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Strange Fire

Are the teachings of Christ and the modern Olympic games compatible?

By Barry R. Harker,

The modern Olympic games constitute the largest international festival in the world today. Widely acclaimed as a forum where nations meet in friendly competition to strengthen the values of peace and sportsmanship, the games enjoy unprecedented prestige and support from people around the world. 

Even the conflict, cheating, and obsessive competitiveness which have characterized the games do not seem to have had a negative impact on the way the games are perceived. In fact, the games appear to be gaining in prestige, with many cities eagerly bidding for the right to host them. 

The most puzzling aspect of the Olympics is the support which they seem to enjoy among Christians. Yet the Bible is clearly opposed to the competitive spirit which permeates the games. Paul wrote, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.” Rom. 12:10. Competitive sports would degenerate into a

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  1. A. Kruger, “The Origin of Pierre de Coubertin’s Religio Athletae,” Olympika: The International Journal of Olympic Studies, 2, 1993, p. 93.

  2. Ibid., p. 91.

  3. Ibid.

  4. Ibid.

  5. Ibid., p. 95.

  6. Ibid., p. 92.

  7. Quoted in J.J. McAloon, This Great Symbol: Pierre de Coubertin and the Origins of the Modern Olympics (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 215.

  8. W. Hale (ed.), The Horizon Book of Ancient Greece (New York: Bonanza Books, 1984), p. 48.

About the author

Barry R. Harker, Ph.D., educational consultant and lay evangelist, writes from Queensland, Australia. He is the author of Strange Fire: Christianity and the Rise of Modern Olympism, Hartland Publications. Available at or call 540-672-3566.