I am currently reading The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu, a Chinese science fiction novel. In the story, the leaders of what is called the space force, are concerned that the greatest threat to their force is defeatism. They study the problem and come up with a list of what defeatist attitudes look like among their troops. I found the list to be quite profound and applicable to real life. I will share it here, but I will change and remove some elements so that you can fill in the blanks for your own life….*

  1. Treating one’s duty in _________________ as an ordinary job: despite working with dedication and responsibility, lacking enthusiasm and a sense of mission, and doubting the ultimate significance of one’s work.
  2. Passive waiting: believing that the outcome of __________________ depends on [certain special people]; believing that prior to breakthroughs [in advancing your field of work], _________________ is just a pipe dream, and subsequent confusion about the importance of [your] present work; being satisfied simply with completing tasks related to establishing ________________; lacking innovation.
  3. Harboring unrealistic fantasies: … On the surface, this is a positive state of mind, a desire to throw oneself onto the front lines [of what is perceived to be a losing battle], but it is essentially just another form of defeatism. Lacking confidence in victory and doubting the significance of [the] present work, [your] dignity becomes the only pillar sustaining work and life.
  4. The opposite of the above: doubts about [your dignity in your work] … and that fighting to the end has no meaning; the belief that [your] dignity [in your work] only exists when there is someone to see it, and [if your work] ends in defeat [or failure] … your dignity loses its significance.

* Taken from: Cixin Liu, 2008, The Dark Forest, New York, TOR, pg. 78

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.


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.

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