Taking Every Inch But Not The Lord's Day Captive

We do know that Walter doesn’t roll on Shomer Shabbos. We should have also known that if Bubba Watson won at Augusta, the Allies — like clock work — would be all over it. Opportunities to root, root, root for the home team shall not be passed up, even if unbelievers may find the self-congratulations a sign of insecurity. (Somehow negative readings never occur to cheerleaders.)

Even so, the explanation for the significance of Watson’s victory is hard to believe:

Why It Matters: Christians have always been involved in professional sports, so why is the faith of superstars like Watson suddenly worthy of the public’s attention? Because athletes like Watson show that it’s still possible for athletes to be open and unapologetic about their willingness to share the Gospel. Also, Watson may be one of the best in his sport but he understands the importance of keeping his priorities in order, winsomely admitting that their life’s callings are secondary to serving the Creator who has called them. To a culture that is both obsessed and disillusioned with fame and fortune, this centered perspective provides a refreshingly countercultural witness.

Wouldn’t not playing golf on Sunday be a truly counter-cultural witness? Such a decision is not that hard to imagine since Eric Liddell became the subject of a successful motion picture. The problem, of course, is that not playing on Sunday in golf means no victory, and no chance for Christians to preen. At least Liddell could run on another day. Even so, if the Allies are truly interested in being counter-cultural (and not merely complimenting themselves for being so), they might consider whether a victory at the Masters is the best vindication of Christian faithfulness.


73 thoughts on “Taking Every Inch But Not The Lord's Day Captive

  1. ed in Because Someone Has to Provide Oversight, Evangelicalism and tagged Bubba Watson, Eric Liddell, golf, Gospel Coalition

    Thanks for that. You da man!

    Clockwork indeed!!


  2. My four year old regularly points out the people she sees going into stores and restaurants as we drive to church and says, “Those people are breaking the Sabbath!” In my house you are never too young for Old Life.


  3. Which reminds me, if you ever decide you want to start merchandizing, you can put me down for a few OLTS onesies and bibs.


  4. Baus, I clicked on your website, I saw no sports mentioned in your “interests.” But we are members in the same church, the OPC. I bring you my personal greetings, friend.

    Bubba Watson is a Christian and very open about it. He won the Masters Tournament, a very big deal in golf, it means he will play in all the PGA tours and championship games. He won a lot of money.

    Darryl is critical of parachurch organizations, so am I, almost solely for no other reason than their existence. That’s maybe not right, but for my position, I feel that way. Para church has a place, but one can almost be sure (like clockwork) they will overstep bounds.

    I could keep going and going, but basically, those of us who follow this blog know what to expect from The Gospel Coalition. And they wrote about Bubba Watson winning the championship, sure, fine, all good and dandy. The more interesting question for Christians like us who are at this website, is whether Bubba should be playing on Sunday. Chariots of Fire highlighted a runner’s unwillingness to play on Sunday because of the fourth commandment.

    Theology-wise, you’ll win me out. But golf wise, I may have a thing or two to say. Don’t blame me, you asked.. 🙂

    Take care. Hope that helps.


  5. “To a culture that is both obsessed and disillusioned with fame and fortune.”

    Is it a little ironic that The Gospel Coalition addresses obsession with fame? Aren’t they really commenting on Bubba because he’s a famous guy and it’s important to have famous Christians? And don’t they pretty much try to create little evangelical celebrities?

    Anyway some of my cycling friends call me Walter. And I greatly dislike hearing about golf during drive time.


  6. AB, Baus is to sports and human government what Fundamentalists are to beer–above and beyond it all. Hi, Baus.


  7. “Wouldn’t not playing golf on Sunday be a truly counter-cultural witness?” Yes, of course it would be. But you would be simply be following in the footsteps of The Hobby Lobby (closed on Sundays). Which would instantly cause you to be lumped in with the Culture Warrior/Religious Right types. Which would greatly offend the Sophisticated Millennials that the Young, Restless, and Reformed are seeking to engage. Besides, nothing in The City is ever closed on Sundays. So, play on Bubba. Play on.


  8. Andrew:

    Do you really think the Hobby Lobby folks are considered culture warriors because their stores are closed on Sundays as opposed to other reasons?


  9. I think the author off the TGC website knows the disparity but has no interest. The Lord’s Day? Quaint.

    I posted a comment yesterday on his piece on Bubba, but it got deleted. I wonder why:


    I like Bubba. I’ve met his wife, am thrilled for their adopted boy, and enthusiastically hope his profession of Jesus Christ is as sincere as that low screamer he fades off the tee box. Even more so.

    But when the men I’m trying to reach for Christ at the golf course in town mention Bubba, their countenances frown, spit out vulgarities, and get all spiteful. “Why?” I asked them yesterday.


    “Ryan?” I ask back.

    Ryan’s an 18 year old promising golfer in these parts. Widely known and widely respected. “Yeah, he carried the score sign in Bubba’s group last year in Cromwell.” That’s the local PGA tourney here in CT.

    “He treated Ryan like…. (you can fill in the words) and was rude all day, aloof, unkind, and at the end of the round, didn’t even say thanks to him.” In the world of golf, that’s a serious no-no. Usually they get a signed glove or something, often a financial thank you too.

    Everybody knows Ryan, and Ryan likes to talk. Ryan’s a good kid.

    When will we learn – actually learn? When will BGE get Jesus more than culture? When will you?

    Jesus Christ was the world’s biggest loser in the eyes of the world, and still is. He was CRUCIFIED. His apostle Paul was the #2 loser (2 Cor. 4:10-11). A true portrait of that Christ cannot be portrayed on the back of worldly success, such as Bubba has, and Bubba has earned.

    If Bubba wants to leave it all and make himself of no reputation, become a cheap slave to the most ornery people on earth, then OK. That portrays Christ. But tacking the message of the cross on the back of worldly success shows a grievous misunderstanding, perhaps wilfully, of the God who bled human blood for your sin.

    Cut it out.


  10. Ted, interesting back story on Bubba, there. Thanks.

    For the record, my 7 and 5 year old daughters got really excited with me when Bubba came on to take a shot, I told them he is a Xtian. We had a fun (albeit irreverent) Lord’s day this Sunday. Maybe he’s someone the kids can look up to, hence, TGC’s highlighting. But I don’t follow TGC, so I don’t really know how or what to opine. I leave that to the experts.

    Thanks again, and take care.


  11. As one whose practice (shock alert) falls far short of the biblical standard, I’m reluctant to throw stones, but…here comes a rock. The Gospel-Industrial Complex is just evangelicalism for the smart, hip, and earnest. Or just a cooler form of the SBC, who revised the Lord’s Day right out of their “Baptist Faith & Message” in 2000. No surprises here.


  12. Old LIfer’s: if this post is about not wanting Christians to preen about their earthly success, I get that.

    If this post is about not honoring the Sabbath by playing golf (do you make a distinction between professional vs recreational golf?), my interest is piqued. Can you point me to some articles or essays or other source material on what you view proper Sabbath observance to be, or not be. That is, what are your criteria for knowing whether you (or anyone else) is violating the 4th Commandment, and what theology informs the development of that criteria? Thanks very much.


  13. “As one whose practice (shock alert) falls far short of the biblical standard, I’m reluctant to throw stones…but here comes a rock.”



  14. Peter, here you go (I believe Keller has taken vows to this):

    7. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.

    8. This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy. (Confession of Faith, 21)


  15. Excellent post Mr. Hart.

    In response to Petros’ question I would add Thomas Vincent’s, John Brown’s or Fisher’s commentaries on the Shorter Catechism, dealing with 4th Commandment.


  16. A classic primer on the WCF, more broadly.

    The standard set by our confession, as regards the sabbath, is high. We should all be like Joe Lieberman , on this matter, IMHO.


  17. As DGH knows, many PCA presbyteries think nothing of accepting exceptions to the confessional statements on images and the sabbath. And TKNY is too big to fail (or err?).


  18. But CW, as the saying goes (IIRC), any publicity is good publicity. When you write about Bishop (heh) Keller, there may be a Presby pastor in NY sitting behind a computer screen, with a smirk and a twinkle in his eye. It’s doubtful, but then again, you never know (you know)..


  19. Dr. Hart,

    Thank you for the helpful post. When WCF 21.8 states in part, “… but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy. (Confession of Faith, 21)” does that mean you don’t toss a baseball with your child or play a board game (no money exchanged in either case)? Does this mean that one should expect their covenant children to make sure “the whole time…” is spent in “…the public and private exercises of his worship…”? Board games and recreation would not seem to fall under the “…duties of necessity and mercy…” Expansion of thoughts would be appreciated.


  20. Chortles: Are we throwing all PCA Pres babies out with the bath water (no pun intended, truly), or just “many.”

    Otherwise, I might not be welcomed here, for I am no OPC attendee… just a sideline supporter.


  21. Thanks to all for the various reading/study references. I’m keen to see more Old Lifer’s comment on what observing the Sabbath looks like to them personally, or in their churches. (I have Jewish friends and it’s fascinating to see what their observances do and don’t include, and why.)

    As a practical matter, I might have thought, and perhaps there is, an allowable separate category for certain vocations — eg, doctors, police, etc. To that end, if Bubba’s vocation happens to be hitting a golf ball, he doesn’t have any alternatives but to play on Sundays.

    Curious that this blog and commbox traffic does not show any noticeable ‘slowing’ on Sundays….


  22. CW, I don’t know about falling far short. You practice the cult every Lord’s day. That’s the primary intent of Sabbath keeping. You probably don’t pencil in the day as an ordinary work day and I don’t know how to make a congregation have a second service if they won’t. Just some thoughts.


  23. Sean, I probably make 52 morning services and 25-30 evening services a year, so cult — yes. But I’m sure I do some things on Sunday that the WCFers would disapprove of. Some of this is because of family, some is just me. I’m not against removing oxen from ditches.


  24. Can I ask for advice about the relative strength of Klinean views in orthodox American presbyterian circles? This is an honest question and is something that puzzles me.


  25. Erik, did you spot the Little League reference in “From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin”?

    “Bottom line: if evangelicals want their children to grow up to be Christians, they will likely have better results if they spend time coaching in Little League or leading a troop of Brownies instead of lobbying a member of Congress or giving to the GOP.” (p. 219-20)


  26. C-dubs, so a sabbatarian-of-the-non-legalist-variety? Kind of like the cessationist-who-believes-strange-things-happen-in-the-world. We’re a small club but not too bad looking either.


  27. “Also, Watson may be one of the best in his sport but he understands the importance of keeping his priorities in order, winsomely admitting that their life’s callings are secondary to serving the Creator who has called them.”

    Now I’m confused. The Neocals tell is that our callings ARE how we serve the creator. How would they be secondary?

    Surely golf is just as holy as plumbing?


  28. Zrim,

    I too am on the weak side when it comes to the Sabbath. My best defense is the Three Forms. Oh, and growing up Baptist.

    I do feel guilty when I miss the morning service, so I do have that going for me.


  29. CW, you’re in good shape as far as I can tell. The English, they always take it too far and are by disposition pedantic blowhards.


  30. It’s an age ol’ problem. They busted Jesus for it, so maybe us law-breakers are in good company..

    But Isaiah 58 does say………..


  31. Brad, for starters, I’d say that sanctifying the Lord’s day includes a morning and evening service — two different sermons. If I can get that, I’ll be happy (even if the Puritans aren’t).


  32. Pete, but Bubba’s activity is hardly a work of necessity or mercy (and sure does involve employing a lot of other people who may have to work more than Bubba). Think Eric Liddell.

    As for me and my household (all about us), the rule is to set the day apart. What we do on Sunday should be different from the rest of the week. I still read, but I read Sabbath books. I still eat, but I eat better. I still smoke, but I smoke a better cigar.


  33. I’ll chip in a Lutheran perspective, not because I think Bubba is a Lutheran, but just because a few people on an earlier thread said they were interested in learning more about that.

    In Lutheran theology, here’s what it means for Christians to honor the Sabbath: “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it” (Small Catechism). We understand the requirements regarding the use of the rest of the day to be specifically for Old Testament Israel (like circumcision), and not for the Church.

    From the Large Catechism: “Now, in the Old Testament, God separated the seventh day, and appointed it for rest, and commanded that it should be regarded as holy above all others. As regards this external observance, this commandment was given to the Jews alone, that they should abstain from toilsome work, and rest, so that both man and beast might recuperate, and not be weakened by unremitting labor. Although they afterwards restricted this too closely, and grossly abused it, so that they traduced and could not endure in Christ those works which they themselves were accustomed to do on that day, as we read in the Gospel; just as though the commandment were fulfilled by doing no external, [manual] work whatever, which, however, was not the meaning, but, as we shall hear, that they sanctify the holy day or day of rest. This commandment, therefore, according to its gross sense, does not concern us Christians; for it is altogether an external matter, like other ordinances of the Old Testament, which were attached to particular customs, persons, times, and places, and now have been made free through Christ” (80-82).


  34. “As for me and my household (all about us), the rule is to set the day apart. What we do on Sunday should be different from the rest of the week. I still read, but I read Sabbath books. I still eat, but I eat better. I still smoke, but I smoke a better cigar.”

    Well put DGH. Same here, except for the cigar unfortunately. And two public worship services makes it so much easier to set the day apart.

    Loved the crack in your Heidelblog interview that Evangelicals should be campaigning to have the Eight Commandments displayed in courthouses, as they dont’ seem very interested in the Second and the Fourth.


  35. Brad, do you have kids? I’d be curious to hear what you do.

    What I don’t want to do is make my kids remember Sundays as days when they were constantly scolded for doing this or that. I know my son really needs to expend energy so he has to get outside and run around. So what do we do? Two services is a start. Then add a devotion and catechism between the two. Other time they have will not be in compliance with strict observance but it is somewhat different than what they do other six days. And as they get older, somewhat more is expected.

    And, along the lines suggested by DGH, I try to set a good example by smoking a better cigar on Sunday afternoon.


  36. Erik, it’s been said that the question isn’t why two services every Lord’s Day but rather why not three or more? The answer is because two is sufficient, so quit sounding like the American who when prescribed one pill by the physician thinks two must be better. Human frailty is why we’re given the Sabbath, which includes rest not just from worldly work but also from religious zeal.


  37. Oops, sorry Darryl, I’ve realised that the Eight Commandments gag was by Carl Trueman on the latest Mortification of Spin podcast! But it was almost worthy of you… 🙂


  38. Maybe Bubba subscribes to the Heidelberg Catechism and went to a sunrise service…

    Do we know he didn’t worship on Sunday?

    By the way, Sinclair Ferguson talking about worshiping God on the golf course (in a sermon on Psalm 19) is hilarious… and he has the right accent to talk about Golf. “I thank you dear Lord for chastening me with the afflictions of this sand trap…” You can find it on sermon audio.


  39. Can I ask whether any Reformed/Presbyterian people take Ex 35:3 as a standing regulation as to how the sabbath should be observed?


  40. Zrim- I think many things have the potential to fall into legalism: even attending the means of grace can become mere formalism. But strictness is not legalism, as am sure you’re aware.

    CG- Matthew Henry reads that prohibition in the context of working: so blacksmiths &c.

    Brad- If you make it clear to your children from an early age that the Sabbath isn’t for playing games and running around outside then they won’t grow up to resent the Sabbath, because they haven’t known anything else.


  41. Nate, really we don’t expect any more out of Californians. We’re just tickled pink you haven’t made a sacrament of marijuana.


  42. @MM. Yes, we have four living children. Reading Scripture, Catechesis, and singing Psalms are a priority. I’m in full agreement with you that we do not want to make the Lord’s Day something where they feel scolded. It’s also a day we are together and we do rest from our normal labors. But we certainly do many things with our children. A priority every day is to rightly distinguish law and gospel so that we give them much grace – we all need His grace in this pilgrim life and we want to give them the same. I asked my question is such a way because the language seems very strong and reading Thomas Vincent did not help in some areas. It’s sometimes hard to go to the second service (when it does occur) when we sometimes do not get gospel in the first service. Thank you!


  43. Alexander, thanks. But it’s not clear how strictness isn’t a servant of legalism. It seems better to speak of regularity and routine, better to form habits than enforcing rules in relation to things like attending the means of grace and observing the Sabbath. But I know semi-revivalism has an allergy to those categories, and because it does it tends to come off as only able to reach for pious sounding rules.


  44. Reminded of the former colleague, a member of the original Sabbatarians, whose crazy wife would angrily leave the house after turning on all the appliances and the TVs and radios and stereos at full blast knowing he couldn’t turn them off that day.


  45. Zrim-

    Am I the semi-revivalist? Of course we must form habits: but what forms those habits? Practice. And what forms practice? Teaching on what is and is not conducive to a Christian’s walk.

    Sessions have been given the keys of admittance to the sacraments: therefore there must be standards by which they judge someone as suitable to be admitted. But again I must say that strictness does not equal legalism. For a start, who defines the degree of strictness? Is stricter than your practice legalism, but your practice the perfect balance? The Reformed churches through the generations had an agreed understanding on the requirements of Sabbath keeping- expressed in the Westminster standards and the commentaries on these. I see no compelling reason that the recent innovations are superior.


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