we could imagine that we all get sucked into the “stage” of NFL, NBA, NHL, as if such a stage is somehow more convincing than a a team of people toiling in the name of Jesus with folks in the rubble of Port Au Prince, Haiti, who will never get so much as a commercial spot. The continual noise raised over touchdown makers, and “ring” bearers who somehow carry the mantle of Jesus is embarrassing. Don’t get me wrong, Tebow doesn’t embarrass me, just the . . . lets see (c)hristian groupies who need to believe that such a “stage” will somehow gain the Jesus movement credibility. Who are we kidding? Gosh its all so exhausting to listen to. Stages? “if I be lifted up I will draw all to myself.” We’ve got to figure out this “lifted up” stuff out.

  5. rogerwolsey says:

    Granted, Christians who don’t overly hide their faith, don’t swear, and who don’t act like jerks are generally beneficial to have as ambassadors of our faith, but here’s another perspective: is it “good” for Christianity for someone to garishly display a theology that conveys that God cares about who wins football games and/or is the cause of successful sports plays?

    And still another: What if Tebow were Muslim? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ibrahim-abdulmatin/if-tim-tebow-were-muslim-_b_1148115.html

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Roger, that’s a great article. Whether they liked him or not, I think it would be helpful for America. It would force us to learn helpful, and healthy, religious discourse.

      While I don’t think Tim’s theology is very good, I think it is representative of someone who might be a stage 3 faith.

  6. Steve D says:

    Essentially, I have a problem with the way our culture (Christians as well) idolize players. Just because someone can hit, throw, or kick a ball does not make them worthy of hero status. Tebow may very well be a mature Christian and his status does give a platform for the gospel. However, his claim to fame is still his ability to play a game.

    I know of people who are worthy of being role models who never make it. They are really heroes. One person I know of has been involved in building schools in Liberia and is now getting an eye clinic set up there as well.

    It’s nice that Tebow likes to talk about his faith, it’s commendable. But should we be idolizing him and making him into a role model?

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Steve,
      You are right. There are people who do deserve the recognition that Tim is getting. Just because he is a good guy and can throw a football, doesn’t mean he has earned the merit of a Mother Teresa type.

      Unfortunately, he does. And, we have to live what is. Tim’s situation is something that we can look at and we can construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct a better Christianity because of it.

  7. […] Why Tim Tebow Is So Important For Christianity (mikefriesen05.wordpress.com) […]

  8. […] in Hebrews – Lesson 4, Part 3. « Semper Reformata1Why Tim Tebow Is So Important For Christianity « Christianity For The Rest Of Us […]

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