This Series of Blogs provide vignettes of the early pioneers of The Muscular Christianity Era - Faith-Sport Integration who laid the foundations for the Modern Day Sports Outreach Movement
THE ARNOLDIAN LEGACY
The reason Thomas Arnold is being featured in this book about and for Sports Ministers is not because Arnold was a Sports Minister in the modern day sense, but because he was one of the pioneers of using Sports to accomplish spiritual ends and purposes. In addition, his philosophies and views of integrating faith into daily life have created a powerful legacy.
Arnold held to the belief an active life taught lessons about faith and God. Moreover, he believed specific activities - such as athletics - were exceptionally good at teaching these lessons. In particular, he believed athletics could instill morals, values and virtue. His methodologies were almost a carbon copy of the classical Greek Academy and its ideal of teaching virtue through athletic training. Yet his theories have proved to be only partially correct. While it is true athletics and activities can teach lessons about life, faith & God, it must be understood these lessons do not automatically follow. A young man will not necessarily become virtuous just by competing in athletics. What has proved true is there are lessons to be learned from sport, but unless a teacher, coach or mentor willingly interprets the lessons and intentionally passes on these insights to students willing to be molded, no such thing as character will develop. If teachers and students do not willingly participate in the process, sport will only reveal character, not create it.
It was from this environment that one of Arnold’s best known students, Thomas Hughes, caught the vision. Hughes communicated Arnold’s vision of manly virtue (which evolved into what became known as “Muscular Christianity”) through his novels about a fictional character by the name of Tom Brown. These novels clearly portray the Arnoldian philosophies as represented by the active, athletic and muscular young man Tom Brown who attains virtue through his athletic endeavors. These philosophies impacted both the religious and the secular worlds of the day. Possibly the most well known example of the influence of the Arnold/Hughes inspired Muscular Christianity upon the secular world, was the impact it had upon a young Frenchman. Baron Pierre DeCoubertin first began to contemplate the renewal of the Ancient Olympics through his readings of the Tom Brown novels. Furthermore he molded the Modern Olympics around a secularized version of Arnold’s principles.
Regardless of who it impacted, the importance of Arnoldian philosophies upon the mid 19th century can not be under estimated and although Arnold’s basic belief has been found to be a bit simplistic and shallow, his contribution of setting the muscular Christian motif in motion has been of incalculable importance to both the sacred and the secular world. The great ideals of DeCoubertin such as world peace have not occurred and yet no one can deny that the Olympics have had a positive effect in helping to build bridges between individuals from around the world. Even more significant has been the profound effect the philosophies of Thomas Arnold had upon that afore mentioned movement - Muscular Christianity. That influence will be observed in almost every one of the examples discussed in this book. Whether through the YMCA of the 19th century or the Sports Ministry movement of the late 20th century, literally millions of men, and more recently countless women, have been blessed through Arnold’s legacy.
This blog is an excerpt from a future book "Surrounded by Witnesses" by Dr. Greg Linville. All rights reserved. For any reproduction right, including copying, computer reproduction, etc. contact:
Dr. Greg Linville at CSRM International C/O The World Outreach Center 5350 Broadmoor Circle N. w. Canton, Ohio – USA 44709 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Other blogs and articles on Local Church Sports, sports theology and ethics written by Dr. Greg Linville and other local church Sports, Rec & Fitness Ministers are archived at: http://www.csrm.org/blog/