FSI Research Initiatives

Baylor University’s Illuminate plan includes research as a central component. As an “unambiguously Christian” university, we seek to explore our world and foster human flourishing by producing scholarship marked by quality, impact, and visibility. At the Faith & Sports Institute, we carry out this mission with an interdisciplinary team of scholars who are exploring critical issues relevant to the world of sports.

Postdoctoral Fellowship

In 2020, with support from an internal grant awarded by Baylor University, we launched the Faith & Sports Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship. This three-year position is intended to cultivate and encourage scholarship related to sports and Christianity. Our first Postdoctoral Fellow, Brian Gamel, is a New Testament scholar who is working on a book focused on the athletic imagery used in the Bible.

FSI Retreat

Our summer retreat for high school student-athletes was launched in 2018 with support from the Lilly Endowment’s Youth Theology Network. The primary goal of the retreat is to encourage young Christian athletes to ask the big life questions, deepen integrity and spiritual leadership, and develop convictions and character to equip them for the “race of life.” But the FSI Retreat also has a research component, which enables us to improve our understanding of outcomes and methods related to connecting youth sport with spirituality.

This research is led by a team of scholars, including:

  • John White, Ph.D. (FSI Director)
  • Andrew Parker, Ph.D.
  • Joseph Leman, Ph.D.

Several academic articles based on research conducted within the retreat have been submitted for publication. Upon publication, those links will be provided.

Current Staff Research Projects

John White

Director, Faith & Sports Institute
Areas of Expertise:
Theology, Ethics

John holds a M.Div. and a M.A. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School as well as a Ph.D. from The University of Edinburgh, where he studied moral theology. He is considered one of the world’s leading scholars on the subject of sports and Christian theology. His academic publications have appeared in Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, Implicit Religion, Studies in Christian Ethics, Practical Theology, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Bible and Ethics, and he recently co-edited books with Routledge Press (2016, 2019), Cambridge Scholars (2017) and Mercer University Press (2017). John has also written for popular media outlets, including Christianity Today, Houston Chronicle, and Sports Spectrum.

Current Research Projects:

  • After the Game: Football, Money, and Morality. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. (under contract)
  • Theology and Sport. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. (under contract)
  • Co-author of the first round of empirical research regarding FSI’s high retreat (under review with different journals)
  • (with Cindy White) Running the Race Well: Developing Christian Virtue and Redefining Greatness in Sports
  • (with Cindy White) “Sports Chaplaincy” in Introduction to Chaplaincy (under contract with Baker Academic)
Cindy White

Co-Founder, Faith & Sports Institute
Areas of Expertise:
Leadership, Pastoral Care

Cindy received her M.A. in Biblical Studies and Ministry from Moody Bible Institute. She develops curriculum for global leaders in sports and has traveled the world speaking at retreats and conferences, particularly in the areas of identity formation, leadership, and mentoring in elite sports. She has contributed to several publications related to sports and faith, including The Image of God in the Human Body: Essays on Christianity and Sports.

Current Research Projects:

  • (with John White) Running the Race Well: Developing Christian Virtue and Redefining Greatness in Sports
  • (with John White) “Sports Chaplaincy” in Introduction to Chaplaincy (under contract with Baker Academic)
Paul Putz

Assistant Director, Faith & Sports Institute
Areas of Expertise:
History (Christianity, Sports, American Culture, and Race)

Paul received his Ph.D. in history from Baylor University, where he studied modern American culture with a special focus on sports and Christianity. He has published several academic history articles on subjects related to religion, race, and/or sports in American history and also has forthcoming chapters on sports and faith in the Oxford History of the Midwest and The Oxford Handbook of Christian Fundamentalism. Along with academic publications, his writing has appeared in a variety of popular media outlets, including Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, Religion & Politics, Religion News Service, Slate, and NPR’s “Only A Game” radio program.

Current Research Projects:

  • The Spirit of the Game: American Protestants, Big-Time Sports, and the Contest for National Identity (under contract with Oxford University Press)
  • Co-editor and contributing author to a special issue of The International Journal of the History of Sport on gender, Christianity, and sports
  • Contributing author with the forthcoming edited collection Religion and Sport in North America (Routledge Press)
Brian Gamel

Postdoctoral Fellow, Faith & Sports Institute
Areas of Expertise:
New Testament, Theology

Brian holds a M.Div. from Duke University and a Ph.D. in New Testament from Baylor University. In 2017, he published his first book, Mark 15:39 as a Markan Theology of Revelation: The Centurion's Confession as Apocalyptic Unveiling, with T&T Clark's "Library of New Testament Studies" series. He has also authored several articles for the Lexham Bible Dictionary and the Journal of Theological Interpretation.

Current Research Projects:

  • Christ and Contest: Athletic Imagery in Earliest Christianity
  • St. Paul at the Games
  • “The Dark Side of the Darkness at Noon: Intertextuality in Mark 15:33”
  • “Is Jesus a Martyr?: The Oddity of the Markan Passion Narrative”
  • “‘In Accord with the Gospel’?: Contrasting Theologies of Death in the Martyrdom of Polycarp and the Gospel of Mark

George W. Truett Theological Seminary