Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God's Everything"blindly", I decided to read other people's reviews first. Usually I write first and then read other people's opinions (so that I don't accidentally say the same thing) but not this time. (I've been doing a lot of things differently lately, like marking in books and watching book trailers. Next thing you know I'll be reading on a Kindle or something.)
I really wasn't sure if I was feeling negatively towards this book with just cause. (I mean, I think I have just cause.) The reviews were mixed. Some people wrote a single paragraph for their review talking about how much they loved it. Another review (more thorough and way more interesting!) was hilarious to read in their rebuttal of the arguments Anonymous makes. (I'll link to that one in a sec, once I finish saying what I want to say.) So what is it that I want to say? (Get to the point already, right?!)
There are two main reasons I disliked Embracing Obscurity.
#1 - The author didn't sign his name.
#2 - What he proposes in this book isn't actually possible.
As to point number one, the argument Nameless Author makes for failing to put his name to his work is that he is living out for us the example the idea of embracing obscurity. He wishes God to have all of the glory for whatever this work produces and so he's keeping his name out of it. Which is stupid, really, partly because of point #2. Not only would I say that it is thoughtless not to sign his name, but it is also dangerous for him not to own his work on the off chance that he might say something that is theologically unsound. If he is not taking responsibility for his words but is living out some skewed brand of Christianity unbeknownst to anyone around him (particularly those in spiritual authority over him) then how will they know to address him? God gave him a name and a personality that is meant to be known and trying to hide it smacks of ill-intent. There is really no way around it - anonymous words which are presented in such a way to instruct people to change something about their thoughts, belief systems and lives should be looked upon with a fair amount of suspicion.
I, for one, find security in knowing who penned what book. If a book says that it was written by Rob Bell, I know that it's probably a good idea that I not read it. If it says R.C. Sproul, I'll have a listen. Names matter because theology matters. I have no idea what Anonymous believes and I wouldn't accept instruction from an anonymous person. This fact alone made me incredibly distrustful through the entire read. I never could relax because I wasn't sure what Anonymous was going to say next and since he contradicted himself so thoroughly and constantly (as he couldn't help but do so because, once again, what he proposes is actually impossible) it was just like finding a note in your mailbox which reads, "I liked that red sweater you wore last Thursday when you went to the park." Spooky. And what is the intent!??! Then, there is the fact that by cloaking himself in anonymity, he's doing himself and his family a disservice because there are some theological issues with this book and now there is no one to address them to.
(I did think it pretty obvious that Anon is male. It reads very male.)
Moving on to point number two . . .
In the first half of the book Anon is arguing that we're a prideful people who want to be known but are supposed to be following the example of Christ by living a life of obscurity. (What I think he means is, "We are more prideful than not and need to practice some humility." But he uses the word "obscurity" and so his whole book doesn't work.) To explain/argue his point, he uses scriptures in which he names people that God named and did not leave obscure. He name drops "Moses", "Joseph", "Saul/Paul", "Mary", "Joseph" and Jesus. At various points in the book he argues that Jesus himself led an obscure life and so that's what we're supposed to do.
Explain to me exactly how Jesus lived an obscure life so that I can mimic that. (Anon says that before Jesus's earthly ministry began, He was obscure. Yes. My birth was also heralded by angels so I'll get right on that obscurity thing!)
Here's the problem: we were created in the image of God. We are not gods (and never will or can be) but we were made in His image. He told us to go forth and take dominion of the Earth. We create because He created. We beautify because He beautified. He named Adam, Adam named all of the animals and gave a name - and meaning - to Eve. Every name you are told in scripture was given with purpose and meaning. Each individual was given a story. Each individual is designed to be part of a whole - the Body of Christ. We're all different, with our own gifts and talents - but we're all together working for the glory of God.
The only way you could be obscure is to be invisible. But we aren't. I have reddish hair and you have black. My skin is fair. Yours might be dark. People have loud laughs and quiet ways of giving hugs and ministering to others. Some people have freckles and the ability to patiently teach others. While still others have the ability to encourage and persuade others to change.
Anon argues that "some people are giving spheres of influence" and if they are given such a thing then they need to be humble about the way they influence others. Before you begin to fear that you might be an elite person of influence, who will have to wrestle with vast amounts of pride, let me proceed to freak you out thoroughly and entirely. We ALL have spheres of influence. Everyone is necessary. The reason you are on this earth is because you are necessary and because God has a plan for you - like it or not, know it or not. It's this inescapable fact. It is impossible to be obscure. Trying to be obscure is like trying to build a magnificent and great castle with tiny pebbles. In other words, it's well nigh impossible! One of the problems which exists for this book is that its readers have names. They have a purpose, as Anon was compelled to admit (which was smart of him, really. Kudos.).
Yes, pride is a problem. We are supposed to be living for the glory of God. But to say, "The only way I can live for the glory of God alone is if no one knows who I am or what I'm doing" is ridiculous. Martin Luther had a name. Did he do wrong signing it? I know who Corrie Ten Boom is. Do you? Whoops! Having a name and a known story is not bad. Let's don't get into the habit of saying that it is. Is worrying that you won't have the same type of story as Corrie bad? Probably, yes. Do you really want her story? I don't. But her story encourages and influences me. Just like some of you encourage and influence me. And I'm glad that you do. I'm in your sphere. Hi.
But if we are supposed to imitate our Lord and Savior then we are compelled by force to admit that Jesus has a name (which is why we do). Does He continue to do wrong by letting us know what it is? To imitate Christ does not by any definition mean that we need to go stealth? I suggest not. Do we need to deal with pride and love of self? Yes. Do we need to die to self and do the will of God, even when we don't like what it is? Yes we do. But we can keep our names, take comfort in the fact that we exist on this planet because God wanted us to and because He has a design for us (whether we see it or not or acknowledge it or not). There is no reason to hurl the baby out the window while we're emptying out the bathwater.
If you feel that you are dealing with pride - pray about it. Understand that you were made for God's glory. Understand that you have a sphere of influence no matter who you are or where you are. Serve others when you feel called and as you feel called. (But do know that you were called to serve others.) Do not waste time comparing yourself and your life with others. Your story is your own. Theirs belongs to them. Examine yourself in light of scripture and shun evil. When you do these things, as Anon points out, people WILL know you are. Because. you. can't. be. obscure. So no need to worry about embracing such a thing.
Here's another review of Embracing Obscurity (that I thought was funny) but that also takes issues with the way Anon used scriptures to "make a point" (which he ultimately failed to make). I'm with these reviewers - I wouldn't and couldn't recommend this book to anyone.
I was sent a copy of Embracing Obscurity by The A Group in exchange for my honest opinion. There you have it.