by Al Maxey
Issue #867 -- June 17, 2023
The game of chess is not merely an idle
amusement; several very valuable qualities of
the mind are to be acquired and strengthened
by it so as to become habits ready on all
occasions, for life is a kind of chess.
Benjamin Franklin [1706-1790]
Chess, like life itself, is a very complex endeavor, with no two games ever played being exactly the same in every respect (just as no two people who have ever existed have been exactly the same in every respect). The various positions within each game of chess, impacted by countless variables, increase exponentially with each move. Claude Elwood Shannon (1916-2001) an American, MIT-educated mathematician, electrical engineer, and computer scientist, known as the "father of information theory," wrote a paper in 1950 titled "Programming a Computer for Playing Chess," which introduced the field of computer chess as a viable concept. Through some remarkable mathematical calculations, which have since been affirmed by other noted mathematicians, he demonstrated that there are up to 10 to the power of 120 possible moves for a chess game of 40 moves. This is known as the "Shannon Number." Demonstrated another way, "After each player has moved a piece 5 times each (10 ply) there are 69,352,859,712,417 possible games that could have been played." What Shannon sought to demonstrate was "the impracticality of solving chess by brute force." In other words, the game of chess is far too complex in nature for any person to be able to grasp every single positional possibility within a game and thus prepare in advance for it. Instead, the game requires a flexibility of insight and application that, coupled with a working knowledge of the various strategies and tactics of the game, can respond to the countless and unexpected challenges that present themselves to the player from all directions. One should also note that in addition to the actual movement of pieces on the board, the personalities of the two players and how they interact with one another during the game, not to mention possible distractions from spectators, will also be a factor impacting whether the game is ultimately won or lost.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), one of our nation's most influential figures and one of our "founding fathers," was also one of our nation's earliest strong proponents of the game of chess. In an article written by John McCrary, a past president of the United States Chess Federation (of which I was an active member for many years), he pointed out: "Among his many other 'firsts,' Benjamin Franklin is perhaps the earliest chess player in the future United States who can be identified by name" [from the article Chess and Benjamin Franklin - His Pioneering Contributions]. It can be documented that he was actively playing chess as early as 1733. A close second for the distinction of the earliest named chess player in what would become the USA was Louis Rou, a Huguenot minister in New York City who is mentioned by name as being active in 1734. From various comments by those who knew him, and from his own writings, Franklin appears to have been an above-average player. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the game, however, was his writings about chess, the most notable of which was an article titled "The Morals of Chess," which was first published in the Columbian Magazine in December of 1786 (although he had outlined the article several years earlier). In 1791 it appeared in the first book on chess published in Russia. Franklin believed one could learn valuable life-lessons from chess, and that belief was developed within the article along with a set of moral guidelines for life perceived within the game of chess. For his contribution to the game, Franklin was inducted into the US Chess Hall of Fame in 1999.
Like Benjamin Franklin, and undoubtedly like some of you reading this, I have loved the game of chess for about as long as I can remember. I was given a set for Christmas when I was in elementary school, and I taught myself to play. In middle school one of the teachers where my father was the school principal was an accomplished player, and he agreed to coach me. His name was Pat Hayden. I learned a great deal from him, especially with respect to tournament play. A club was formed during my high school years, and I played "first board," winning a number of tournaments with other towns in the area. The picture of me (to the left) was taken my senior year of high school. My first recorded game was August 26, 1965, as I was just entering my junior year of high school. That was also the year I joined the United States Chess Federation, and I have kept their monthly magazine Chess Life all the way back to 1965 (they are still in perfect condition). I also have a large notebook containing all of my tournament games ever played, as well as many of my recreational games. In Vietnam, I won a tournament played May 5-7, 1970 between the USA and England (I went undefeated). The summer of 1979 I went undefeated (until the very last game) in the New Mexico Class Championship tournament. In the fall of that year I played in the New Mexico Open, and then again in 1981 (although I picked up some wins against higher ranked players, I didn't win either tournament). I also played in the 1980, 1981, and 1982 US Open Postal Chess Championships. By the time I decided to cease tournament play (we moved to Germany in '82) I had earned the rank of "Expert" in the USCF.
I still play an occasional game on my chess computer just for fun, but rarely play other people these days. I still love the game, however, and, like Benjamin Franklin, believe one can learn some important lessons about themselves and about life in general. Consider the following quote by Franklin: "Chess teaches foresight, by having to plan ahead; vigilance, by having to keep watch over the whole chess board; caution, by having to restrain ourselves from making hasty moves; and finally, we learn from chess the greatest maxim in life - that even when everything seems to be going badly for us, we should not lose heart, but always hoping for a change for the better, we steadfastly continue searching for the solutions to our problems." In this quote, Franklin touches upon the very "morals" of chess that apply to one's journey through life. It would be great if we each could say that we follow this advice perfectly. I suspect many of us fall short now and then. I know I do, and those who knew Franklin personally pointed out that he often failed to implement his own "moral" imperatives for chess. They stated he was especially impatient with those who did not move quickly enough or who took too long thinking about their next move (he would often drum his fingers on the table as they thought). He was even known to rearrange a piece or two on the board if his opponent moved away from the table for some reason. Nevertheless, his advice in his essay titled "The Morals of Chess," which can be easily found on the Internet, is quite sound guidance for life.
The first thing we learn from chess, according to Franklin in his essay, is Foresight. In chess, just as in life, it is vital that we think ahead: that we consider the impact and consequences of our choices and actions. I imagine we all could benefit enormously in life by doing a bit more reflective thinking before we speak or act. Franklin wrote that foresight "looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action; for it is continually occurring to the player, 'If I move this piece, what will be the advantages of my new situation? What use can my adversary make of it to annoy me? What other moves can I make to support it, and to defend myself from his attacks?'" Few chess players will ever achieve higher ranking if they are unwilling or unable to think at least five moves ahead during a game. Anything less is little more than merely reacting to what the other player does; it is allowing one's opponent to dictate the direction of the game. Living life in "reactive mode," rather than in "reflective mode," is a recipe for frustration and failure. We need to establish a "game plan," and then implement our tactics and strategies with both foresight and boldness, taking the battle to them, instead of sitting back and letting "the opposition" impose their battle plan upon us. We need to see the traps being laid for us before we fall headlong into them; we need to spot the diversions well ahead of time before we find ourselves diverted from our course. Foresight, which is defined as "prudent regard or provision for the future," is critical for one's success, whether in chess or in life!
The second thing Benjamin Franklin suggests that we learn from chess, which can be beneficial for our journey through life, is Circumspection (in the earlier quote by Franklin given above, he lists this as "vigilance"). The word "circumspect" comes from the Latin term meaning "to look about." One must be cautious, alert, and vigilant, for in both chess and life we face an opponent whose goal is to defeat you! "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8, KJV). Notice the wording of The Message on this passage: "Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up." About this moral quality, Franklin wrote the following in his essay: "It surveys the whole chessboard, or scene of action, the relations of the several pieces and situations, the dangers they are respectively exposed to, the several possibilities of their aiding each other; the probabilities that the adversary may make this or that move, and attack this or the other piece; and what different means can be used to avoid his stroke, or turn its consequences against him." The game of chess is, to a great degree, a game of warfare. It is one army, led by a king, battling another army, led by an opposing king, until the two sides battle to a stalemate or draw, or until one army kills the king of the other army. Strategies and tactics abound, and there is a wealth of knowledge available to players about both in the opening, middle, and end games of chess. I read many books on each phase of the game; I learned various openings (for both black and white): the Stonewall System being one of my favorites for white, and I used it rather effectively in tournament play. Several of us in Vietnam played chess regularly in what spare time we had, as seen in this picture of me (I'm on the far right) with two of my best friends at Binh Thuy in the Mekong Delta (McNerney - far left, and Sodemann - whom I was playing). Life itself is a type of warfare (especially for those serving in the army of the King of kings), for we daily must be alert to the dangers posed by the opposing forces of evil. If we are not vigilant, circumspect, alert, and watchful; if the enemy catches us "napping" spiritually; we will suffer a tremendous loss!
The third thing Franklin would have us learn from the game of chess is Caution. He warns us in his essay "not to make our moves too hastily." There is a rule in chess (and this is strictly enforced in serious tournament play) that states if you touch a piece when it is your turn to move, then you must move that piece; and if you move a piece to a particular square on the board, and then remove your fingers from that piece, that move cannot be taken back. Thus, before making a move, make sure this is what you want to do, for when it is done ... you're stuck with it. I can't tell you the number of times I have moved a piece, only to discover within seconds of removing my hand from it that it was "a dumb move," and the grin on the opponent's face was humiliating!! In life, we too often act and react hastily, led by our emotions, and this can get us into a world of trouble. "In this sense," says Franklin, "the game thereby becomes more the image of human life, and particularly of war; in which, if you have incautiously put yourself into a bad and dangerous position, you cannot obtain your enemy's leave to withdraw your troops and place them more securely; but you must abide all the consequences of your rashness."
Fourthly, Benjamin Franklin writes, "And, lastly, we learn by chess the habit of not being discouraged by present bad appearances in the state of our affairs and the habit of hoping for a favorable change and the habit of persevering in the search of resources." In his earlier quote above, when he touched upon these various maxims for life as perceived in the game of chess, he phrased this last item this way: "...and finally, we learn from chess the greatest maxim in life - that even when everything seems to be going badly for us, we should not lose heart, but always hoping for a change for the better, we steadfastly continue searching for the solutions to our problems." What tremendous advice! In his essay, Franklin develops this thought more fully by pointing out to the reader that in chess the fortunes of the players in a particular game "are subject to sudden vicissitudes ... and a variety of turns." In other words, you may be gloating, thinking your victory is certain, only to be fighting for your life two moves later. Overconfidence can be deadly; pride often goes before a fall. Given how suddenly things can turn around in both chess and life, don't give up ... keep on keeping on!! Who knows what reversal of fortune awaits you "a few turns down the road of life." And while keeping hope alive, also keep seeking out those resources all around you (which we too often fail to see or which we take for granted) and use them to help you get "back in the game." I have seen players give up and resign a game, only to be shown later by a stronger player that they actually had a winning position ... they just hadn't seen it. They let discouragement and despair (based on a faulty perception) defeat them, when a bit of hope and perseverance could have saved the day (and most certainly the game)!
As Franklin mentions in his fourth item in his essay, in the game of chess every player is going to hear his opponent on occasion say, "Check!" This means your own king has come under direct attack and will be killed on the very next move by your opponent. You, therefore, have one move to take care of the problem. This obviously gets your attention. It can also be somewhat disconcerting for a player, especially if they didn't see the "Check" of their king coming, and if it caught them off guard. For an inexperienced player, it can throw off their game plan. In our lives, we are going to come under attack time and again from those who oppose us. Sometimes it will seem like the word "Check" is being shouted at us every time we say or do anything. It can be intimidating ... and it is designed to be by the enemy. Some players try to "Check" the other player's king every chance they get, and they will do so with a vengeance if they see it is "rattling" their opponent. This is part of the psychological warfare aspect of chess. In this way, some mediocre chess players have actually defeated stronger players: they "got into their heads" and caused them to make stupid mistakes. Every chess player has experienced this ... and, yes, let's be honest, we have all probably done it to someone at some point. Right or wrong, it happens; those who win games are those who know it's coming and are ready for it; those who lose games are those who let it get to them! When I was a senior in high school, we played the team from a nearby town, and one of the coaches from that town asked if he could play me. He made it clear as the game began (by little digging comments, sneers, and body language) that he intended to "take me down a peg or two" (since I was winning a lot against his players). I saw what he was doing, and countered with an equally poor attitude: I decided to teach him a lesson. Rather than just going for a win, I decided to drag out the win and instead take every piece he had on the board before checkmating him. When he saw what I was doing, and realized he was not going to avoid a loss, he knocked all the pieces from the board to the floor and walked away. Both of us were wrong that day; both of us behaved badly. When both players behave badly, then neither player really wins! Sometimes we learn these lessons the hard way (both in chess and in life).
It is with this in mind, that Benjamin Franklin chose to end his essay by listing eight "rules" or "principles" of behavior that, if followed, will help the game of chess (and the game of LIFE) be more enjoyable for all involved. I won't quote each of these in their fulness, for Franklin made a number of comments and observations, and gave illustrations, for each. Rather, let me just quickly note the basic principle involved in each item (and I'll leave it to you, the reader, to seek out a copy of Benjamin Franklin's essay online, and to read the full text). He prefaced these items by saying that he wanted people to "be induced more frequently to choose this beneficial amusement" (i.e., to choose to play chess), therefore, "every circumstance that may increase the pleasure of it should be regarded." In other words, let's make this fun for all, and do everything in your power to make sure it is. The reverse is also true, Franklin stated: "Every action or word that is unfair, disrespectful, or that in any way may give uneasiness, should be avoided, as contrary to the immediate intention of both the players, which is to pass the time agreeably."
If it is agreed that the game should be played strictly by the rules of chess, then these rules "are to be exactly observed by both parties; and should not be insisted on for one side, while deviated from by the other: for this is not equitable." This is a disparity we see even to this day in life: some insist on the "rule of law" for some, but they themselves seem to believe themselves above that law. We will prosecute you for a certain infraction, but we will give ourselves a pass when breaking the same law. The apostle Paul wrote, "You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things" (Romans 2:1, New Living Translation). There are "leaders" in government today who might do well to go back and read again (if they ever have) these words of one of our nation's founding fathers regarding what is truly equitable in life and society!
Franklin's second rule is really more of a commentary on the first. He wrote, "If it is agreed not to observe the rules exactly, but one party demands indulgencies, he should then be as willing to allow them to the other." If one side wants to "play loose with the rules," then they should be willing to allow the same consideration to their opponent. Sadly, such equitability is very rarely seen or experienced.
This rule simply urges the players not to cheat in order to "extricate yourself out of a difficulty or to gain an advantage." Franklin rightly observes that there is "no pleasure in playing with a person" who is willing to engage "in such unfair practice."
The fourth rule is one that Benjamin Franklin himself struggled with, and even violated. A game of chess can at times take a very long time to complete, which is why tournament chess is timed (a certain number of moves must be made in a certain amount of time; one who runs out of time on the chess clock forfeits the game). Franklin had little patience in this area, although he did indeed realize the need for it. He wrote: "If your adversary is long in playing, you ought not to hurry him, or express any uneasiness at his delay. You should not sing, nor whistle, nor look at your watch, nor take up a book to read, nor make a tapping with your feet on the floor, or with your fingers on the table, nor do anything that may disturb his attention. For all these things displease. And they do not show your skill in playing, but your craftiness or your rudeness."
Some might rightfully differ with Franklin on this particular bit of advice, for one of the tactics of chess is to move one's pieces in such a way as to deceive one's opponent into believing you are doing one thing, when in fact you are intending to do something else. Laying traps for the enemy is not illegal in chess; it is warfare; life or death conflict. Such actions may well be ill-advised in one's relationships with friends and loved ones, but in mortal combat that's another matter. Here is what Franklin wrote: "You ought not to endeavor to amuse and deceive your adversary, by pretending to have made bad moves, and saying you have now lost the game, in order to make him secure and careless, and inattentive to your schemes; for this is fraud, and deceit, not skill in the game." In the normal relationships of life, I would tend to agree. In chess, on the other hand, I tend to disagree with our founding father on this one. There are psychological aspects to winning at chess that should not necessarily be quickly discounted, although I believe there are responsible as well as irresponsible ways to go about this.
In sports, we are all familiar with the idea of a player who makes a huge play (touchdown, homerun, etc.) engaging in celebratory acts in the end zone or as he runs the bases. At times, these players may be penalized for "taunting" or "inappropriate celebration," but generally the rules of sports allow for joyful expression of exceptional play. Benjamin Franklin seemed to think too much of this was in poor taste, although he seemed to imply that perhaps a "wee bit of it" might be okay. He wrote, "You must not, when you have gained a victory, use any triumphing or insulting expression, nor show too much pleasure." I can see refraining from taunting and insults. Showing pleasure, however?! Franklin takes it a step further: "You should endeavor to console your adversary, and make him less dissatisfied with himself by every kind and civil expression that may be used with truth." Well, yes ... maybe ... if you're playing your 5-year-old grandson! Chess, like life, is a reality game. There are winners and losers; some people get a trophy, some don't. No, don't mock your opponent for losing, but don't walk off with your head down for winning the game! Successful chess players will experience both wins and losses; so will those who are successful in life. Take satisfaction in your victories, learn from your losses. Do both with dignity.
As a tournament player, I agree completely with this particular rule by Franklin: "If you are a spectator, while others play, observe the most perfect silence. For if you give advice, you offend both parties. ... All talking to the players, lessens or diverts their attention, and is therefore unpleasing. ... If you have a mind to exercise or show your judgments, do it in playing your own game when you have an opportunity, not in criticizing or meddling with, or counselling, the play of others." Armchair or Monday morning quarterbacks are as bad as backseat drivers. The Scriptures are filled with examples of people who felt "led of God" to judge and criticize and condemn the actions of others, while they themselves did nothing. In LIFE we encounter countless such persons, and the encounters are rarely pleasant. I appreciate what Ronald Reagan said about this: "I don't pay much attention to critics. The world is divided into two kinds of people: those who can, and those who criticize."
"Lastly," writes Benjamin Franklin, "if the game is not to be played rigorously according to the rules above mentioned," then he advises that we not take it over-seriously, but rather play for the sheer sake of the pleasure of playing. Let it be informal, not formal; practice what he calls "generous civility." In other words, if your opponent makes a bad move that may cost him the game, point it out: offer to let him take it back, and then make a better move. Make the game FUN; don't play for blood, IF you are just playing for the sake of enjoyment with good friends (we're not talking tournament play here). Yes, says Franklin, "you may indeed happen to lose the game to your opponent, but you will win what is better, his esteem, his respect, and his affection; together with the silent approbation and good will of impartial spectators." Sometimes we are so intent in life on being always RIGHT, on defeating those who differ with us, on shunning and shaming those whom we deem "the enemy," that we drain all love and affection and even civility from our lives ... and from the lives of those around us. We sometimes take ourselves much too seriously. We might actually accomplish far more good in life, and for the Lord, if we loosened up and lightened up a bit.
Let me conclude this issue of Reflections by sharing a few quotes on chess that you might find interesting. Stanley Kubrick (1902-1985), the movie producer and director, wrote, "Among a great many other things that chess teaches you is to control the initial excitement you feel when you see something that looks good. It trains you to think before grabbing and to think just as objectively when you're in trouble." Paul Morphy (1837-1884), one of the great legends of chess, stated, "Unlike other games in which lucre is the end and aim, chess recommends itself to the wise by the fact that its mimic battles are fought for no prize but honor. It is eminently and emphatically the philosopher's game." Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), the French physicist and philosopher, observed, "Chess is the gymnasium of the mind." H. G. Wells (1866-1946) said, "There is no remorse like the remorse of chess." Another legendary chess player, Jose Raul Capablanca (1888-1942), who was also World Champion from 1921-1927, wrote, "You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player." The English chess prodigy and grandmaster Nigel Short (b. 1965), wisely noted, "If your opponent offers you a draw, try to work out why he thinks he's worse off." The Russian chess grandmaster Vladimir Kramnik (b. 1975) said, "I am convinced, the way one plays chess always reflects the player's personality. If something defines his character, then it will also define his way of playing." Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), a French painter and sculptor, opined, "I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists." There is an old Irish saying that is quite insightful: "When the chess game is over, the pawn and the king go back into the same box."
On a lighter note, here are a few humorous quotes: "Winning at chess is like winning a staring contest with a cat." -- "My chess strategy is simple: move pieces until the other person gets bored and forfeits." -- "The only thing better than winning at chess is making your opponent think they're winning, and then checkmating them." -- "I don't always play chess, but when I do, I prefer to play against beginners." -- "The most important part of chess is not winning or losing, it's how cool you look doing it." -- "Chess is a lot like life. You start out with a plan, and then everything falls apart." -- "I don't always make the best chess moves, but when I do, I make them in my head after the game is over." -- "Chess is like a beautiful woman, pleasing to the eye but complex enough to keep you guessing." -- "Chess is like a painting: it requires patience and attention to detail, but sometimes you just have to throw some paint on the canvas and see what happens." -- "Marriage is like the king and queen in chess. The king must carefully take one step at a time, but the queen can go anywhere she wants."
From a Reader in Oklahoma:
Al, it has been a long time since we talked. I am now 90 and in assisted living. I just read your article titled "All Scripture is God-Breathed: A Reflective Study of 2 Timothy 3:16a" (Reflections #444), which I came across while searching for information on the controversy surrounding "inspired vs uninspired writings." I had forgotten how thoroughly you discuss various issues, and I found your study quite interesting! There is a lot of food for thought there, but I have to admit that I am not capable of handling complex issues easily at my age. I think it is more a matter of energy than brain power (I hope). Nevertheless, I am beginning to think that the principles of the Word are more important than the countless minor details -- which, of course, would absolutely destroy the legalists and patternists!!
From a Ph.D. in Texas:
Al, I would like to buy your materials: all four of your books in the printed second edition (Al Maxey's Books) and all of your Reflections articles with the textual and topical indexes on the special thumb drive (Reflections: The Complete Collection). Also, would you please autograph the books for me?! Thank you! I am enclosing a check to cover the cost. Thank you for all of your great writings over the years!
From a Reader in Texas:
Hello, Al. I just came across your body of work, and I am so thankful for your wisdom and discernment. Over the past number of years after our time at Harding University, my wife and I have both been working through the process of shedding the legalistic mindset cultivated in our heritage, and it is so encouraging to find another person who has undergone a similar evolution. We love our brothers and sisters dearly in our local congregation, but we would be deemed heretical by many of them if they knew the way we currently think about some of the issues about which you write. It is easy to feel alone as God brings us to new and deeper knowledge, so we appreciate your words and the heart behind them; they reinforce the truth that we do actually have deep comraderies among other seekers and sojourners, and for that I am grateful. Also, I just ordered your book on baptism titled "Immersed by One Spirit: Rethinking the Purpose and Place of Baptism in NT Theology and Practice" through PayPal. I am so excited to read it. Thank you so much for your work. I pray His blessings on you and your efforts.
From a Minister in Texas:
Al, I loved your last two Reflections articles: "Drawing the Line at the Water: Is Water Baptism God's Salvation Line?" (Reflections #865) and "Challenges and Castigations: A Variety of Responses from Readers to 'Drawing the Line at the Water'" (Reflections #866). They helped me understand what "we" (in the Churches of Christ) really don't understand. Thanks and blessings!
From a Reader in Georgia:
Al, my guess is that your last couple of articles have caused a lot of people to think ... to think that you're crazy!! (LOL) Seriously, I think you are "spot on," and I'm quite confident that this topic on the place and purpose of baptism IS being seriously reconsidered by many who were "so certain" of their views. And that's a good thing! Well done, brother!
From a Reader in Unknown:
First, I want to say that I appreciate you so very much, brother. You challenge folks to think, and also to relook at long-held beliefs that just may not line up with God's grace. In your last article you made the following statement: "I don't really think my sins are remitted 'because' of my faith, but rather because of HIS faith and sacrifice!! JESUS took care of my sin problem before I was ever born; I receive that benefit (of a previously accomplished reality = the taken away SIN of the world) as a gift by placing my trust/faith in HIM. Thus, the 'because' points to HIM rather than to ME. HIS faith remitted SIN, once for all -- MY faith simply received that gift and made it a reality in my life! Maybe that's a bit of a quibble, but I believe there is an important distinction here that we often miss." Al, you indicated what you wrote might be a quibbling over words, but I would suggest it is just the opposite!! What you wrote, not only in that statement, but also in your article, is at the very heart of the issue as to why so many, and probably most, "Restoration Movement" brethren (and others) struggle with and misunderstand God's grace that is found in Jesus Christ. They have placed the emphasis on "MY" faith/obedience; it is all about "ME." Actually, as you note, it is all about HIM - our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Forgiveness of sins and eternal life are all because of HIS faith and sacrifice, not OURS!! Until that truth clicks within a person's heart and mind, they can never understand God's grace. It is not about my faith; it is about His faith; it is about what He did. Too many folks still want to "fully obey" themselves into heaven. Al Maxey, you are truly God's pen for our times!!
From a Reader in Georgia:
Al, I grew up in the same tribe as you, and I have changed a lot of my beliefs in the last few years. A lot of the changes are due to my reading and studying your Reflections articles! I thank you for your thinking and your writings that have helped me change my beliefs.
From a Reader in Texas:
Al, your two previous articles are great stuff as usual and as expected! I once was in a discussion with several guys, including elders and preachers in the Churches of Christ. I asked this question of them: "Is the person and work of Jesus enough to save a sinner's soul?" To my disappointment, I think three of them said "No," stating that Jesus was NOT enough, because WE had to be baptized, had to attend services regularly, had to be "in the right church," and on and on. Frankly, trust in anything other than Jesus - i.e., rites and rituals - is "another gospel" = "NO gospel." It is a lie from the devil. I just want to Thank You, Al, for your solid stand for Jesus.
From a Reader in Alabama:
Al, Thank you for your continued study and teaching. I began reading your work several years ago, and it has spurred me on to my own study of the Scriptures. I appreciate your recent offerings on the subject of baptism. I know many who read it will have a problem with it because it is different from what "we" grew up with in Churches of Christ, and so they will take it as a personal insult to their previous beliefs and even their families. However, as some strive to become more spiritual, they might come to appreciate the kind of teaching you offer! God bless you and your continued work, Al, and may God bless all who call upon His name!
From a Minister in Ghana, Africa:
Brother Al Maxey - WOW!! I just did a read of your articles on baptism! I must say I agree. I actually came to the same conclusion about two years ago after examining the Scriptures for myself. I also grew up being taught that baptism in water was the "dividing line" for many years. I had also felt something wasn't adding up, especially when I came across verses about believing being for salvation. I used to replace "belief" with "baptism" whenever I came across verses that mentioned the former but not the latter. My study has led me to different understandings than what I was taught many years ago. As I began to teach these truths in the churches here, God led me to your Reflections, showing me that I was not alone in my teaching. I will surely keep in touch with you! Stay blessed, brother!
From a Reader in Colorado:
Thank you, Al, for all your massive amount of study that has helped me better understand this topic of baptism. I was one of those people "out there" who also had feelings of angst in my heart and mind over our denomination's teaching on baptism. No matter how hard I tried to reach an understanding of baptism's importance, I just couldn't believe it was a "dividing line" between those saved and those not. Thank you for helping me by putting into words what I couldn't on my own.
From a Minister in Texas:
Al, thanks for your ministry, especially your gift of writing about what you have studied, learned, and believe. I too am a preacher/evangelist. In my case, I serve among both Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. After nearly 50 years in the midwest, primarily Illinois, I have recently moved to Texas, serving with the ----- Christian Church along with my son, and also with a church in a nearby town (filling the pulpit on Sundays while they search for their next preacher). Let me briefly add that I am especially grateful for the way you explain baptism's place in the salvation process. You word it better than I do. I am sometimes accused of returning to my Baptist roots, which is not true. But your writings are helping me say what I'm thinking! I especially appreciated Reflections #217 - "Salvation by Immersion: Reflective Analysis of 1 Pet. 3:21." I could ramble on, telling many anecdotal stories about my ministry, but suffice it to say - Thanks!! I also, many years ago, thanked the late Ray Downen, a great leader in the Christian Churches, for making me aware of you and your work!
From a Reader in Ohio:
Al, your writings are just anti-Church of Christ rants. When will you move on from the Churches of Christ? Or, will this be your legacy? The "Anti-Church of Christ Man."
From a Reader in Texas:
Al, you're a false teacher of the first rank, pretending to be one of us, when you more rightfully belong with the Baptists and other heretics of the "salvation-by-faith-alone" persuasion. Just move along with Max Lucado and quit pretending!
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