Sometimes Questions Offer Best Opportunity to Penetrate Doubt

“‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Why do you call Me good?’ Jesus answered.” (Mark 10:17-18)

I stumbled across a great book when I was surfing the Internet the other day by the title “Questioning Evangelism.” It provides a practical framework for winning souls to Christ.

People seem to forget the Great Commission, but that’s our challenge from the Lord. Why? So others can understand what words like joy, peace, grace, and mercy really mean!

The author, Randy Newman, points out the skeptic in the world today is not very different from the skeptic that watched and listened to Jesus. “Isn’t it uncanny,” he wrote in Christianity Today, “how often our Lord answered a question with a question?”

He’s right. When religious leaders asked Jesus if it was right to pay taxes, He asked whose portrait was on the coin. (Matthew 22:17-20) And when Pharisees were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked Him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Jesus’ responded with a question. “If any of you has a sheep, and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you no take hold of it and lift it out?” (Matthew 12:9-12)

Newman’s observation is that Jesus modeled an extremely effective way to witness to the skeptics in this world, then and now. I agree! Think about it. The answer to a question is rarely what the skeptic out there is really looking for. “Instead of my answer moving him closer to salvation,” Newman confesses, “it pushed him further away. Rather than engaging his mind or urging him to consider an alternative perspective, my answer gave him ammunition for future attacks against the gospel. So, I’ve started answering questions with questions and have gotten far better results.”

NewMan’s technique is exactly how I believe Jesus responded to similar situations in the Bible. Jesus understood how questions often force us to face up to the assumptions behind our questions.

Newman emphasizes that answering a question with a question has a distinct advantage over answering a question with an answer. “It takes the pressure off…the one being asked, and puts the pressure on the one doing the asking.” “This is important,” he says, “because as long as we’re on the defensive, the questioners are not really wrestling with the issues. They’re just watching us squirm.”

Interesting concept, don’t you agree? I certainly like it because it creates an opportunity for Christians to confront skeptics in an inoffensive way. Questions ignore their doubt and force them to face the real reason behind their question. Frankly, it can diffuse the hostility and create an opportunity for a constructive discussion about why we believe what we believe.

I highly recommend the book. But more importantly, I highly recommend putting Newman’s idea to work. It’s an old-world way to respond to new age thinking!

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