Excerpted from “Why Do You Believe That? A Faith Conversation” apologetics bible study, LifeWay Christian Resources, 2012.
Since I began studying apologetics, I have noticed that Christians are engaged in a lot of defending and supporting their own beliefs. This is a good and productive activity. However, I haven’t noticed as many Christians engaging others in the support and defense of their beliefs. We seem to have become caught in a way of seeing the world that suggests Christians (or religious followers, more broadly speaking) are the only ones responsible for evidencing their beliefs. This is entirely untrue. Everyone has beliefs. Those beliefs can be productively and effectively questioned.
This week we will add to our good listening skills and to our foundation of belief in Jesus, the ability to be good questioners who do not assume that others have reasoned through their own beliefs. Our model for asking valuable questions comes from Jesus.
Jesus used questions to challenge his followers as well as to challenge those who opposed him. Sometimes his questions helped the hearer discover a deeper truth about faith in God. At other times his questions served to expose an untruth and/or the dishonesty of a person. Let’s read an example of one instance where Jesus asked a question.
“Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.” Matthew 22:41-46
A couple groups of religious leaders had asked Jesus a series of theological questions just prior to Jesus asking this question. The purpose of these questions was to entrap Jesus to answer in a way that either violated the religious law or violated logic. Jesus, knowing their dishonest intent, asked them a series of questions that would not only reveal an untruth, but would reveal that these religious leaders were knowingly committed to the untruth. So far, Jesus had asked them who the Messiah would be and the religious leaders answered, “the Son of David”; in other words, purely a man.
Now Jesus, quoting Psalm 110:1, asked the leaders how it was that David could call a man who was David’s son, “Lord.” Plus, this “Lord” is the Lord who sits at the right hand of God: it is God himself. This presented a logical problem if the religious leaders considered Messiah as only a man. Jesus’ questions revealed several problems for these leaders. First, the religious leaders did not understand their own Scriptures (yet again; remember Matthew 22:23-33). Second, Jesus demonstrated that the religious leaders were committed to an untruth. They would not listen and take to heart Jesus’ theologically and logically accurate teaching. They were unwilling to change. Nor, as we see in verse 46, were they willing to face the truth at all, for they stopped their interaction with Jesus.
Jesus used questions to draw out deep, personal bias in the religious leaders against his teachings and against his identity. He showed them that their beliefs were not rooted in good arguments or good reasoning.
Have you come across a person who was not making a good argument against the Christian faith? What was their argument?
How did you respond to their argument?
Have you ever been asked a question about your faith that was meant to entrap you? What was that question?
How did you respond?
Have you ever asked a person a question to help them discover a problem with their reasoning? What did you ask?