Vol.XVI No.VIII Pg.8
October 1979

Stuff About Things

Robert F. Turner

If you think the brethren at large can ask provocative questions, you should try to teach third year college students — who have learned to question everything, are too smart for a "snow" job, and think you must unscrew the inscrutable. At times one may be tempted to become facetious. "Why did not Jacob know he had the wrong woman the night of his marriage (Gen. 29:23-25)?" Reply, "The nights are very dark in Palestine."

We are tempted, I repeat, but we need not yield. Nor should we pontificate — act like we know, and say it so positively the querist would not dare argue. If we really believe our position is secure we can afford to be gracious. And most reprehensible are those who, feeling their traditions threatened, classify the querist as "heretic," and drive the matter underground to smolder and build heat for a later breaking forth.

Not all questions are honest. The Bible and our experience prove this. Nor are we able to infallibly judge the hearts of others. Too, an honest question does not mean the querist wants the truth one has to offer. If one suspects this may be the case the first reply can be cautiously given — perhaps another question, to clarify, and to lead the querist to be more receptive.

Above all, keep the communication intact, for honest questions are open doors to an ideal learning situation. "Learning begins with a felt difficulty " and people learn what they want to learn. The teacher who understands this is more concerned with creating interest and stirring an awareness of needs than in stuffing information into unwilling heads.

I'm convinced much of our preaching has failed because we try to tell folk what they must do to be saved before they are made to realize that they are lost. We are trying to answer questions they do not ask, and fill needs they do not feel. Our subject matter may be appropriate but we need a better introduction.

An honest question may have been long in coming, requiring a build-up of courage and a willingness to admit the need for an answer. If we handle it abruptly we may slam the door in the face of a truth seeker. So, if someone asks, "How come the Jews had to rent a veil for the temple?" you must swallow hard and say, "Perhaps we should look at that more closely."