Another Gospel? by Alisa Childers (Brief Book Review)

Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity by Alisa Childers

My rating: 2.5 stars.

Apologetics is a western bird as it addresses two sick branches on the western Church’s tree: atheism, and what’s currently called progressivism. Alisa Childers is also very much a western bird, both in the deconstruction and reconstruction of her Christian faith.

I was once asked to teach a course on Apologetics in a bible college in India. I agreed, but as I was preparing the course I realized what a mistake I’d made. It was like going to the desert to teach a course on snowman building.

I don’t see anyone steeped in Progressive Christianity changing their mind from this book, but maybe that is not the book’s intention. I imagine it will mostly appeal to millennial western Christians struggling with the same issues Childers did.

I thought her sections on the atonement were good. Her thoughts on hell were lazy. Most of all her other thoughts can be found readily on apologetics blogs.

I did read the entire book cover to cover without getting bored, so that earns it a star or two.

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Be Judged by Reality (Not by Peers)

I recently finished reading two books by Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Skin in the Game and Antifragile. Both are good books and I will have to go back to them to glean more of the ideas.

One idea Taleb puts forth often is how one should strive to be judged by reality rather than peers. Your peers will most likely not give you a realistic assessment of how you’re really doing. In fact, your peers will celebrate you, perhaps in the spirit of teamwork, without even knowing much about what you’re doing.

If you strive after the judgment of peers, you will tend to portray yourself in a way that generates positive reviews from your peers, even when those portrayals are less than true, which is most likely the case.

Reality will not treat you so kindly.

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If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then that builder shall be put to death. -Code of Hammurabi #229

Taleb’s book Skin in the Game focuses on taking real risk in your endeavours, and if you have no skin in the game, you will build nothing worthwhile.

Over-eager politicians are very happy to usher in their version of paradise but will never suffer the consequences when their ideas fail. Their peers celebrate them and so they are encouraged. However, when reality proves them wrong, only those with skin in the game will pay the price.

A builder who is put to death if his building fails definitely has skin in the game. There is huge risk so he must be careful to be sure his construction is sound and safe and strong. He will be held personally responsible for his actions, no one else. Reality is a harsh judge, but it is a true judge.

I live and work in Cambodia and whenever a non-Cambodian tells me they’re going to come and build some new ministry in Cambodia, I ask them two questions: 1) How long are you planning on staying in Cambodia? 2) Are you going to train up Cambodians? If the person answers, “Maybe about 5 years,” and, “I’m going to focus on English speaking expats first, in order to build a core team, then focus on Cambodians after,” then I won’t pay much attention to them, and I won’t invest much or any of my time and resources into them. They have little skin in the game. They may be able to create an appearance of doing much in their short time in Cambodia, especially when posting creative photos on Facebook and being judged by their peers. Reality, however, will dissolve all their efforts in the long run.

Related reading:

Facebook Illusions

Like People, Like Priest

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Experts Say…

306335002_6437df303a_zIf I am trying to sell you one of two cameras which, although different brands, are exactly the same in quality and functionality, and I tell you that professional photographers prefer camera A over camera B, there’s a good chance you will then purchase camera A. And what I said about professionals preferring camera A doesn’t even have to be true, because you’ve already switched off the part of your brain in charge of critical-research thinking.

An actor playing a dentist in a toothpaste commercial will be trusted as an authority on which toothpaste to buy even when you know he’s just an actor. You ignore that fact because it’s not the focus of your thinking in the moment. The focus of your thinking is on making the decision.

It’s difficult for us to make decisions, especially when we are ignorant on the subjects of choice. What do you know about cameras? How much research are you going to have to do in order to make an informed decision? How much time do you have for that? So isn’t it nice when someone has done all the research for you and can simply tell you which option is better? Those people are the experts. Experts range in occupation from Technicians to Pastors.

And it’s great when you can trust the experts; when they’re not BS’rs. But you have to be careful when the expert, or the person in authority, may be using your ignorance and trust as a way to manipulate you.

How can you know?

  1. Always lean toward the possibility that the expert has an agenda unknown to you.
  2. Always ask, “Is this true?” and weigh that question against your own common sense. If something doesn’t make sense, it’s probably not true.
  3. Is what the expert saying leaning toward your own bias on the subject? Are you believing what he is saying simply because you want it to be true? Is it merely an appeal to your own selfish desires?
  4. Is what the expert saying qualified? Do other experts agree?
  5. Be prepared to do some of your own research, which, in the age of Google, isn’t too difficult.

Recommended reading: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini