The Fearful Gift of Asking Questions
As I explained yesterday, I’m revisiting old posts from the earlier this year. This post arose out of a firestorm I sparked by posing the question “Can real Christians cuss?” in a discussion forum on my blog. I haven’t stopped asking questions, as evidence by a recent Sunday School class in which I asked whether Jesus had a body before the Incarnation and why humans have bodies if we’re made in the image of God (who is a spirit and has no body).
This blog has a “Let’s Talk” tab that mostly collects dust. But when I first launched it, one of the discussion threads, on Christians and Cussing [this discussion has been removed], triggered surprise (perhaps dismay?) from people who know me in person. They want to know why I would ask a question like that, one in which the answer is obvious [to them].
What Am I Thinking?
I have many reasons to ask a given question. Of course, not all of these are in play each time I ask.
Because other people may be afraid to ask it.
I am not afraid to speak up and ask questions (just ask anyone who took classes with me in college… or anyone who sits in studies with me now). I figure, if the question occurred to me, it has occurred to someone else, too. So why not give it a voice? I can’t tell you why this is, but it doesn’t bother me to ask the dumb questions and look like a fool. It won’t be the first time, and it won’t be the last.
I see asking questions as my spiritual gift. It’s my specialty, my ministry.
Because someone else might not know the answer.
Learning how other people see things can help inform our own conclusions. I ask questions here because people who read this blog, sit in classes, or attend studies with me come from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all faiths. It’s a big world, and I cannot not assume everyone is the same, knows the same, or interprets life and faith the same. You might think the answer to something is obvious, but you aren’t my only reader.
I do this a lot in my job at the hospital — what may be obvious to me and the parents who use our children’s hospital is NOT obvious to the employees there because they experience the hospital completely differently. We ask questions to the parents that they already know the answer to because we want hospital employees to hear the answers for themselves.
Because I don’t know the answer.
(Even if I’m supposed to know). Hey, whaddya know? I don’t know everything.
An example… in the Christians and Cussing discussion, Todd explained that taking God’s name in vain isn’t about saying “God” in a string of words that includes “Oh my.”
The command “do not take the Lord’s name in vain” refers to people who use God’s reputation to back up their own. people do this all of the time. “In God’s name, I command you to…” or “God would want you to…” or “God told me that…” when the things have absolutely nothing to do with God.
Had that ever occurred to you? It hadn’t to me. I learned something.
Because I don’t know why the answer I know is a good answer.
Hearing others explain their thinking really helps me understand and embrace for myself. Paul wrote in Romans 14, that we need to understand why we do what we do.
Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him judge whether they are right or wrong. And with the Lord’s help, they will do what is right and will receive his approval. In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable.
Fully convinced. That requires understanding why. Asking questions. Getting at the root of something. I have parroted an answer I’ve heard all my life too many times. Then I’ll hear myself and realize I have no idea why that answer is the answer. So I ask things like “If God spoke something into being in Genesis 1, why do we say it had to take 24 hours? Does speaking take a few seconds? And why does Genesis 2 refer to a time before the trees had fully grown?”
Because some questions have more than one valid answer.
Whether a given questions does have multiple answers is up for (sometimes heated) debate, but the fact is that some questions have no single correct answer. In order to be fully-convinced, I need to know all the possibilities, and the pros and cons of each.
For example, I may be evaluating a decision about child birth or feeding a baby (both hot topics among women), and I want to know all the ins and outs of the various options. Very wise thoughtful people disagree over things such as the age of the earth, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, baptism, Mary, and women’s role in the church and home. Why not seek to understand the ins and outs of those people’s perspectives? Even if we ultimately agree to disagree, we can learn from those who see things differently.
Because other people may have *gasp* a different answer than I do.
By listening to them, I learn more about the issue. I learn more about how other people think. God made variety, and it’s beautiful. Let’s celebrate it, instead of being threatened by it. And what if their answer is better than mine? Which leads me to the last reason to ask questions.
Because I might be wrong. *gasp*
How many times have you learned something that changed your mind about an issue? If that has never happened to you, then you aren’t teachable. When I hear the reason for a new rule at work that I think is idiotic, I change my mind. By asking questions and listening to intelligent and thoughtful responses, I might learn something that changes the way I see or understand something. I have changed my mind on many things by considering the possibility that I might be wrong.
What about you?
Do you think asking questions is healthy or harmful? Why? What questions do you wish you could ask? (Feel free to post anonymously or email me if you prefer.) I would consider it a privilege to ask it for you.