The power of questions

A question can change an opinion – and maybe a life.

A question such as “Can you tell me why you believe that?” can prompt people to re-examine their views.  Some may even ponder that question afterwards and start on a new path.

I was thinking of this after listening to a brief discussion about religion at a lunch gathering of retired men in our neighbourhood.

It began with one man saying he was less religious than he had been as a young man. He talked about chatting with men from two other faiths on their burial practices which he thought made a lot of sense. Another said 90 per cent of people around the world were good.

They seemed to be implying that all faiths were equally valid or that religion doesn’t matter at all.

I believe your faith does make a difference – if truth has any meaning at all.  And athiesm is as much a faith as any other.  But I did not declare my views for fear of offending.

Afterwards, I regretted not asking questions as a way of raising important points without flat-out offending the other men.

Randy Newman, author of Questioning Evangelism, says a simple word such as “Really?” can start a much deeper discussion after someone makes a declaration.  Questions aimed at learning more about someone’s opinions are not direct challenges but a way of opening minds to other ways of viewing the world.

The apostle Paul was a master of asking questions, sometimes uncomfortable ones.  He used questions to make a point to believers and unbelievers alike.

Our church men’s group looked at Romans 2 this week where the apostle asks Jewish people whether they were living by the Jewish law that they were trying to impose on others.  It is not clear to me whether he was speaking to Jewish believers in Christ who did attempt to impose their laws on non-Jewish believers in the early church.

But the question would certainly force his readers to examine their own conduct.

Newman notes that Paul “reasoned” with Jewish people and with non-Jews, suggesting discussion – questions as well as statements.

The author says discussion does not alone lead to a change of heart.  In the end, it is the Spirit of God that brings people into the kingdom of God.

But a good question, asked with respect, can be a good starting point.


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