Tiger Woods: Without Hope?
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
- 2010 Feb 23
To say that Tiger Woods is a pretty good golfer is an understatement. To say that he messed up is also an understatement. But haven't we all, though maybe not in the same way? Tiger issued a public statement and apology concerning his adulterous activity and his path to restoration. In light of that and what he's done, is there any hope for him.
Tiger Understands there is a Problem
Tiger understands there is a problem. He engaged in activity that was, in his words, unacceptable. He had affairs and he hurt people, especially his family. He said he was sorry for what he had done and took full responsibility for his actions. He admitted that he thought only of himself, felt that he was entitled to the temptations around him, and "ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by."
That's pretty clear. But does Tiger understand the exact nature of the problem or its solution? He said he has much for which to atone. In his wife Elin's mind, how could he ever really atone for what he's done? What kind of works and how many works could ever make up for his unfaithfulness? He's approaching his restoration to his family, his sponsors, and his fans the same way he approaches the game of golf: with a lot of hard work. The difficulty lies in the fact that he could never do enough to erase what he's done. He's seeking help in rehab and therapy. But none of those avenues will take care of the underlying problem: sin.
As Tiger said, he's seeking to make himself a better person. Only God can do that as all that we are flows from the heart. Tiger may be able to avoid physical adultery in the future, but the lust in his heart will be with him unless God removes it. He noted that part of his path to being a better person lay in Buddhism. But Buddhism cannot help him at his greatest point of need; it offers no forgiveness for sin.
People scramble for answers apart from God and find nothing more than superficial fixes judged acceptable or unacceptable by a myriad of onlookers. Some even crafted apologies for Tiger they considered more effective than his own. All of these things provide nothing more than opinion. Tiger needs redemption.
Tiger Assumes God is Real
There's more though. Tiger also said, "Achievements on the golf course are only part of setting an example. Character and decency are what really count." He's right. But, how does he know he's right? The notion of character and decency only makes sense if there is a universal standard defining such. Polyamorists believe that adultery is wonderful. They believe they are decent and have character. But Tiger is right to define decency as faithful monogamy. He just doesn't know why he's right. He's right because what he said is rooted in what God says.
Now think about this. If God is not real then character and decency are a matter of opinion. But, to say what Tiger said is to assume a universal standard of character and decency. The God who claims exclusivity is the necessary precondition for such a standard. Tiger needs to understand what he assumes.
Tiger, There is Hope
What to do then? Many are quick to talk about Tiger and sexual addiction. Countless are the behaviors labeled as disease, disorder, or dysfunction. If someone has a mental disorder that leads to sexual addiction, the best he can do is find some way to cope with it the rest of his life. He will always be plagued by his disease and if he ever goes off his meds or therapy he'll be back where he started.
Not only does such a model remove responsibility for actions (you can't judge someone if their disease made them do it), it makes all the talk about getting on the right path to decency and character contradictory or even hypocritical because a disease doesn't have implications for decency and character. It's a disease issue not a character issue. (Of course we all know in our hearts it really is a character issue as Tiger said). But, more than that, such a model also removes hope. There is no hope for Tiger in rehab, therapy, personal atonement, Buddhism, or anything else he might try if he has an addiction.
But, there really is hope for Tiger. He needs to realize that his sexual infidelity is sin against his wife and the God he unknowingly assumes. The good news is that Christ came to deliver sinners from their sin. Tiger's problem is not addiction, thank God. He can rejoice because there is a Savior who will solve his problem by taking that sin away and thereby transform him, his situation, and his family. At one time we too were "without hope; but now in Christ Jesus [we] who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:12-13). By that same blood, Tiger can be brought near if he will simply repent and believe. In Christ, there is hope for Tiger.
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