Questions are dangerous because they can lead us negatively down the road to unbelief or positively towards understanding what we believe and why it matters. Questions are often viewed in the evangelical church in the wrong way. Many people think that if you ask a question then you are just like doubting Thomas. In his excellent new book The End of Our Exploring: A Book About Questioning and the Confidence of Faith, Matthew Anderson writes to help us ground our questions in the Word of God for the purpose of having them shaped by and reformed by that proper foundation.
The author rightly comments, “The beginning of questioning well is to seek to question well, which may mean laying down our questions and allowing them to be reshaped and reformed by the answers given to us by God. For if Christianity is true, the end of our exploring will be joy and goodness and life. But the path leads down the via Dolorosa and up toward Golgotha, as we take up our cross and follow the One who went ahead” (28). As Anderson notes, our questions need to be informed, molded, and transformed by the Word of God.
In my experience in ministry, many people ask the wrong questions because they begin at the wrong source, namely themselves rather than the Word of God. When we do that we will always get the wrong answers because rather than grounding our thinking in Scripture, we are instead basing what we think on personal opinions. Addressing this, Anderson states, “Opening ourselves to being questioned by God means, here and now, surrendering ourselves to the word of Scripture, a Word that probes and questions us as we read it” (44). He further explains, “The confidence of our faith must be rooted in the cross, for through His death Christ is faithful to His promises and ushers in the newness of life” (63).
Moreover, Anderson makes an important point concerning the resurgence of catechisms, commenting, “The recovery of catechesis is one of the most hopeful signs for Christians interested in cultivating their ability to question and live into the answers. Christians throughout history have used catechisms to train those new to the faith in the fundamentals. Answers were often memorized, with the goal that they would be internalized so that the catechumen could have a lively dialogue with the teacher. As Christians recover the practice of catechesis, our questions will become more sophisticated because we will have a more robust framework through which to look at the world. The apologetics movement could think of its own work through this lens. Answers and particular reasons almost never persuade people. But internalizing them lays a helpful foundation that allows for the more lively and productive back-and-forth of dialoguing together” (79).
As one engaged in the apologetics community, I greatly appreciate this statement by Anderson. One of the main tasks of apologetics is not to provide answers to but rather to help people build their lives upon a solid biblical foundation. When engaging people I rarely tell them what I think about an issue before I find out what they think about that particular issue. For example, when going up to a Jehovah Witness who may be on the street handing out pamphlets, I refrain from telling that individual at the outset of the conversation, “You are going to hell because you deny the deity of Christ.” Instead, I ask, “So what do you think of the King James Bible?” or “What do you think of the Deity of Christ?” Now I am not advocating we compromise on calling people who reject biblical orthodoxy to repentance. What I am saying is that our approach can be much softer. Rather than coming out with a hammer to strike down our opponent, we should focus on an approach centered on reaching the person with the Gospel. While asking the Jehovah Witness about the KJV Bible, I’ve been told, “I don’t believe the Bible you believe in because it contains errors”. In other words our initial question doesn’t have to be accusatory even if the person’s response is accusatory. Our engagement with others is to be marked by speaking the truth in love with a view to a biblical commitment rooted in the inspired and authoritative Word of God.
One of the greatest challenges in the apologetics community as Anderson aptly notes is just “giving answers” as if just repeating these answers will either drive people to understand the topic or somehow provide them the ability to at least memorize the message. But “internalizing” answers is much more productive because conversations are rarely in the mode of a “question and answers” type session. Knowing the Word of God should lead to not just knowing the right thing to say. Conversely, it should lead to being transformed by the Word of God. Given the resurgence and interest in apologetics, this is a vital point for the reader to grasp. The apologetics community is often more interested in giving answers for why they believe rather than helping people understand why those answers are important. That subtle distinction is an important one not to miss. The Christian faith is based on understanding who Jesus is and what He has done in His death, burial and resurrection. Christians should give answers for the hope they have (1 Peter 3:15), but they should do so with a view to explaining the foundation for those answers in order to help people understand what they believe, why they believe it, and what difference it makes in their life. That methodology will demonstrate that our faith is not just about how we “repeat” answers, but rather why those answers make a difference in our lives. Doing apologetics in this way will assist the apologetics community and Christians at large to make a difference for the Gospel by being Word-centered, Gospel-centered, and grace-empowered.
The End Of Our Exploring: A Book About Questioning and the Confidence of Faith by Matthew Anderson is an important book that grounds our questions in the Word of God. By guiding us through how to answer a question, he answers the fundamental question of “What is good questioning?” The approach of this book is one that will help the reader not to doubt the validity of their faith, but rather to base their questions on the authoritativeness of the Word of God. While doubt is in vogue these days, good questioning is not. It is precisely for this reason why this book by Matthew Anderson is needed because it exposes the root of our doubt as foolish by stressing the need to ground our questions in Scripture. This approach will in turn properly inform our questions and provide the foundation for not just the Church’s reformation, but also our own personal renewal and transformation in the Gospel.
This book would be excellent for Christian high school and college students in public schools whose faith is being daily assaulted by an evolutionistic and secular worldview. Reading this book will help students understand how to base their questions not on their own personal philosophy but on the unchanging Word of God. This book would also be good for lay people to learn how to ground their questions and thinking in Scriptural truth. Wherever you are in your pilgrimage of grace, The End of our exploring has something for you. I recommend this book and pray it will help a generation of Christians to base their inquiries in the Word of God so they may grow in the grace of God.
Author: Matthew Lee Anderson
Publisher: Moody (2013)
I received this for free from Moody book review program for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”