My Take: Confessions of a Tebow convert
Tim Tebow's habit of praying on the field has given rise to a new word: "Tebowing."
December 12th, 2011
09:57 AM ET

My Take: Confessions of a Tebow convert

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

I must confess that until this weekend I was an agnostic when it came to Tim Tebow. I wasn’t a believer or a non-believer. As America’s cultural warriors debated the virtues and vices of the Denver Broncos' miracle-working quarterback, I played the role of the disinterested academic.

I enjoyed listening to skeptics scoff at evangelicals for actually believing a guy who couldn’t throw could lead his football team to the NFL playoffs. I enjoyed listening to evangelicals scoff at the skeptics for dismissing not only the miracles of Tebow but also the miracles of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In an earlier post I asked, “Is Tim Tebow performing miracles?” But I didn't answer the question.

Today I must confess, however, that the Broncos’ 13-10 come-from-behind victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday has made a believer out of me.

Yes, I doubted when the Bears were ahead 10-0 in the fourth quarter and Tebow had completed fewer than a handful of passes. But doubt, as they say, is part of faith. And I am now a true believer.

I don’t just believe that Tebow is a bona fide NFL quarterback, however. Of course I believe that he can lead his offense on scoring drives with the clock ticking down in the fourth quarter. I have seen him do that with my own eyes. But Tom Brady of the Patriots can do that.

What is truly miraculous about Tim Tebow is his ability to affect a game even when he is sitting on the bench. The Broncos defense? Tebow’s got it covered. The Bears’ offense? Tebow can force a three-and-out.

Why did the Bears’ running back Marion Barber run out of bounds when his team had almost run out the clock on Sunday? Tebow!

Why did Barber fumble in overtime just as the Bears were driving for a score? Tebow!

Why did the Broncos’ kicker Matt Prater make a 59-yard field goal to send the game into overtime and a 51-yarder to win it? Tebow and again I say Tebow!

In short, I agree these words from the Denver Post: “there is no antidote, no potion for Tebow Magic.”

Only it’s not magic. It’s faith. And now I’ve got it too.

With every faith comes hard questions, however. So here is the theological conundrum for my fellow parishioners in the Church of Tim Tebow. If Tebow is the “Mile High Messiah” why don’t his miracles work in the first three quarters? Why did he have a dismal 9.5 passer rating in the first half on Sunday? Why did it look like Denver receiver Demaryius Thomas was being paid to drop his passes until it came to Tebow Time?

To which I can only exhale and say, “Oh ye of little faith!”

To those of us who truly believe, the answers to these questions are obvious: Because a little doubt never hurt anyone. Because there is nothing miraculous about the Packers’ running roughshod over the Raiders 46-16. Because this is religion we are talking about people, not football.

The Church of Tim Tebow isn’t just about winning. It is about snatching faith from the jaws of victory. It is about sitting back at the end of the game, as I did this Sunday, and thinking, "Did that really happen?" only to realize it really did.

"If you believe," Tebow said after the game, "then unbelievable things can sometimes be possible." To which I can only say, "Amen."

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

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Belief • Celebrity • Christianity • Faith • Sports

soundoff (490 Responses)
  1. Dan

    Is an imaginary person helping an ignorant man win a football game? I'm not going to spend much time thinking about this.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:14 am |
  2. Reality

    Dear Timmy and his buddy Steve P,

    Some rational thinking via a prayer:

    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

    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.


    December 12, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  3. AvdBerg

    The above article by Stephen Prothero is silly as God does not involve Himself in football. It is a lie and a fabrication of the truth and the article does not contain any spiritual truth.

    Please know that he that is spiritual judgeth (discerneth) all things, yet he himself is judged of no man (1 Cor. 2:15).

    Tim Tebow does not know what he worships as he worships after an image of a false God. He does not understand the Gospel of Christ (1 Cor. 2:14) but rather follows after a false Christ and the spirit of this world in which there is no salvation (Matthew 24:24). He was born in sin and in his natural state is separated from God and unless he repents and turns from darkness to light and from the power of Satan (whose spirit he is of) unto God (Acts 26:18), he will remain spiritually blind. God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth (John 9:31). For a better understanding who Tim Tebow worships and what it means to be a sinner, we invite you to read the articles ‘Repent’, ‘What is Sin’ and ‘Victory over Sin’, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    It is sad but true but Sports and Entertainment is a stronghold of Satan’s divided kingdom (Matthew 10:26-28; 2 Cor. 10:4) and any reference to Jesus Christ is falsehood. Tim Tebow’s prayers are all in vain as he follows after the teachings and the doctrines of men and the principalities and powers of this world (Matthew 15:9; Eph. 6:12). Any sports figure that claims himself/herself be a Christian is a deception as they follow after a false Christ and the god of this world. Their faith does not stand in Jesus Christ but rather they do service unto them which by nature are no gods (Gal. 4:8). As a result of their spiritual blindness they do not know that they are all of the same spirit as they prefer darkness over light (John 3:19).

    For whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world (1 John 5:4).

    For a better understanding what it means to be a Christian we invite you to read the article ‘Can Christianity or any Other Religion Save You?’ listed on our website.

    Also, to give people a better understanding of the destructive forces (Eph. 6:12) behind the media, US Politics and the issues that divide this world, we invite you to read the article ‘CNN Belief Blog ~ Sign of the Times’.

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how this whole world has been deceived as confirmed by the Word of God in Revelation 12:9. The Bible is true in all things and is the discerner of every thought and the intent of the heart (Hebrews 5:12). The truth is that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). This is why we call all of mankind to repentance.

    Seek, and ye shall find (Matthew 7:7).

    December 12, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • ....

      Report abuse on all AvdBerg spam. CNN actually will kick his posts off if enough people do it.

      December 13, 2011 at 7:56 am |
  4. Raj Alexander

    I am just having a field day laughing at all the secular media trying to make sense of this.Look if God can use a stable surrounded by a few sheperds as a platform to bring forth his son he can still use an insignificant game of football and a deficient quarterback to serve as a platform for people to hear his Gospel.My fellow christians, rejoice, we serve a mighty God and may Tebow always succeed in his Kingdom work! Blessings.

    December 12, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "if God can use a stable surrounded by a few sheperds as a platform to bring forth his son he can still use an insignificant game of football and a deficient quarterback to serve as a platform for people to hear his Gospel."

      Yet your god cannot keep his priests from but..ttra...ping 10 year old boys.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  5. Portland tony

    You insult my intelligence. You may wash the feet of the Almighty Tim. But watch out for the Patriots this week

    December 12, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Exactly. This week when the Pats stomp the Denver Donkys, then will people be blameing god for abandoning Tebow? I be not, because thiests always want it both ways. It makes me sick. Incidently if the Broncos do beat the Pats, then he is obvously a practicaner of black magic and of the dark arts in general.

      December 12, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  6. Dzerres

    Tebow's manager should tell him to knock it off. NO ONE is criticizing Tebow for having faith but this constant lord and savior cr@p is offending more people than it's converting. Tebow will never get product endorsements nor a gig as a sports announcer once his career is over if he keeps this up. It makes believers and non-believers wince ever time he opens his mouth. He's only talking to about 15% of believers: the rest he's offending because most real Christians know that neither God nor Jesus gives a hoot about football.

    December 12, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • David

      If you know Tebow, you know when he retires he doesn't want to be a sports caster, he wants to spread the word of God.

      December 12, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Mad The Swine

      god would have had to exist for it to have words to speak. Funfortunately, it does not.

      December 12, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
  7. Ed

    It's called Tebowmania & it's good clean fun. He looks like a real fine young fellow & he's a better player than he was given credit for & he knows how to win.

    December 12, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • Mad The Swine

      Schizophrenia is not good, clean fun. It's an illness.

      December 12, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • mickey1313

      He is lucky, not good. The bronco (Tebow had squat to do with it, won on Sunday Because Barber went out of bounds. He should have been fired. Every single player in the NFL knows when the time is that low, just go down and let the clock run. But he gave the game to the Broncos and not all the religicans are out in force. Another piece of food for thought, Jesus said that it was harder for a rich man to get into heven then a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle, so why would he help a rich spoiled POS win a game that hurts thousands of childeren every year. Jesus was not a bully, nor was he a capitalist nor was he part of the eleite, so again WHY WOULD HE HELP THIS D-BAG?

      December 12, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
  8. Respect

    Remember two things about rabid evangelicals:
    1) More people have been killed in the name of religion, especially Christianity than any other cause, including money
    2) When it comes to the worst, most devastating legislation passed in America, there are always two groups to blame.
    a) Evangelical Christians
    b) Do-Gooder Ban-Everything Soccer Moms

    Be advised that b and a sometimes intersect.

    This is why people like me are skeptical when somebody of possible future influence rams prayer/Jesus/mythical cloud beings down our throats. Because it never, I repeat, never ends well. Christianity and Soccer Moms have brought us:
    1) Crusades
    2) Inquisition
    3) War on Drugs
    4) Seat Belt Laws
    5) Banning of Speech
    6) Intrusion into personal lives

    Remember what Tacitus said: "The more laws a nation has, the more corrupt it is."

    Jesus is NOT coming to save us, and the sooner people get used to that, the better.

    December 12, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • HappyAgnostic

      Really? Respect? Talking about "mythical cloud beings" is how you respect someone? Really the Spanish Inquisition is the same as Seat Belt Laws and the War on Drugs? Have another bong hit and wait until you graduate from Jr. High before joining an adult debate.

      December 12, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • Portland tony

      Seat belts YES. War on Drugs and Spanish Inquisition NO..

      December 12, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
  9. Dzerres

    Please. That Chicago player stopped the clock and fumbled in overtime. He is who won the game for the Broncos. This article is at a bubble gum level.

    December 12, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
  10. Der

    Explain that Lion game then?

    December 12, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  11. TRH

    Everyone knows the one true god is Joe Pesci.

    December 12, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • Neil

      No, it's Neil Young!

      December 13, 2011 at 7:49 am |
    • Bill

      I love Neil Young but George Carlin says it's all Joe all the time.

      December 13, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  12. dcb1963

    This guy is a winner by all accounts. His faith may or may not have to do with that. He is exciting to watch. He is also a top-notch roll model. Go Tebow

    December 12, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • dcb1963

      I'm sorry for the spelling error roll – sb-role

      December 12, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  13. Ryan

    CNN trying to cover sports? How much did they pay you to write this article because Tebow is the hottest thing in news? Unfortunately from someone who knows a lot about football your article wasn't very convincing and your lack of knowledge showed it. As far as Tebow – he's incredible at the end of games and it's because he's talented and gifted but he doesn't let negative things get him down and his teammates respect him for it. But there is one thing missing from all these articles on every site – when Denver does lose – Tebow will still believe and will still honor God and still believe in God – I hope people don't think if they believe in God they will win in everything they do. There were obviously Believers who were also praying on the Bears sideline as well.

    December 12, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  14. Salsaman561

    It's amazing that the "nay-sayers" are still out there. There are athletes out there that pound their chest and point to heaven and those who kneel down and pray then do the "Christian Cross Sign" when their done and nobody says anything. This young kid has been doing this his "WHOLE" life and showing his "nay-sayers" wrong. You non-believers need to watch a Bronco game from start to finish to truely understand what everyone is talking about. He compliments his teammates and coaching staff after each game and let's the press know that without them, he would not be able to do what he doe's. He is a "CLASS-ACT" and deserves the credit. Don't get GOD involved when things go wrong. You have the power, thru GOD, to change it. In fact, he's probably getting ready for the game against the Patriots right now. Get ready for another miracle...

    December 12, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Rich

      You're nuts. In 5 of the wins, the defense gave up 61 points. The Broncos eked out wins in those games. A real QB would have had 20+ points – you know, Manning, Brees, Cam Newton, Rodgers, etc., etc.

      December 12, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "You non-believers need to watch a Bronco game from start to finish to truely understand what everyone is talking about."

      Ummmm....have you watched a Broncos game start to finish? I think he was 3/17 or something for less than 50 years through 3 quarters versus the Bears. It wasnt until the Bears D changed their defensive scheme to a more passive prevent style defense, along with Marion Barber running out of bounds in the 4th quarter when the game was locked up and fumbling in FG range in overtime, that Tebow came to life. And he barely beat a Bears team missing their QB and RB. Yeah, he is awesome.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  15. nooneknows

    My pal, Larry the Leprechaun, is the one true god.
    Really, he told me so himself.
    No, you can't see him, he's invisible, and no, you can't hear him, he's silent except in my head.
    But he really does exist. You can't prove to me that he doesn't; therefore, he must. Should I tell Tim Tebow about this?

    December 12, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • mak123

      Well ask the mighty leprachaun to show us some proof.

      December 12, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • nooneknows

      Larry's quite busy, watching some reality tv I think, so you'll just have to take it on faith.

      December 12, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  16. opinionguru

    I love reading what atheist write. Once Moses asked our LORD what his name was, he answered more fully than any could ever answer..."I AM THAT I AM". When I see people scoff at what the LORD does or doesn't do, remember this; He laid the foundations of all worlds and set time in motion by his own hand. He keeps his own counsel. It is not our place to claim equality with GOD and question his handiwork or his scheduling (reference Lucifer). Tim Tebow knows his place is as a servant to his (our) LORD and Savior. Football is only a pastime for him; spreading the message of salvation through Jesus Christ is what he is all about.
    If you haven't gotten that, you have missed the point completely. If you know that and still dislike him, then you are the reason ALL Christians evangelize!
    See you at the game!

    December 12, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • nooneknows

      What happened to all the people that lived and died prior to Christ?
      Did they go to heaven by default, since they had no way to be 'born again'?
      If so, then Christ really screwed us over by not letting us just go to heaven by default.
      What a gyp! Oh wait, here I go questioning his handiwork again, d'oh! So sorry.

      December 12, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • TRH

      "I love reading what atheist write."

      Then try Chris Hitchens or Richard Dawkins or watch "The God Who Wasn't There"....not a CNN forum.

      December 12, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • Football Jesus

      Nononeknows, The answer to this question even if you don't believe is found in the New Test. Don't read it as a way to find faith but instead as a student so you can effectivly argue your points with a little bit of knowledge of what the other side belives.

      December 12, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • claybigsby

      please remember you are quoting a book written by fallible human beings.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  17. Football Jesus

    The goat was last week. Moving on to chicken tonight. Have a good one amigo.

    December 12, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  18. Question the Skeptic

    Question Reality,
    Firstly, God is infinite. He is nevery too busy to do whatsoever He wills.

    Secondly, Do you blame God when bad things happen and pat yourself or others on the back when good things happen? Perhaps the proper form is to thank God when good things happen and blame ourselves or others, justly, when bad things happen.

    Not sure what happened to the girl you're referring to but let's apply some faith AND reason here. Firstly, what happened to that girl? Did someoen shoot her? If so, who was that someone?

    Also, in case you would prefer to vent at God rather than reflect upon Him and His will, let me merely present some common arguments and tell me if you see the contradiction and the excuse making from those who, for whatever reason, do not love or acknowledge God. Some complain against God for allowing suffering in the world and these propose that God should forcefully prevent one person from being able to harm another – i.e., remove our free will. Others complain that God intrudes too much and that His commandments are tyrannical – even though He's our Creator and by virtue of being our Creator, can justly demand whatsoever He wills.

    God bless stranger.

    December 12, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • nooneknows

      You said "...he's our creator...", which begs the question: who created god?
      If you tell me that god needs no creator, then by that same logic we need no god.

      Think about why you believe what you believe. You were brainwashed as a child, like most of us. Time to wake up.

      December 12, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • Football Jesus

      Nononeknows, Try thinking about why you don't believe? I came to God late in life and my parents and people I know are still acepting it. Not brainwashed. Maybe the people who argue against God the loudest are affraid that they're wrong. Or maybe you have been made to feel guilty that you don't subscribe to faith. Either way you look at it only one of two things are going to happen when we die. 1) Nothing-We're all in the clear. 2) We go somewhere based on the life we lived. I will never judge someone I care about for not sharing my views but I will pray that they are looked after.

      December 12, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • Mad The Swine

      I've got a funny story for you.

      This god of yours has never had it in its will to grow someone's limb back, ever.

      The end.

      How'd you like that true story? Wasn't it beautiful?

      December 12, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "Either way you look at it only one of two things are going to happen when we die. 1) Nothing-We're all in the clear. 2) We go somewhere based on the life we lived"

      how do you KNOW this?

      December 13, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  19. Thinking7

    People need to stop being jealous. Tebow is one of the only decent and respectable athletes we have in America. He has class and talent.

    December 12, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Wildflower


      December 12, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
  20. Football Jesus

    This is my first time on any comment board. I find it interesting how so many people are commenting on how God has no interest in a football game. You can have 100% or 0% faith and agree that is True. God doesn't care about football but He does care about people especially lost souls. The fact that millions of people are now discussing faith or their lack of it proves without a doubt that Tebow is special. Maybe the questions we are asking shouldnt be about football or miracles but instead if it's possible that God is using this akward looking QB to spread his word? Jesus didn't aim to make a statement by performing miracles on the strong and wealthy. He preformed them on the underdog's of society so His point would be clear and discussed through out the land. Sounds familiar don't you think?

    December 12, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • Bob

      No, it just proves that just about anything can make the news. Now get back to your goat sacrifice like the bible commands or Christian god will torture you in hell.

      December 12, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • nooneknows

      No matter the outcome, it's always part of god's grand plan, right?
      So the fact that thousands of people around the world were brutally maimed and murdered in the same few minutes of "the Tebow miracle" doesn't strike you as a bit odd? Why would this all-powerful, all-loving god let that happen, but pay attention to football? Oh yeah, to spread the word and get more believers; far more important than saving lives, right? So, so stupid.

      December 12, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • justrelax

      Yo just relax. Breathe. Breathe again. The oxygen you are breathing in is a gift from God. As I am writing this, every second, a new life arrives healthy and strong, an accident is averted, a surgery goes well, a family member is found, a poor man triumphs over injustice. So dont bring up all your B.S. ninth degrees about God not protecting people from being maimed and murdered. God protects people all the time, and He saves people all the time. Who are you, O fallible, temporal, miniscule speck to judge One who sees all things when you are blind to the fallibility of your own tunnel visioned argument?

      December 12, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • claybigsby

      The fact that you "know" so much about what god wants and doesnt want or what god cares about or doesnt care about begs the question: Have you met with god and physically had a conversation with it regarding its likes and dislikes? My guess is you haven't and only base your comments on a bronze aged book written by humans no smarter than current generations.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
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About this blog

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.