Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Grand Inquisitor

They were whispering behind me. This was not unusual. Every time I asked them a question, I heard them whisper. This is what adolescent girls do. And they whispered often, because I asked questions often. I made sport of it the week my wife and I watched them.

"Why do you think ________? Why did you say ________? What do you mean by ________?" I may have sounded like a three-year old, but I would not be victimized by their vagueness.

Questions are verbal instruments. They pry and chisel, opening minds and chipping away opaque beliefs. The question rivaled the parable as Jesus' preferred form of teaching: Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not see? Do you not understand? Do you have a hardened heart? (Mk 8)

Paul was rhetorical. The prophets were rhetorical. God is rhetorical (e.g. Ex. 4:11; Job 38). Rhetoric is an art form--political, philosophical, homiletic--but it is lacking as a basis for truth.

Herein lies MacArthur's critique of the Emergent church: It is too rhetorical, and rhetoric is more deconstructive than definitive. Questions are not absolute; they lead to more questions. Rob Bell said so much in Velvet Elvis (see "Springs").

But perhaps this topic raises some questions: Is rhetorical the same as rhetoric? Are questions the same as questioning? Is a tool to be judged based upon its function or who yields it? Is the term Emergent rhetoric or rhetorical?

These, of course, were not the questions I asked the two girls. They assumed I wanted "to make them think." Questions may function this way. But as a hammer has two sides (a head and a claw), so inquiry has another angle.

I did not ask simply to make them think; I asked because I wanted to know them.

Evangelicals are too quick to write off the questioning man as unstable and theologically suspect. We rush to call a question a doubt. I'm glad my wife said no such thing when I asked, "Will you marry me?"


Warriorofprayer said...

what u have stated on questions is very true. believe me it is one of a prayer warrior's strongest weapons. but back 2 what i stated about "fill in the blanks", we must choose if we wish 2 ask the questions. since questions and words are weapons we cannot play with them. they are dangerous and can hurt innocent ppl easily if used carelessly. but sometimes u cannot learn from questions if ppl do not wish it. the question is the lock the person asked is the key. if they choose 2 unlock it they may but that doesn't mean it shall happen all the time. kinda like trying to help ppl accept christ. u can say all u want but if they don't want 2 they won't. but on the other hand ppl who have been by hurt by a question must understand y it was asked. the best one 2 discover is because the person cares 4 u but that is not always the case. be careful how u weild ur weapon of questioning. it does not have to be used all the time. may god be with any1 who needs him.

danny2 said...

i think there is a difference between asking a question while we preach, which can get people to think...or even make a stronger statement than a indicative sentence will.


preaching in a way that causes people to question doctrine. i'm all for getting people to think, so i am not trying to claim we simply spoon feed the mindless flock. however, it seems that preaching calls for exhortation, rebuke, correction and training. this would mean we emulate Jesus and Paul in that the questions are used to get attention, and once we have their attention, we seek to present the answers from the Word of God.

i read macarthur's truth war, and i think that was what he was getting at. if you listen to him, you'll hear questions...but you won't hear him call his flock to question and issue and then not provide biblical answers.

Sprained Ankle said...

I haven't read MacArthur's Truth War, but I tasted his thesis in an article form. In a recent publication from Finish Line Ministries, Dave Bogue provided a similar warning in response to the Emergent Church.

Words can be weapons; questions can be upsetting. Regarding Aristotle's work, Rhetoric, the strength of such a tool is in the speaker's Credibility.

Does the preacher/pastor have his congregation's trust?

If he never provides an answer, I'd guess not.

Warriorofprayer said...

yes, it is true that credibility is improtant but do we always look at a person's credibility? there are so many that search 4 answers in life that they do not care who it is they get it from. i could state more but i shall not wear out what little i kno of this world. i shall speak in further on this blog. for now goodbye.

Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean about today's Christians calling a question a doubt. I've run into that coming home from college for the summer with new questions about the role of a church, the role of a believer in church, and God's true meaning behind his call to follow him. By simply asking questions of someone with different ideas about faith, people assume all kinds of things, and I come away feeling very naive and...what are some words they used..."verging on wishy-washy" and "Idealistic" I think they said.