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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real gem, 24 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: A Brief Theology of Sport (Paperback)
Lincoln Harvey has written a real gem of a book that is worth the time of anyone who wants to think about the relationship between sport, play and human identity.

He first approaches the task by listening to the ‘historical soundings’ as the often messy intertwining of sport and religion have played out over the past few millennia. In ch.1 & 2 he examines the role of ancient and classical sports in relation to religion; persuasively demonstrating that sport and religion are not separate but are a ‘common universal’. Sports have a religious character and are one of the ways in which an Empire such as Rome could face reality. In ch.3 he explores ‘The Early Church’s View of Sport’ as “sporting events were far too popular to remain unaddressed” (p.25). It is here that he raises three distinct notes from Church history: the Church (1) used sport, (2) pronounced sport unacceptable and (3) sport was deeply popular. With these three notes identified, he then presents two case studies: the Medieval Catholic Church (ch.4) and the Puritans and Muscular Christians (ch.5).

The second part of the book is ‘Analytic Soundings’ and covers ch.6-10. In ch.6 he establishes a working definition of sport, something I found extremely helpful and a key to understanding. His basic thesis is that sport is a type of play, which is radically unnecessary but internally meaningful (p.69). Chapters 7 & 8 dig deeper into a Christian theology of sport (‘to play is to live at our deepest identity’) and a brief theology of sport (‘the liturgical celebration of contingency’). Ch.9 suggests avenues for further thought, which whet the appetite for more from the author. Ch.10 offers concluding comments.

Overall the book benefits from Harvey’s clear approach and writing style. The book can be enjoyed by those familiar with theology or new to the discipline, and can unlock many areas that both challenge and inspire the reader. It can only be hoped that Harvey will soon offer more writing as his is a clear voice from which the Church will surely benefit. I certainly did.
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