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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. Vince Earnhardt

    Jesus IS a football fan, and a racer.
    He couldn't stay dead and arose in time for the Sunday NFL kickoff and NASCAR Gentlemen Start yer Engines!

    November 29, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  2. George

    If the Broncos beat the Patriots I will believe God has taken a personal interest in Tebow's success on the field.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  3. God

    Any event that creates a "loser" is not something God is into, I can guarantee that. Search the gospels for references of how the strongest deserve to win, how one is better then another, you won't find them.

    God thinks Football is a primitive concept practiced by a primitive society. If you find that insulting, then you know nothing of truth.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • JC

      I don't know... you kinda sound like a loser and I'm sure God still loves you...

      November 29, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  4. Tim Tebow

    Just remember kids, I'm better than you because God loves me more.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  5. Ja

    The only reason this stuff is still a story is because the media is desparate to make a story not because anyone is looking for attention. This is a bigger deal to the media than to anyone watching football.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Bronco Fan

      Well as a bronco fanatic I can see it means very much to me. lol

      November 29, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Binky42

      Even Bronco's fans are sick to death of this guy. Go to any bar in the USA and watch those Bronco's fans yell "Throw the damn ball Tebow!! Just do your job and throw the ball!" at the TV. It's hilarious.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • JA

      " J little a" ... there's lots of articles on this blog that shouldnt even be classified as a 3rd grade book report. What's exciting to read is the debates down below.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  6. Tim

    I've always wanted to question Tebow and many others, To Whom Do You Pray when you lose? Not once have I heard this young man give thanks to, and I quote, " my God and Savior" when he loses a game!!! It seems it's only appropriate to give praise when things go your way!!!!

    November 29, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • rob

      he has said something like, " life is more important that winning or losing..." -you decide what to think about that...

      November 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • DC

      Actually, the one game he did lose this year against the Lions... he still made references to Jesus guiding him and giving the him the strength to learn from the loss to help him to improve from it as well as to help him prepare for his future contests. It was in his post-game interviews.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Back then they denied Jesus' miraculous miracles, altogether they rejected Jesus. Now, a man of God, Tim Tebow is doing these things which seem impossible but yet Tebow achieves through faith in the Messiah & gets bashed for it. Denver2, God is everywhere, with everyone, at all times through the Holy Spirit. Believe or not, He is also with you & all of us & even those that hate Him & reject Him. Praise Jesus & I hope Tebow continues his successful run.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Ben

      There is a substantial difference between healing leprosy and beating the Chargers in overtime.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Binky42

      Hmmm...worshiping false idols. Wasn't that one of those big no-no sins? Remember the other guy who performed miracles to lead the faithful astray? Who's to say he's not Beelzebub in an orange jersey? Anyway, if there is a God (which I don't believe) he would be a Cardinals fan.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Ben, you obviously missed the point. I'm saying that through faith in Christ is the reason why Tim has been successful. & Binky, no comment. It's useless to argue with a person such as yourself

      November 29, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Ben

      I am going to go with the improved defense being the reason.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Anonymous

      K

      November 29, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Binky42

      Useless, or impossible? Unless you really do think this guy is the Second Coming, what you're doing is false worship and you're going to hell for it.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Binky, we're saved by Grace & Faith in Jesus. Not by obeying the Laws that were given to the Jews. I don't get how I'm worshipping a "false idol" but ok. It's as somebody said earlier in this article, if he were a Buddhist & you saw him meditating before his games, nobody would say anything because everybody now days is a Buddhist & they think its "cool" but since he's representing Jesus Christ, everybody hates on him for it. Like why is it that people as yourselves feel the need to bash us because we love our Lord and Savior? You have nothing to lose by believing in Him & so much to gain.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • RedinAustin

      Binky, you must understand people like Anon here. When confronted by something that contradicts their belief system, they shut down and dismiss it. My personal favorite is the question: If God is all powerful, can He create a boulder so large even He cannot lift it?

      November 29, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Rofl Anon, no dude .. I just rather not sit here & argue. I haven't dismissed anything instead, I defused it. SO MUCH HOSTILITY like relax people! We all have our own opinions & thoughts. & well, God is omni therefore, He could DO JUST DAT.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  8. Binky42

    Tim Tebow is proof that a roomful of blind monkeys could sit in front of typewriters and eventually write Shakespeare. It's called CHANCE and there is no other way to describe the Bronco's success over the last few games. Watch your back Tebow, because the whole league is trying to sack your behind!

    November 29, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Lori

      Let me solve the mystery for you, a vastly improved defense combined with playing mostly teams with poor records.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  9. Pointless1

    It's a miracle anyone thinks this guy will last all that long in the NFL...

    November 29, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  10. jon

    Prayer is powerful, but I do not believe God favours one team over another; however, I do think you can pray for safety, and a just result. There's a lot of evidence that prayers have power. However, I don't believe we should ever use it to win games, which would be rather insulting to God.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Gingeet

      Yeah, I'd like to see this proof of prayer working.... funny no one else has ever seen it...

      November 29, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Freethinksman

      Actually, prayer in and of itself has no power. "psyching yourself up" to do something is just that. If prayers for others were answered, there would be no question. The fact is, talking to a god is really just you talking to yourself. I never understood why people aren't called out more when they claim that prayer works. Nothing suggests it does, yet no one has the stones to raise that point when someone else claims it does work.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  11. hippypoet

    its dumb...seriously people, how the hell is this sh!t news worthy? Oh, wait...this is cnn... i should know better! A dog licking itself it news to cnn.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Paladuck

      I guess you have no where else to comment, so you hop on the 'Belief Blog" and say it's not news.....

      May god forgive you ignorance and illiteracy.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Really?

      You sure spend all your time on this blog, not one day goes by that you can't be found here, so what does that say for you?

      November 29, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • hippypoet

      well if you check the days of thanksgiving, the friday, saturday, AND that sunday... you wont find any posts by me. but hey, thats what ya get for thinking... might want to look to that!

      November 29, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  12. Misha Gastonai

    People need to chill out. He's just a dude that follows a religion. If it were something "cool" like Buddhism, nobody would be complaining if he sat down and meditated between plays. But because it IS cool to hate on Christiainity now it becomes a big deal.

    It would be different if shouted scripture at opponents, threw bibles to fans, or left games early because he was suffering from stigmata. But he aint, and it's the people making a big deal about all this that are the weirdos.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Sam

      I would agree but with an emphasis on both sides of the debate. If you think he is a terrible QB because of his religion you are a fool. If you think he is a great QB because of his religion you are equally a fool.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  13. jon

    Joe Namath was really Mother Teresa.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  14. Alisha L. Gordon

    Love this story! Jesus is awesome and it's clear the favor of God is on Tebow's life! Wrote a blog about it! http://findthepieces.com/2011/11/18/the-winning-formula/

    November 29, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • David

      Doesn't God have more important things to do?

      November 29, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • secularbear

      Alisha – lots of devout Christians suffer tragedies. Why isn't the "favor of god" on the side of 100% of devout christians? Why do christians struggle with the concept of randomness? Oh, wait, I know the answer. It's because they're delusional and stupid.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • RedinAustin

      Did you seriously just use the phrase, "Jesus is awsome"?!

      November 29, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • RedinAustin

      Sorry about the missing "e" in awesome. I was so flabbergasted by the goofiness of the phrase, correct spelling eluded me.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  15. God

    Nowhere in the Bible do you see my son winning any Football games.He was always kind of a sports wienie.

    Now this Tebow guy, he's the real deal. I wish Tebow was my son 😦

    November 29, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Charlie

      Tebow is not your son, he is a child of God and does not hesitate to let you know that he is!!!

      November 29, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  16. secularbear

    I love the phrase "scholar of religion", that's like saying "ghost hunter" or "werewolf expert".

    The only miracle about Tim Tebow is that the Bronco defense continues to compensate for the weak offensive output. He is on borrowed time.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • David

      Their defense has gotten impressive.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • OldSpearmint

      Errrrrr, whether you believe in religions or not, they still exist. So someone can be a religious scholar, because they're studying the different belief systems of our time and of different times in history. Secular people can sometimes be too smart for their own good, secularbear.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  17. Reality

    Dear Tim,

    Apparently, you missed this prayer during the last review of your "miracle-filled" life:

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen

    Some of the references used to update the creed:

    o 1. Historical Jesus Theories, earlychristianwritings.com/theories.htm – the names of many of the contemporary historical Jesus scholars and the ti-tles of their over 100 books on the subject.
    2. Early Christian Writings, earlychristianwritings.com/
    – a list of early Christian doc-uments to include the year of publication–
    3. Historical Jesus Studies, faithfutures.org/HJstudies.html,
    – "an extensive and constantly expanding literature on historical research into the person and cultural context of Jesus of Nazareth"
    4. Jesus Database, faithfutures.org/JDB/intro.html–"The JESUS DATABASE is an online annotated inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings of Jesus that have survived from the first three centuries of the Common Era. It includes both canonical and extra-canonical materials, and is not limited to the traditions found within the Christian New Testament."
    5. Josephus on Jesus mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm
    6. The Jesus Seminar, mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/seminar.html#Criteria
    7. Writing the New Testament- mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/testament.html
    8. Health and Healing in the Land of Israel By Joe Zias
    joezias.com/HealthHealingLandIsrael.htm
    9. Economics in First Century Palestine, K.C. Hanson and D. E. Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus, Fortress Press, 1998.
    10. 7. The Gnostic Jesus
    (Part One in a Two-Part Series on Ancient and Modern Gnosticism)
    by Douglas Groothuis: equip.org/free/DG040-1.htm
    11. The interpretation of the Bible in the Church, Pontifical Biblical Commission
    Presented on March 18, 1994
    ewtn.com/library/CURIA/PBCINTER.HTM#2
    12. The Jesus Database- newer site:
    wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?t-itle=Jesus_Database
    13. Jesus Database with the example of Supper and Eucharist:
    faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb016.html
    14. Josephus on Jesus by Paul Maier:
    mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm
    15. The Journal of Higher Criticism with links to articles on the Historical Jesus:
    mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm

    November 29, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • ummm

      could you repeat that?

      November 29, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • chris

      If we let you marry your boyfriend will you stop hating Christianity so much?

      November 29, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Anonymous

      I'm glad you wasted you're about 10 15 mins on google to find something to attack Christianity with, but the Reality is Reality, nobody read it & nobody cares too. Sorry. Praise Jesus

      November 29, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • JC

      Cliffs?

      November 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  18. And when he loses

    When he loses will you blame God? If you don't, then I hold my children to a higher standard than you hold your god. Credit and blame go hand in hand, and your god needs to grow up. (Or maybe you should get over your childhood beliefs since you are no longer a child – to paraphrase scripture).

    November 29, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • boogie

      I'm GOD...Count Boogie...you can all worship ME!...Instead of the 10% you give the fake churches...I will only demand 7.5%...Kneel before BOOGIE...ummm...actually only cute cheerleaders should do that...everyone else...just give me the money...TeaBow is just like Tae-Bow...a fad...just like Jesus. all three can go and get Tea-Bagged!

      November 29, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  19. David

    When he wins a Superbowl I'll call it a miracles, in the meantime his body of work as a pro is not that impressive.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Bronco Fan

      , 455 yrds rushing 3 TD's 4.8 yards per carry, 836 yards passing 45.5% completion % and the two most important stats off all in six starts...5-1 record with a 8 to 1 touchdown to INT ratio. Strange the numbers say different. So he's scored 11 Touchdowns on 1291 yards of offense in 6 games. With ONE turnover.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  20. anonymouse

    If praying (in the NFL) worked, both teams would always win.

    That's not possible.

    Therefore, prayer is useless.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • love it

      good point.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • anonycat

      Not true. What if someone on the other team is praying to lose? Then both sides prayers are answered...

      November 29, 2011 at 2:11 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.