The Book of Questions

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The explanation of the Book of Job is that there is no explanation.

Questions are so much better than answers.

If I had a Book of Answers to sell you or a Book of Questions, which one would you be interested in? There was a time when I would have bought the Book of Answers, because that’s what I was looking for. I wanted the answers to life’s problems. I wanted to answer everyone’s questions. I thought that if Christianity answered everything, then everyone would want to be a Christian.

Actually the opposite is the case. Answers are what make Christians boring and dogmatic. With answers, it turns out to be “my way or the highway,” and who wants to cozy up to that? Christians who have bought the Book of Answers in many ways discourage the process by which people actually come to faith in Christ. Answers lead to a dead end. There’s nothing more to talk about — nothing more to explore.

Answers are stagnant. Answers so often end the conversation. There’s nowhere else for the discussion to go. So there it is; there is the answer — take it or leave it — and if there are no more questions, then I guess we’re done.

In contrast, questions humble us. They open us up. Questions lead to lively discussions that almost always lead to more questions. Questions make us think. They help us to know each other more deeply. Questions feed the conversation as we walk alongside others. No matter how far we go, there will still be questions on the table, sometimes more than when we started. So we are never “done.”

Questions reveal where we agree and where we don’t, but even when we don’t, questions allow us to keep the discussion open-ended. We’ll come back to it another time. Who knows: we might see things differently the next time we talk. Questions allow us to live with each other in the meantime.

Most importantly, questions capture the magnificence of God more than answers do. I’m always amazed when I look at the Book of Job and discover how there are more questions in the end of that book when God finally speaks and “answers” Job’s questions than there are in the beginning. In other words, God answers Job’s questions with even more questions — the weight of which crushes Job in showing him how little he is and how grand and all powerful God is. Indeed, His ways are not our ways; His thoughts are not our thoughts. So much so that Job proclaims in the end, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-7). Repent? What did Job have to repent of? The notion that he and all his friends could actually have an answer to his situation. There are certain things we simply cannot know, and there is no one who can answer that except to humbly repent of the assumption that you could.

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8 Responses to The Book of Questions

  1. Clayton says:

    Good Catch.

  2. Andrew P. says:

    I think I might refine the analysis this way. I don’t think people prefer questions to answers, though it’s true that they probably prefer to hear questions from ME more than they want answers from ME. Don’t you think that everyone really wants answers? That it’s just that they don’t like OUR answers to THEIR questions? So, as we try to turn them to the One who DOES have the answers, it behooves us to present questions. Because it seems that nobody likes a know-it-all, do they?

    But once we get them to realize that Jesus IS the One with the answers, that changes everything, doesn’t it?

    Very thought-provoking thoughts, John!

  3. Sandie says:

    When I led a teen group they hated it when I would ask them another question after they were smug about answering the lead question. Then I would ask them another…and another. They complained I made them do more critical thinking than any of their school teachers. My purpose? Whatever answer they arrived at would be theirs, not a copy of mine or anyone else’s. I wanted them to build on their own foundation of faith, not build on another’s and call themselves satisfied. Jesus is always the answer – it’s the work of The Spirit in the questions to lead them in the search.

  4. When I was a boy I remember my older teen-aged brother asserting that there could be no God because of one specific question: “Why?”
    He somehow reasoned that no Supreme Being worth their salt would permit mere humans to ask or even have the ability to pose that question because, conceivably, there could never be a final or satisfying answer if someone kept asking, “Why?” all the time.
    Ironically, he wondered why a mighty God would allow people to question Him (or others) if He couldn’t provide a resolute answer to the perpetual “Why?” question.
    For my brother at the time, it was more probable that evolution or aliens planting people on planets or some other fluke of nature gave mankind the ability to ask questions, to think critically, and to find our own solutions and answers rather than seeking them from, at best, a weak vague disinterested deity.

    As a naïve 10 or 11-year old who had no qualms or doubts about God up to that point, and one who wanted attention and affection from his big brother, that was eye-opening mind-blowing stuff. What he said seemed to make sense to this immature brain and I think it may have been around that time that I began to question the existence of God and whether I or anyone had any real purpose.

    It took several years and lots of struggles for me to return to my childhood faith and to find my peace with God… but it also took many questions – many still unanswered – before my renewed convincement and commitment.

    My brothers ponderings still pop up in my head from time-to-time but I think todays Catch may have answered, for the most part, the question to “Why?”!

    Thanks John!

    • Sandie says:

      All of those struggles on your way to Jesus – and the struggles we all still have as we try to follow Him – are not wasted. The faith you returned to had been hard-won, so you won’t take it for granted – you will fight for it and protect it. And your struggles put you in your brother’s shoes, so to speak, and of others like him. Because you can identify with the struggle(s), with God’s grace you are empathetic and approachable.
      I know that most of my questions won’t be answered this side of heaven, and I’m okay with that. Making real the things I already know is enough to keep me busy. Besides, if we did have all the answers (or thought we did) where would Jesus fit into the picture? (Oh boy, there’s another question!) Blessings to you Bob always! Your comments and insights have been a blessing to me!

      • Mark D Seguin says:

        Amen, I’ll second Sandie’s comments…God’s speed to you, yours and your older brother Bob.

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