Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Answering Questions with Questions

I love to see in Scripture how Jesus dealt with those who were trying to trap him. According to Mark 12 and Luke 20, the Sanhedrin had sent some Pharisees and Herodians as spies in order to flatter Jesus falsely and attempt to trap Him in a statement. They pretended to be loyal to Jesus and they set him up with a question on the highly controversial topic of taxes. They really thought that they had a fool-proof plan, but Jesus escapes from it. How? He did so by answering their question with a question. It really is a very smart strategy.

When I was young in ministry I was preparing to go into my ordination exam. This is kind of the minister’s rendition of the inquisition. You go in front of a bunch of seasoned pastors who all have their own passions and hobby horses and you spend the next two to three hours answering dozens upon dozens of questions they fire at you. If you survive, you get ordained. As I went to enter the room, one of the pastors who was not going to be part of the questioning took me aside and gave me what seemed at the time like a strange piece of advice. He said, “Scott, if they ask you a question that you either aren’t sure of the answer or you don’t really want to answer, just answer their question with another question.” I was puzzled and inquired as to how that might help me. He responded, “Just trust me!”

Still not sure what he meant, I went into the room and the “fun” began. At some point, one of the pastors asked me my opinion on social drinking. Because I wasn’t sure what these guys’ thoughts were on this topic and because I really had not worked the topic through as of yet in my own mind and heart, I decided to put the advice I had recently been given to the test. I responded by asking, “Why exactly do you mean when you say ‘social drinking’?” For the next 45 minutes these pastors debated among themselves the definition of social drinking and I never had to answer the original question! It worked!!

I once attended a seminar on Christian Apologetics and heard a similar strategy. The next time you find yourself in a conversation with someone who is a critic or skeptic of the faith, try asking the following questions after the person gives their view.

“What exactly do you mean by that?”

“How do you know that’s true?”

“Where did you get your information?”

“What if you’re wrong?”

You may just find the very same thing that Jesus did when confronted by the religious leaders trying to trap Him and what I discovered when I went through my ordination exam. Often, the best way to respond to a difficult question is to ask a question in reply.

No comments: