Christians and Mixed Martial Arts

Can Christians legitimately watch mixed martial arts? Participate? What Scripture, if any, would you consider applicable?

5719 reads
Becky Petersen's picture

Is there something different" about mixed martial arts than, say, than "all male" or "female" karate? Maybe you should explain what you mean. My son took karate for years and there were girls in the class. Why would that be wrong?

They had lots more clothes on than girls who are at the beach and I'd say the majority of people reading here have no problems with that, so ...

The problem might fall in the idea of guys hitting girls. Is that what you are getting at?

My one son had problems with that as well....instructor said he was one of the strongest guys he'd ever had come through his class but he didn't want to hurt anyone.

Jack's picture

I should have explained a bit more. Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a combat sport in which the participants are allowed to use techniques from many different fighting styles (e.g., wrestling, boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu). My impression is that some Christians oppose any full-contact fighting sports. Others may draw distinctions between boxing and MMA. Still others may find them all acceptable. I was just trying to gauge the views represented here and am curious what Scripture is pressed into service of those views.

I should probably also clarify that I'm not talking about the toughman type contests that are, or at lease were ten of fifteen years ago, common on the local level. I'm curious about sanctioned fights with professional fighters matched by weight class and skill and with officials intent on preventing permanent injury to the competitors.

Matthew Olmstead's picture

This would be an area where, regardless of the Bible principle one uses, one will have to argue a second (non-Bible) premise. I think it would be difficult to successfully argue against a believer watching or participating. The legitimacy for believers would likely be determined by each individual.

I cannot immediately think of Bible principles that may specifically bare on this issue. (I must confess I have not come to the need to "work" through this issue in depth)

That's just me. I'm willing to be convinced otherwise.

Father of three, husband of one, servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. I blog at mattolmstead.com.

Jamie Hart's picture

Though I agree with Matthew that this is an area the bible doesn't speak specifically about, I do believe there are some principles to consider.

On the one side, Paul used some pretty graphic language to illustrate the Christian's struggle. In 1 Cor. 9:27 he uses a word (buffet, beat, discipline, depending on your translation) to describe his personal struggle. The word is pretty graphic as it depicts the Greek boxers. They wore padded gloves as well...padded with glass, metal, and other damage-inflicting articles! it would make today's MMA look tame. Also, in Ephesians, Paul used the example of grappling to describe our battle with the enemy (Eph. 6).

On the other hand there are other principles that may apply here. Some questions I would "grapple with" before participating would be...does this bring glory to God (1 Cor. 10:31), could this be a stumbling for a brother (Rom. 14:13)...among others. My struggle here is not so much with MMA but with all the "trappings" that come with MMA...the commercials, language, etc. If a brother finds out I watch (especially as a pastor), would the "trappings" cause him to stumble? That being the case, I try to be careful about proclaiming MMA.

Also, I'm pretty sure participating in MMA would be in conflict with a pastor's qualifications. That means I won't be joining the UFC anytime soon. Anderson Silva can rest more peacefully tonight.

I'm wrestling with this as well, Jack. I'm not quite ready to tap out on MMA yet...

Jack's picture

Jaime, I also find the "trappings" to be the most troubling aspect. That, combined with the fact that I don't have cable or satellite tv, means I rarely watch MMA. I do enjoy seeing it when I have the chance though. I am amazed at the level of skill displayed by many fighters. I happened to watch a few minutes of a fight online (mercifully, without racy commercials and such) Sunday night and, when discussing it with my wife, she objected in principle to combat sports. Just curious to see if anyone else holds a similar view.

Pastor Harold's picture

I love MMA, and I think Paul did to. But my problem comes on Saturday night with the ppv UFC events. I don't have cable, so I go to a restaurant and watch the fights (they air about once a month) it starts at 9:00pm and is over at midnight. That means that the pastor is getting into bed at 1:00am. I worry that this may affect my preaching the next day. Like everything else we enjoy, it must not interfear with our calling.

Jay's picture

Matt, I completely disagree with you that this is a 'second premise' issue.

I would have a massive problem with watching UFC events, simply because of the intense [gratuitous? ] violence. Would God really approve of this kind of activity - 2 imagebearers of God deliberately trying to hurt each other people for other's entertainment? The premise itself gives me pause. A quick perusal of the ESV yields these verses for consideration:

Quote:
Psalm 11:4-7
4. The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord's throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
5. The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
6. Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
7. For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face

Psalm 73:1-6
1. Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
2. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
3. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4. For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek.
5. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
6. Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.

Proverbs 3:28-35
28. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.
29. Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you.
30. Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm.
31. Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways,
32. for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord, but the upright are in his confidence.
33. The Lord's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
34. Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.
35 The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace.

Proverbs 16:27-30
27. A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire.
28. A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.
29. A man of violence entices his neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good.
30. Whoever winks his eyes plans dishonest things; he who purses his lips brings evil to pass.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Matthew Olmstead's picture

Well, Jay, okay, but you haven't disproven my second premise assertion. In fact you may have made the argument for me. None of those references directly charge a believer to not look on violent acts as a form of entertainment.

BTW, have you exegeted those references? The ones in the Psalms refer to the unbeliever; the ones in proverbs could also arguably not apply in this circumstance.

This isn't a hill on which I will die, but if one needs to deal with this somewhere other than his own heart (e.g. counseling another believer), I would hope he has more than these four references from which to argue.

Father of three, husband of one, servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. I blog at mattolmstead.com.

Jay's picture

Matt, maybe you should define 'second premise' for me. I may be misunderstanding it.

That being said, there are more than 4 applicable references - I just grabbed a few and didn't look through the entire list. Running a search on violence in the ESV will provide you with plenty of results. Of course, you'll have to cull the list down somewhat.

Some of those passages do refer to unbelievers who love violence; are you honestly arguing that believers are exempted from them because we're saved? That premise seems a more than a little strange and indefensible.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Matthew Olmstead's picture

Re: Definition of Second Premise

Here are two articles from Bauder that may explain what I mean:

http://www.centralseminary.edu/publications/20061110Print.pdf ]Shall We Reason Together? Part Nine: The Problem of Premises
http://www.centralseminary.edu/publications/20061117Print.pdf ]Shall We Reason Together? Part Ten: Extra-Biblical Premises

Jay C. wrote:
Some of those passages do refer to unbelievers who love violence; are you honestly arguing that believers are exempted from them because we're saved? That premise seems a more than a little strange and indefensible.

No. I'm asking you if you exegeted the passages you referenced.

Here's what I'm arguing: even if you find passages that refer to violence in the Scriptures (first premise) you must assert an extra-biblical point (second premise, e.g. how is UFC violent?) to even come close to concluding that UFC-watching is immoral (or whatever) for a believer.

Not that we can't say "thus saith the Lord" on second-premise issues, but it is more difficult to connect the dots, particularly in this one.

Father of three, husband of one, servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. I blog at mattolmstead.com.

Jamie Hart's picture

Jay C wrote:
Matt, I completely disagree with you that this is a 'second premise' issue.

I would have a massive problem with watching UFC events, simply because of the intense [gratuitous? ] violence. Would God really approve of this kind of activity - 2 imagebearers of God deliberately trying to hurt each other people for other's entertainment? The premise itself gives me pause. A quick perusal of the ESV yields these verses for consideration:

Quote:
Psalm 11:4-7
4. The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord's throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
5. The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
6. Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
7. For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face

Psalm 73:1-6
1. Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
2. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
3. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4. For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek.
5. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
6. Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.

Proverbs 3:28-35
28. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.
29. Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you.
30. Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm.
31. Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways,
32. for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord, but the upright are in his confidence.
33. The Lord's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
34. Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.
35 The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace.

Proverbs 16:27-30
27. A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire.
28. A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.
29. A man of violence entices his neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good.
30. Whoever winks his eyes plans dishonest things; he who purses his lips brings evil to pass.


Hey Jay. ESV...man after my own heart! Good thoughts...thanks.

I think the second premise issues comes in with the definition of "violence." If I didn't have other lessons to prepare today, I might spend some time studying out the word used there...I think it will be critical to the topic. But let's just think through this a bit....
Is football violent? NASCAR? Forgive me in advance for this...how about watching stormtroopers get blasted? Godly man may differ in their opinions about such things. It all depends on what God meant by "violence" and even then the application of that principle may differ from culture to culture. Though a more in-depth study of the word may change my opinion, from where I am sitting today I would say it remains a secondary premise issue.

Jay's picture

Jamie Hart wrote:
But let's just think through this a bit....Is football violent? NASCAR? Forgive me in advance for this...how about watching stormtroopers get blasted? Godly man may differ in their opinions about such things. It all depends on what God meant by "violence" and even then the application of that principle may differ from culture to culture. Though a more in-depth study of the word may change my opinion, from where I am sitting today I would say it remains a secondary premise issue.

LOL - you touched a nerve w/ me. When I first got married, my wife and I talked at length about some of the things that I'd brought into our marriage [games and movies ] and the effect that they had on my behavior. After a while, I gave up a lot of my favorite games simply because they were so violent and because it altered my behavior, so it's odd to be defending the position I normally didn't hold to. Wink I don't know all the answers - wish I did. But I think that there's a clear difference between violence for the sake of violence and entertainment [see the above references to Psalms and Proverbs ] and what I'll call 'necessary' violence [think military or law enforcement violence ]. I enjoy playing paintball, esp. w/ other Christians, but I would submit that there's a quantum leap between that and MMA.

I guess here's another question for another thread. Are we enjoying violence because it's violent and it encourages violent behavior, or do we deal with violence, keeping in mind that it can be a sinful behavior [Jesus cleaning the Temple wasn't sinful ] and we need to be careful not to dwell on it?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells