By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) – When quarterback Tim Tebow threw an 80-yard touchdown pass Sunday to secure an overtime victory for his Denver Broncos over the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers, some saw a biblical connection.
The completion gave Tebow, an outspoken evangelical Christian whose penchant for last-minute heroics have given him a reputation as a miracle worker, 316 passing yards for the game. His ten completions averaged 31.6 yards a piece.
Those figures inspired plenty of conversation and debate about a connection some saw to one of the most famous verses in the Bible, John 3:16.
The New Testament verse is held up by Christians around the globe because it neatly summarizes some key points of Christianity: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life." (NIV)
In the third chapter in the Gospel of John, Jesus is having a late night discussion with a Pharisee, one of the Jewish teachers of the law, named Nicodemus. The chapter is also where the expression "born again" originates.
Jesus tells Nicodemus: "...no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." In his longer explanation of that idea, Jesus gets to the core of his message in verse 3:16.
The verse is popular with Christians looking to share their faith because it's short and information-packed: God loves humankind, man has sinned and is destined for eternal punishment, but eternal live awaits all who believe in God's son, Jesus.
John 3:16 also has a long history with football and pop culture.
During last year's Super Bowl, the Fixed Point Foundation, which promotes Christianity in the public square, tried to buy an advertisement pushing people to a website to learn about John 3:16 but the ad was was rejected.
The spot showed people watching a football game noticing the phrase John 3:16 on a player's eye black - a sticker or grease that players wear under the eyes to reduce glare from the sun. A man in the ad says he's going to look up the verse, while the ad directed viewers to www.lookup316.com.
At the time, Fixed Point Executive Director Larry Taunton told CNN that Fox Sports said it rejected his commercial because it contained "religious doctrine," though Taunton said the ad avoided featuring the actual words of the verse.
“Increasingly religion and Christianity is treated like smoking – you can do it but only in designated areas,” Taunton said. “They were saying there’s no place for (faith) in the public square. There’s a place for the soft core porn of Go-Daddy, violent movie trailers, and irresponsible drinking, but not for faith."
As a workaround, the Fixed Point Foundation ran its ad on Fox stations locally in Birmingham, Alabama and Washington, DC during the Super Bowl.
Tebow wore Bible verses on his eye black when he quarterbacked the Florida Gators in college. In the 2009 BCS championship game, he wrote John 3:16 on his eye black. After he left college football for the NFL in 2010, the NCAA banned players from writing on their eye black, which some have called the "Tebow rule."
John 3:16 came into the pop culture view in the late 1970s and early 1980s at sporting events, when a man named Rollen Stewart would don a rainbow colored afro wig and a John 3:16 T-shirt. He was especially good at getting himself in front of the cameras at sporting and big cultural events, including the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.
Stewart grew increasingly fanatical about his crusade. In 1992 he took a maid hostage with a loaded gun at a Los Angeles hotel, demanding a national press conference to proclaim his new message that the end of the world was near.
He plastered John 3:16 on hotel windows. CNN reported at the time that it took a SWAT team nine hours to free the woman.
At his sentencing hearing Stewart had to be removed from court when he would not let the judge speak. As deputies were dragging him out of the courtroom he screamed, "Don't take me out, I said. God sends love to the world. Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they're doing. They know not what they're doing, Lord."
That last phrase is also biblical, attributed to Jesus while he was praying for his executioners as he hung on the cross.
Stewart was convicted and sent to prison in 1993 on three counts of hostage taking and is currently serving three life sentences at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California.
Despite Stewart's story, many sports fans continue the tradition of evangelizing at sports games by holding up John 3:16 on placards.
Broncos QB Jay Cutler threw for 3-1-6 yards in a AFC West playoff game (2008 – no number value attached ;-) and LOST. Are you trying to tell me that god makes no sense with his numbers?
Or is it, that only Tebow has a monopoly on 31:6??
It was NOT an 80 yrd touchdown throw. Tebow threw at the 15yrd line, the receiver caught it at 40. That makes it a 6-0 yard RUN. If the receiver hadn't been so determined, he'd been pushed out of bounds. The credit goes to him.
Did you mean for the 2008-09 season? or the playoffs that occurred in 2008 for the 2007-08 season?
Because I do not see him appearing in either playoff?
But, no 316 is a number, until it holds significance
It's a fundie catch phrase that they don't really understand, in or out of context.
To each his own – for those that wish to applaud Tim do so – – – to those that don't want to – don't!
Please, one of you "good Christians" – explain to me the concept of Original Sin. I simply do not understand how a supposedly loving God could create something so unfair. And for those of you who will blame Adam & Eve – then how do you explain why the rest of humanity should be punished for their sin into eternity? A loving God? I think not! It seems much more likely that the Christian God (like so many others) was created in the mind of man for the purposes of man – whether for true faith and hope or for power over others.
Why not go to church? You want answers about God on a forum?
Because HenryO, the inerpretation is as valid on a forum as it is in a church. Christianity, 30,000 variations and counting.
a forum is as good of place as any to get religion questions answered – the so called relgious leaders haven't gotten it right or there would be ONE Religion instead of 1,000s that exist in the world!
Actually HenryO, I have been to church a great deal over the years. I was raised Methodist, and have attended many other "Christian" services over the years, including Catholic, Baptist, and Nazarene. I never got the answers I needed in Church or from the priests/ministers I spoke with.
You asked a valid question, however you did not attempt to answer my question. I wonder if that is not in itself the answer I pretty much expected...
God didn't create original sin, man introduced it to the world through his corruption of God's creation. The disconnection from God because of original sin is not a punishment from God, it is simply the result of sin, which is why God didn't want us to do it in the first place. God doesn't punish us, but He allows us the free will to "punish ourselves" in a sense by turning away from Him, if we choose to do so.
As for God being created in the mind of man for his own purposes, that seems pretty silly as it is quite challenging to live as a good Christian. If it was a self serving, man made idea, it would be reasonable to assume that it would support our vices not deter us from them.
Ok Nick, what exactly did man do to corrupt God's creation? It's not as if we were destroying the planet way back then; humans were just trying to survive any way that they could. Your response is unfortunately just as convoluted sounding as anything I have heard from any of the official churches. I still do not understand the concept of original sin.
God as yet to be proven real, church as no more answers than this forum.
According to your bible in the beginning there was only darkness. God created everything. That includes EVERYTHING, such a sin. He is also omniscient, as in all knowing. He knew what Eve would do before he created light. By your religion own lore free will is an illusion.
No one can answer the question 'Who made God?', because nobody knows. Just like nobody knows, for certain and beyond the shadow of a doubt, what the Universe came from. I once read an argument that went something like:
What sounds more reasonable? The universe was created out of nothing by nothing, or the universe was created out of nothing by someone?
While its true that both theories seem completely out there and hard to believe, it all comes down to what helps each person rationalize in their own way. If I decide to believe in a big man in the sky who decided he was going to create an amazing and glorious masterpiece that gave birth to the world, fine. If I decide to believe that this is all a natural part of the give and take of scientific explination, and that all of this was destined to happen, not by the hands of a God but by the pure miracle of natural power then fine too. I think it should all come down to this: Does believing in what you do make you a better person? I've met athiests who were jerks and christians who were angels, and visa versa. Who are we to tell someone their belief is wrong if we ourselves find comfort and solace in our own? Sure there will always be those extremists who take things too far and who should be held up and made accountable for their actions, not as Christians or Athiests, but as Human Beings who took something too far.
There are a few things that Athiests and Christians should agree on, though:
1. There is, and can be, good and bad from both worlds (religion and athiesm).
I've met athiests who spend years of their lives helping humanity in the most charitable ways, not because they are trying to impress God, but because they are truly good people. I have met Christians, Muslims, Hindus, ETC who have done the very same, because, just like athiests, they truly are good people at heart. However, you cannot deny that arrogant jerks come from both sides as well, those who find it easier to yell and insist they are right instead of holding an intelligent discussion (Ex: Christians who do no research on their own religion and repeat only what is told to them, and young rebels or old ones who claim to be athiests only because they deem it cool and feel like being defiant without doing any research on their own to build their confidence in non-belief).
2. If we could learn from each other, coexist without the constant bickering and in complete tolerance of one another (No religion in government, but no banning nativity scenes, etc – again this comes down to extremists) the world would be a much better place. The greatest thing we could ever teach our children is tolerance of religious or non religious beliefs. We could accomplish so much more working together and finding common ground than focusing on where we clash.
3. Insulting another person for their beliefs, be it a religioius or non religious person, shows weakness on either party. If I call a christian a moron because they believe God, then that just makes me look like a jerk who is too mean to actually put a decent argument into my reply. If I call an athiest an idiot because they dont believe what I do that makes me look ignorant and stubborn. Instead try and see points in each other, try to acknowledge if you don't know something but want to learn, and do your best to make peace instead of war if you debate another person. Who wants more enemies?
As a christian I was taught to love your neighbor more than you love yourself, and to be honest that is the most difficult thing for me to do because I love myself a whole lot. But I am definately going to try. I wish all athiests in this discussion a wonderful day, I hope you all well and I apologize for any christian (or one who believes in any religion really) who has insulted you or treated you like garbage because of your beliefs. To all religious folk in this discussion, I say God Bless you, I wish you all well and hope that you meet nothing but kind people as you travel through life.
And with that I end my post. I am sorry if I offended anyone with my words here today, and I truly hope everyone here has a wonderful Wednsday. I know it was a lot to read, but if you did read through this whole thing I thank you.
Don't write so much, I can't read good. Santorum for president! God bless Tebow!
Just FYI, as fascinating as i'm sure your thesis is, I doubt many people on these blogs will make it past reading more than one paragraph.
>No one can answer the question 'Who made God?
Sure they can, men made god.
>Insulting another person for their beliefs, be it a religioius or non religious person, shows weakness on either party.
Why because you say so? I highly doubt you would say the same to a 40 year old who still believed in Santa Claus.
Soo Jin – Well said, and thank you.
I am agnostic, but I agree with you. I think the difficulty comes from the human weakness of feeling threatened when one's foundation is questioned. I also believe that another factor is the need that people feel for others to believe as they do to reinforce their foundation and thus validate them.
Someone who is secure n their beliefs, be they religious or not, should not need validation from without. Their own conviction should be enough.
Joke. How selfish to think that this infinitely wise, all-knowing man in the sky has a personal interest in YOU, down to whether you score a touchdown in a football game. Let's just leave logic aside and act like children, shall we? Joke.
All praise Lord Tebow!
No thanks! I'll praise the real Lord!
The FSM will not be pleased.
Jay, are you defying 'HolyChrist"? How could you? That's blasphemeracious.
I like to live dangerously Allmoighty!
Tebow believes in himself through his personal relationship with his God. Others may believe in their abilities for different reasons. Most intelligent people just leave it at that. What ever turns you on man...do it!
God could care less who wins in sports. We do a lot of stuff to justify and make sure we feel better on whatever we do.
Tebow's passing is not an act of god or anyone else except poor defensive play calling by the Steelers who failed to make adjustments and suffered from hubris and missing some key starters. Tebow may be a nice guy, but he's a fullback who throws. And sports fans, if god loves Tebow, he must adore Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. give it a rest.
Good Attempt to discredit the whole John 3:16 movement by the story at the end of the article. Obviously only dillusional people proclaim John 3:16. The article leaves the reader thinking, "wow, they must all be crazy."
and that would be wrong why?
Because they are.
Anyone who believes in invisible beings in the sky are crazy.
Any sports fan who is even somewhat knowledgeable on the 3:16 movement and its presence in popular culture knows that it all started with "some guy in a rainbow wig." Rollen Stewart is directly tied to the history of this movement and to omit the portion of the story where the movement he started became an obsession would be leaving out an entirely fascinating dimension of the story.
There is not some conspiracy to undermine the most dominant and prominent social faction in country. Get over yourself.
1. Cannot wait for a Muslim player to face Mecca and thank Allah for scoring a td. Please Jesus, make it happen!
2. Tebow is just an example of a"Look at Me Christian". His message is I'm better than you because Jesus loves me more.
3. Does the creator of the universe need a human ego? If a being could create everything, would said being really need humans to worship him/her? If I could create my own fabulous solar system to hang out in, why would I care if humans on Earth believe in me or adore me? I could just make something that does, if I have ego issues that is.
4. Who else HATES it when people say things after a storm (or a football game) like God heard our prayers and saved us. So the people who died in the storm didn't pray loud enough or what? I wonder how their relatives feel after those statements. What about the losing team, what should the team or the fans have done differently to get God's attention and favor??????
The one thing that people NEVER seem to get is that we have free will.
God doesn't care who wins football games.
It's the same for when something bad happens and people say, why did God let this happen?
GOD didn't make it happen–we did. Good or bad, WE make things happen.
Wow, you obviously are a very bitter person.
Since when is it wrong to express you beliefs? You have no problem expressing yours...of course if you don't agree with those who dare display their religion it is somehow wrong.
God sent the storm in the first place. He's a jokester that God. He sends the most horrible destructive forces of nature and then only saves a few so they can be grateful for sparing them, but then they have to go on, knowing they're survivors.
If God really did care about Tim Tebow he'd have made him a medical researcher who cures cancer with stem cells.
1. I'm sure that will happen and while I'm a Christian, I'd defend a Muslim's right to celebrate in such a way.
2. Practicing his faith in public doesn't mean he's trying to draw attention to himself. What it means is that his faith is part of every part of his life and has nothing to do with what he thinks about anyone else. It just means he's more concerned about his relationship with God than he is with what anti-religionists will say about him.
3. I can certainly understand why you'd feel the way you do about religion based on the perspective of God and Christianity you stated here. God doesn't need to be worshipped to be okay. He is love, at the very core of who He is and as a result He created beings that He could love and that could reciprocate that love.
4. Having lost my father (who was my hero) to a freak accident when I was 8, I know what it is to question why and how a loving God could possibly let horrible things happen to people who love Him and why some are saved and some not. This really isn't the place to go into all of the why's and how's, but the simplistic answer I've come to realize is that God's plan isn't for any to suffer these kinds of horrible things. To quote Christ from one of His parables (The Wheat and Tares), "An enemy has done this."
More good points... which lead to the inevitable conclusion... there probably is no God.
We only face towards Mecca when we perform our prayer we dont face Mecca during a supplication. Obtain a bit of knowledge about Islam and other religions it will make you appear a bit more intellectual.
We generally look up above us not because we are saying God's presense is literally above us, his knowledge is omnipresent but because we look up in respect as opposed to looking down. We dont even dare to say that his presense is at a fixed point let alone accuse him of having a son when he doesnt even have a wife.
YEs, let a muslim do it. It's his right. I think Tebow is just trying to be a witness for God, is that bad? No. Does God care about football? Probably not, but He DOES care about the players! THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO THEIR FAITH, just as an ATHEIST has a right to his faith in the big bang theory, darwinism, etc. , so QUIT JUDGING, YOU ALL WHO ARE PERSECUTING HIM FOR HIS FAITH ARE NOT GOD!!!!
Those of you who think that Tim Tebow is claiming that God loves or favors him more because he prays and that he or any other true Christian believes that God favors the Broncos because Tebow prays publically don't understand Christianity very well. I don't know Tebow personally, but I'd be surprised if he does more than ask for God's help to do his best and to thank God for that help. If you notice though, he prays whether or not things are going well. Prayer isn't some way to control God's favor and blessing. It is a means of communicating with/maintaining a relationship with God who loves, saves and restores us to the relationship He created us to have with Him. It's not magic. It's not sitting on Santa's lap with a wishlist.
Some have also questioned whether God cares enough to care about a football game. I don't know that the game is the issue. God cares about every individual and every part of every individual's life, right down to paying attention to the number of hairs on your head. So, in a sense He cares about the game, but less about who wins or loses than the well being of everyone on the field.
"asking for help" is still different than sitting on Santa's lap?
So Tebow can ask god for help and god will help him because he was kind enough to ask. But for someone who doesn't ask, god will not help (or at least help less often)?
You'll have to ask God about that. How He decides who He helps and when and why are things I can't tell you. I only know that praying and having a relationship with God changes me and has made a real difference in my life.
So this God you speak of, the one who doesn't answer the prayers to the millions out there suffering in poverty, disease and oppression, he's a big fan of Football, huh?
Seems to me that this God has a lot of explaining to do. Personally, I don't mind that someone spends some much time in conversation with their supreme being. However, I find it incongruous that they do so publicly and for something so superficial. For the millions this boy is making to spend all his time "playing" there is so much he could be doing for those less fortunate.
"outspoken Evangelical" ............. Tebow and other like him are truly arrogant in their beliefs!
What about the NFL penalties for 'unsporsmanlike conduct' (e.g., an excessive celebration following a scoring play); the NFL wouldn't dare penalize Tebow or other NFL players because it would cause such an uproar that you would think it was the end of the world!
Taking a knee doesn't violate the excessive celebration rule. I'd also challenge you to back up your statement about the arrogance of his of his beliefs. Is it arrogant to merely express one's beliefs and or practice the tenents of one's faith? He's not even asking you to join him.
Really? What planet are you from?
That's okay, the media will relentlessly attack Tebow for daring to express his religion.
"outspoken Evangelical" = those who believe theirs is the only religion and those who don't believe are damned forever! In other words, you have to believe in Jesus Christ as your "Lord and Savior"!
What in the world are you talking about? I think you're overly cofused. I'm sorry you believe someone with faith in thier background is "arrogant in their beliefs" Thinking the NFL should consider dropping to a knee for a short prayer "unsporsmanlike conduct" is ignorant at best.
Sorry to disappoint you but the NFL's rule defines a player going to the ground as excessive celebration. Taking a knee IS going to the ground. So tebowing is a display which could, AND SHOULD, be penalized. Of course, that's never going to happen because of the backlash it would create with the zealot jesus freaks in this country.
What I want to see is a muslim NFL player roll out a prayer mat and bow to mecca after he scores. Now that would be something, the christians would go insane (although they're already there). Just imagine how many death threats would be sent to that muslim player!
Antony – You are correct. Christianity is all about love and tolerance...as long as you believe as they do.
This passage is also taken to be pro-Lutheran because it supports the concept of salvation by faith alone, which is taken to be a heresy by some Christian denominations. See 1 Corinthians 13:2 for the full version.
It was just a wild card game! Throw for 316 in the Super Bowl then come talk to me.
Is this a joke? Your shortsightedness is astounding.
God loves all and wants all to come to know Him. He sent Jesus to earth to demonstrate this by living a pure and perfect life. His death on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice. Throughout Old Testament history from Genesis on a sacrifice was always necessary to please God. God did this so that we would recognize sacrifice and that it was not just random. The Bible clearly points to Christ throughout all of scripture and is referred to as the scarlet thread of redemption. When you put your trust in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins you have become a Christian and are saved and sealed. Just to comment on baptism, it is an outward demonstration of your faith but does not save you. You must be old enough to make the decision to be baptized on your own. Your parents cannot do it for you.
Thanks for the article CNN, but did you have to add the nutcase into a discussion about Jesus? Typical. There is always a discredit of Christianity and it is now counter cultural. God bless Tim Tebow for having the courage to stand strong in his faith and demonstrate it. Christians be bold. You too can be a Tim Tebow.
Sorry, you make a mistake.
True doctrine about baptism according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Early Church and Luther:
God considers the fact that we cannot grasp the gospel by reason (maybe at most to a certain extent). In order to make perfect our faith and in order to strenghten and seal our faith God has invented baptism. At baptism all barriers of time and space disappear and you die and resurrect togehter with Jesus in a real sense. After baptism you "must" believe.
Read Romans 6, if you don't believe me.
Is there a chance that all of this was made up? Based on your post it sounds like you have a lot invested in these beliefs, so it may make it hard to step outside of it all and take an objective view.
I was brought up Catholic, but as I started understanding human nature, learning about history, cosmology, physics, etc... I was able to look at things much more objectively and determine that it is more likely, much more likely, that the belief in god and the creation of religions, thousands of them, is just a human nature and in no way a picture of what is true.
>>>"Based on your post it sounds like you have a lot invested in these beliefs, so it may make it hard to step outside of it all and take an objective view."
Seems that when we read a great deal of the comments from Atheist, it seems that some of them have a lot more invested in their views. Mostly, you will find them in those that post not to say that they are proud to be Atheist but that they must insult and demean those of Faith.
I am proud to be an Atheist.
I don't think I was demeaning Last Call. I am expressing ideas which I think have merit. It is the ideas we should discuss, not the person.
If God watched football why would be pick the Broncos over America's team the Cowboy's ?
This article is yet another example of CNN attempting to demonize Christianity and everything related. CNN tries SO hard to discredit ANY hope God may give this country and calls it a fluke. CNN even has the audacity to shame those who proudly display 3:16, comparing them to Rollen Stewart.
I'm sure this article never would have been written had Tebow decided to follow Allah.
:-) Interesting that one person's failure is used for a reason to discredit a verse that has saved and blessed millions! I think Eric Marrapodi needs to look around and discredit the things he believes in on the same principle.
Media bias against Christianity...you don't say...
Maybe CNN needs to understand that freedom of speech includes religion
"Media bias against Christianity...you don't say..."
Awww...feeling a bit put upon little fella? Perhaps you can get a bunch of preachy type folks together and figure out why people are tired of hearing it
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.