Check out this PDF essay by David Bentley Hart on the problem of evil and Christianity…..
You might want to read Rebellion from The Brothers Karamazov first though.
“A man who accepts death in order not to commit evil deeds helps us to do the things which must be done to replace war, lest we lose our creative breath.”
~from Planetary Service: A Way Into the Third Millennium, page 68
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.
If 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?
Recommended reading: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
For every mile of highway there are two miles of ditch. With biblical theology the right side ditch is to treat the bible as though it fell out of the sky last week. The left side ditch is to believe that because the bible is so old and written in such a different culture, we can not know what it truly says. Peter Enns, driving a bus full of evangelical straw men, veers dangerously close to the left side ditch, if he hasn’t gone down already. The sludge at the bottom of the left ditch is a mixture of postmodern philosophy and liberal progressivism. Enns calls it wisdom.
Peter Enns makes too much of the fact that the bible is ancient and written in different cultures. I agree that we must always take that into account when studying the bible and searching for the true meaning of the text. I too get frustrated when Christians act as though a passage was written by some western author only a few years ago. We always must ask what the original intention of the author of the text was and then apply the principle of the text to our lives today. Enns goes too far though. He writes as though we could never understand those ancient authors. We are just too different now. We think entirely different from them.
I disagree. Consider this text…
Imagine what a variety of noises reverberates about my ears! I have lodgings right over a bathing establishment. So picture to yourself the assortment of sounds, which are strong enough to make me hate my very powers of hearing! When your strenuous gentleman, for example, is exercising himself by flourishing leaden weights; when he is working hard, or else pretends to be working hard, I can hear him grunt; and whenever he releases his imprisoned breath, I can hear him panting in wheezy and high-pitched tones. Or perhaps I notice some lazy fellow, content with a cheap rubdown, and hear the crack of the pummelling hand on his shoulder, varying in sound according as the hand is laid on flat or hollow. Then, perhaps, a professional comes along, shouting out the score; that is the finishing touch.
When do you think the above text was written? Is it difficult to understand? Is it too culturally odd for you to know what is being spoken of? Is it written by someone who is so different from the modern man that he might as well be from another planet? No, I don’t think so. This text was written almost 2000 years ago in Rome by a man named Seneca. This text could easily appear in a 19th century British novel and not look out of place at all. I realize that the original was written in Latin, but that does not change the fact that a man living 2000 years ago is more like a man living today than he is different.
In regards to culture, I have visited many countries and ten years ago I moved from the west to East Asia. Very different cultures. But one thing I’ve seen over and over again wherever I go is that we humans are the same — same dreams, same desires, same fears, same hopes.
Enns pushes strongly in this book that our idea of God changes with the times. Why did the early Christians change so much the beliefs of Judaism, out of which Christianity arose? To fit with the times. Why should our views on homosexual behaviour and gender be different from what is written in the New testament? To fit with the times. Enns holds to this way of thinking so strongly that it steers him to faulty conclusions. Did things change radically from Judaism to Christianity? Yes! Because of what Jesus accomplished. Not, as Enns writes, because the times were a-changing and a new belief system was necessary.
Enns writes some interesting things about the resurrection in this book which is similar to what N.T. Wright would say. I do appreciate the way Peter Enns asks difficult questions and I do believe he genuinely wants to know the truth of God and the bible.