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Why Do I Ask So Many Questions?

swear wordI recently launched a discussion forum on the “Let’s Talk” tab of this blog. The most recent discussion, 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.

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? So I 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.
Reading people’s opinions can help inform their final conclusion. People who read this blog, sit in classes, or attend studies with me come from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all faiths. We must not assume everyone is the same, knows the same, believes the same.

I do this a lot in my job — 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. So we ask obvious questions to the parents so that the employees can 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 them for you.

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Comments

  1. I truly believe asking questions is healthy, but I also believe people are programmed from an early age not ask, just to go with it. I think this is especially true in church. I distinctly remember being scoffed at when asking questions about Why bad things happen to people. There are a lot of christian out there that are afraid to be questioned about their faith because they don’t know the answers. And in all fairness, the world puts pressure on christians to have all the answers. We all know that there are just somethings for which we have no answers, but we shouldn’t be afraid to ask or be asked.

  2. This is why I’ve considered myself a part of the Emerging Movement, which prises coversation and communication over knowing the answers.

    I am richer by being in community others, even if we don’t see eye to eye, than I am only being with people who have all of the same answers as I do.
    Todd Erickson recently posted..Searching 2My Profile

  3. Questioning things is absolutely healthy. It is the path to self actualization, and understanding. Only a fool accepts what is given and does not seek more. Everything is open to questioning. It does not make one any less spiritual. The moment we stop asking questions, we close ourselves off from truth. We get locked in our way of thinking, becoming too full of ourselves.
    Veronica recently posted..Snow Days and the Insanity of the SouthMy Profile

  4. from the girl who almost got herself kicked out of our seriously conservative college for swearing too much says:

    Joy, this is so great! I loved your explanations with all of the gasps! So funny. But so important. You said so well the things I was thinking when I said you are an amazing moderator. And then you said more amazing stuff. I’ll definitely… pop in and see some discussions. I cracked up when I read “why ask if xians can cuss when the answer is obvious” bc my first thought was yeah obviously yes. Then I remembered your previous discussion threads and realized that the “obvious” answer to many of your fb friends is “no”. So interesting that obvious answers aren’t as objective as we think. In fact, in these matters of opinion, an “obvious” answer is probably evidence for a deeply held subjective answer.

    I loved what Todd pointed out in taking gods name in vain. I’d never thought of it that way. This makes me feel better about using the acronym OMG. Now for some good rationale for my frequent use of WTF. Hahaha! ;). Love what you’re doing! And watching your gifts on display.
    from the girl who almost got herself kicked out of our seriously conservative college for swearing too much recently posted..Unashamed and UndeterredMy Profile

  5. Joy – there are many things in our minds that should never be said and it is not phony or hypocritical to refrain from blurting them out. It is never OK for a Christian to cuss out loud. And, that includes a fish tank falling on one’s foot. If you blurt out a word in anger, repent of it and ask God to help you not to do it again. Ephesians has already been referenced – it is not difficult to understand. There really isn’t a need for a debate on this issue. It is wrong for a Christian to cuss.

    Todd – I prefer answers over questions. The point of a question is to arrive at an answer. The Bible gives answers to many things. This is one of them. We have an answer – there is no need to celebrate questions when doing so in the presence of an answer only serves to make one appear to be resistant to God’s veracity and Word.

    • My observation has been that those who prefer to have the answers often don’t bother to ask whether they’re asking the right questions.

      They also seem to use the bible as an encyclopedia.
      Todd Erickson recently posted..Searching 2My Profile

      • Brian Jonson says:

        Todd:

        Do you believe in any objective, settled doctrinal truths at all?

        • Jesus Christ is the incarnated form of the Living God, who was sent to us and born through Mary. He lived a life as a normal man in an oppressed area of the world known as Galilea, and probably took part in the building the local theater in that area for the romans with his father, who was a carpenter. He was born with an incredible knowledge of the word, and an understanding of the intent of God, who he refered to as his Abba, his daddy, which is something no standard Jew at the time would have done.

          His ministry was inaugrated after being approved of simultatneously by the Father, Spirit, and John the Baptist, and he spoke on his fulfilling of the Gospel as the messiah via Isaiah 61 in the temple, and then moved on, bringing healing, freedom, and salvation (Sozo) to the people around him, accepting the unacceptable, forgiving the unforgiveable, freeing the slave, bringing sight to the blind, etc.

          The Jews killed him for it. But three days later, he was resurrected, and gave his disciples the ability to understand his words and his leading, precisely so that they could go into the world and produce disciples of Him themselves, and then left them, so that the Holy Spirit could be within each of them, enabling them to powerfully move through society, speaking to those who could not understand them, stirring hearts, and changing society.

          Jesus spoke at length about the Kingdom of God, which was in people, but required their identification with Christ, a will to accept Him as Lord and abide (live) within Him to awaken that mustard seed of faith and turn into something so powerful it could move mountains. He said that those who followed Him would be humble, truthful, compassionate, that they would feed and cloth the destitute, they would look after the orphan and the widow, they would work to heal the world. They would give up their idols and crutches in order to openly serve God with their lives, and they would lead others through serving them. They would not resist evil, but bless and serve evildoers, even if it killed them.

          Jesus said that those who knew the law, but while keeping it with their actions the heart of God with their hearts would be thrown into the outer darkness, cast into the town garbage pit Gehenna, and otherwise be disposable because they refused to be of worth or cooperation to God and thus to the world around them.

          The idea that there are settled, objective doctrinal truths that a specific group holds to outside of the Nicean Creed that I must affirm to be a christian is ludicrous, and is the result of a small group declaring who isn’t allowed to their tea party.

          If you have a belly button and you believe that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world, you are my brother or sister. There is no other requirement. It’s a very big tent.
          Todd Erickson recently posted..Searching 2My Profile

    • “The point of a question is to arrive at an answer.”

      OK. I’ve finally nailed down exactly why I disagree with you so often.

  6. ‎Re: the question of cussing, “Can” they? Probably; most do. “Should” they? Probably not.

    Eph. 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

    That, of course, doesn’t cover just cussing or crude language. It covers gossip, slander, whining, complaining, criticizing, griping, and yelling at my kids when I lose my patience. :-)

    • Scott and I had a debate about this the other night. He says we’re to strive for perfect holiness. I say we’re human and perfection is impossible. He says cursing is an outflow of the sin of anger (or whatever). I say if it’s in my heart anyway it’s fake to hide it. We need to love each other where we are, warts and all, and refuse to judge another’s weakness as worse than our own.

      • Okay, I thought you were asking if it’s okay for Christians to cuss.
        There’s a HUGE difference between saying, “Oh, sure! Go for it!
        Everything is covered by the blood!” and saying, “Well, I’m a sinner and
        I fail horribly in my call to be like Christ, and as a result of the sin
        in my heart, sometimes I cuss.”

      • The actual Greek word isn’t perfect, as we think of (platonic, etc.) but “mature”. Certainly, if we think of somebody as mature, then their language reflects a humility and gentleness of character.

        Though even then, if you drop a fish tank on your foot…

        Anger isn’t a sin. Anger can lead to sin, and obsessive anger places the anger as an idol before God. But Anger itself is just an emotion.

        I find that many Christian turn happiness into an idol in the same way.

        • The same Greek word, teleioi, is found in James 1:4, where it is translated “mature and complete.” Interesting that it’s NOT translated that way in Matthew 5:48. Why ever not?

          I think too often we look at Matthew 5:48 and are taught that this verse–as translated–describes God as being perfect (without sin, because that is what we believe to be true of His character), so we are called to the same. Obviously we can’t attain sinlessness in our own strength–the Old Testament makes that clear! It’s the blood of Christ that makes us blameless in God’s eyes.

          Still, part of maturing as a Christian is growing in our Christlikeness, and I am not sure that Christ, even in his anger, tore through the temple yelling “F*** You!” at the money changers. If He did, that’s definitely a side of Christ I’ve not seen before today.

          • Megan – right on regarding Teleioi and how it is used in Matthew 5:48. The Father perfect, not maturing, and we receive Christ’s perfection through the cross – an alien righteousness applied to our account.

            Joy – there are many things in our minds that should never be said and it is not phony or hypocritical to refrain from blurting them out. It is never OK for a Christian to cuss out loud. And, that includes a fish tank falling on one’s foot. If you blurt out a word in anger, repent of it and ask God to help you not to do it again. Ephesians has already been referenced – it is not difficult to understand. There really isn’t a need for a debate on this issue. It is wrong for a Christian to cuss.

          • I liken it to throwing something if I’m angry. Is it okay to throw things, break things, or slam doors when I’m angry? Sure, Christ’s blood covers my sin, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay for me to behave in an unseemly way. Yes, it happens, but that doesn’t make it the ideal way for me to behave.

          • Did you read the post, Brian? Because this is less about the specific debate (language) and more about having a debate at all…. about asking questions. As I said, “Whether a given question does have multiple answers is up for (sometimes heated) debate, but the fact is that some questions have no single correct answer.”

            Determining which questions have an authoritative answer and which do not is the point. Not this specific question itself.

          • Brian responded to my comments but nobody else has directly or else I’d think nothing I’ve posted has come through!

            I don’t think there’s much need to debate it either, unless we’re trying to find loopholes or reasons to justify the use of obscene language. I realize that most of these words are fairly culturally acceptable, even around children, and as our Christian culture is influenced by secular culture, we start to accept and allow things that would not have been accepted a generation or two ago. This might be where this whole topic is headed. In 25 years, perhaps we’ll hear F-bombs from the pulpit routinely and nobody will think twice about it…

          • Megan – at the current rate of decline in preaching, I think it may happen in 10! :-)

          • Tony Campolo spoke in chapel at my husband’s Christian college several years ago. He was talking about starving children in other countries (I think he was speaking on behalf of World Vision) and addressed the student body by saying, “And you don’t give a sh*t. In fact, you’re more upset that I said sh*t from the pulpit than you are that there are millions of children starving to death as I speak.”

            He had a valid point. He used the word effectively–it definitely caught the audience’s attention and shocked them into paying attention to what he was saying. I am not sure it would be nearly as effective were it used regularly, though.

          • ‎>>>Determining which questions have an authoritative answer and which do not is the point. Not this specific question itself.<<<

            So the discussion is really about determining whether or not the Bible speaks authoritatively about our speech …and the words we use?

          • No, much more general than that. Obviously *here* the topic of speech came up. I’m trying really hard to get back to the point of my post– that asking questions about something is one of the best ways to learn, to inform one’s convictions,… and to understand how others think. So asking about speech (as one example) is not pointless if I want to know how others think about it.

            I LOVE the Tony Campolo story.

          • Joy – I see that your blog isn’t only about cussing, although it is referenced at the beginning and middle and in the comments, I believe. I guess what I’m saying is questions for the Christian are fine if they are pertaining to things that aren’t addressed in the Bible. Perhaps discussing what day of creation the angels were created would be a good example. OH wait! That would lead into the creationism debate! :-) (That is meant to make you smile…not open a can of worms)

          • Well duh, Brian. The angels pre-date creation. :P

            I disagree. Just because something is “in” the Bible doesn’t make it simple to understand. If it were simple, why do we have countless different denominations?

          • Denominations can’t even agree on how people are saved and by what means grace is given. Having THAT conversation on MY profile right now…

          • Joy, many things are extremely clear in the Bible. Many things are harder to understand. I agree. Cussing isn’t in the latter category, in my view. However, having discussions about those that are hard to understand is valuable.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I do realize that I’m thoroughly jaded, but I do think that many swear words can be wholesome and edifying when used properly. :) It’s all about context and tone!

  8. The issue isn’t permission to sin.

    You can either run your whole life according to whether you’re breaking a list of rules or not (the law), or you can live a life of being constantly renewed into a state of spiritual maturity through Christ, following in the path of His love.

    But you can’t do both.

    One scourges it’s adherents onward with rules and guilt, the other, through love, makes it so that none of those prior things are necessary any longer. We may occasionally fall, but increasingly, we are no longer the people to whom those things had any attraction, and we fulfill what the law sought to attain, but through joy and shalom rather than the lash of the law.
    Todd Erickson recently posted..Searching 2My Profile

    • See, I think Jenny on FB completely misunderstood my comments (okay, me quoting the Apostle Paul; LOL) about living a life that is Christlike and assumed I meant that as Christians we have lists of things we should and shouldn’t do. Galatians, which is a great book about freedom in Christ, does address this subject by pointing out the godless behaviors that mark the lives of people who are living under law instead of living with the power of the Spirit. Galatians goes on to point out that if we are living our lives in submission to Christ, the Holy Spirit renews our minds day by day, and we become more like Christ and less like the world. And this is something God does in us, not something we are trying to attain by following rules.

  9. I’m a few days late to this discussion … but I had to comment … because I LOVE it. I was born asking Why? and many other questions. During different seasons of my life, I didn’t like that about myself … but now I’ve come to accept and even like it. It’s part of who I am and each of your points is right on … questions have so much value!
    Janet Oberholtzer recently posted..Getting There Pole by PoleMy Profile

  10. i love this Joy! it is a great explanation and one i wish more christians understoon! somehow, it seems so many of us feel we have to explain God to everyone…as if He can’t explain Himself! so sad. such a small view of God.
    today i was reading a chapter from Dan Allender and Tremper Longman’s book CRY OF THE SOUL- HOW OUR EMOTIONS REVEAL OUR DEEPEST QUESTIONS ABOUT GOD. it is very helpful and stretching in many ways. shows how huge our God is!..and how sufficient He is for each of our struggles. m

  11. Oh now why did you have to ask that? ;) I love asking questions just like you. All the same reasons. I need to know what *I* believe and why I believe it. How do we know “our” perspective is “the” right one or the better one until we ask for perspectives from other people. I’ve learned so much since I put aside my fear of asking questions.

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