Questioning the evangelical answer machine

6 thoughts on “Questioning the evangelical answer machine”

  1. I suppose it’s all in what you mean by “nurture the conversation”. This reminds me of an RHE post where she essentially argued that maybe God had intentionally made the Bible confusing so that we’d stay up late with friends arguing about it and thus grow in relationships – because that’s what is REALLY important, growing in relationships. And furthermore maybe a lot of these questions we fight about don’t even have answers we can figure out. And I remember some commenter said “yes, but don’t forget, the only reason we argue all night long about what the right answer to a question is, is because WE BELIEVE THE QUESTION HAS A RIGHT ANSWER!” I wanted to hug that anonymous soul.

    Obviously this post reminds me of that post – actually, answers that end conversations, because all involved agree they are the right answer, can be a great thing. Fake answers designed to shut people up or placate them are stupid – but let’s not confuse the two. Of course a right answer doesn’t have to mean you stop talking. There are certainly people out there who want an answer because they are afraid of the unknown. There are also plenty of people who *don’t* want an answer because they might find they don’t like it. Seeking God is fashionable – finding Him can get you in a lot of trouble.

    I have to say too that one of the great benefits of certain answers is confidence – this is why some of us love creeds and confessions. What is your only hope in life and in death? The answer is not “I’m not really sure, let’s talk about it” – that question has an answer. And it’s beautiful.


    1. I would argue that growing in relationships IS really important. And that the process of wrestling with the questions can be every bit as important/meaningful as the answers we come up with. Such high regard for the process of questioning/wrestling is embedded in the Jewish faith tradition. What I’m suggesting is that it should be highly valued by our tradition as well.

      That said, my point was not to suggest that there are no answers whatsoever. We could say there are (at least) three types of questions: (1) those with relatively straightforward answers, (2) those we’re pretty confident we know the answers to but should hold with humility, and (3) those we should accept as having no easy answers. I’m not denying the existence of 1 and 2; I’m suggesting there’s a lot more of 3 (including in the Bible itself) that we might realize. (Side note: This is part of what led me away from Calvinism; there are certain assumptions about sovereignty, predestination, etc. that I’d be more inclined to put in categories 2 or 3, but which some Calvinists seem to regard as a 1.)

      For what it’s worth, I share your love of creeds and confessions. Perhaps not all of them equally, and we may not like all the same ones as each other. But I’m about as far from being anti-credal as you can get. I use the Nicene and Apostles’ creeds regularly, both in individual and corporate worship…because, like you said, I believe they provide a beautiful summation of the hope we have.


  2. Thank-you for this post. I’ve always had plenty of questions and not answers that I found satisfactory to whatever need I had. I am now much more comfortable with not-knowing and with mystery. I think being more open to mystery and not having all the answers was a huge help for me in living life more fully.


    1. I know I’ve found this kind of openness helpful in my own life. (Especially since I have a tendency to be something of a know-it-all!) I’m glad to hear embracing mystery has been a great help to you.


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