Thursday, 10 March 2011

A question of caring & cowardice

Most of us probably know the value of a well-placed, well-phrased question. Not that the questioner is simply asking as a means of pushing their view, but seriously giving you what they consider to be a pertinent question to help you onwards. Or perhaps a question to try to understand more, rather than assuming and answering on that basis ('Why?'). 

Sometimes, voicing a troublesome question is helpful, because it raises a topic for healthy discussion, and we can dig down deeper on it. It invites a variety of perspectives, honing each other's ideas, filling in blind spots and correcting error. Good questions will pierce through and encourage us to examine our foundations, our authorities for knowledge. But everyone also knows the frustration of someone raising an interesting question, which engages us personally, only to create more confusion and walk away. It is one thing to question and hold things in tension. It is another to deliberately tangle the strings, mislay the ends, and make fun of those who try to find them. Or as Challies says, better than me:
Questions matter. They can help you to grow deeper in your knowledge of the truth and your love for God—especially when you’re dealing with the harder doctrines of the Christian faith. But questions can also be used to obscure the truth. They can be used to lead away just as easily as they can be used to lead toward. Ask Eve. ...
They say that the person who frames the debate is going to win the debate.
And so, Tim Challies considers the difference between thought-provoking and falsely framed questions, in relation to Rob Bell's latest book, on hell. It's a helpful review.

The debate about the video which introduced this book, raised questions for me, too. Specifically: yes, it's serious that a supposed pastor-teacher would confuse his flock rather than feeding them, and would feed them sweet-tasting thorns to tear their gut. But how can I feel righteously angry at someone for teaching that there’s no hell, when I don’t warn my friends of it? How much can I protest at someone causing others to question if there's eternal punishment, if I act in conversation with my friends as if there's little danger of it? Bell may question whether hell is eternal; I can act as if my friends have eternity before they need to know of Christ. Bell may imply that God isn't that angry about our God-rejecting, selfish disobedience. Would my friends know from my speech and life that I worship a God who made us in justice, holiness and righteousness, and cares about that enough to be angry at our twisting of it, and punish wrong?

So, friends. Despite some cowardice, I do love you and want you to be reconciled to God in Christ. I do think the consequences of staying an enemy of our good Creator will be horrendous, and it tears me up to think that might be you. But I worry that you'll misunderstand, and think I'm trying to say I'm better than you, or that you've got to clean up your act somehow, or get religion - so I've not mentioned it much. Is that what you'd think? You know I'm not some naturally better person - I know if God were to judge me by what I've done, I'd have been in hell long ago. I'm just waiting for Jesus, God in skin, to come back and rescue us from God's judgement to follow. Rescue not for better people but for those who call, 'Help!' And I'd love you to join me, because the kind of God who devises a rescue plan not according to how good we are but by coming to us, suffering, and dying himself, precisely for those who know they're no good - that God is a joy to know! Would it not be worthwhile to question it a bit, see what this rescuer God is like, who Jesus claimed went to such lengths for you?

And I really don't mind a hard, 'stupid', or possibly offensive question, between friends. Better that than things assumed and never talked about. Hm?

No comments: