In August of this year, we received an email from “the A Group” up in Brentwood, Tennessee, asking us if we would like to review a book called “Embracing Obscurity,” by an author who chooses to pen his work under the name “Anonymous.”
We agreed and during the first week of September, we received a package with the book along with some promotional material.
For a variety of reasons we need to say we were not promised anything if we read and reviewed the book. We are not being compensated in cash or goods for reading and reviewing the book. There are no future promises of anything for reading and reviewing the book. We were sent the official copy of a notice the FTC likes people to post or say when reviewing a book or other goods, but we seem to have lost that.
The good news is that we can honestly say that no one offered us anything to write a positive review on the book “Embracing Obscurity.” The bad news for the book is that there is no amount of money in the world that could persuade us to write a positive review for “Embracing Obscurity.” If we tried to write a positive review for this clunker, our fingers would fall off.
It is that bad.
For example, let’s start with the premise as given in the promotional materials:
I hate to break it to you, but you’re not one in a million. In fact, you’re more like one in nearly seven billion. Just one. One life, lived in relative obscurity.
Are you okay with that?
Most of us aren’t – not in practice anyway. To live and die unnoticed by most of humanity seems a grave injustice, doesn’t it? When it comes down to it, we don’t want to be nobody. Why else would we spend so much of our time and energy trying to get ahead, gain admiration, make our mark on something – anything. What’s worse, we often try and mask our attempts to be somebody with kingdom-sounding ambitions.
Yep – much of the Church has bought the lie hook, line and sinker. We’re in trouble…big trouble…and most of us don’t even know it.
Years ago we heard a pastor talk about guilt. He said that he could if he wanted to, he could get other Christians really nervous by walking up to them and saying “I know what you have done.” People would sweat as if the pastor knew of some unknown sin in their lives. The pastor’s point wasn’t that there is sin in people’s lives, but rather guilt is often a weapon of the devil.
Here, in “Embracing Obscurity,” we see the same type of guilt. The author says right off the bat that people are guilty of the sin of pride and not only do they not know it, he was called via some special revelation to make it known to all.
As an example of this “pride,” he asks “how do you introduce yourself?” Obviously this is dependent upon the situation. For example, at a PTA meeting you might say “I’m Mary Smith, Suzies’s mother.” At a company get together, you might say “Joe Frombitz – head of IT.”
According to the author, statements such as that are examples of pride as we should never “define” ourselves by what we do.
We suppose that if we were to introduce ourselves as “Tony, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God” at a church meeting, the author would take that as an example of pride as well. Too bad Paul didn’t know that:
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God… – Romans 1:1
Paul, called to be an apostle… – 1 Corinthians 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus… – 2 Corinthians 1:1
Paul, an apostle… – Galatians 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus… – Ephisians 1:1
etc., etc., etc…..
By the author’s own definition, Paul was guilty of the sin of pride (and he didn’t know it. Too bad “Embracing Obscurity” wasn’t printed in the first century.)
We aren’t buying it.
But let’s look at his initial message – you aren’t special. You’re just one of many.
Really? Does God know this?
1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139 NIV) (emphasis ours)
That doesn’t sound like “insignificant” to us. In fact, one of the lies Satan tries to tell you is that you aren’t special or that you don’t have an important part in God’s plan.
After telling people they aren’t special, later in the book the author makes the point of how no two snowflakes are ever alike. God took special care to design each and every one of those unique snowflakes but you? Nah. You’re only one in seven billion.
The author also takes liberties with Biblical passages and accepted practices of textual study.
For example, one of the foundations of the study of the Bible is “where the Bible is silent, be silent. Where the Bible is loud, shout.” Simply put, if the Bible doesn’t say it, don’t make assumptions to support your theory. In his book, the author talks about the early years of Christ’s life. We don’t know much, if anything from the time Christ was born until he was 12 years of age. The author takes that to mean Christ was living a life of obscurity as a carpenter. Maybe, but we don’t know that for a fact. The author tries to make the same argument for the boy whose fish Christ used to feed the five thousand. As we don’t know anything more about him, he lived a life of obscurity. Once again, maybe – but we don’t know that for a fact. For all we know the kid grew up to be a great pastor or deacon in the early church.
Sadly, in offering conjecture on these topics, the author breaks a rule that scholars use all the time: “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Because the Bible doesn’t record what happened doesn’t mean something significant and important didn’t happen. In making his argument, the author relies on your doubts of what is important or what should be included in the Bible.
The author also has a habit of trying to make points via common people and their stories or decisions. (We are never quite sure if the people are real or if they are products of the author’s imagination.)
For example, he talks about a woman who was a successful teacher who gave up teaching to have children and home school them. Instead of pursuing her career, she made a choice for her family.
He mentions a guy who turned down a promotion that would have paid more money, but taken him away from home more often. Instead of going for the big job, he chose to “embrace obscurity.”
Then there is the farmer who wanted to stay on his farm taking care of his crops and livestock while raising his children. Instead, he went left his farm and became a political and religious force where his name became known to all people and…. and…
We’re sorry. That guy isn’t in “Embracing Obscurity,” but you know him: Moses.
If Moses had followed what the author of “Embracing Obscurity” believes, the Ten Commandments would have been brought down from Mount Sinai by “Fred,” (or some other person.)
We have to say that while we understand the pursuit of fame, fortune or notoriety is wrong, having it come your way by following God’s plan for you is not.
We also categorically reject the idea of “embracing obscurity.” We don’t even believe the Bible supports the contention.
Most Christians we know are the types that want to be a good parent, a good spouse, a good brother, a good sister, etc. They aren’t “obscure” to the other members in the family.
Most Christians we know want to go to work and do a job well. If that means being recognized, so be it.
The main problem with “Embracing Obscurity” is not the issues we have listed here, but the idea that we are called to go into the world and make an impact by following God’s will for our lives.
Christ doesn’t tell us to stay at home and preach the gospel to our cats. We aren’t called to keep our light under a bucket.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5: 14-16 NIV)
We aren’t called to be “obscure” in our sphere of influence. Far from it.
We will agree with the author that if we seek fame, glory, possessions, etc, then there is a problem with our lives. It is a problem that we need to address. Yet in addressing that pride, we don’t become less than what God wants for us. We don’t shy away from using our gifts for His glory. We don’t think we cannot influence and be an example for those around us.
Most of all, we don’t think that God didn’t create us as special, unique individuals to the point where His son died for us. It is because of His love for us – as one in seven billion – that he sent His Son to us.
We found “Embracing Obscurity” to border upon being dangerous for Christians.
We would never, ever recommend this book to anyone.
We’re giving it one star out of five simply because no book is worthless and we liked the paper on which the book was printed.
If you can, avoid “Embracing Obscurity” at all costs.