Sport and Transcendence through the Body

in International Journal of Public Theology
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Where is God in sport? Two important entries have recently been made in the conversation on theology and sport (Lincoln Harvey’s A Brief Theology of Sport and Robert Ellis’ The Games People Play), but neither looks closely at the body itself. To fully understand sport and God’s potential activity in sport, one must look carefully at the body, an obviously key element in all athletic pursuits. Here the two authors’ contributions are compared and assessed and further thought for a more complete theology of sport is offered. Bridging off a theological anthropology of the unified person, without a separable soul or spirit, it is my contention that sport is a medium for refinement of the place—the actual body—where God can meet humankind, and therefore athletic activity is a valuable part of the spiritual life.

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References

4

Hans-Georg Gadamer, ‘The Relevance of the Beautiful’ in The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays, Nicholas Walker trans. (Cambridge: Cambridge up, 1986), p. 22.

6

Ibid., p. 7.

8

Gadamer, The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays, p. 14. This is one of the many similarities between play, sport, and art. There is a perennial question in the literature of sport philosophy around whether or not sport is art. I will not delve deeply into that here, but there is an excellent discussion of the question in Hyland, chapter 5.

11

Hyland, Philosophy of Sport, p. 129.

13

Gumbrecht, In Praise of Athletic Beauty, p. 52.

14

Hyland, Philosophy of Sport, p. 80.

15

Ibid., p. 126.

19

Novak, The Joy of Sports, p. 20.

22

Ibid., p. 68.

23

Ibid., p. 69.

24

Ibid., p. 83.

25

Ibid., p. 94.

26

Ibid., p. 95.

29

Harvey, A Brief Theology of Sport, pp. 104–5.

31

Ellis, The Games People Play, p. 147.

32

Ibid., p. 147.

33

Ibid., p. 147.

34

Ibid., p. 232.

35

Ibid., p. 236.

36

Ibid., pp. 243–4.

38

Ellis, The Games People Play, p. 236.

39

Robert M. Torrance, The Spiritual Quest: Transcendence in Myth, Religion, and Science (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), pp. 279–80.

44

Carlo Mazza, ‘Sport as viewed from the Church’s Magisterium’, in The World of Sport Today: A Field of Christian Mission (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2006), p. 63.

46

Mazza, The World of Sport Today, p. 63.

49

Hyland, Philosophy of Sport, p. 99.

53

Joel Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible, (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2008), p. 179.

57

Gill, Mediated Transcendence, p. 3. Gill’s project is motivated by a need to make sense of transcendence in post-modernity. While this brief understanding of mediated transcendence is helpful here to further understand the body and sport, it should be noted that Gill also wants to combat what he calls “dualistic” understandings of transcendence. He states “this way of construing reality avoids the traditional view of it as consisting of separate realms. Human beings exist in this matrix of dimensions as relational and interactive agents. This fresh model enables us to speak of the transcendent within our experience rather than beyond, above, or other than it. The traditional dichotomy between the natural and the supernatural can be set aside”. (p. 154)

59

Novak, The Joy of Sports, p. 154.

61

Gumbrecht, In Praise of Athletic Beauty, p. 106.

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