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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Questions

I was sent this thought-provoking article and asked for my opinion- I’m sure no one will be surprised in the least as I pick it apart: (I’m unsure of the author)

"Jesus is asked 183 questions directly in the four Gospels. He only answered three of them forthrightly. The others he either ignored, kept silent about, asked a question in return, changed the subject, told a story or gave an audio/visual aid to make his point, told them it was the wrong question, revealed their insincerity or hypocrisy, made the exactly opposite point, or redirected the question elsewhere!

Check it out for yourself. He himself asks 307 questions, which would seem to set a pattern for imitation. Considering this, it is really rather amazing that the church became an official answering machine and a very self-assured program for 'sin management'.

Many, if not most, of Jesus' teaching would never pass contemporary orthodoxy tests in either the Roman Office or the Southern Baptist Convention. Most of his statements are so open to misinterpretation that should he teach today, he would probably be called a 'relativist' in almost all areas except one: his insistence upon the goodness and reliability of
God. That was his only consistent absolute."

We underestimate the importance of questions co-existing with faithfulness; so often we want, or think, that what is most healthy for us is certainty – living without questions. The spaciousness that uncertainty and doubt opens up is unsettling. Having to sit with questions and listen to our inner responses can be scary.

But the reality is that good questions (and our responding to them as they are asked of them) are one significant way by which our lives, our faith, our relationships, our being, our church, is actually deepened. Questions, rather than certainty, help us grow, help us remain open to the activity of the Spirit, help us remain open to new possibilities, to new directions, to new ways of responding to following Jesus – a Jesus who questions and invites us to become more than we currently are; to do more than we currently do!

Questions are stepping stones; they invite us on a journey.

This author does not have clear spiritual understanding of Scripture, and has a misguided sense of how Jesus answered the many questions asked of Him. The underlined parts of the article do address how Jesus responded to His questioners, but for different reasons than the author suggests. Jesus was not promoting an example to follow of valuing questions more than absolutes, nor did He ask them because He didn’t know the answer. Instead, His indirect method of answering questions allowed his hearers and skeptics to expose their own errors by getting them to examine themselves. I would argue that Jesus didn’t ignore, keep silent about, change subjects, give an audio/visual aid, or tell someone it was the wrong question. The author makes these blanket statements without giving any examples, and it shows his/her lack of understanding for Jesus’ teaching methods. And on a side note, if this is supposed to be motivating, the author should at least explain what he/she means: “a Jesus who questions and invites us to become more than we currently are; to do more than we currently do!” This is exactly my point- “a Jesus”- this author’s version of Jesus does not exist, for the Jesus of the Bible would never be considered a moral relativist today, and the only people who would claim that Jesus’ statements were “wide open to misinterpretation” are unbelievers who don’t wish to accept absolutes and that Jesus really is who He claimed to be. There are no “new ways” of responding to Jesus that are valid for salvation. There is only one way- denying yourself and taking up your cross to accept Jesus’ complete lordship over your life. (Matthew 16:24)

The author is correct in saying that Jesus often told stories in answer to questions. The stories He told were called parables- analogies and earthly comparisons to drive home a point. However, not everyone will understand these parables, as the author models, seeming to think that Jesus used stories and questions in an attempt to ignore or change the subject. Much of the Bible and its mysteries do not make sense to unbelivers who do not have the Holy Spirit to lead them into understanding of the truth. Jesus explains in Matthew 13 why He told these stories, or parables:

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given…This is why I speak in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: [Isaiah 6:9-10] You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.

God has chosen to reveal Himself through Jesus to those who will believe by faith in His Son, and to those will He unlock the mysteries of His word and Jesus’ teachings.

Jesus already knew the motives and intentions of the hearts of those questioning Him, because He is God, and when answering a question with a question, He often forced them to recognize and expose their insincerity and hypocrisy, as the author was correct in identifying. Jesus’ very effective teaching method allowed the answerer to condemn himself by his response to Jesus’ question. It was the way He brought about conviction in the hearts of sinners. Here is an example from Luke chapter 20: 1-8

One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority?” He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven’, He will say, ‘Why did you not believe him then?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Jesus brought a sense of conviction to the priests and scribes through the way He responded. His teaching was interrupted by those seeking to challenge and discredit Him, similar to what this author is doing in the above article.

While Jesus may be setting a pattern for imitation for how to respond to questions to cause conviction in the hearer and self examination, He is in no way advocating idle questioning, doubting His authority or that of Scripture, or using questioning as a way to “remain open” to progressive ideas contrary to Biblical doctrine. While there is nothing wrong with and it is natural to have sincere questions regarding faith issues, it is our motive behind our questioning that makes it either helpful or hurtful to our search for truth. If we are seeking to understand and believe, questioning is helpful, but the heart and faith must overcome the intellect at some point. If questioning only in an attempt to discredit the authority of Jesus or the Bible, we will only be led further down the path to destruction. Think on these verses regarding the value of questioning that the author promotes:

1 Timothy 6:3-5 [in part] If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions…and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

2 Timothy 2:23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid…

Titus 3: 9-11 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and worthless. A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

1 Timothy 1: 4, 6-7 Nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

As for the last sentence the author declares: “Questions are stepping stones; they invite us on a journey.”

Stepping stones they are, but steps that can lead down the wrong path. Questions do take us on a journey- but it’s the destination of the journey that’s most important. So, is certainty (or absolutes) a strength or a weakness? If questioning only lead’s you away from the truth because you refused to listen to the answers, then I would have to say that questioning is a weakness.

Certainty can be a weakness because you can be certain and be absolutely wrong, and thus stubbornly refuse to hear the truth!

When Jesus returns as King of King and Lord of Lords to judge a sinful and unbelieving world, He will save only those who are absolutely certain of His promises and confident of their belief and trust in Him. He will leave behind the skeptics and those who are still questioning and wavering about who He is and doubting His word. Not choosing is still a choice- it is a choice, by default, to reject the Truth. There is no middle ground, for Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me.” (Matthew 12: 30) Today is the day to make up your mind about Jesus- there is no grey area about it: Jesus gave these absolutes and it is certain that:

In Luke 13:3 Unless you repent, you will perish!

And in John 14:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.

Got Jesus??

5 Comments:

  • This post really helps me to be thankful for the fear that I have for the Lord.

    When we have the fear of understanding just a minute portion of His omnipotence and power, we are humbled to a point of truly understanding how unworthy we are of salvation!

    I wouldn't replace the fear I have of the Lord with any form of earthly happiness! For me, this includes searching for a journey to self-fulfillment based on open-ended Scripture. It is by the fear that I was convicted and continue to be forced to my knees in repentance.

    Thank you for your intelligent post.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 8/24/2006 06:23:00 PM  

  • Let me clear up a few things, because “fear” of God is often misunderstood. Abject fear of God is based on dread of punishment. But believers in Christ need not fear punishment from God for our sin because our eternal salvation is secure- we are forgiven! Fear is still a part of the Christian walk in the sense of profound reverence and the unwillingness to violate God’s Laws. Our approach to the Lord should not be casual and flippant, but we do not need to fear His judgment in the same way that the unsaved should.

    It is hard for an unbeliever to understand why God says many, many times in the Bible to “fear” Him. This “fear” does not translate to “love”, as I have often heard it misinterpreted. It is meant to mean exactly what it says- unbelievers have God’s holy wrath and justice for sin to fear. Those who think that God is “all-loving”, ignoring His other Biblical attributes, will have a hard time accepting that their “nice” god is to be “feared”. But Jesus tells us this:

    “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
    Matthew 10:28

    If your salvation is secure, you have nothing to fear, except for the fate of your lost friends and loved ones.

    By Blogger mrshammer, at 8/24/2006 09:57:00 PM  

  • The problem that this author has is that he is trying to look more at a 'secular' Jesus than a 'religious' or Son of God' Jesus.

    Jesus of course existed as a human and historical figure, but tyring to pigeonhole his teachings into this or that meaning is useless...he was speaking as God incarnate, not as a human like you or I or Abe Lincoln or any historical figure.

    By Blogger John B., at 8/25/2006 09:50:00 AM  

  • Agreed, John B.

    Mrshammer-I often assume too much! I was assuming that everyone understands the concept of "fear" in relation to reverence!

    Having fear of the Lord is what Adam and Eve lacked in the garden. They second guessed God's instructions because they didn't believe He would cast judgement, (lack of fear/God who is accepting of sin)and because they thought their decisions and wants (sinful nature) were more important than God's teachings.

    Healthy fear (which truly equals humility and understanding of WHO you are kneeling to) is lacking in a lot of regards-faith, parental child relationships, etc.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 8/25/2006 10:27:00 AM  

  • Did the article that prompted the post even say what the (supposedly)three Jesus answered directly were?

    By Blogger karl, at 8/30/2006 02:11:00 PM  

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