Well Played: A Christian Theology of Sport and the Ethics of Doping

By Michael R. Shafer

A treatise on how Christian moral theology can make a distinctive and valuable contribution to the debate over the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport.

ISBN: 9780718894337


Should we allow performance-enhancing substances in competitive athletics? The first book of its kind, Well Played answers this question by urging us to a deeper appreciation for the purpose of sport. Giving special reference to performance-enhancing substances, Shafer challenges the incompleteness of the ethical arguments and contributes a Christian voice to the discussion. He initiates a theological conversation that is both scholarly and accessible, arguing that a distinctively Christian understanding of sport will have far-reaching implications for how we treat ethical issues like doping. The values, beliefs, and practices within the Christian tradition show an alternative that prioritizes humility and friendship, grace and gratitude over the “win at all costs” mentality that drives the use of performance-enhancing substances for a competitive advantage.

This ground-breaking book ventures into new theological territory as it explores the intersections of theology, philosophy of sport, and the ethics of doping. Theologians, ethicists, and pastors, as well as coaches, athletes, and sports fans will benefit from this book’s thoughtful reflection on how Christians can play well in the modern sports culture.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 268

Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Michael Shafer (PhD, Durham University) is a pastor at theChurch.at in Tulsa, OK. He can be found on Twitter @MichaelRShafer.


Foreword by Robert Song

1. The Landscape of Ethical Arguments Against Doping
2. A Philosophical Framework for Sport
3. Three Views of Sport Adopted by the Church: A Critical Assessment
4. Reconciling Christian Ethics and Sport
5. Recognizing the Human Essence of Sport
6. Recovering the Spirit of Play in Sport
7. The Christian Athlete in Relationship with God



Endorsements and Reviews

Ethical violations – especially in professional athletics – have made many of us cynical about the possibility of preserving the morality of sport. Well Played is a refreshing reminder that sport can be an expression of human dignity and the love of the game, rather than a vicious arena for personal aggrandizement. Michael Shafer is to be commended for bringing theological categories to bear on the nature of sport in a readable, helpful, and interesting way. This makes him the MVP of sport ethicists!
C. Ben Mitchell, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee

Shafer – rightly dissatisfied with current debates about doping in sport – shows that to have a better discussion, we need to understand the nature of sport as a practice. He develops an original theological account which critiques doping but also raises bigger and more challenging questions. I hope his book will persuade theologians to take sport more seriously, and those involved in sport that theology has something important to say about their chosen pursuits.
Neil Messer, Professor, Head of the Department of Theology, Religion and Philosophy, University of Winchester, United Kingdom

Overall this book brings some helpful new dimensions to the theology of sport in general, and has some important insights to the doping debate in particular. Theologians as well as pastors and thoughtful players will find this a stimulating read and helpful in viewing sport under God.
Pete Nicholas, in Churchman, Vol 132, No 1

Shafer’s account invites other Christian ethicists to advance from his solid beginning.
John B. White, in Studies in Christian Ethics, Vol 31, issue 3