The young question most, the wise question best

end-of-our-exploring

This coming Monday, my friend Matt Anderson’s new book, The End of Our Exploring, will be officially released (although rumor has it it’s shipping now, so go buy it!).

I’ll be posting a review of this book on Monday, but I couldn’t resist sharing a thought on one of my favorite passages from the early pages of the book.

In my day job, I (and a few of my colleagues) have gained a reputation for asking questions—a lot of questions. Sometimes our questions are helpful; other times, maybe not so much (I can safely say that we’ve annoyed people with what seems to be incessant questioning).

The thing is, although many got the idea that we were being rebellious in our questioning, the truth is we just wanted to understand the thinking behind the decisions our authorities were making. So why did people assume our motives were less than pure?

One explanation is a difference in leadership style (the idea that subordinates shouldn’t question decisions is one that’s long reigned among boomers); another is that we were asking the wrong kind of questions.

Anderson explains this problem, writing:

We associate questioning with youthfulness and for understandable reasons. Children are naturally inquisitive: they search and explore their surroundings with abandon. The university is, for many of us, one of the last seasons of intentional questioning. And these days, many young people broadcast their doubts, which I understand but try to avoid.

But if the young question most, the wise question best. The art of questioning takes a lifetime to perfect, for the most interesting questions flow from a deep well of insights. The more we understand, the more fine-grained our awareness of the negative spaces will be. The more we learn about the world the more we will realize how much more there is to know, if we will only remember to attend to what we do not know even after discovering what we do. Those who have learned best and longest will explore hidden nooks and corners that those of us starting out cannot begin to imagine. The wise have seen negative spaces that only well-trained eyes are strong enough to detect. (19)

There’s a difference between asking a lot of questions and asking good questions—the right questions. The difference is wisdom. Just like we needed to ask better questions of our authorities, those who ask questions of the Christian faith need to ask the right questions—questions that don’t leave us wallowing in uncertainty, but help us actually find answers. That, after all is the point of a question.

Wise questioning embraces answers. Are your questions wise or foolish?