Thursday, August 28, 2008

HONEST OR CONTROVERSIAL QUESTIONS

Have you ever heard someone ask a question like, "Do you mean to tell me that God is going to send good people to hell?" To answer this question in a group setting without giving good clarification can prove risky. The novice Christians or visitors who are present might be unprepared to understand that the question is loaded. And if you give a quick answer, it might sound insensitive and harsh. First of all, there should be some clarification given for the class. Everyone present should be reminded that God has the answer and that man's opinions on the issue do not matter. It may be that the questioner perfectly understands what the Bible says about the population of hell, and is questioning the Bible and the justice of God. Sothe one who is posing the question is really challenging God. Second, the answer to this question depends on what is the definition of "good". If by "good" we mean people who are washed and sanctified by the blood of Christ, the answer is no, God is not going to send good people to hell. These are imperfect, but because of their obedient faith, they have been washed in Christ's blood and are made holy. Now on the other hand, Jesus said that only God is good (i.e. without sin, which is why Jesus was God because he was sinless). We understand that no one is sinless and worthy of salvation. In that sense, no one is "good". Those who die without being forgiven by God are going to hell, no matter how "good" we consider them to be. The Scriptures say that all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory. For these reasons, the questioner that I mentioned at the beginning is challenging the very justice of God; even if unintentionally so. God IS going to send "good people" to hell because they are not "good" by the way God measures "goodness". God is only going to save those that believe in Jesus and obey His commandments. Questions like these indicate how misinformed people can be.

Paul warned Timothy that not everyone is sincere in the questionings.

"he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions," - 1 Timothy 6:4
A right question can be helpful as it shows that people are searching. When the people seeking Baptism asked John the Baptist what they must do for repentance, that was a good question (Lk. 3:10). The noble-minded Bereans had questions which they answered by searching the Scriptures daily. Luke writes, "for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so." Sometimes a question can be a tool for teaching. Jesus asked, "who do the people say that the Son of Man is?" (Mt. 16:13) That was a good question to help the disciples come to the truth.

But sometimes questions are about creating doubt. The questioner does not agree with the doctrines and holds beliefs that would not be well-received if openly communicated. So they ask questions that mis-lead, obfuscate, or confuse because they contain fallacies and false premises. The questions such people ask are asked to catch people off guard and unprepared. Even if everyone in a group session is not fooled, the fallacies contained in the question gain a foothold and create a wedge in the group. When the question isn't answered satisfactorily, people feel they have lost some ground. Satan is good at this tactic. When he tempted Eve to sin, he said, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" Satan knew the answer. Keil & Delitzsch Commentary says this is an interrogative expressing surprise. Satan wasn't surprised. Such a question is intended to catch the person off guard and to put them on the defensive. And Paul warns the preacher Timothy about those who have a "morbid interest in controversial questions." For sure, all questions are not created equal. Some arise from an honest and sincere desire to learn, and others are like traps intended to ensnare the weak and unprepared.

My experience is when you start asking questions of the questioner, you can tell whether they are sincerely searching or if they really have no interest in coming to the truth. We need to respect questions and be like Peter who said,
"but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;" - 1 Peter 3:15
We should always respect honest questions and should always be ready to give honest, Biblical answers.
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