Drinking Deeply

Saturday, July 15, 2006 at 12:26 PM

Rebuke the Question(2)

In response to my point on the need to rebuke the question, jefe wrote:

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..." (1 Peter 3).

you've got to be awful careful about a "shut down the question" strategy. first, because you very well may shut off the questioner, in which case what good have you done them? and second, because christianity is simply not about shutting down our questions. there are mysteries, yes, and scripture has no patience with arrogant posturing before god--but (more often than not) the bible is on the questioner's side. look at how much of it is dedicated to raising exactly the same sort of question you're talking about! job and habakkuk (as you point out) as well as other prophets, and many psalms, and ecclesiastes, for a few. "how can god really be just, when the world reeks of injustice?" is an honest and important question, which the bible raises as such over and over again. let's not tire of patiently engaging with it beside the askers, and wrestling with it ourselves--"To the weak I became weak, to win the weak" (1 Corinthians 9).

and I was going to respond in the comments, but then it got a little long, and I decided to put the response in a post of its own.

To begin with, that's an excellent point. Per 1 Corinthians 9, it is behooves Christians to not put undue stumbling blocks before unbelievers. This means that our tone and language should be such that the Gospel is clearly conveyed without adding to its harshness by our language. Thus we should answer with gentleness and respect.

That said, the content of our message (Christ) will be a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1). The cross will be offensive, and the demand for complete repentance will be hard to swallow. Thus, while our tone and demeanor may be kind and gentle, our message will not. It will be a stumbling block. Thus I would defend the “rebuke the question” method simply by pointing out that it is God's response. Do we claim to be kinder than God?

And interesting point where we disagree is in how we interpret the prevalence of questions of justice and evil in the Bible. You say that the Bible is dedicated to raising those very questions. I would point to God's response and say that, well yes, the Bible raises the questions, but then rebukes the questioner, demonstrating that the asking of those questions is sinful. Indeed, it borders on irrelevance to ask a question of God for which God has already infallibly revealed the answer. I don't see honest questioning here, I see outright rebellion.

God describes non-Christians in many different ways, none of them good. In Psalm 14 he calls the unbeliever a fool, and points out that they do not seek God. They have all turned away. In Romans 8, God states that the sinful mind is hostile to God and cannot please Him. In Ephesians 2, God describes non-Christians as under the sway of Satan, sons of disobedience, and by nature, children of wrath, following the ways of this world. Paul in his sermon at Athens (Acts 17), manages to rebuke several individual belief systems within the span of a few sentences, and ends with a command for repentance. How do people respond? Some mocked, some waited, and some turned in repentance.

So yes, be patient with them, be willing to answer the questions and respond as they continue asking (and in the face of continued hardness of heart, don't cast your pearls before pigs), but don't let them get away with unbiblical thinking. Don't let them think they can challenge God and remain unscathed.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

3For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ

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