By Parnell McCarter



This week the Olympic Games are being conducted in Athens, Greece.  Greece is the ancient home of the Olympic Games.  The Olympic Games were an important aspect of the pagan Greek culture.  The Games continued until the end of the fourth century.  They were at that time abolished by decree of the Christian Emperor Theodosius.  Theodosius labeled them as "pagan rites", inappropriate for a Christian society.   It was around this same time that Augustine wrote: "the body which is corrupted presses down the soul and the earthly tabernacle weighs down the mind which muses on many things." But the Games were resurrected in modern times.


There are at least four reasons why Christians should object to the Olympics:


  1. They glorify and give venue to men and women who have spent an inordinate amount of time on activities which at most should be peripheral in our lives (e.g., running) and in some cases should be avoided altogether (e.g., boxing).  (Boxing for sport is a violation of the command ‘thou shalt not kill’, because boxing does unnecessary damage to the human body.)  As we read in I Timothy 4:8 : “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
  2. They glorify and give venue to women who engage in various activities that are contrary to femininity.  The modern Games, which involve female as well as male athletes, therefore promote a form of feminism.
  3. They involve flagrant disregard for principles of Biblical modesty.  For example, the attire of swimmers and runners in the Games is hardly more than underwear.
  4. They involve Sabbath desecration, inasmuch as the Games are engaged in on the Lord’s Day.  In his sermons on Deuteronomy, John Calvin well noted: “Now, if the Lord’s Day is spent playing games and in other empty pastimes, and in things that are clearly contrary to God, so that men think that the way to keep the Day ‘holy’ is by offending God in different ways, and if God’s holy regulations which he ordained to bring us to himself are broken in this way, then is it any wonder that men act as brute beasts the rest of the week?”



In addition to these reasons, it should be noted that most people watch the Olympics via commercial television.  But commercial television, at least in the United States, has commercials which quite often are miniature dramas with actors and actresses.  In our Movie Reviews section we have explained our objections to drama.  Sadly, commercial television in the United States is not regulated according to Biblical principles, so all sorts of moral filth are permitted in commercials.  Viewers of the Olympic Games often are spectators too of the unwholesome commercials.  And this becomes another unwholesome aspect of the way most people watch the Olympic Games.


In Romans 1:32  we are warned not to take pleasure in wickedness.  To take pleasure in wickedness is wrong, just as engaging in the wickedness is wrong.  Therefore, Christians should object to the Olympics, and not be entertained by them.  And we should look forward to a day when the Olympic Games are again banned.





It may be useful to consider this additional information concerning sports:


  1. Concerning Zechariah 8:5 (“And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.”) Matthew Henry commented: “That childish youthful sports shall be confined to the age of childhood and youth. It is pleasing to see the boys and girls playing in the streets, but it is ill-favoured to see men and women playing there, who should fill up their time with work and business. It is well enough for children to be sitting in the market-place, crossing questions (Mt. 11:16, 17), but it is no way fit that men, who are able to work in the vineyard, should stand all the day idle there, Mt. 20:3.”  Concerning this same verse, John Calvin noted: “It is not needful here anxiously to raise the questions -- Whether it is lawful to play during times of peace? for the Prophet here took his language from the common habits of men, and even from the very nature of things; for we know that men give way to cheerfulness when no fear lays hold on their minds, and that play and sport are allowed to children.”  Henry and Calvin seem to draw similar conclusions from this verse: that which is permissible to childhood in the way of youthful sports and games, maturity should lay aside.  This borrows from the teaching of I Corinthians 13:11 : “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”  The reason why Zechariah 8:5 did not mention people playing in the streets, but rather children, is because such playing of games and sports is peculiarly for children.  The recreations that are lawful for one phase of human life are not lawful for other phases.  And recreations of any kind should not consume an undue proportion of our time.  The general pattern of our lives is to be characterized by six days of labor and one day of Sabbath rest. 


  1. Some historical perspective on this matter is found at http://www.ioa.leeds.ac.uk/1960s/65150.htm : “The Christian church condemned what it saw around it and, in subsequent ages, continued to condemn the memory of the shameful end to athletics of the ancient world…The second backward glance is to Calvinism, and its peculiar British variant Puritanism. Calvin, although he had no use for monastic asceticism yet in his attempt to perfect moral discipline was led to curb all normal amusements including sport. In his academy at Geneva he made a concession to human frailty by allowing recreation on Wednesdays "but in such a way that all silly sports be avoided".  The people of God during Old Testament times also shunned Olympic games, as did Christians in the early centuries of the Church and the Protestant Reformation.  Those Jews which were faithful decried when Antiochus Epiphanes set up a gymnasium or “place of exercise” in Jerusalem.  The prophet Daniel had warned the Jews about the pagan culture that Antiochus Epiphanes would seek to plant in Israel.


  1. Modern, post-Reformation culture is characterized by immaturity.  Adults hardly ever grow out of their childish tendencies.  Instead of growing into manhood from childhood, children move into a stage where they are not expected to behave as adults (albeit young and rather inexperienced adults).    And then many hardly ever grow out of that stage.  This contrasts with a more Biblical framework, in which adulthood begins with puberty.  According to Webster’s 1959 New Collegiate Dictionary (based on the famous second edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary) , “puberty” means: “The state or quality of being first capable of begetting or bearing offspring; the period at which sexual maturity is reached. The age of puberty is commonly designated legally, as fourteen for boys and twelve for girls.” It is derived from the Latin word pubes (which means an “adult”).  Dr. F.N. Lee has noted: “Both the Apostolic Father Ignatius and the Westminster Father Lightfoot affirmed that "Solomon when 'twelve years old' judged between two women" with sufficient maturity. Dr. Lightfoot in the same breath commented on our Lord Jesus Christ's coming of age when twelve and then -- according to the custom -- going to Jerusalem to become prepared through catechization for admission to manducation at the Passover. Indeed, the attaining of their twelfth year marked both Solomon's & Jesus' coming of age at adolescence. This is reflected also in the Westminster Larger Catechism 177, which states that the Lord's Supper is only for those who are "of years and ability to examine themselves."  And regarding Jewish practice: "Bar Mitzvah" - (m; pl. "Bnei Mitzvah"); literally, "son of the Mitzvah;" more correctly, the status of having reached the level of being obligated in all the responsibilities and entitled to all the privileges of an adult male, in Jewish Society is attained when a young man reaches the age of thirteen years.  Dr. F.N. Lee’s book “Paedocommunionism versus Protestantism“ at http://www.dr-fnlee.org/docs4/pvp/pvp.pdf offers helpful insights on the incipiency of adulthood. 


  1. Professional sports extends sport and game into a full-time endeavor among those who are adults.  It survives on sports “fans” (fanatics?) who consume hours watching it, not even getting the benefit of bodily exercise.  College and Olympic sports seem to be similarly characterized as well.  One must ask whether this is a proper stewardship of time, which Christians in scripture are commanded to redeem. 


  1. Some argue that the Apostle Paul enjoyed the watching of the Greek Olympic Games, because he often alluded to them in his metaphorical analogies to the Christian life.  But such an argument is flawed.  First, there is nothing inherent in an analogy that demands this.  For instance, in Luke 18 Jesus drew an analogy between an unjust judge and God to make a spiritual point.  But surely we cannot deduce that God condones unjust judges, or is one Himself.  Similarly, we cannot assume from the use of an analogy to Greek Olympic runners that Paul condoned their conduct.  For instance, we should not assume from Hebrews 12:1,2 (“let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us”) that Paul condoned the Greek Olympic runners who ran naked.  The Apostle Paul specifically, and the scripture in general, exhorts modesty of attire, and frowns upon looking upon immodestly clad people.  It was regarded as shameful for Ham to even look upon the nakedness of his father, and Shem and Japheth rightly took care not to look at their father when he was naked.  So it is absurd to think that the Apostle Paul enjoyed watching the ancient Greek Olympic Games.  And it is also absurd to think that Paul condoned participation in such Games, simply because he, like other early Church Christians, may have been compelled to participate under dangerous conditions with wild beasts (I Corinthians 15:32).  It is wrong to engage in life-threatening sport simply for fun.    The early Christians participated not willingly, but by compulsion, often as punishment for being Christian.


  1. The question of music often comes up along with the topic of sports.  Whereas passages like Zechariah 8:5 seem to suggest the playing of sports as recreation should be confined to the youth, many passages in scripture suggest music is an appropriate recreation even for adults.  For example, David played musical instruments as an adult, even entertaining the King with such for good.  Indeed, the playing and teaching of musical instruments as an occupation was allowed.  While the Levitical priesthood, with its professional playing of musical instruments in public worship, has been abolished, there is no sound basis for thinking professional music as such has been abolished, nor is it unlawful to be a professional teacher of the playing of musical instruments.


  1. Some have asserted that we are seeking to conclude too much from Zechariah 8:5.  In order to ascertain the merits of our conclusion, let’s consider its logic applied to a similar proposition.  The proposition “babes suck from their mother’s breasts” implies that it is peculiarly a characteristic of babies to suck from their mother’s breasts.  The construction of the sentence indicates the term “babe” is being characterized by a generalization (namely, that they suck from their mother’s breasts).  We would only have reason to believe there were exceptions if there were explicit indications of such.  Furthermore, we can deduce from the proposition that an older child wanting to suck from his mother’s breasts would be acting immaturely.  Such an older child, objecting that there is no explicit passage in scripture which says older children and adults should not suck from their mother’s breasts, would inappropriately be ignoring what can be deduced from the proposition “babes suck from their mother’s breasts” and the **lack** of explicit evidence for an exception to the generalization.   A generalization is there being made, such that to believe there were an exception would require explicit indication of such.   Now let’s apply what we have learned to Zechariah 8:5.  It contains a generalization about children.  That generalization is that they peculiarly play (sports and games) in the streets.  A generalization is there being made, and we would only have reason to believe there were exceptions with explicit indication of such.  But there is not a shred of explicit evidence in scripture that playing sport and game is appropriate for adults.  So adults who maintain a “right” to play in sport and game, ignore what can rightly be deduced from the proposition (that ‘children play [sports and games]’) that is found in Zechariah 8:5.  .


  1. When does adulthood begin?  Dr. John Calvin, as well as the Jews historically, have agreed that adulthood begins at age 13, based upon the Biblical data.  John Calvin wrote: “In the [ Post-Apostolic A.D. 251f] Early Church, indeed, the Lord’s Supper was frequently given to infants [or small children] - as appears from Cyprian and Augustine.... But the practice justly became obsolete.... It was, [more] anciently, customary for the children of Christians, after they had grown up, to appear before the Overseer - to fulfill that duty which was required of such adults as present themselves for Baptism.... [Such infantly-baptized covenant children were] “toward the end of their boyhood or on adolescence brought forward by their parents and were examined by the Overseers in terms of the Catechism....  “.  


  1. The FP Magazine May 2007 issue rightly commented as follows: “Sport is essentially an activity for children, and the absorbed attention bestowed on professional sport is one of the evils of present-day society. “When I became a man”, said the Apostle Paul, “I put away childish things” (1 Cor 13:11), and we believe that faithful religious leaders would have been warning the players and crowds on both sides to prepare for eternity, rather than sharing with them in their childish vanities.”