Asking the Wrong Questions

March 2nd, 2011

Question Mark
An engineer I work with likes to say, “Bad requests yield bad data.”

Asking wrong questions can lead us in wrong directions.

I ran a series of posts about a year ago trying to answer the question, “What makes a church a church?” A Pastor? A Church building? A certain number of people? A religous service?

Then I realized I AM the church, and my original question didn’t make sense. A better question might have been, “What makes a meeting of the church a church meeting?” And I might answer that with: An official service surrounding the Lords Supper (the Eucharest). The New Testament tells us to “do this in remembrance of Him,” but it never tells us to have Sunday School, Youth Group, or Stand-Up Lectures.

We ask, “Why is there so much evil in the world?” when perhaps a better question is, “Why is there so much good in the world?”

We ask, “How can I know more about the Bible or theology?” instead of, “How can I know more about God?”

We ask, “What is God’s will for my life?” but don’t bother with, “What is God’s will for me right now?

We ask, “Who should I marry,” before first asking, “What is my purpose in life?” Answering the latter could shed light on the former.

We ask, “How can we reconcile the teachings of Jesus and Paul?” when they never were UNreconciled in the first place (Jesus vs Paul, by Scot McKnight – from the December 2010 issue of Christianity Today)

We ask, “Why am I the only one who seems to have the absolute corner on truth?” when a more interesting question is, “Why do we all think we’re right?” (Jason Boyett on humility in handling truth – in context with the Rob Bell controversy)

We ask, “Why can’t I hear God?” rather than, “Why am I not listening?” (John 10:27 / Seth Barnes on listening prayer)

So we ask and we ask and we ask. My question is this, “Are we asking the right questions?”

3 Responses to “Asking the Wrong Questions”

  1. Chris Says:

    Good post.

    As for the Rob Bell controversy, a few points.

    1. There is a difference between taking a brother aside when they are sinning, and calling them to repentance. It’s another thing to allow someone to preach a false Christ and try to link it to the Bible (Mars Hill BIBLE Church).

    2. Using 1 Timothy 1:2-4, 1 Timothy 6:1-3, and Titus 1:8-10, I think it is absolutely justified to go public with your rebuke of Universalism. The fact is, people have gone to Rob Bell and his co-pastor Shane Hipps privately and rebuked them but it hasn’t worked. Maybe it wasn’t done properly but it’s important that God’s Word is not allowed to be publicly twisted by someone claiming to be born again. It’s not about judgment, it’s about clarification. I’d much rather see the real gospel proclaimed (repentance from sin and believe in Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins) to drown out the one Rob Bell gave recently (Jesus has come to save us from oppressive governments) even if it hurts Rob Bell’s feelings. Besides, I’m fully confident that his gospel that Jesus is in everything will give him more than enough followers to re-patch those feelings, as there are many itching ears out there. It’s not “I’m right, you’re wrong”, it’s “God is right, and every man a liar”.

    3. I don’t know how anyone could be concerned with Rob Bell’s feelings when you consider how SMUGLY and ARROGANTLY (and incorrectly) he has stereotyped, marginalized and misrepresented Orthodox Christianity in his sermons, books, videos and even that clip that has started the firestorm.

    The author Jason Boyett makes some vast assumptions (one of them is that Rob Bell is to be treated as a brother, another is that the world justly hates Christians and that we should be concerned about that) and I think is jumping to another big conclusion by claiming the tweet “farewell, Rob Bell” are arrogant and smug. It’s one word, and is in line with Scriptural teaching of ex-communication. Don’t like it? Don’t call yourself a Christian, do what other churches are doing and remove “Bible” from your church name.

    What’s most damning that Boyatt writes is “At worst, there are things that seem to be downright contradictory. That’s why I have doubts.”, about the Bible. This guy is OPENLY ADMITTING he isn’t sure the Bible is the authoritative Word of God and wants to hold other Christians to his same low view of the Bible, suggesting no rational person could find most of it to be easily interpreted.

    4. Many of his defenders think those who call him out as a Universalist are jumping to conclusions. He recently added a co-pastor, Shane Hipps, who declared that other religions are just different sails catching the same winds. Listen to his “sermon” “Uncaging The Lion”. In this sermon, Hipps and Bell mock Christians who believe they are bringing good news to the unsaved, saying they already have Jesus in them. Hipps declared that people experience Jesus in their transcendental meditation and their Islamic practices.

    5. All that being said, you should question whether your righteous zeal has elements of self-righteousness or not. I still think the best way is – when available – to confront the theologically inaccurate privately. I don’t know how familiar you are with dominion theology but the devout dominionists are known for having “The Spirit” show up at their meetings (where typically, the Bible is twisted and added to) in the form of crying, weird swaying, limbs being restored, and strange drunken encounters with glory bombs and feathers.

    Anyhow, a guy who is in a band that preaches this Joel’s Army, get-dangerous-for-God, you-can-be-perfect-on-Earth, God-needs-us-to-take-over-the-Seven-Mountains-before-he-can-come-back recently told someone on his formspring account who was struggling with lust that he needed to “draw near” to Jesus, and ask Jesus to let him experience him more, will yourself, etc.

    So, rather than bash the guy on a public site, I decided to ask him if he thought repentance (confessing your sin to God) and walking with Him in the Word would also be helpful for the guy (maybe even produce real change within). His response was that non-dominionist Christians have had it wrong all these years and that repentance actually means meditating on an image of Christ (he used some singular Greek reference to establish this claim). So, I do believe going to heretics and trying to reason with them or compel them with Scripture is the best way to go, but it doesn’t always work. My comments have been deleted from Rob Bell’s site.

    For more on Rob Bell, listen to these:
    http://www.letterofmarque.us/2011/02/did-go.html
    http://www.alittleleaven.com/2009/05/whats-being-taught-at-rob-bell.html
    http://www.fightingforthefaith.com/2009/07/deconstructing-rob-bells-false-gospel.html

  2. nick Says:

    thanks for dropping by Chris! haven’t heard from you in you awhile… and thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts, i enjoyed reading them.

    here are some of my comments:

    1) i see this Rob Bell thing has struck a chord with you! to be honest, the only thing I’d read about it was from Jason’s blog post. didn’t realize the level of controversy it had spawned. i don’t know enough about him to say he’s a heretic, etc. and since i’m not up on all the ins and outs of the issue (and as there looks to be hundreds if not thousands of comments already out there) i’ll refrain from giving my two cents worth about it.

    2) for the record, i do believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God. the “listening prayer” i made reference to is more an admission of my own that i need to listen to God more. if i ever “hear” something contrary to his Word, i would discount that as false. i know that going down the “listening prayer” band-wagon far can lead to some of those odd charismatic practices you made reference to. moderation in all things.

    3) i also believe in absolute truth. but i don’t believe i personally have it. at least not absolutely. so i try to stay openminded. i’ve been sure of things in the past i later changed my mind on. my favorite slogan is, “life is messy.” i wish everything were more clear cut… (i believe donald miller presents a balanced view in his post about Black and White Thinking)

    4) in response to your comment, “you should question whether your righteous zeal has elements of self-righteousness or not” i will freely admit to you Chris they do. i hate it though, and am working on that (hoping God is working in me). the older i get the more aware i become of the pervasiveness of my sin nature and the sneakiness of how it creeps into every part of me, even my “pure” motives. feel free to point out any other inconsistencies.

    5) along with #5, i know that having a personal blog in the first place is a somewhat narcissistic pursuit… it assumes someone wants to read what i have to say.

    6) but, speaking of which, do you have a blog? :-) you have many interesting opinions (and always have!) so i think you’d do well as an author or talk show host or something. or football announcer…?!

  3. Chris Says:

    I was using “you” as the everyman “you” and not “you” specifically.

    I also don’t want you to think I was mocking what the missionary was saying about “listening prayer”. I had not referenced him.

    I don’t update any blog regularly but do work for a website where I write sports news and opinion.

    I am surprised anyone made it through my rant! I don’t hate Rob Bell but – as a Christian who used to be duped by false beliefs, including the ones I created – I will combat false doctrine. If you listen to Chris Rosebrough’s review of Rob Bell’s preview video, he shows how Rob Bell tries to re-frame the “debate” on Hell.

    He tries to make it seem like you are an innocent bystander, with no gospel or conscience or guilt to prompt you to repentance. He paints all Orthodox Christians as believing “you get punished by God to Hell” rather than believing “Hell is the just punishment for your deeds”.

    Your blog is really meaty, man. I am really big on content, being interesting.

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