Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Guest Post: Lombardi Wins by Bryan Johnson

My dear friend, Bryan, doesn't like my take on Rob Bell's book Love Wins. We disagree. So ... we could do what so many people did in the wake of the release of Love Wins. We could call each other names, question each other's fidelity to the gospel, and condemn one another to hell, be it a literal lake of fire or a miserable party experience.

But, no, Bryan and I aren't going to do that. We decided to have a civil discourse about Love Wins and the question of eternal, conscious torment. We hope to help each other understand the gospel better while also demonstrating that two people can sharply disagree without resorting to vitriol and judgment.

After reading the book, and what I've written here on the Grenz (links at the bottom), Bryan sent along this guest post. Read it. Enjoy it. I will tear it to shreds in the comments. Join in the conversation.

A Parody of Parity by Bryan Johnson, Winston-Salem, NC 6/6/11
An analogous review of Rob Bell’s Love Wins

Lombardi Wins: Victory, Defeat, and the Outcome of Every Team in the NFL

With cameras rolling, the Super Bowl hero jumps up and down with his index finger pointed upward, shouting on national television, “We’re number 1! We’re number 1!”

He knows this?
Without a doubt?

In light of the endlessly frustrating NFL lockout, there is a way for Commissioner Goodell to get the teams playing again. But it is also a long term plan that, in the end, will will will amaze...everyone.

Up to this point in NFL history, it has been assumed that a grueling training camp, a relatively meaningless pre-season and a long, injury-prone 16 game regular season, followed by the playoffs where only a select few teams get to keep playing, has been the best way to play professional football.

Is it really?

What about the other teams who don’t make the playoffs? What happens to all their effort? Is it wasted? Was it for nothing? Truth is: they spent just as many hours planning and playing as the other teams. Is it fair that they have to go home while a few “elite” teams get to move on? What kind of message does this send to their sponsors and fans?

Can Commissioner Goodell actually send these hard-playing, effort-giving teams into the ill-fated offseason with no hope or reward? What kind of commissioner is that? What type of sports league would reward a mere few special franchises with the chance to play on while punishing multiple others by sending them home for the year?

The playoffs are actually a time for every team to start over. To begin again. Like overtime, there’s a new coin toss. A football renewal, if you will. After all, the ground is level at the 50-yard line both at the beginning of the game as well as at the end of the game. And it’s time the entire season reflected that.

Besides, every player on every team already knows full well both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. For every game already has its own share of winners and losers, victories and defeats. There is victory in every proper formation, every perfectly run pass route, every first down scamper. Likewise, there’s defeat in every fumble, every missed tackle and every wide-to-the-left field goal shank.

Thus, winning and losing are not ultimate states of being, but present realities contained within every game.

Therefore, the subsequent rewarding of the Super Bowl championship to only one team at the end of the season ends up being both unfair and redundant. Plus, it only serves to further underscore (no pun intended) the chasm that currently exists between the football have’s and the football have-not’s.

Think of it: if the only teams who realistically have a shot at the Super Bowl championship each year are the Indianapolises, the New England’s, the Pittsburgh’s and the Green Bay’s of the league, then what incentive do the other teams have for suiting up at all months earlier in training camp? Why play every down of every game all season long if it’s all for naught in the end anyway? Such a system is terribly hopeless and counterproductive for the other 31 teams. More importantly, it raises serious questions about the commissioner, the entire league and even the sport of football itself.

Frankly, who are we to say the team with the most points at the end of the game always wins? Or, why is it the team who wins the last game is always crowned the Super Bowl champion?

For that matter, what exact formula for winning should be followed? Whose criteria for victory should be used? It’s possible for the concept of winning to be defined in many different ways.

Hence, a plan of surprise, a season of the unexpected...yea, a sport where mystery prevails.

What a wonderful surprise to all the Detroit’s and Cleveland’s of the league to take an entirely different approach to the season! It is high time to view Pro Football from a whole new angle.

It’s time for the NFL to change.
It’s time for more….

This season, when the clock runs out on the Super Bowl game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on February 5th, 2012, regardless of the scoreboard, instead of having the “winning” team come to the podium, Commissioner Goodell will invite all 32 teams to the center of the field. And with the sound of Freddie Mercury belting, “We are the Champions,” across the stadium, and with confetti and champagne covering every NFL owner, player, coach, staff member and fan alike, each team will rush the field of their own free will in order to celebrate and then be presented with, yes, its very own Lombardi Trophy in all of its splendor.

Every team.
The Lombardi Trophy.
No one excluded.

Everyone victorious.
United in joy.
A league-wide celebration.

No doubt, this surprising plan will have residual positive effects for the entire league for years to come. Players won’t have to practice each week with the fear of losing in the back of their minds. Free from having to explain failures and miscues, coaches will actually enjoy postgame press conferences. Many insufferable fans who’ve been disillusioned with their team’s perennial Super Bowl absence will be genuinely won back to the game. Many previously non-fans will finally come into the NFL fold away from Pro Tennis and Formula One Racing. Plus, every vendor will make a decent living just selling: “We’re 1 of #32 winners!” foam fingers.

In addition, it will be a huge windfall for the league and for the sport as a whole. Truckloads more in profits and endorsements will pour in. Every owner will be able to afford to build a brand new stadium with all the creature comforts fans so richly deserve. Why, even third-stringers will finally become product endorsers and company spokespersons.

As a result, Commissioner Goodell will be in his glory. He’s always wanted the NFL to be supra-cultural and global in its following. This will accomplish that and more. In fact, he could well become the savior of the entire sport, perhaps sports, in general (think Chicago Cubs, LA Clippers, etc.). Question is: does Goodell always get what he wants?

Think of it: he will be able to end the oppression of the losers and stop the exploitation of playoff-missers. He will rescue the poor in talent by shattering the arrogance of the elite. He will deliver the annually broken-hearted as he crushes the pride of the exclusive winners. Detroit will no longer be football hell. Cleveland will become dog-pound heaven on earth, here and now. Rebuilding years will become rebuilding moments. The future will be the present.

For that matter, consider the trickle-down results this astonishing plan will also have on all the Pee Wee leagues around the country, on every starry-eyed child who dreams of one day playing professional football. No more minivan rides home with a muddy, sobbing 7 year-old loser. No more cocky fist pumps and scornful looks coming from the victor’s sideline, touting the score and their pigskin prowess. No. Instead, participant ribbons for everyone! They’re all winners!

Lastly, this plan should go a long way to effectively (and permanently) end all collective bargaining debates, holdouts, lockouts and labor disputes. For at the end of the season, every team will get to raise the Super Bowl trophy and write ultimate victory into their own franchise story. You can’t put a price tag on that. Besides, it’s the love of the game for which they play.

Remember, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing,” said the legendary coach. And Commissioner Goodell couldn’t agree more. So while the plan may be a bit unorthodox at first glance, the surprising end results are extremely appealing. For winning isn’t everything; it’s the everyone thing. And winning isn’t just the only thing; it’s also the final thing.

So, although temporarily rolling over in his grave in Middletown, NJ, come February, in Indianapolis, IN,...once will be Lombardi who wins.

Love Wins: More Questions, More Answers
Winning! (some thoughts on Rob Bell, not Charlie Sheen)
Hell's Bells: some preliminary thoughts about Love Wins



bryan said...

i need to update my pic. lol

Robb Ryerse said...

Bryan, you are a Detroit Lions fan. I am a Cleveland Browns fan. This makes your mentioning our pathetic, hapless teams apropos, if not also painful. What we have both learned over the years of rooting for our teams in vain is that it takes a lot to win a championship.

Skill & Talent
A Bit of Luck

With the exception of the Steelers "beating" the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL, teams that hoist the Lombardi Trophy have earned it.

What have you done to earn heaven?

If something, then you're gospel is suspect.
If nothing, then your parody doesn't work.

bryan said...

Of course, we do nothing to merit heaven. It is only by grace. The pt. of the parody is the universality of the reward, not the means for how it is attained.

Robb Ryerse said...

The parody is about a whole lot of people getting something amazing that they didn't earn or deserve. What's so bad about that? Kind of sounds like the gospel to me.

bryan said...

No disagreement from me on that. I love grace, and I love that God bestows it upon so many underserving (actually, ill-deserving) people. That's exactly what the gospel is. And, you're right, it's amazing, for sure. In fact, I'm not sure anyone since Newton has come up with a better adjective to succinctly describe grace.

bryan said...

My issue is the proposal that grace is universal in its bestowment.

bryan said...

What makes grace amazing is the depth to which God went in order to redeem believers, not the claim that everyone will be saved.

Grace is both an intrinsic attribute of God as well as a work of God. As a divine attribute, it cannot be increased by God saving more people. God is infinitely gracious, by nature, even if He saves no one. He is not more gracious if He saves everyone than if He saves a mere few.

Therefore, divine grace is no less amazing and the gospel is no less powerful if God stops short of saving everyone.

bryan said...

What is the relationship between the various attributes of God? Is there a dominant one, or are they equal?

Robb Ryerse said...

Bryan, not sure I would call it an attribute, but I think of God's existence as a trinitarian community as the most basic element of who God is.

I would tend to think of God's attributes as a web, as soon as you pull at holiness, you have to talk about love too. As soon as you pull at omnipotence, you have to talk about justice too. It is really, really hard to dissect the attributes of God.

Did I just avoid the question?

ness said...

This makes me so happy.

bryan said...

You didn't avoid the question. In fact, I agree with your answer 100%. The various expressions of God's existence (i.e. attributes) are only categorized so we can better understand Him. As you well know, God condescends to us in language in order to help us understand (at least, in part) Him and His ways.

The web explanation is one I have used for years. It's a great way to begin to grasp the essence of who God is. In fact, I thought about the metaphor frequently as I read Love Wins. I felt as though Bell is elevating the love of God to a degree that does harm to the judgment/justice of God.

It seemed his "pulling" on the eternal love of God ended up dissecting God's attributes to a degree that all but eliminated His eternal justice.

Btw, I'm happy that ness is happy.

Robb Ryerse said...

Bryan, I certainly can't speak for Rob Bell, but wouldn't he say that hell is the natural consequence of our sin, and that since God allows us to experience that, he is just?

bryan said...

Certainly he would. But he doesn't take that principle into eternity. I'm referring to God's eternal justice. Every one of His attributes are interconnected, equal and eternal in nature. Love Wins is based on the assumption that divine love eternally trumps divine justice (or, renders it no longer operative). That's the pulling on one attribute of God to the disappearance of another that I was talking about.

bryan said...

How do you understand the remnant language in the OT?

Robb Ryerse said...

The remnant language in the OT seems to me to be an accurate reflection of how the children of Israel felt about their circumstances. Don't we all feel that way sometimes?

bryan said...

Sorry, i must be having a brain freeze. Not sure what you mean. Clarify?

bryan said...

Bell cites many OT passages that refer to the Jewish remnant and incorrectly applies them universally to everyone being restored to God. That's not what those verses are foretelling. It weakens his point significantly.

bryan said...

Well, the Super Bowl is over, and not every team was awarded a Lombardi Trophy after all. I was wrong. I guess good intentions and wishful thinking didn't make it true. I am sorry to have gotten the other 31 teams' hopes up.