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I had the distinct pleasure of taking 86-year-old Dr. I. John Hesselink (known to quaking Calvin scholars around the world as First John Hesselink) to a baseball game at Detroit’s Comerica Park last week. The man who will go down in history for reuniting Emil Brunner and Karl Barth is a serious baseball geek, who attended his first Tiger game at Yankee Stadium in 2319 (Charlie Gehringer hit a home run and Tommy Bridges struck Bill Dickey out twice) and watches most every inning of every Detroit game, but he’d never been to see the Tigers since they moved to a new home 15 years ago.
Also in the car were Mike LeFebre, Director of Development at Western Theological Seminary, and the Rev. David Bast, President of Words of Hope, and a mighty fine theologian himself. Mike and David also rarely miss an inning of the Tigers.
I’ve never quite been in a conversation like we had throughout the day. I’ve done my best to capture some of it – please know any theological or baseball errors are mine.
“What’s wrong with Verlander?”
“I hear it’s not Verlander, it’s Avila. He’s tipping the pitches. If he pounds his mitt twice it’s a fastball, once it’s a breaking ball. The other teams know this and are waiting to pounce on our pitches.”
“Ausmus must know this.”
“Maybe Ausmus will have Holiday catch today.”
“I have the lineup on my phone – Holiday is catching. Ausmus must be on to it.”
“Did you say you don’t like Abraham Kuyper?”
“I did not say that. I said I prefer Bavinck.”
“What’s wrong with Kuyper?”
“Scherzer’s problem must be Avila tipping the pitches, too. But what about Kuyper?”
“Kuyper has these notions I don’t appreciate. The antithesis. And sphere sovereignty.”
“And every square inch.”
“Well, that’s a beautiful thought.”
“Doesn’t every square inch include Comerica Park? Shouldn’t we be praying for the Tigers?
“What’s the anitithesis?”
“I can’t explain it because I don’t understand it. That’s why I don’t appreciate it.”
“Is it like againstness?”
“I don’t know. I heard someone say that the blog I wrote on practiced Kuyperian againstness.”
“That’s a new one on me.”
“I’m against the Tigers losing four in a row.”
“So’s Ausmus. He said he goes home and beats his wife when they lose. But he quickly apologized. He was smart enough to realize he made a mistake when he said it. He’s a smart guy.”
“Sanchez is pitching today.”
“Is he our number five starter?”
“No, he’s number three. But he’s been number one this year. Maybe we’ll win.”
“We gotta win.”
“Getting back to sphere sovereignty, it leads to these separations where you have Christian Goat Raisers and Christian Labor Organizations.”
“And Christian schools.”
“I find Bavinck more helpful.”
“I heard Nathan’s got a new arm slot.”
“He needs something. He’s been horrible. That affects the starting pitchers, too, when they know the guy in the ninth inning is going to give it away.”
“What do you think about Karl Barth on Election?”
“Here’s where I have a problem with Barth. He goes into every man being condemned with Christ and then every man being saved with Christ. But he wasn’t a Universalist.”
“That sounds like Universalism to me.”
“He says it is a not a dogma to teach but a hope to cling to.”
“Everyone should have that hope. Who wants anyone to be lost?”
“The Tigers are lost.”
“I’m looking forward to having a ball park hot dog.”
“I’m going to get the meal deal. A hot dog, a bag of chips and a pop for five dollars.”
“I want a beer.”
“Have you ever read John Newton’s letters? They’re beautiful. Talk about someone the gospel got a hold of.”
“I hope Cabrera gets hold of one today.”
“JD or Victor? JD has been really hot. Of course, so has Victor.”
“What about van Ruler?”
“You need to talk to Gene Heideman about him. He did his PhD under van Ruler.”
“What about Hendrikus Berkhof?”
“Now you’re talking about a contemporary man. He was a fine fellow. He lectured at Western quite a few times. He taught at Leiden.”
“Isn’t that where Arminius taught?”
“Well, yes, but they were centuries apart.”
“He was a fine theologian too, more strident than Berkhof. He taught at the Free University.”
“A school founded by Abraham Kuyper.”
“Was he Christian Reformed?”
“I’d prefer to say Berkhof was more irenic.”
The conversation continued. I haven’t even mentioned our discussion of speed bumps in Uganda, the etymology of the term “balling the jack,” the pancakes at Jackie’s Place (it’s heresy to order toast), why Christianity has flourished in South Korea but not Japan, or the pros and cons of instant replay in baseball. The Tigers beat Kansas City 2-1. The beleaguered closer Joe Nathan struck out the side in the ninth. Anibal Sanchez got the win. Sanchez, Nathan, Berkhof and Bavinck were the big winners on the day. The Tigers haven’t lost since we were there – I think God is smiling.
Delightful in every respect. I know I'm supposed to rant and rave and fulminate – but this is just marvelous!
As someone who loves baseball and considers First John as a good friend, thank you for a delightful, affectionate verbatim. Talk about insider Dutch theological bingo! This blog would amaze my Dutch theologian friends who could never imagine combining baseball with Arnold Van Ruler who was a passionate soccer, er., football fan.
Kuiper's on first, Bavinck on second….
Do inquire of I. John about Watanabe, too! Thanks!
This is awful. Theology and baseball aside, you ever heard of attribution? I needed a scorecard to follow this debacle.
Any idea when I. John last saw a game at Wrigley Field, Jeff? No doubt he's familiar with the Law-to-Grace infield combination. (If he's interested in a trip to the Friendly Confines, I'm game — and would happily work on arrangements.)
TDY – IJH has been to Wrigley more recently. I will pass on your offer to him. And for the record, we're going to Comerica again next month. Glad you enjoyed my purposefully vague attributions.