Kneeling in the End Zone By Josh Tinley
Book review by Dr. Greg Linville
Tinley’s sporting metaphors and athletic stories would bring a smile to the face of the Apostle Paul who was the first follower of Christ to realize the effectiveness of using sporting metaphors and principles to teach and illustrate the gospel. Thus, the spiritual principles outlined in this book have a Biblical precedent and anyone having even a mild interest in sports and/or faith will enjoy this book. Written in an engaging fashion, it avoids the two pitfalls of most sport-faith books: a) it’s not too theologically obtuse; b) nor does it fawn over elite athletes.
Chapter #1 as a life long Cleveland Indians fan I can relate to the way Tinley sets the tone for theological concepts to be revealed throughout this book. Chapter one’s theme of eternal hope will resonate with all who are “in the tribe” or members of “Cub Nation.
Chapter #2 connects the Old Testament story of David and Goliath to modern day sporting overachievers and encourages all underdogs to persevere.
Chapter #3 Tinley points out how the inclusion in sports of people like Roberto Clemente, Jackie Robinson and Jesse Owens better exemplifies the Biblical principle of racial reconciliation than do most churches.
Chapter #4 is a refrain of chapter four only this time Tinley’s target is gender rather than race.
Chapter #5 concentrates on the theological lessons to be learned from the concept of teamwork.
Chapter #6 demonstrates ball players are uncanny in their ability to create rituals and preserve traditions. They serve as a microcosm of all of humans and their natural propensity towards ritual and tradition. The point is: the need for ritual and tradition is endemic to all people and points to an innate sense of the transcendent.
Chapter #7 this chapter on “gym rats” investigates the concept of “practice makes perfect.” The obvious spiritual parallels come through.
Chapter #8 is another version on the common sport-faith theme of integrity, cheating and character
Chapter #9 compares how athletes rise to “answer the call” in sport, to how people of faith are often placed in positions to rise to the challenge.
Chapter #10 is fairly unique in its comparing so called sporting “miracles” and other “transcendent moments” to those times and places in the spiritual realm where we comprehend a glimpse of the “Transcendent” and how these experiences should motivate actions that further the kingdom.
Chapter #11 helps the reader understand the importance of a good story. Stories connect people to one another and provide inspiration for overcoming obstacles.
Chapter #12 points out the importance of keeping sport in proper balance and the inherit problems with having anything become an “idol.”
New Concept Found in this Book
I’m not sure it’s a totally new concept but Tinley’s chapter on miracles is certainly a welcome and fresh approach to the many “well worn paths” most often found in works integrating faith and sport.
The three appendices are novel and appreciated: A) a list of Religious Colleges that have won national championships; B) religiously inspired nicknames of teams and a glossary of religiously inspired sports terminology; C) a dictionary of inspirational sports movies.
Catch Phrases Worth Remembering
Nothing new here, but a review of Appendix C will remind even a seasoned sports fan of a couple of descriptive sports phrases
As a vocational sports theologian, I strongly relate to Tinley’s desire to communicate God’s “game plan for life.” He connects the theological dots of God’s Divine Revelation as found in the Living Word: Jesus and the Written Word: Holy Scripture, along with God’s Natural Revelation: the Created Order as observed through human nature taking part in sporting endeavors. Tinley efforts come close to bridging the sport–faith and the competition–theology divides. He displays a solid foundation of training, experience and comprehension in both the sporting and theological world. This unique combination serves him well, as most authors usually lack in one area or the other. None-the-less, this is sport theology “201” not to be confused with a 600 or 700 level course at a seminary. The result is a very readable treatise for the average sports fan but I’m afraid it leaves serious students thirsty for more.
Point of Contention
I like most of what the book has to offer. My main criticism is it doesn’t go far enough in calling athletes and coaches to take the ultimate “knee” and humble themselves before Christ, asking Him to become their Savior and Lord.
Recommendations for a Second Edition
Revise or delete a couple of the chapters which have the feel of paying homage to the ubiquitous “political correctness” of being inclusive at the expense of weakening the overall product.
Include Lord’s Day issues about worship, rest and witness.
Include a discussion guide that would enable local church and para sports ministries to hold small group discussions around these themes.
How can a local church sports ministry use this book
As a thank you gift to volunteers in your ministry
As a small group discussion starter for a weekly men’s or women’s group
As the basis for post game adult devotions
As a gift to a non-churched person participating in an league or outreach event
Where to get the Book – Visit smile.amazon.com
I work for CSRM which makes this book available to its members and others. In addition I was asked to write a recommendation for this book which does appear on the books back cover.