Judgment Call: Safe at Home! Game 3 of the World Series and God’s Judgment

I don’t watch baseball but I was aware the world series was going on last night. I saw in the news this morning that a pivotal judgment call was made in Game 3 between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox.

I quickly reviewed the video and news blogs about the event.

My interest peaks when I hear about a judgment call that is controversial and decisive. I read up on the event and then try to connect it to what I am learning about human moral judgment and God’s judgment of humans.   What evidence was used? What interpretation was given to the evidence? How does this show the way human’s make moral judgment and then how they actually justify those judgments? What would this help me learn about about God’s Final Judgment Work as Redemptive.

It appears that there were two judgments made in the Game 3 9th inning call. The first judgment was made by the third base referee who felt that the Boston third baseman had obstructed the St. Louis runner from running home. The rule is if the defensive player obstructs, the player gets to advance a plate.

Then I watched as the umpire at home base called the runner safe even though he had been tagged out at home.

I guess he had seen the third base call, or he was able to call it himself from where he was at or both.

I think, by viewing the tapes, it was a reasonable call although the third baseman was definitely down on his stomach during the whole process, eating dirt rather than focusing on tripping players. However, there was obstruction around the third base.

While most like games to be based on performance, rules do help guide in determining what is fair ornot in the game.

I am sure the judgment call was great news for the St. Louis fans, but not good news for the Boston fans. It ended the game as it was in the last part of the last inning.

I couldn’t help but see the connection to God’s final judgment of each of us and our world (and churches and schools and….).

Judgment is different things to different people, but for me, it has become one of interpreting the rules to create the most redemptive outcome.

Reading up on this “obstruction call” immediately triggered a new wrinkle in thinking about moral judgment in a complex world where judgment about righteousness and righteous acts must deal with the cosmic conflict where an aggressive evil force is creating fear, confusion and doubt, and where individuals force evil experiences on innocent people. All this obstruction must get factored into moral deliberations: ours for sure, and I think also in God’s thinking.

God is judge. I like that truth, if and only if the God we say is judging is as loving and wise and consistently faithful as He says he is and has, at times, show us He has been. If he is about life, peace and grace and not just powerful exactitude, then judgment will be different, redemptive, graceful.

For some of us, God’s recorded acts have been too decisive and apparently too cruel (killing Ananias and Sapphira for example, zapping Uzzah for touching the arc of the covenant, etc.) while at other times turning a blind eye. Like letting David’s sin against Uriah seemingly go as planned but not be immediately punished. At other times we would like him to be more aggressive…he seems absent for too long and not bringing enough fire fast enough. (How many rape and murder cases go un-judged in the world with many of them innocent teens and women). Do we need more judgment or less?

Game 3 adds an obstruction view to the moral judgment processing. While I don’t want to over-spiritualize the over-priced game of baseball and one little call, it seems to help make a point that is a thorny theological issue related to the the scape goat, in Leviticus 16.

Adventist have linked that goat as a Satanic symbol, while other Christian’s have tied it to Christ.

The whole passage is about judgment and it is hard to approach this with confusion about the role of Satan or Jesus in a day of atoning.

Yes, I know that going from a game of bat and ball to cosmic warfare and God’s judgment seems a stretch, but let me explain:

First, the obstruction view. Christianity has fostered the view that Satan is basically implicated in all that is bad because he is the ultimate obstructionist, tripping up people all the time and luring them into sin. I agree with this view. Even though we have choice like Adam did to trust and obey or distrust and sin Satan seems always there coaxing to the doubt side.

In Leviticus 16, the day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, we have a way presented for cleaning all this up. That day is pictured as a holy holy holy day. It is like a triple important day because in that day, the symbolic way to solve sin once and for all is portrayed and the people are united with each other and God and God lets His decisions of us be publicly shown.

Whenever that day occurred, all Israel dropped what they were doing and stayed focused. You come out well on this day, wow, life goes better for everyone. If it doesn’t go well on this day, people get cut off from the Lord. Cutting off is spiritual death….which was followed by emotional, social, and physical death.

And the whole day came down to understanding the outcome of two goats used on that day. The first one was selected and killed as a sacrifice for sin. This was later associated as the Christ. The second goat was treated as having the “responsibility” placed on him for sin and was lead out into the wilderness (we are not told what happened to him. In that case, the goat’s outcome was like the story of Jonah and the Prodigal son. We don’t know if Jonah accepted God and His mercy. We don’t know if the Elder Brother came into the party.  The story is left unfinished for a reason: people can chose to repent, and prophets and righteous people are sometimes the hardest to convince of that need. It seems Satan has had trouble coming to that point.

Game 3 helped me see how obstruction calls could influence home calls. God will have to judge—ultimately—what was true obstruction and what was our own rebellious and permanent decision to not be safe at home.  There will be some pretty nice people left out because they didn’t come home to the God who alone blends authority with freedom and will irritate those who like swifter justice than He delivers or who don’t see the need for justice: both distort love.

Now, I would like to connect this through moral theology to making it to heaven.

Let me use the 12 tribes of Israel that get listed in the final list of Revelation.

Did you know there is not just one set of 12 tribes listed in the bible. Even in Genesis we have two listings: the birth order listing and then later the recalculation when Jacob blesses Joseph’s two sons- Manassas and Ephraim—as His own sons in Genesis 48. That leads later to placing Levi—the priest with portion from God—as separate not listed in the 12, and then the son’s take dad (Joseph’s listed place) and uncle Levi’s.

But by Revelation the list has Levi back in. Joseph is back in, and now Ephraim and Dan are out.

See http://bostonbiblegeeks.wordpress.com/2010/05/13/the-12-tribes-in-revelation-7/ for a useful and I believe accurate view on the absence of Emphraim and Dan from the final list. They are left out for idolatry reasons.

After studying various passages of scripture, I think each had a different idolatry working against them.

It was easier for me to find why Ephraim didn’t make it home: Isaiah 7:8, 9 “Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. The head of Ephraim is Samaria,  and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.’” (See also Is 9:9; 11:13). It appears the Ephraim got cut from the list because of idolatry and licentiousness. The final judgment of Ephraim seems to be announced in Hosea “Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone!” (4:17).

While this is not that everyone in the tribe is lost, just this means the “lifestyle” this tribe surcomed to was opposed to God and it was long and bad enough to get them delisted. I know that I too went through my Ephraim years of being pulled by wealth, lusts, the pride of life, the attractiveness of idols. I did repent and as many Ephraimites, but its seems as a whole the nation is viewed as “beyond hope” and therefore removed.

Dan was a little harder to determine except that we know Daniel means God is my Judge and Dan is often associated with judge. It appears that Dan may have gotten delisted for the biting words of judgment he gave others. That is what hurt the tribe and it needed to be removed from the group.  Judging without due process or merciful thinking is self-destructive to a nation, as much as drinking and sexual promiscuity (Gen 49:17; Ps 23:32).

Applied Ethics

Thus, pulling together the two themes—obstruction and who doesn’t make it home, it seems reasonable that God will factor into judgment things we can’t in determining the morality and faithfulness and obedience and “saveability” of individuals.

However, learning from the delisting of Dan and Ephraim we can learn two routes that will likely lead you to be delisted. It is a toxicity and intoxication created by either chronic licentiousness (Ephraim is joined to idols, leave him alone) or chronic negativity and judgmentalism (Dan bites like an adder).

This is sobering for moralists who like to point out the short-falling of others. Watch out talk show hosts who spend their time blasting others. This is also sobering for some ethicists I know who use ethics to justify evil and licentious behavior that hurts God’s sacred institutions, like marriage and parenting.

IT IS ULTIMATELY GOD’S JUDGMENT CALL. However, knowing how he thinks is already clearly laid out in scripture.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.