Answering Questions With Questions
September 1, 2006 - We often want to have perfect answers to people’s questions about the Gospel. But sometimes this can lead to conversations that feel more like sales pitches than meaningful interaction. Veteran evangelist Randy Newman says that answering with a question instead can lead to meaningful conversations about Christ. —The Editors
by Randy Newman
A rich man asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” That question was a great setup for a clear, concise Gospel presentation. I can almost hear a disciple whispering in Jesus’ ear, “Take out the booklet.” How could Jesus not launch into the most perfect model for every evangelistic training seminar for all time? But how did He respond? He posed a question, “Why do you call me good?” (Mark 10:17-18, NIV).
I once did a study of how Jesus answered every question that was asked of Him in all four Gospels. Answering a question with a question was the norm.
At times I’ve answered questions with biblically accurate, logically sound, epistemologically watertight answers, only to see questioners shrug their shoulders. My answers, it seemed, only further confirmed their opinion that Christians are simpletons.
So I started answering questions with questions.
Once a team of skeptics confronted me. It was during a weekly Bible study for freshman guys that we held in a student’s dorm room. The host of the study, in whose room we were meeting, had been telling us for weeks about his roommate’s antagonistic questions. This week, the roommate showed up—along with a handful of like-minded friends.
The frequently asked question of exclusivity arose, more an attack than a sincere inquiry:
“So, I suppose you think all those sincere followers of other religions are going to hell?”
“Do you believe in hell?” I asked.
He appeared as if he’d never seriously considered the possibility. He looked so puzzled, perhaps because he was being challenged when he thought he was doing the challenging. After a long silence, he said, “No, I don’t believe in hell. I think it’s ridiculous.”
Echoing his word choice, I said, “Well, then why are you asking me such a ridiculous question?”
I wasn’t trying to be a wise guy. I simply wanted him to honestly examine the assumptions behind his own question. His face indicated that I had a good point and that he was considering the issues of judgment, eternal damnation and God’s righteousness for the first time in his life.
The silence was broken by another questioner, who chimed in, “Well, I do believe in hell. Do you think everyone who disagrees with you is going there?”
I asked, “Do you think anyone goes there? Is Hitler in hell?”
“Of course, Hitler’s in hell.”
“How do you think God decides who goes to heaven and who goes to hell? Does He grade on a curve?”
From there, the discussion became civil for the first time, and serious interaction ensued about God’s holiness, people’s sinfulness and Jesus’ atoning work. Answering questions with questions turned out to be an effective way to share the Gospel.