Monday, October 26, 2009

When Questions Go Bad

You've heard the saying. "There are no dumb questions. Only those that aren't asked." This motto is used as an encouragement for people to engage in a process of understanding. People need to feel that their questions are welcomed and encouraged. They shouldn't feel like they need to self-edit themselves in order not to appear dumb. "Just go ahead and ask the question. Otherwise you only have yourself to blame if you leave without the knowledge you need."

Sometimes this motto is used outside the normal circumstances of a teacher-student relationship. And it may still apply. But there is an inherent flaw, if this motto is used as a legitimate argument that there are no bad questions. Is that really true?

The reason I bring this up is that my youngest daughter asks me some very good questions sometimes. Then there are times when she asks me bad questions. I thought about this. Am I simply judging those questions bad because I don't like them, or am I picking up a general principle? After considering all sorts of questions by all sorts of people, and noticing that Jesus answered bad questions differently, I conclude that there is a general principle here. Bad questions do exist.

He's what I've discovered. Bad questions are not bad simply because they are not formed well. When that happens, questions may be communicated badly, but that doesn't make them bad. What makes questions bad is mostly the intent.

But first, let's define the purpose of questions. Previously I said the motto, "There are no dumb questions," is something that is mentioned to encourage questioning. And the reason this is important is that understanding will be enhanced when questions are asked and answered, which encourages dialog. Therefore the purpose of questions is to encourage dialog and increase understanding. Ultimately it helps to bring clarity whether there are good answers or not.

Bad questions are designed not to do this. In fact, they are formed to do just the opposite. They are designed to bring confusion and chaos. How can you tell? Well, it's all in the intent.

Here's some samples of what makes questions bad:
  1. Questions where the intent is to not comprehend the answer. People sometimes ask questions to never arrive at any understanding, because they don't want to for whatever reason.

  2. Questions which are designed to simply trap the one being asked. Sometimes people want to use trickery to get their own way. It has nothing to do with clarity, just a "gotcha" is sufficient.

  3. Questions people use to shape their public image. They don't ask to increase knowledge or to understand. They desire to appear in a certain way, and that's what motivates them.

  4. Last, questions that are only for entertainment. The questioner likes to hear herself, or wants to make people say something silly. There is no value in these questions other than amusement.

Although bad questions exist, not all questions that appear bad are really bad. Sometimes we feel trapped by a question because it is actually a good question. It may bring clarity to bad assumptions we hold. Sometimes a question is truly clever and adept at getting to the core of an issue. Sometimes questions seem silly, but if thought about, may have profound significance.

So, how can you tell? It's often revealed in how the questioner responds to your answer or when you return a question to them.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why Living the Christian Worldview is Sometimes Difficult

Last time I discussed how the Christian worldview affects my career perspective. I concluded that living this way is not always easy.

Gray areas.

One of the reasons it is not always easy is that there are gray areas. There are things I personally don't believe are true, yet many others do believe are true and right. Also the Word of God may not specifically deal with those issues either. So, I have to make a decision based on personal conviction, rather than on whether it is a direct worldview contradiction or not.

The reason these gray areas exist is because I don't embody the truth, as much as apprehend it. I can come to the knowledge of the truth, but I cannot express it in it's totality. I can only express aspects of it and hold to what I do understand.

However, there is One through whom the Christian worldview is most sincerely represented. Jesus is the embodiment of all truth. Therefore, I choose to come to him, to follow him, to pay attention to him, and to believe him. He is the embodiment of the worldview I embrace.


Another reason living this way can be difficult is that it is often in conflict with other people's sensibilities. It is offensive to live like other people's worldviews are wrong. It seems friendlier to pretend that everybody's worldview is a personal heritage or preference rather than a comprehensive perspective on reality.

Seeing truth in this manner will cause friction. In other words, this leads to conflict. It is unavoidable. And most people want to avoid conflict — me included.


And last, I, and others like me, still have to grow in truth. Ever since I became a follow of Christ, I've adopted his perspective on reality. But, not all at once. I had to learn, develop, and grow in my faith. And to do this not only in knowledge, but also in my conviction and confidence.

And I am still maturing. This process will never end. And this process is both from God, and through personal effort. But it is well worth it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

How the Christian Worldview Affects My Profession

I find that too many people equate their beliefs with their upbringing or preferences. They tend to see their faith choices as nothing more than a desire to belong to a certain group — like Jews or Hindus — or as a personal preference like mild or spicy.

I am a graphic designer by trade and by natural ability. And I am also a Christian.

What that means is not the same as saying that I have a Christian heritage or upbringing. Rather it means that I hold that the Christian worldview is the correct worldview. In other words, it is the truth. Everything else is a lie.

Who do I think I am?

I don't mean to say that I am right and everyone else is wrong — as if I have achieved an exclusive. And I don't mean to say that what I believe is true because I believe it.

What I am saying is that I came to realize that the Christian worldview is the truth. And I've organized my life and perspective around that reality. (And to not do so would be foolish.) I cannot live an integrated life if I live in contradiction with reality.

This affects me as a designer.

So, as a graphic designer, I've organized my profession and ability around the tenets of a biblical Christian perspective.

I see my ability to design as an ability given to me by my Heavenly Father for a purpose. That purpose being two-fold. To create beauty that glorifies the Father, and to bring clarity — specifically in visual communication. I choose not to use my ability to obscure the truth, nor to gloss over error. I use it to enlighten and highlight what is good and true — even if it is to sell a product people can use.

This also influences who I choose to work for and how I work. I cannot knowingly work with someone who is trying to use my skill to defraud or to create a false impression. I also cannot lie, cheat, or steal no matter who I work for.

But this is not always an easy path for me.