Last Friday, an issue blew up in our county. The Freedom from Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association separately lodged letters ordering the Superintendent and School Board to remove or modify a spots statue containing two scriptures. That is a lot of firepower for a tiny rural county in the foothills of the mountains in north Georgia. It was privately donated to the District and it was installed in front of the field house. The two scriptures on the statue, which also contains a ‘sword in the stone’ atop the 2-ton granite structure, are:
–Romans 8:31,“If God be with us, who can be against us?”
–Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” which had been shortened on the monument to read “I can do all things”, and, “strengthen me”
I’d written about the statue issue and the resulting outcry – from both sides – here:
The scripture laden Madison County Red Raiders Monument and the Humanist Association who wants it gone
In that essay, I had not discussed the legalities of the statue’s installation on public school because I’m not versed on those things. I did take issue with the statue, having come to believe it should be removed. Not because it violates the Constitutional Establishment clause, I don’t know if it does or doesn’t, but because it is an idol.
One thing I’d taken issue with is the pagan portion of the statue. The sword in the stone is from a pagan myth of King Arthur with a few Christian-y elements woven in. The other things I’d taken issue with is the stumbling block put in front of the young football players. They have incorporated it into a superstitious tradition, touching it for luck. In the essay I’d explained superstition, and how God hates to be manipulated.
Mixing pagan myths and Christianity, and engaging in superstitions, are serious to God. They are bad. Another issue I’d taken with the statue is the fact that the scriptures themselves have been ripped from their context and reduced in power to a motto in order to help kids win a game. This, also, is serious.
For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:17
Four days after the issue blew up in the print news and broadcast tv, an opinion letter to the editor of the local daily newspaper was published.
The Madison County High School Monument is Constitutional, by David Larkins
It is well-written by a local resident who also has a son on the football team in question. It addresses the Constitutional issue very thoroughly. In the letter making his case that the statue’s location is constitutional, the author also mentions the following:
The monument was paid for with a private donation, and it has no religious purpose. Its intent is to inspire the football team to play hard, and do their best, as they engage their opponent on the football field. The inscriptions on the monument are appropriate for that purpose, regardless of the original source of those inscriptions.
I am sure that Mr Larkins is a kind and good father and a proud resident of the County. He is obviously well-spoken. The opinion piece was well done. Which is what gives me the confidence to write this next part. A letter like that has a lot of thought that goes into it. It is edited, and thought over and it’s edited again. But it confirms exactly what I’ve been saying about using such scriptures in the sports arena, an arena that is all too often an idol-arena.
–“no religious purpose“? Yet the bible tells us that all scriptures have a purpose. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” 2 Timothy 3:16
–he write that the inscriptions however, do have a secular purpose, which is to ‘inspire players’ to play a game well and win. Is this how we ‘use’ the word of God? Our sovereign and holy God?
–“The inscriptions on the monument are appropriate for that purpose, regardless of the original source of those inscriptions.“
What he just said is, disregard Jesus. The scriptures are useful, and the source doesn’t matter. Dismissing the source of the scriptures, using verses for a secular purpose and a favorable outcome, and unhitching them from their context, is blasphemous. It is not to be done. The source always matters!
This use of scriptures is no different than how false teachers use scriptures to twist them for their own gain.
On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2:4
It is no different than when a faith healer uses the word to get money from followers.
It is no different than when false teacher uses the word to promote personal prosperity or financial success.
It is no different than when any false teacher uses the scriptures to obtain a secular personal outcome (fame, book sales, accolades…)
When we see a Benny Hinn saying things like, “If you will come back and make that pledge, God will heal your heart tonight,” or, “God will begin to prosper you, for money always follows righteousness,” we tut-tut and say, ‘How dare Benny Hinn use the scriptures for such a craven purpose!’
Or when we see Joyce Meyer say things like “The Bible says right here John 10:34 . . . ‘and Jesus answered is it not written in your law I say we are gods.’ So men are called God’s by the law…” we understand that she ripped the verse out of context in order to preach her unbiblical and heretical ‘little gods’ doctrine. When a heretic like Meyer uses verses we understand by the Spirit that most times, she is preaching out of context in order to promote a false teaching.
So why, when we see a scripture on a stone monument and it is stated to the public that it is not for religious purposes but there simply to promote good gamesmanship, do we NOT say it also is heretical, and unbiblical and a blot against God?
There’s misquoting God’s word, and there’s misUSING God’s word. Ben Irwin wrote about the most misused scriptures, that
Christians read (and quote) Scripture in tiny, artificial fragments all the time. And by doing so, do we alter the meaning without even realizing it.
Bill Hitchcock said in this piece, Philippians 4:13: Misused, Misapplied, and Misinterpreted,
It is important to note that a big problem often occurs when people pluck out a single verse from the Bible. The context and meaning of one or two sentences disjointed from its message can alter tremendously. Sometimes you have to read entire chapter(s) or more to get the meaning of one sentence. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” It has become the battle cry of self willed. Here’s where the hiccup begins; “I”. The first and biggest problem that occurs is when folks make this passage about themselves. I want to do something that I have determined I want to do. And I am going to employ the power of Christ to accomplish My goal. Anything that is focused on self is worldly and is a sin.
And again, from The Cripplegate, Nathan Busenitz in his piece I Can Do All Things,
They have turned it into a slogan of personal empowerment—a declaration of self-achievement, ambition, and accomplishment. For many, this verse has been trivialized into some sort of motivating motto for material prosperity, career advancement, or athletic success. But in reality it is nothing of the sort.
They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. Titus 1:11
Using scripture for personal advantage, in this case, to win a game, should never be done. Just as we should not rip verses from context to twist and use to gain money, or to gain healing, or to gain fame, or to gain notoriety, or to gain false converts, we should be equally aghast when it is used for sports in a terrible trivialization that we have unfortunately become used to and have accepted.
Jesus is the Word. He was with God from the beginning. He bled and died and rose again, triumphing over death to reign in patience from heaven until the moment when the Father will tell His Son to get His bride. Scripture should reveal who He is, why He did this for us, and train us in righteousness. His word contains the glories of heaven, the revelation of the Father, the power of the Spirit, the record of creation, the promises of a holy future.
Why reduce it to a sports slogan? Why?