Asking honest, tough spiritual questions often makes Christians nervous, and many struggle to do it well. In The End of our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith, Matthew Lee Anderson probes what it means to ask better questions, and subsequently, to get better answers. He is the lead writer of Mere Orthodoxy and author of Earthen Vessels: Why our Bodies Matter to our Faith, whose work has appeared in Christianity Today, The Washington Post, Relevant Magazine, and elsewhere. Here we talk about why some Christians are afraid of asking questions, how they can do it better, and what advice he has for the growing Reformed community he often runs with.
JM: Something important you’ve identified is that a lot of us are more comfortable with answers than we are with questions. Why do you think Christians might be afraid to ask questions of God and our faith?
MA: A lack of familiarity with the feeling of questions is one of the main reasons why we fear them. Answers provide a sense of security and stability for us, which is why they are so valuable. But questions unsettle us. They gnaw at us, and we often don’t know what to do with them or how to resolve them. The more we search and inquire, the more comfortable we’ll get with them.
But I also think that sometimes we’re afraid of where our questions might take us. Sometimes we know when we set out roughly where we’ll end up. But sometimes, we discover things along the way that force us to alter our course. When it comes to our faith in God, I think our fear of questioning is tied to our lack of confidence in Christianity’s truthfulness. Paradoxically, the more committed we are to the notion that Christianity is true the more freedom and confidence we will have to search and explore both the world and Christianity itself.
JM: Let’s say I’m studying Scripture in a small group Bible study, but it’s not going very deep. How do we begin to ask good questions of the text?