Don’t “Throw out the Baby with the Bathwater” in Christianity

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Christ Pantocrator, detail of the Deesis mosaic

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Education can be a painful experience for those who are brought up in Fundamentalist Christianity, especially if they are exposed to evolutionary biology and/or to historical-critical Biblical studies. A surprising number of seminary students graduate either as atheists, agnostics, or as liberal Protestants or Roman Catholics who believe few if any of the standard teachings of Christianity such as the bodily resurrection of Christ.

For me, seminary almost destroyed my faith–and this was a theologically conservative seminary! When I was exposed to historical critical study of the Bible, my former belief in the inerrancy of the Bible in all areas, including science and history, became a thing of the past. And the growing evidence for biological evolution, including evidence for human evolution, convinced me that my literal understanding of Genesis was flawed. When I graduated in 1986, I was an agnostic on the existence of God.

My journey back to faith began with reading the writings of Peter Kreeft and C. S. Lewis. These theologically conservative Christians were neither strict Biblical inerrantists, nor did they deny the findings of modern science. C. S. Lewis, in his book Miracles, even stated that he believed many of the miracles of the Old Testament were myth and probably did not actually happen. My journey culminated in 1988, when I became a member of the Anglican Catholic Church. Their belief is that the Bible is inerrant in all things necessary for salvation; this does not require absolute inerrancy regarding science or history. And since tradition and reason are used to interpret scripture, the Church sets the limits of required belief–the Apostle’s, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds and the dictates of the seven ecumenical councils up to Nicea II in 787. What cannot be proven from scripture (as interpreted through the lens of tradition) cannot be required for salvation. So belief in the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the bodily resurrection of Christ, and the general resurrection of all mankind are essential teachings of the church. But absolute Biblical inerrancy on scientific and historical matters are not. It becomes possible to be both theologically conservative and a non-Fundamentalist on scripture. The Church is also open to the best science of the day; it does not deny biological evolution. Evolution is thought to be the method God used to guide the development of life on earth. Creation and evolution, therefore, are not contrary to one another, but complementary.

Too many Fundamentalists give up their faith when faced with education rather than considering a third alternative. But accepting a strong doctrine of the teaching office of the Church (as do Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and traditional Anglicans) does offer a third way between Fundamentalism and liberal theology. Don’t throw out the baby of traditional Christian faith with the bathwater of nonessential opinions.

Of Entitlement Culture and Chess Clocks

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Digital chess clock

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Americans have become notorious whiners, especially in this age of entitlement. Instead of working on their weaknesses in order to overcome them (something that builds character), many Americans try to get a break that costs them nothing. As a chess player and long time member of the United States Federation, I have seen such attitudes seep into participants in chess tournaments.

When I played in tournaments in the 1970s, the rounds would start on time–anyone who arrived late was penalized time off their clock, and therefore had less time in which to make all their moves in the game. They thus had a greater danger of losing. Now some tournaments routinely start ten, fifteen, or even thirty minutes late. Those who arrive on time end up staying later than they had planned due to delays in the later rounds. Those who arrive late are not punished for their late behavior. Now there are some tournament directors, such as Tennessee’s Harry Sabine, who do an excellent job of starting rounds on time. But they are becoming fewer by the day.

One of the worst developments, in my opinion, in the contemporary chess tournament is the five-second delay in many chess clocks. On this setting, a player’s clock does not start until five seconds after his opponent hits the button on the clock. Thus, a player may have one second left on his time, but if he moves within five seconds, he will have a potentially unlimited moves left.

Players who have good time management skills will not be harmed by the five-second delay. I have only lost one tournament game on time in thirty-three years of tournament play. But players who have not learned good time management skills benefit from the five-second delay. Instead of learning such skills, they now can move quickly and avoid losing on time. Most of these players are higher-rated players, and a lower-rated player would sometimes win on time. This greater chance of an upset added to the excitement of a tournament and was good for the morale of the lower-rated players. Now, since by the time a higher-rated player gets into time trouble, it is usually during the endgame, most of the time that player can easily make moves during the five second delay period. There are fewer upsets as a result.

The USCF default is to use the five-second delay setting. That is, if a player prefers that setting and the other player protests, that does not matter–the five-second delay is forced on the protesting player. Thus whiny players with poor time control skills have gotten their way with the five-second delay instead of taking the time and effort to improve their time management. The USCF has become a participant in the entitlement culture. How sad.