“The Wisdom of Faith”

I was substitute teaching last Friday, and I took “The Wisdom of Faith,” by Bobby Bowden.  I expected to finish the book before the dismissal bell rang at three o’clock.  I finished eight out of ten chapters at school and the final two at home.  I read a book in one day!  The book is 209 pages including the introduction and an epilogue.

Bobby Bowden was the head football coach at Florida State University from 1976 to 2009. During his tenure, Bowden’s teams were consistently ranked in the top ten in national polls, and winning national championships in 1993 and 1999.  The Florida state football program was the most successful collegiate program in the 1990s, and after the Joe Paterno scandal at Penn State University, Bowden holds the record for most wins as a college football head coach.

Here are my three positive and three negative takeaways from “The Wisdom of Faith”:

  1. This is not coach speak:  I didn’t know much about coach Bowden.  I assumed this book would be full of coaching cliches and common verses that he used to become a legendary coach.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Coach Bowden does not common cliches or misinterpret scripture.  Instead, he presents a deep and accurate picture of God and rarely promotes himself.  My favorite quote is from Page 14, “The living God cannot be tamed or domesticated.  He is not a house pet.  He does not bend to our will or bark upon demand.  Nor is He the person next door who welcomes us to the neighbor hood with a Bundt cake and a smile.  God is more like a lightning bolt–good but dangerous.  He fills the darkness of our lives with a brilliant and terrible light.  Fools reach out to own Him and get the shock of their lives.  the wise live in His light and give thanks.”  this is not a quote from a man with shallow faith.  This is a quote from a man who has a deep and abiding faith, who has spent time with the Living God.
  2. There is an abundance of scripture:  There is scarcely a page where Bowden does not quote scripture.  He quotes extensively from the Psalms and Proverbs.  He also uses narrative scripture to illustrate his points.  His chapter titled “The Wisdom of Trust” uses Moses’ story to illustrate the chapter’s main idea.
  3. He is vulnerable:  Bowden talks candidly about his struggles.  He and his wife have had to bury two grandchildren.  He lost his father, mother, and sister, and he has oft been criticized for how he handled the discipline of his players.  He does not hide any of these struggles, but instead shares how his faith in God has led him throughout his life.
  4. Word Studies–This is a bonus positive, but I have to include it in this post.  Bowden gives the reader three deep word studies.  They are excellent and gave me a deeper view of three common Biblical words.  I’ll write seperate blog posts on these three words, but when I read the first word study, I knew that this was not an ordinary football coach book.

Here are my three negative takeaways:

  1. Theologically off:  I enjoyed Bowden’s reliance on scripture, but some of his theology is off the mark.  There are also some places where he contradicts what he wrote in an earlier chapter.  In a few chapters, he revert to a hard work theology.  A hard work theology is a theology whereby hard work is emphasized over and above God’s grace.  Hard work and grace should be kept in balance.  The Bible exhorts Christians to work hard, but all of our blessings come via God’s grace.
  2. Christ:  Christ is a weakness?  Bowden talks about his relationship to Christ, but more often than not he talks about His relationship to God the Father.  I wish he would have written more about Christ, the cross, and the gospel.  I believe he is a Christian, but he missed some opportunities to present a clearer picture of the gospel.
  3. Writing Style:  This is a minor critique, but his writing style is choppy.  In some chapters there is no variation of sentence structure.

Coaches get a bad rap concerning their intelligence.  We often think they are dumb jocks without any intelligent thoughts, and they should just focus on their playbooks.  Bowden’s book demonstrates that coaches are and can be very intelligent and knowledgeable about subjects other than football.  I would recommend this book to anyone.  You can purchase it here.