How Joe Rigney of Desiring God Can Ruin Baseball

At Desiring God, Joe Rigney writes a post about baseball. The most quintessential American sport is used to reinforce masculinity, and purifying sin among other claims. For me this shows how fundamentalism can harm as it penetrates all aspects of life. Not even a baseball game can be spared.

“Baseball is like church. Many attend, few understand.”

Lou Durocher

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.”

Yogi Berra

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

Romans 1:16 NIV

The Nationals in Washington, D.C.

The summer time is really baseball season. I have to confess I am not the biggest fan of baseball as my preference is college football. But I acknowledge and understand the cultural imprint of baseball. Can there be any other sport that is more American? Baseball has actually united and brought generations and communities together. In a rivalry its pitted cities or parts of cities against each other. For example you have Milwaukee vs. Chicago. You have the north side vs. the south side of Chicago. You have Los Angeles vs. San Francisco. Or you have New York vs. Boston. American baseball is very sacred. The picture above was taken at a Washington Nationals game. In my life I have attended games in Dodger Stadium, Candlestick Park, Wrigley Field, Camden Yards, and Miller Stadium. Each and every one was memorable in their own way. Despite the pleasure that baseball brings I was troubled by an article at Desiring God recently which showed some of the problems with Neo-Calvinism/fundamentalism. 

The article is by Joe Rigney who teaches at Bethlehem College and Seminary. Joe has published several books, and those are, “The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts” , “Live Like A Narnian: Christian Discipleship in Lewis’s Chronicles” and “Lewis on the Christian Life: Becoming Truly Human in the Presence of God (Theologians on the Christian Life).” Joe today pastors at Cities Church in Minneapolis. Joe wrote “Treasure in the Field.” The article is about Joe’s thick joy and love of baseball.  Then he moves on and explains how baseball is the perfect game and in the course of time how natural joy becomes a joy in God.

Joe then makes four points that he wants to stress. Its part of the reason why he loves baseball. 

  1. Baseball trains future men. It can affirm masculinity and make men hunger for competition. As a result of training it can make men Godly. 
  2. Baseball allows Joe to express God;s heart to his sons. Joy in baseball becomes joy in God when it can be shared. Joe uses the post to affirm John Piper’s view of Christian hedonism. We also get a taste of Eve in the sport of baseball. 
  3. Baseball also help shim to crucify sin and make him more holy. Baseball is an echo of Eden according to Joe. 
  4. Baseball points Joe to the world to come. While Joe is reminded sadly of his Dad’s loss, baseball reminds him of what will come when he is reunited with the Lord. He thinks of heaven as a Little League game. 

Joe Rigney closes out the post by stating that imagination should serve your joy. Joy in the things of earth become joy of God when they are” 

  1. received and recognized as pictures of spiritual reality and on-ramps to spiritual virtue,
  2. shared with others as a way of loving them,
  3. wielded as a weapon in the fight of faith, and
  4. enjoyed (or grieved) as a way of anticipating the joys of the new heaven and new earth.

When  I read the article there are a few items that come out that need to be addressed.


Camden Yards in Baltimore. 

Why Does Masculinity Keep Popping Up? 

The Neo-Calvinists are obsessed with masculinity. John Piper is often raising the issue and the topic is used to stress complementarian theology. When people stress their masculinity its often a hint that they are insecure. They don’t feel comfortable with who they are. Regular evangelicals don’t stress this claim as much, yet the Neo-Calvinists do. Some of the traditional evangelicals are okay with more gender neutral roles. Women can do more in certain churches and have more doors open to them. That is not true in Neo-Calvinist setting where who a women is and what she can’t do are very much defined. Getting back to the post about baseball. I find it sad that one of the reasons why Joe Rigney liked baseball so much is so that it can enforce masculine gender roles. That’s sad that such an incredible sport can be looked at through such a narrow lens.


What is the Obsession with Crucifying Sin? Should There be a Men’s Accountability Program in the Dugout? 

What is the constant obsession among Neo-Calvinists with crucifying sin? Why does every aspect of life have to be about killing sin? If you think about something with that intensity it makes it harder to deal with. For example if I tell you not to think about the blue elephant in the room, what will you do? You’ll think about a blue elephant in the room. Its over kill with the way that a sport like baseball is used as a means to crucify sin. And it begs a question, how far should one go? Should there be a men’s accountability program that meets in the dugout once every inning? Should a ball player for the San Francisco Giants confess a rivalry of “hate” of anyone from the Los Angeles Dodgers? How far is too far? This may be pushing the envelope but honestly where do you draw the line? 


Why Does Fundamentalism Have to Invade Every Aspect of Life? Why Can’t Life be Enjoyed in the Moment? 

But that brings me to the last point I want to make with this article. Why does theology have to affect everything? Why can’t a baseball game be a baseball game and just enjoyed for the moment? Why can’t it be a father son moment? A bachelor party event? Or just hanging out in a ballpark enjoy food and watching the game? Why does theology have to enter the picture and define so much? Stop and think about how warped that is and how controlling that can become? If even an event like baseball has become invaded by fundamentalists what else can be controlled? That weighed on me as I read this post. After contemplating what Joe Rigney said, despite his claim that he loves baseball, its my assertion that this line of thinking ruins an incredible sport. 

2 thoughts on “How Joe Rigney of Desiring God Can Ruin Baseball

  1. For me this shows how fundamentalism can harm as it penetrates all aspects of life. Not even a baseball game can be spared.

    Everything Ees Political Matter, Comrades.

    Why Does Masculinity Keep Popping Up?

    Ever heard of “Mine’s Bigger than Yours!” (unzips) “SEE? SEE? SEE?”

    I find it sad that one of the reasons why Joe Rigney liked baseball so much is so that it can enforce masculine gender roles.


    Why does theology have to affect everything? Why can’t a baseball game be a baseball game and just enjoyed for the moment?</blockquote.
    Because "When all you have is a Theology hammer…"


    • I like the Theology hammer image. There’s also “I’m desperate for a sermon topic this week.”

      And I also think that it’s part of tribalism in general, and fundagelicalism in particular to need to put your mark on everything to claim it as yours.

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