Play Ball! Ethics in a Postmodern World

The World Series in Baseball begins October 22. I love baseball, especially college play. The NCAA limits the number of scholarship players to 11.7 so there’s about 23 out of a total of 35 who are playing because they simply love the game. It’s one of the purest sports left on the athletic landscape. The College World Series in Omaha is a treat that should be on everyone’s bucket list. I’ve been 6 times. Once driving straight-through by myself, once with Cindy, and four times with our youngest son, Caleb. It’s great!

As I think about our postmodern culture wars there are two statements that come to me from my experience with baseball, from my own playing and managing days, as well as from enjoying the game from the seats: “Remember what’s fair and what’s foul;” and “Always think about what you’re going to do if the ball comes to you.”

The chalked lines and foul poles near the stands around the baseball field determine what’s a fair and foul ball. What’s good and kosher, and what isn’t. In our pluralistic culture we are confused about what’s fair and foul. Instead of relying on what is timeless as an arbiter of truth, we make up our own rules. The resulting anarchy of self-defined values has left our culture on a chalk-less field. At best, we are confused, and at worst we are dead wrong.

Christianity has become so enculturated that we often stand for nothing. The means of deciding boundaries of God-endorsed behaviors has been tossed out of the game. For quite some time, what is known as the “Quadrilateral” has been the guide for Christian ethics. Think of the Quadrilateral as a three-legged stool with Scripture as the seat of the stool. It is primary. It is God-breathed and inspired. Using the stool analogy, the Bible is seen through the lenses of the three legs: Tradition, Reason, and Experience. It is also wise to remember that Tradition, Reason, and Experience are also seen through the lens of Scripture. That is a large part of what our world is missing!

In our confused and misguided world, we tend to put individual Experience first and disregard corporate experience that distills the actions that we hold in common as best. Next, we have redefined Tradition to mean just the last 30 years instead of 4, 000 years of Judeo-Christian values. Then we have remade Reason into what science, mostly meaning what psychology and social sciences, tell us. The Mind of Christ and/or empirical studies have given us hard evidence of unwelcome truths about identity determinants. No wonder then that Scripture is last on our list of sources of truth because hardly anyone trusts it, much less, treats it as the primary guide for ethical thought and actions. Few people actually study it, much less put it into practice.

Then comes the last statement that is paramount to a good baseball team: “Know what you’re going to do if the baseball comes to you.” Every day we are faced with moral questions – What’s right and what’s wrong, in other words, the foul and fair line questions. What are we going to do if the questions, the ball, comes to us? Are we going to use Scripture as primary backed up by centuries of a thorough examination of God’s truth through tradition? Are we going to promote selective reason and biased studies over the plain sense of what’s good? Are we going to make our individual experience the most important arbiter of what’s right and wrong?

What are you going to do if the ball comes to you? How are you going to answer the hard questions of life? As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. I would rather stick with the tried and true than the untried and unsure. Play Ball!

9 thoughts on “Play Ball! Ethics in a Postmodern World

  1. Really enjoyed this as I too was raised on or near the baseball diamond. My Daddy was a catcher in the minor leagues, then got married and had a family. Then he managed the several Legion teams and then decided to sponsor a AAA fast softball team called Wood Home Sales (after his business) in Lancaster, PA. I too would rather believe and not have to worry about the consequences.

  2. Indeed, and on target. I heard someone say that before Albert Outler died, he regretted using the term “Wesley Quadralateral”. They are not equal sides–but so many in our tribe think they are….thanks for sharing this great insight!

  3. Thanks again, Tim. I’m writing the evening after the diamond disaster here in Atlanta last night. It’s been a depressing 24 hours for Brave fans.
    Some among us think their experience in the last “30 years” is enough, all that’s needed. One person even stated that our understanding and experience from social science trumps long-standing biblical teachings, even suggesting that we lay the Bible aside.

    1. Bill, A franchise and a denomination aren’t defined by one inning that was as bad as bad can ever be so move on we must because at our best the Bravos should have won this. As a South Carolina Gamecocks fan I will not be defined by either mediocrity or a few fleeting moments of greatness or years of exilic disaster. I and we have got to have Someone bigger than experience, tradition and shortsighted inept reason. There is a bedrock of divine revelation that surpasses the optic rectosis of our sad crappy outlook on life. I’d rather see things from God’s vantage point because therein lies real hope, not front office B.S. Thank you, Bill, for giving me a better look at the things that matter tonight! tim

      Sent from my iPhone


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