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Reviewed by Jason Byassee


Grandpa on the Gridiron

A 59-year-old linebacker goes back to college to complete his senior season.

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Except that he made the team. And that's more than enough. At the heart of this wonderfully improbable story is the mystery of time that St. Augustine marveled at. What is time, anyway? It's a knife's edge. It's gone faster than an instant. I think I know what it is, till someone asks me, and then I go mute. But it's precisely the unstoppable flux of time in which we creatures live, love, work, worship—in short, in which we are. And that flux is the best creaturely analogy to the eternal timelessness of God. Augustine the biblical reader tweaks Augustine the Platonist on this point: time is not simply a tragedy as it slips through the hourglass, though it feels enough like it if former athletes try to run again, lovers to love again, and so on. Most of us are not Mike Flynt. We can't go back, even if we wanted to—the past is more inaccessible than the farthest reach of outer space. But it is precisely in time that God comes to save in Christ and his church. The relentless progress of time—always forward, never back—is the condition of the possibility of salvation by the enfleshed God.

And that's how most of us will see the "redemption" of our past—to use a word thrown around a bit pollyannishly here. Not by going back and redoing what needs be redone, but by confessing our faults, seeking God's and others' forgiveness, and waiting for him to make all things—even our gravest disappointments—new. Americans love the story of the underdog who works hard and achieves her or his dreams. It's a fine story, even as it is repeated ad nauseum. It's just not the Story that matters most.

Jason Byassee is director of the Center for Theology, Writing & Media at Duke Divinity School.


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