Monday, October 09, 2006

Bad Questions

The worst types of questions to ask are the one's that are designed to not be answerable. I don't mean questions that have perplexed mankind for centuries, or sincere questions of faith and experience. I mean those that are designed to conceal hidden motives and unbelief.

Here are some types of questions that are designed to conceal:

  • If God is good, why is there evil in the world. What makes this question bad is not the question itself. Some people have asked this in their greatest moments of pain and feelings of abandonment. However, for the person who has decided to evade the reality of God, this question is a mechanism to hide their desire to remain ignorant so that they can appear sincere and pious while holding to the foolish notion that there is no God.
  • If God only saves those who trust in Jesus, what happens to those who've never heard of him? Again, this question is not a bad question for the person honestly struggling with the issue. What makes this bad is that the person who wants to appear that they care, but secretly has no such concern, will use this question to challenge Jesus' identity rather than come to grips with him for themselves. The sad thing is that the question doesn't matter to this person, because they don't believe, and they will have no excuse when they see him physically.
  • If God is all-powerful, why did he allow...? From the creation story and the history of the world to our individual lives, we can sometimes wonder why things happened the way that they did. We even wonder why God would allow this, and not allow that. Sometimes this is a legitimate question, because we don't know everything like we think we do. But sometimes asking that question is futile. If a child spills some milk, no matter how much we agonize, it still happened and we still must clean it up. If God chose to do something a certain way, he has a reason. But a choice was made. If God had chosen a different course in history, we wouldn't be able to perceive it, and would probably complain why didn't he do it another way. What makes this question bad is that it conceals our spirit of complaining and arguing. We don't like something, or we don't get what we want, so in unbelief, we complain.
  • I am a Christian, and the church is not a place or a building. Why do I have to go to church, when I can commune and worship God at home? This question makes some true assumptions about the nature of the church. It also is true that God desires a sincere devotion to Him that can not be manufactured by church-going. But the question ignores (on purpose) the true reasons for meeting together as a body of believers. This question often is asked to avoid the messy process of personal growth and community building. The Bible assumes that growth cannot happen apart from people. For instance, it is easy to be a loving individual if there is no one around to test you. We would rather avoid situations that test our assumptions about ourselves, and other people.
  • I don't like church. Isn't it full of hypocrites? This question is really masking a statement of hubris. The person who asks this is just looking for an excuse not to participate in meeting with God's people. They do this by being judgmental — and yet they don't want to appear judgmental. They are saying underneath the mask that they are better than that. They are not hypocrites, nor do they even eat with hypocrites. But to get behind the question, one need only ask them if they go to work, drive a car, or go to the store. Then ask them if there are any hypocrites in those situations. Of course there are. But they've never thought about it that way.
  • Why are so many Christians nothing like Jesus? In order to ask this question, the person must have an intimate knowledge of what Jesus was really like. Some people feel that they do, while some people have a fairly good idea but have been exposed to a lot of bad examples. (In the case of the latter, they may be asking the question out of the pain of being in a fallen world, and desire something better.) The real issue is not those who profess to be followers of Jesus, because we know that Jesus did not come to save the righteous, but sinners. The real issue, that most people avoid, is about ourselves. Why are we nothing like Jesus? Perhaps we can begin to understand the Gospel message, if we ponder this instead.
  • How can Jesus be the only way to God, when there are so many other religions? This question is similar to the "What about those who've never heard of Jesus?" question. The difference is that it is more accusatory, while this one can be sincere. But what can make this question bad, is that many people don't spend much time understanding what different religions teach. They assume that there are some core essentials that they all share, that give us a sense of who God is. This question can be smug in the sense that those who ask it figure they are coming from a more enlightened viewpoint — looking down from on-high at all the little people trying to figure out God, while they have a better vantage point. It is pretty obvious they don't believe anyone can have a superior vantage point (except themselves). Behind the veneer they are asking this question because they believe Christian's are smug in saying they are right and everyone else is wrong. But the very idea of holding something as true, automatically eliminates something else that claims to be true, even for the person that doesn't believe that Jesus is the only way to God. Life is a gamble. We are betting on something to be true for eternity. The important issue is whether or not it is a good gamble, not on what someone else says.
What is the central problem? What makes a question bad? In order to turn amoral questions into immoral ones, the essential element of intent must be considered. The intent of the heart is often to do evil, not to seek the good. (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-18) We have desires that war for our soul, and questions are sometimes the ideal way of avoiding the truth in our hearts.

Pain is usually the vehicle that turns our hearts. When we are at the end of our rope, the questions become different. We will begin seeking answers, instead of just making statements. We will be made ready to receive, because we will have nothing to hide. Then we will be prepared to not only ask better questions, we will stop asking the wrong people and ask the Answer.

1 comment:

  1. Kerry,
    Excellent post.

    I am the kind of minister and Christian who loves asking question. Questions that people are afraid to ask. Questions that as you put it designed to not be answerable.

    I am glad I came across your blog from John Alan Turner's blog. You had good comments. Love for you to add to the discussion on my blog anytime. I enjoyed reading your blog and look forward to reading more in the future.
    God bless you as you serve Him and keep asking the question.