Monday, July 15, 2019

"Ask Me A Question"

Do we ask each other good questions?

Are we eager to speak or listen?

Why does this matter?

More and more I've been convicted of the value of asking good questions.Three memories come to mind as I reflect on the significance of questions.

(1) Many years ago, I witnessed a Christian try to evangelize a couple sitting next to him. As soon as he discovered they were not Christians, he proceeded into a meandering monologue about the Christian view of love, how nonsensical it is to be an atheist, about Islamic fundamentalism, and he went on and on and on for at least twenty five minutes while this couple sat and listened without uttering a word the entire time. At no point did he ask the couple a question or let them respond. I watched with some frustration, until finally I realized this guy was not going to stop, so I interjected and turned to the couple and said, "So he's talked for a long time, I'd love to hear some of your thoughts now."

(2) There was a really bright philosopher I met who was significantly more advanced than I was in his understanding and in his career. He had studied under the biggest scholars in the field, and knew way more than me. I wanted to get his thoughts on one of the divine attributes, so he shared a few ideas, and then, to my surprise, he said to me with earnestness, "What do you think?" Here was this incredibly intelligent philosopher who far surpassed my abilities, ask me for my thoughts. I was moved by his humility and Christ-like condescension to inquire of some one clearly inferior to him when he did not need to bother.

(3) Recently, I was visiting with my high school headmaster, and we got into a discussion about the classical Christian school he leads. I wanted him to explain something to me about classical Christian education culture but I rambled a bit, and my question was too general, so we quickly realized that we were talking past each other. After we both meandered on a for a bit, and got a better feel for where we were coming from, he then kindly said to me, "Okay. So, now ask me a specific question." I appreciated his request. He didn't give up on trying to understand me, or choose to just ignore me and talk about what he wanted to. It also forced me to think carefully, and put into words clearly and concisely what I wanted to understand from him.

This afternoon, as I was reading Plato's Theaetetus, I am struck by how Socrates emphasizes his role as simply one who tries to ask good questions to get his interlocutor to see the truth for themselves rather than Socrates merely giving a monologue telling people what to believe. It seems to me so often when we're wrestling through something, we don't even know the questions to ask and what we need isn't someone to ramble through a hodge-podge of their own opinions but lead us in asking the right questions of ourselves. That requires patience. That requires humility. It requires considering what is best for the other person.

Erik Thoennes says it like this, "Are you a here-I-am person or a there-you-are person?"

Pastors, teachers, and friends should be asking good questions. Not lazy, generic, careless questions. But thoughtful, specific, personal, questions. One of the most good things to do for the people in our lives is ask better questions.

Asking questions isn’t just some social psychological trick. It helps us practice Christian virtue.

Asking questions is an invitation to dialogue, and is a necessary component of friendship.

 Thus, asking good questions can be an act of love; it is a way we can love each other well.

In a monologue, I do not need to grant or acknowledge any other. But asking questions is a recognition of the other person, a basic component of charity. It is a way of recognizing our own insufficiency. It is a way of extending openness and generosity by giving of our time and attention, and inviting others to pour into us.

Do we ask each other good questions?

No comments:

Post a Comment