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?"