Baseball: The Most Biblical SportMarch 3, 2023 Christianity
I’ve written before in this space my love of baseball, but now I want to make a more controversial statement: of all the sports, baseball is the most biblical.
Football? Basketball? Hockey? All great, but I don’t think any of these other sports remind me of the Bible’s outline of salvation history like America’s pastime.
It starts with Spring Training.
Last month, Major League ballplayers convened in Arizona and Florida to begin their workouts. For me, I always circle the day that pitchers and catchers report. While we trudge through the darkness of Michigan winters, the start of Spring Training—like the bells of Father Christmas’ sleigh in Narnia—reminds me that winter is coming to an end.
I’ll turn the game on the radio to hear fastballs pounding the catcher’s mitt or the bat slapping a ball into the outfield gap; or, as snow falls outside my window, I’ll put the game on television and see the sunshine and green grass on the diamond. I’ll read and listen to reports from Spring Training to hear how the boys are in the best shape of their life. These are the sights and sounds of summer breaking into our winter condition.
They’re the first fruits of a new season. Summer hasn’t arrived in all its brilliance, but we have a taste! A promise that summer and baseball are coming! That our feet will soon be treading on the grass. That we’ll get to dig out our baseball gloves soon. That the sun will shine again!
It makes me think of how the Bible talks about what happens when Jesus arrives on the scene. Ever since the sin of our first parents, humans lived under the dark and miserable reign of sin. But in Jesus’ earthly ministry—and specifically in the climax of his earthly ministry in his death and resurrection—the end of an old age—characterized by sin and death—is signaled (Gal. 1:4). As the resurrected Jesus walks out of his tomb, a new age has begun. The resurrection of Jesus is the decisive transition point in all human history. It marks the end of the old creation order and the advent of the new creation order. A new creation order is established under the reign of King Jesus that is characterized by life, righteousness, peace, and joy (Col. 1:13-14; Rom. 14:17). We come into this new age—being rescued out of the old, perishing order—through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:1-7; 2 Cor. 5:14-17; Gal. 6:15).
Yet, it is not as simple as saying that the old age is done, a new age has come. Our spiritual winter is still here (so to speak). The New Testament shows us that we live in the era during which the two ages overlap. As Christians who are filled by the Spirit, we are new creations that belong to the new and coming age; yet we also still live in this “present evil age” that is in its death throes. Both are true at the same time, but one is coming to an end. In the Bible, we who have believed in Jesus now belong to the new age which is here now but is still awaiting its arrival in fulness.
Back to the baseball illustration. Spring training tells us that baseball has arrived, but not yet in full. We get a delicious foretaste of what is coming as the sounds and sights of summer break into our winter. Similarly, for Christians, we come to experience the new age we’ve been rescued into as the Holy Spirit resides in us (Eph. 1:13-14). By the Spirit, we come to know eternal life now in the Son (John 17:3; 1 John 5:13), but even this is a partial experience of the salvation which is guaranteed to those whom he has chosen. One day, light will blast away the darkness; life will swallow up mortality; holiness will eradicate sin; God’s enemies shall be finally subdued; and God’s presence fully enjoyed (Rev. 21:23-27; 2 Cor. 5:1-5).
Well, if you’ve read this far, I concede that it may be a stretch to say that baseball is the most biblical of sports out there; after all, Paul uses images of running and boxing, not batting and catching. But I’d like to think that Paul would see echoes—imperfect echoes but echoes all the same—of the story of what God is doing in history. A story that gives us cause for hope today as we look by faith to the future.
What I’m Reading/Watching:
- “The Resurrection of Christ and the Age to Come” – What I’ve tried to illustrate in a somewhat lighthearted way in my post, Dr. Gaffin presents in greater detail in his article and in his book-length treatment In the Fullness of Time.
- “All Creatures Great and Small” – Suzanne and I just finished watching season three of “All Creatures Great and Small” on PBS. It’s a show about a veterinary clinic in Yorkshire, England in the 1930’s. Visually, it’s lovely. Thematically, it’s rich. It speaks a lot to themes of friendship, family, community, and duty.
- What is Faith? By J. Gresham Machen – Anytime I read Machen he’s a testimony to clear and persuasive theological writing. These talks delivered at Grove City College in the 1920’s look at the nature, necessity, and fruits of saving faith.
- The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson – This would be a great work for someone to read who is going through hardship. This could be anything from illness, difficulties with work or employment, or loss.