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My Take: Is Tim Tebow performing miracles?
Tim Tebow’s penchant for kneeling in prayer has birthed a new word: Tebowing.
November 29th, 2011
12:01 PM ET

My Take: Is Tim Tebow performing miracles?

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN)–In 1966, John Lennon famously claimed that The Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." Today that title may belong to Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos quarterback more famous for praising Jesus than for throwing touchdowns.

As anyone who has visited Dallas or Atlanta on any recent weekend can attest, America’s two great religions are Christianity and football. In recent weeks, these two great faiths have come together in Tim Tebow, the new starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos and America’s latest merger of faith in Jesus and faith in the Almighty Touchdown.

When viewed from the perspective of “the world,” Tebow is, at best, a mediocre NFL quarterback. When viewed through the eyes of faith, however, he is something like the Second Coming of Joe Montana. And maybe Something More.

On this burning question of Tim Tebow, I must confess to being an agnostic. But I understand the fervor on both sides.

Skeptics generally concede that Tebow, an outspoken Christian, was an extraordinary high school and college football player. After all, he won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore, and led his University of Florida team to two NCAA football titles.

But those who refuse to bow down before Tebow insist that NFL football is another game altogether, and when it comes to that game Tebow is a passing fancy. They attribute Denver’s near miraculous 5-1 run during his reign as a starter not to his offense but to the Broncos defense.

They point out that he throws about as well as Peppermint Patty, and that in one of his wins he completed only two passes more than Charlie Brown (which is to say two). His completion percentage (45.5%) is last in the league.

Skeptics are also turned off by Tebow’s public displays of religion. Tebow used to cite Bible verses on his eye black. And his tendency to be found praying while his teammates are strutting has added a new word—“Tebowing”—to the lexicon.

True believers say to hell with all that. What matters are the intangibles. Tebow is a winner. He may allow his team to fall behind, but in the end he leads the Broncos to victory, often in a fashion that can only be termed miraculous.

Which is to say, when it comes to the Almighty TT, you gotta have faith (or not).

In his book “Faith and Belief,” the Religious Studies scholar Wilfred Cantwell Smith describes how the notion of “faith” changed over the centuries from something like “trust” to its modern-day meaning of “belief in the unbelievable.”

And that, it seems to me, is what we are witnessing with Tebow.

It is simply not believable that a quarterback who cannot throw would turn a team from a 1-4 also-ran to a 6-5 playoff contender. But Tebow has done that, in part by running and in part, well, by faith.

There is, to be sure, Tebow's faith in Jesus. But perhaps more importantly, there is the faith of his teammates in him. Not to mention the adoration of legions of University of Florida alums, and of fans in Denver and beyond.

As a scholar of religion, I have little expertise in football, NFL or otherwise. But I cannot help weighing in on a few comparisons between TT and JC:

Jesus: turned a ragtag band of 12 apostles into the number one religion in the world

Tebow: turned a ragtag squad of 11 football players into an NFL juggernaut

Jesus: prayed a lot (to God)

Tebow: prays a lot (to Jesus)

Jesus: ran the money changers out of the temple

Tebow: runs the  spread option

Jesus: miraculously saved a wedding at Cana by turning water into wine

Tebow: miraculously led the Broncos to last-second victories against the Dolphins, the Jets and the Chargers.

Coincidence? You be the judge. As for me, I'm sitting back and waiting for Tebow to do something truly miraculous. Like winning a game without completing a single pass, or running back a punt for a touchdown, or kicking a 50-yard field goal to win a game.

Meanwhile, I am happy to report that Jesus is still more famous than Tebow. At least for now.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Christianity • Opinion • Sports

soundoff (1,398 Responses)
  1. Terry

    Tim Tebow is a good player and it appears that the Denver Bronco Players believe in his future ability. Good Job Broncos.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  2. lorri

    stephen prothero is a complete fool, go back and crawl under the rock you slithered from

    November 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Really?

      That's satan that slithered from under the rock, no that was the tree of life. ooops.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Allen

      Really?
      Did you forget that your KB has a delete function or are you using white out on your screen again?
      OOPS!!!!

      November 29, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Really?

      ooooooooopppppsss. bother you?

      November 29, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Allen

      Doesn't bther me but you screen must be a mess 😉

      November 29, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • sam

      Why are we bothering to feed the Really-troll? The idiot's not actually posting anything but the same old boring crap.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Allen

      He trying to pay the troll for his troll bridge.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  3. God

    Copying an earlier post

    Dear Tim:

    God here.

    First, I do not exist. The concept of a 13,700,00,000 year old being, capable of creating the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, monitoring simultaneously the thoughts and actions of the 7 billion human beings on this planet is ludicrous.

    Second, if I did, I would not care about your passing average. You are not that special. Further, I would have have left you a book a little more consistent, timeless and independently verifiable than the collection of Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology you call the Bible. Hell, I bet you cannot tell me one thing about any of its authors or how and why it was edited over the Centuries, yet you cite them for the most extraordinary of claims.

    Thirdly, when I sent my “son” (whatever that means, given that I am god and do not mate) to Earth, he would have visited the Chinese, Ja.panese, Europeans, Russians, sub-Saharan Africans, Australian Aboriginals, Mongolians, Polynesians, Micronesians, Indonesians and native Americans, not just a few Jews. He would also have exhibited a knowledge of something outside of the Iron Age Middle East.

    Fourthly, I would not spend my time hiding, refusing to give any tangible evidence of my existence, and then punish those who are smart enough to draw the natural conclusion that I do not exist by burning them forever. That would make no sense to me, given that I am the one who withheld all evidence of my existence in the first place.

    Fifth, I would not care who you do or how you “do it”. I really wouldn’t. This would be of no interest to me, given that I can create Universes. Oh, the egos.

    Sixth, I would have smited all evangelicals and fundamentalists long before this. You people drive me nuts. You are so small minded and yet you speak with such false authority. Many of you still believe in the talking snake nonsense from Genesis. I would kill all of you for that alone and burn you for an afternoon (burning forever is way too barbaric for me to even contemplate).

    Seventh, the whole idea of members of one species on one planet surviving their own physical deaths to “be with me” is utter, mind-numbing nonsense. Grow up. You will die. Get over it. I did. Hell, at least you had a life. I never even existed in the first place.

    Eighth, I do not read your minds, or “hear your prayers” as you euphemistically call it. There are 7 billion of you. Even if only 10% prayed once a day, that is 700,000,000 prayers. This works out at 8,000 prayers a second – every second of every day. Meanwhile I have to process the 100,000 of you who die every day between heaven and hell. Dwell on the sheer absurdity of that for a moment.

    Finally, the only reason you even consider believing in me is because of where you were born. Had you been born in India, you would likely believe in the Hindu gods, if born in Tibet, you would be a Buddhist. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. What, do you think we all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Look, let’s be honest with ourselves. There is no god. Believing in me was fine when you thought the World was young, flat and simple. Now we know how enormous, old and complex the Universe is.

    Move on – get over me. I did.

    God

    November 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Really?

      Wow impressive, NOT!

      November 29, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Allen

      God sure did an awful lot of thinking and posturing for not exsisting or are you just being fecitious?

      November 29, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Thinkagain

      Emm...Come to think of it, if you can write all this, then it means that it takes all this to satisfy your conscience and to try to teach it not to believe in a god. You seem to be working too hard to psychologically mentor yourself out from believing god. If this is true then the bible is true which says humans do have a tendency to go way from god due to sin, and they find excuses to live life as they want, the very life for which no human has ever worked hard for but is a gift. And it seems you are not grateful towards the one who gave it, but want to selfishly make use of life in your own term, and are too proud to be corrected. Hence the long justification above. Dont fight it, be inside the truth, Jesus is the truth

      November 29, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  4. God

    I stand by and watch idly as little kids get Sandusky'ed, people get murdered and starvation runs rampant across the world.

    But dammit, I love stepping in and helping Tebow win some football games!

    November 29, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Really?

      what are the atheists doing to help? blogging?

      November 29, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • REALLY'S MOM

      HONEY TIME TO COME UPSTAIRS AND FEED THE GUINEA PIGS LIKE YOU SAID YOU WOULD. NO MORE 'BLOGGING' TODAY IT TAKES UP TOO MUCH TIME.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Really?

      Like i said worked up atheists! You guys are soooooo fun.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Allen

      What are the christians doing to help, blogging?

      November 29, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Turd Party

      Christians are helping the world by damning and judging those they disagree with.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  5. You Hypocrites

    God doesn't listen to public prayer! Read your Bibles! Matthew 6:5-8 is very clear. Jesus said public prayer is arrogant. Jesus said to pray in private. Why do some Christians ignore their own Bibles? There is no way you can justify public prayer if you are a Christian. Matthew 6:5 is very clear and easy to understand, there is no way you can interpret it any other way!

    November 29, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Really?

      Wrong! We wouldn't have church is public prayer was not allowed.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • You Hypocrites

      I am not wrong, Matt 6:5 spells it out. You are making things up. Jesus HIMSELF said not to pray in public. Read your Bible! Jesus never gave anyone a waiver.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • IndyJim

      If a person like Tebow were to only pray in public, I would agree with you. You need to judge a persons faith in its entirety, if you simply raise your hands in the street to be seen by others, but that is the end of your faith, then yes, i agree with you.

      But if taking a moment and thanking your God is part of a lifestyle that includes helping and serving others, prayer in private, and making the world a better place then I disagree with your interpreation.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Really?

      Tell it to the pope!

      November 29, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • IndyJim

      Read my reply, I did not say you were wrong, but depending on the person and the way they live their life your interpretation may not be applicable here.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • kevinchio

      I love the fact that Tim Tebow is celebrated. He is a awesome role model for young football fans as well as old. Notice how I dint say "Idol" that's what the world does, it Idolizes people, those people become their gods (notice little "g.")
      "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I The Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My Commandments" (Exodus 20:4-6 KJV)

      What Tim Tebow is doing is not checking his Christianity at the door like most false converts do, those who prayed a prayer when they were 12, but have gone on living like the devil ever since. those people who have not repented and put their trust in Jesus Christ and Him alone to save them are in for the shock of their death. Leave Tim Tebow alone, focus on yourself.

      For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Eph 2:8-9

      November 29, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • You Hypocrites

      The word of Jesus vs The Pope! I'll take the actual words of Jesus any day!

      A sideline prayer in front of millions of people could not be more arrogant! Jesus HIMSELF said God does not listen to public prayer, remember Him? Tim Tebow's displays are exactly what Jesus was against. You people that defend this can show nothing from JESUS that would allow it. NOTHING!!

      November 29, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • kevinchio

      1"Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

      Same book, Matthew. -Do you honestly think that Tim Tebow is praying because he wants to put the spotlight on himself? I don't, I believe He is unashamed of Christ,. If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels Luke 9:26

      so what your saying is anyone who holds true to their convictions who is in the public spotlight will not have their prayers heard by God? you need to let scripture interpret scripture.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • You Hypocrites

      Kevin what exactly do you not understand about Matthew 6:5 and God's instruction to not pray in public????

      November 29, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  6. Deege

    Doesn't your god have better things to do than fix football games? Maybe when he's done, he can help out some starving children or cure a few diseases?

    November 29, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Really?

      He's so good he can do it all!!!!!!!!!!!! Why don't you feed some of the children instead of complain??????????

      November 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Doug

      Why don't you help out starving children?

      November 29, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • kevinchio

      what he you done to combat starving children, or cure diseases?

      November 29, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • JT

      Love all the dodges from christians. Typical...lol. Anything to maintain the delusion and voices I guess.

      November 29, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  7. Tom

    This guy knows that whole Jesus thing is just a story to get money right?

    November 29, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Really?

      Yes, ticket sales, ticket sales....higher salary. Wait...isn't that what the church does too. LOL! Show me the money!

      November 29, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Really?

      Tom, ignore the fake really? he can't even pick out his own original name. He's a big joke!

      November 29, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Really?

      "Tom, ignore the fake really? he can't even pick out his own original name. He's a big joke!"

      Oh please you're the joke, you steal handles when they don't agree with you because you have a mind of a two year old.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • REALLY'S MOM

      SWEETIE, BABY JESUS CRIES WHEN YOU ACT UP ON THE INTERNET LIKE THIS, SHOULDN'T YOU GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY?

      November 29, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  8. baj4q

    Leave Tebow alone! Ok, he is a christian. He has had bible verses on his eye-black. He prays. I just see a man being himself. You do you, and let Tebow do Tebow. What's the problem?

    November 29, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Deege

      The problem is he makes his religion the forefront of everything, not anyone else. I don't care what myth he believes in. He's there to play football and entertain, not evangelize. He should focus more on learning the playbook than pushing the myth book.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Mike G

      "He's there to play football and entertain, not evangelize."

      I think Tebow himself would disagree.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • GianCarlo

      I bet if he was GAY and was flaunting his gayness, you would be all over it. Putting him down, and saying things like, I have nothing against gays but..............................

      November 29, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • ctb67

      He is just a man, he is just praying...leave him alone..... Would you really be saying that if he was praying towards Mecca, or if a witch was doing the sign of the pentacle???? No, you would be spouting how its wrong and how they are trying to take over the world. Don't be a hypocrite.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • sam

      @GianCarlo – LOL! Sure, let's change the post a little and see how many nice, righteous people stand behind it:

      "Leave Tebow alone! Ok, he is gay. He has had a rainbow sticker on his eye-black. He likes guys. I just see a man being himself. You do you, and let Tebow do Tebow. What's the problem?"

      November 29, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  9. IndyJim

    The article was tongue in cheek and pretty funny in my opinion. We don't mind our NBA players acting and dressing like drug dealers or our NFL players recreating a shooting in the end zone after scoring a touchdown but when someone publicly wears their faith on their sleeve, then by gosh that crosses the line.

    Whether your personal belief is a living and loving Creator or your someone who doesn't believe in God, who thinks matter always existed and life is just a mathmatical chance that let us hit the lotto, one thing rings true for us all. That is the fact that life in this universe is very rare, and the mathmatical probabilities that had to fall just into place for us to have a shot at not just life, but to the level we have accomplished is a miracle.

    When we all treat life as a miracle, even if just from a statistical point of view, we are more likely to enjoy it while we are here, and be kind to those around us who are also on a very short ride here as a human. Our life is shorter than a snap of the fingers when compared to the age of the universe, so lighten up, have fun, and be kind. Like Jesus would!

    November 29, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  10. max crusader

    what was the purpose of this ill-written article? Mr. Prothero, stick to Harvard taught religion, leave sports to ESPN – Tebow is 5 – 1 on the 4th quarter, not exactly mediocre

    November 29, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  11. TeaPotty

    The answer is no. Tim tebow is not a NFL caliber QB. His coach has built a game plan around his strengths. It is just a matter of time until the defenses devise a way to shut him down.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Really?

      NO matter, he will still pray!!!!!

      November 29, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • baj4q

      As a Redksins fan, I would trade all three of our quarterbacks for one that can win an F'ing game.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Allen

      Hater!!! 😉

      November 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  12. Someone You Don't Know

    god lets children die in terrible ways, but grants some punk holy skills at handegg? I wonder if this god fella is made up.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • IndyJim

      There is a scene in the old movie "Oh God" with John Denver and George Burns. John Denver turns to God and says, "how can you let innocent people suffer and die, starve to death, etc.". God turns to Denver and says, "I Don't do that, you do! I have given you everything you need on this planet to have a good and healthy life, but some choose to do wrong, or evil, or not work together".

      You can be a master craftsman, and build a gorgeous home for some family to come live in the house. Are you responsible if that family turns out to be a bunch of degenerates who fail to appreciate their gift?

      Most of us go thru life without killing or abusing other people, and trying to do good. If we all did that, I don't think there is anythign we could not accomplish. Disagree?

      November 29, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  13. David

    There should be a separation of church and football. Public displays are only for show. God does not care who scores a touchdown or who plays a perfect game. If Tebow were a true christian he would give up all of his worldly $$$ goods for Jesus. It is a sin what he and other players make. Many people who work hard at work not a stupid game never earn what they should. I say to hell with all of the athletes!

    November 29, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Moe

      I will not let you tell me how to celebrate my victories!

      November 29, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Jesse

      cause you suck at sports!

      November 29, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  14. STEVE LAMBERT

    Yet we pray for people like Jimbo every day!

    November 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  15. Brian

    As a die hard Bronco fan and Christian, I have to say this. Are you nuts? Miracles?! It is a sport.

    Tebow's style of play is unique in the NFL at the moment. An offense like this has not been run in nearly 50 years. His leadership on and off the field is helping propel this team. The Denver Defense has gotten better because Champ Bailey even last year was saying he could not wait to play with Tim Tebow. The old QB could not catch up from behind in fact if you read Denver Sports Columnist Woody Paige on Kyle Orton and his statistics he should not have started this season and why the Broncos tried to trade Orton but no one wanted him.

    He is managing the game that is what he is doing. Instead of with his arm it is mostly his feet. Sooner or later the Denver Broncos are going to crash to Earth with this style of offense. Right now no. The team is playing well. We finally have leadership on the offensive side that we lost when Cutler was traded by McDaniels. Let's also be clear the AFC West is horrible this year this is not the same division it was 10 plus years ago. Most of the teams Denver has beaten are not playing well in the back end of the season. The one team that is not, Detroit destroyed Denver.

    Tebow is a devote Christian and his take is refreshing compared to all the other players we have seen over the years. Instead of Bling, Tebow wears his faith but to say he is performing Miracles because of his faith is blasphemous.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Reality

      I guess the tongue in cheek way the article was lost in your Christian anger. I don't think the agnostic author care if you the non-judging (but judging) Christian find it blasphemous. I love you Christians who don't act very Christ like (or would be blasphemous to emulate the best being ever?)

      November 29, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Reality

      Not from the original Reality.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  16. sean burns

    Maybe he's praying that he'll get better at football.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Really?

      may be, he would really be the bomb then! As long as he is praying on the field and upsetting all the sinners, cool!

      November 29, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • sam

      @Really – cool your jets, you're a sinner too.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  17. jeff

    Like God would care if Tebow wins a game. I love all of the antics, God please let me win, please let me be a superstar, I give up my performance to Jesus. If there was a God would he/she really alter sporting events? It seems pretty silly to me. Keep praying Tebow, whatever helps your confidence; though, I think a shrink might help him more.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Really?

      If his fame opens up the doors to millions of lost souls, then fame it is!

      November 29, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • TeaPotty

      I couldn't agree more. Just once after a team loses a game I would like to hear a player say "We would have won the game if God hadn't made me fumble the ball".

      November 29, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Allen

      Really Tea Potty. I watched that awful Lions game with TT as starter and he fumbled for a TD and threw a pick for a TD. I don't remember him blaming it on God but he did admit he was not as good as better QBs in the league and that he needed to improve. Guess what, he has. And I am not a Christian.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  18. Corvus1

    Football players are performing "miracles" now? No wonder so many involved with the sport think they're God.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Really?

      no God does the miracle, tebow's just the vessel he is using.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  19. oh please

    GROW UP
    there is no God
    Freaking Grow Up Already
    Myths are for children~!!!!

    November 29, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Really?

      Jesus lives!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      November 29, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Really?

      "Jesus lives!"

      LMAO! He died 2000 years ago moron.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Moe

      To the moronic Really? Yes he died 2000 years ago but rose again and he is Alive!!! Believe in him!

      November 29, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Allen

      Moe
      You believe he rose again, get the textual facts straight. If I died and my friends and family said they saw me ascend to heaven in 200 years if anyone believed it you would be considered a nut and should have your head checked.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  20. Chris

    This article is insulting to Christians and to the rest of the Denver Broncos' players and coaches.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Really?

      I'm a Christian and I'm glad Tebow is not ashamed of God!

      November 29, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Moe

      Stop being so miserable, seek and you will find!

      November 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Moe

      Agree with Really?

      November 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.