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Monday, March 20, 2006

"L" in my bracket

Yes, my bracket is dead. It is peppered with more L's (losses) than I would like. But that's not all I mean by "L" in my bracket.

I got an interesting email about a site that will help you with podcasting. Yes, the idea crossed my mind to occasionally offer a podcast, but you may be surprised to as to the content (maybe not, if you know me). I thought it might be fun to illustrate the basic doctrines of grace (TULIP) from things we see around us in sport. Regardless as to how you may feel about Calvinism, I thought it may at least clear up some of the confusion about what the letters really mean.

I do believe sports can be a great tool to learn from, and certainly God can use them to exalt His name, even when that isn't our intention. Incidently, CJ Mahaney has written two excellent articles about how to use sports for His glory (Fathers and Sons and March Madness, and Fathers and Sons and Sundays) as well as did a wonderful job on Al Mohler's Radio Program describing this very issue (Has he turned Mohler into a closet sports fan?).

The NCAA Tournament can help us understand Limited Atonement?

That's the thought I want to pose to you. Now, allow me to preface this by saying that the doctrine of Particular Redemption (as it should probably be called...but TUPIP just didn't catch on) should be explored exclusively according to Scripture. Limited trust should be placed on experience, logic or metaphor. However, this doctrine is probably the most misunderstood (This is not an original statement of mine at all, but it is largely held by "5-pointers" that a "4-point" Calvinist is really a 5-point Calvinist who doesn't understand Limited Atonement). Therefore, I thought this illustration may help us understand the doctrine better.

To start off, consider this question: Who was the NCAA Basketball Champion Trophy built for? It may be a hideous thing (if it's anything like the BCS trophy), but when they put the work order into the company that would construct it, who did the NCAA have in mind?

At this point, we have no idea. (I think in the end, we'll find that it was built for Duke and JJ Redick, but we'll have to wait and see.) There are a couple of things we can know at this point, however:

1. It was not built for UNC. OK, that's not just a chance to take a jab. It also was not built for OSU, Tennesee, Syracuse, or any other team that has been sent home packing. It's a single elimination tournament, so if you have lost a game, we know the trophy wasn't built for you.
2. The trophy is available to 16 teams. Just because Duke has the superior talent, does not mean that they have the exclusive right to it. The trophy is equally available to all 16 teams that are still alive in the tournament. It has an opportunity to claim it.
3. It was not built for all 16 teams though. It is available to all teams, at this point, but will not be owned by all 16 teams. Should Gonzaga lose in the next round, they would not be able to show up on the campus of the winning school and claim the trophy for a day. It may be available to all, but it is certainly not owned by all.

Where it breaks down. Obviously, as the NCAA had the trophy built, they had no idea who it was built for. God, in His Sovereignty knows who will respond to Him, for our depravity ensures He must intercede for us to submit to Him. Therefore, the tourney builds a trophy with no idea who it will go to, but with the knowledge that it eventually will be reserved for a specific team. God, offered His Son with full knowledge of who would submit to Him and therefore His Son paid the penalty for a specific people.

Instead of imagining the NCAA as God, it is probably better to imagine them as fellow believers. At this point, we have no idea who Christ's sacrifice efficient for, for we have no idea who will submit to Him. Sadly, as some pass and we review their own statements of Christ, we can be sure they were not part of the elect. But others, we cling to the hope that they will submit to God and therefore find their penalty paid for.

The NCAA built a trophy that could have gone to 65 different teams, but in the end is reserved for one. This does not diminish its availability, simply it's efficiency. Christ's atoning sacrifice is available to all, but will only be efficient for those who submit to the gospel. That does not diminish its availability, but to say it is efficient for all means that all will be in heaven some day.

[Praise be to God as well, that the NCAA tournament is about individual acheivement and work, while salvation is about His work for me. I didn't list this as a way it breaks down because I hoped people would realize that one is obvious.]

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