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Are Questions Better Than Answers? No Question About It!

Although it might surprise you, given that I grew up with a famous apologist father, my parents asked me more questions than they gave me answers. My parents did not want me to believe something simply on authority, but because I had good reasons for believing it was true. They certainly wanted me to become a Christian, but they were also deeply interested in helping me learn how to think critically for myself and to confidently arrive at truth.

questions better

Jesus also asked dozens of questions even though he knew the answers. Why? While there could be other reasons, it seems to me that he wanted to elicit faith in people and to help them arrive at a personal knowledge of the truth. When it comes to helping people arrive at a biblical worldview, Jesus knew questions were often far more powerful than statements. In fact, he knew the most important question of all is, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

As I look back on my life, it was often the people who asked me the most timely and insightful questions who have had the greatest impact on my life. For instance, as a grad student in philosophy, I read a ton of books on postmodernism and, to be honest, was quite confused about the nature of truth. I remember thinking: How can I ever know the nature of truth if I can’t step outside my own perspective and examine it firsthand?

I asked for guidance from one of my philosophy teachers at Talbot, Dr. Garrett Deweese, and he simply asked me a question back: “Is it possible you’re confusing the metaphysical and epistemological issues related to truth? Ponder that for awhile and let me know what you think.” Boom! His question got me thinking on a whole new level and opened up clarification in my worldview between the nature of truth (metaphysics) and how we know truth (epistemology). This distinction continues to serve me well to this day.

The Question Explosion

Even though information is expanding rapidly, people are asking questions at an even greater rate. Every year humans ask the Internet 2 trillion questions. On average, American adults asked four questions per day online. But most of these questions are for a place to eat, sports facts, or how to fix something that is broken. Most are factual questions that have easy answers.

But there are other kinds of questions that lead to life change. What is the key to asking transformative questions? This is a question I have been thinking about for some time. Becoming a better question-asker is one of my ongoing goals as a teacher, parent, coach, apologist, and follower of Christ. If you want to genuinely influence other people, a key skill to develop is the art and science of asking good questions.

What Makes a Transformative Question?

I was recently reading The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly. If you’re interested in future technological and cultural trends, this is a must-read book. Towards the end of the book Kelly has an entire chapter titled, “Questioning,” in which he talks about how culture is moving from the rigid order of hierarchy to a state of flux where new possibilities will be opened up for those who ask the right questions. Kelly got me thinking, “How can I be confident that I am asking the right questions?” How confident are you?

Kelly lists fourteen marks of a good question. Here is my top seven:

  1. A good question cannot be answered immediately.
  2. A good question challenges existing answers.
  3. A good question creates new territory of thinking.
  4. A good question is a probe, a what-if scenario.
  5. A good question cannot be predicted.
  6. A good question is one that generates many other good questions.
  7. A good question is what humans are for.

Take a minute and reflect on these points. End by asking yourself a few questions for reflection:

What is the most significant question someone has ever asked you? What made it so significant? What is the best question you have asked someone else? Do you tend to make statements or ask questions? Why? How can you become a better question-asker?

If you want to make a lasting difference in the lives of people, these are critical questions to ask.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

Can Science Answer All Questions?

By Paul Rezkalla

In the movie Contact? Ellie told her father that she loved him, but she couldn’t prove it scientifically. That’s because science can’t do that sort of thing. Science can’t show that two people love each other. Science is simply a tool that we utilize to uncover facts about the observable universe. So here’s a fun fact: Science is not omniscient. It cannot answer all our questions. Not by any stretch of the imagination. And the idea that we can’t know anything unless we have scientific evidence for it, is ridiculous. The claim ‘We can’t know anything unless we can verify it scientifically’ cannot, itself, be verified scientifically. That kind of argument is self-defeating. Interesting, no? So when someone says, “There’s no scientific evidence for that, therefore I won’t believe it”, I can respond by saying either:

1. Your face has no scientific evidence

or

2. There are things that we know to be true apart from any scientific evidence.

I find the latter to be more efficient, although not nearly as epic.

Science Questions

Here are 2 categories of facts that we all accept without help from science:

1. Metaphysical Facts

Metaphysics, by definition, lies outside the realm of science. The term ‘Metaphysics’ means ‘meta-physics’ or ‘beyond physics’.  Metaphysical facts include the existence of other minds, the existence of the world outside of your own mind, and the reality of the past. We believe that there are minds other than our own, the external world is real, and the past wasn’t created 5 minutes ago and given only the appearance of having aged as it did. These beliefs are what philosophers call properly basic beliefs. That means that they are foundational. We can’t show them to be true or false. We accept them as facts without question, but they cannot be proven by science.

Science cannot tell me that there are minds other than my own. When I’m in a lecture, I assume that the professor who is lecturing is a real entity with a mind and not simply a figment of my imagination or a part of my dream (as much as I’d like to think so). I treat the world around me as if it is real. I could be stuck in the matrix or I could be a brain floating in a jar of chemicals being stimulated by some crazy scientist who is giving me the illusion of this world. But I know I’m not. I know that the past is real; I was not created 5 minutes ago and implanted with 22 years’ worth of memories. I comfortably believe all of this and yet there is no scientific evidence that confirms it.

2. Ethical Facts

A lot of interest has been generated recently in the field of Evolutionary Psychology. Some experts in this field have argued that we can get morality from understanding who we are as social mammals. The idea of the purely ‘selfish gene’ is slowly being understood to be false, or at least an incomplete picture of who we really are. We are not simply lone mammals on the quest to propagate our DNA at all costs—there is a complex social infrastructure in mammalian groups/herds that has an inbuilt morality for the purpose of helping us deal with each other. Elephants bury their dead, bonobos comfort each other after loss, and most primates understand and operate by the laws of reciprocity and justice. This explains morality, right? Science has given us ethics!

Just a minute, buddy. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This kind of argument commits what David Hume articulated as the            Is-Ought fallacy. You can’t get an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’. This means that observing and understanding how things are cannot tell us that this is the way things ought to be. Just because we observe that mammals help each other doesn’t tell us that we should help each other. Well, maybe we can say that we ought to help each other because that increases human flourishing. Right? Ok, but that presupposes that human flourishing is good and should be striven towards. But why is increasing human flourishing good in the first place? Why should we pursue it? Any answer that one gives to that question will not come from science. That’s because science is descriptive, not prescriptive. The ‘should’ or ‘ought’ has to come from elsewhere. Science can’t give us that.

Science doesn’t tell us that rape is evil. Science can’t tell us that rape is evil. The value judgment, evil, lies beyond the scope of the scientific method. Sure, science can tell us that rape can have biological and psychological repercussions on individuals and societies, but to say that rape is evil is not something that science can do. We know that rape is evil wholly apart from science.

Science can’t answer questions beyond those about the observable, testable world around us. Trying to do so is akin to using a yardstick to find the weight of a bucket of water. It won’t work because that isn’t the correct tool. My point here is not to say that science is bad. Not at all. I love science. Science has given us, and continues to provide us with progress in health and understanding the world around us. But we should not try to apply science outside of the fields for which it is meant.

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How to Get Your Kids to Ask More Questions About Their Faith

By Natasha Crain

The most popular post on my blog is one I wrote last year called, The Number One Sign Your Kids are Just Borrowing Your Faith (and Not Developing Their Own).

That post has been read by more than 80,000 people and shared almost 14,000 times. Clearly it resonated deeply with people.

So what was the sign that your kids are just “borrowing” your faith?

They rarely, if ever, ask questions about it.

Many parents wrote to me and said the post made them realize that they were doing a lot of talking about God…but their kids weren’t doing a lot of talking back.

If your kids aren’t showing much proactive interest in talking about faith, I have a very easy and effective solution to share with you today: Start a questions night.

For the last several months, our family has set aside a night each week in order to simply sit and answer any questions our kids have about faith. They absolutely love it. And I can tell you that they weren’t asking these questions before we started the questions night. They knew they could always ask us questions, but that doesn’t mean they actually did. Setting aside a special time for questions opens the doors of communication in ways that don’t necessarily happen otherwise.

These question nights have facilitated some of the most important conversations we have ever had with our kids.

Here are 9 tips to help you get started with your own!

 

1. You don’t need to know how to answer all your kids’ questions before you launch your questions night.

Whenever I mention to someone that we have a questions night, the first response is always, “I don’t think I could answer my kids’ questions!”…followed by an uncomfortable laugh. If that’s what you’re thinking as you read this, please don’t let that concern stop you from doing it! You will never know how to answer all of your kids’ questions. No matter how prepared you are, they will ask questions you’re not sure how to answer…so there’s no point in waiting.

 

2. When you don’t know an answer, there’s no need to be embarrassed…just use it as a chance to teach your kids how you find answers yourself.

I’ll never forget one of the first questions my daughter asked: Why did Jesus have to be baptized if He wasn’t a sinner?

I have to admit I had never thought about that (if you’re interested in the answer, here’s a nice quick article). I laughed and told her that was a really great question that I hadn’t even thought about. Then I showed her how we could use my study Bible to find an answer.

Here’s the thing to remember: When your kids stump you, they’re proud of themselves…not ashamed of you. Praise them for asking a great question, then use it as an opportunity to demonstrate how to find the answers together. My kids love thinking of questions so good we can’t answer. And we love it too.

 

3. Explicitly tell your kids that any question is OK.

If your kids are old enough that they may have doubts about their faith, they may not open up with those questions by default. Other kids might fear their questions are too basic and won’t want to admit they don’t understand something they feel they should. Be sure to explicitly tell your kids up front that all questions are welcome and you’ll never bedisappointed by or angry about something they want to know.

 

4. If you think your kids might need time to warm up to the idea of asking questions, have some ready to go in advance.

If you’re not sure that your kids will hit the ground running with the new questions night, pick a couple of interesting questions in advance to throw out on their behalf. That way you won’t be sitting around awkwardly staring at each other in silence. If you need some ideas, check out my list of 65 questions every Christian parent should learn how to answer.

 

5. If you have more than one child, “open the floor” to questions but make sure everyone has the chance to ask something.

When we first started doing this, we went around in a circle, having each of our kids ask a question on their turn. The good side of doing it that way is that it encourages everyone to be thinking. The bad side is (1) that it can kill the momentum of the night if one kid is not feeling particularly thoughtful (everyone will be sitting around waiting for them to come up with something), and (2) that if your kids are competitive (as mine are), they’ll spend more time thinking up a good question for their impending turn than listening to the current discussion. We found the whole night flows better when you simply let everyone throw out questions as they have them. Just make sure that if someone didn’t ask something on their own, you give them the chance to.

 

6. Don’t assume young kids don’t have big questions to ask.

For a while, it was only my twins (age 6) asking questions. My 4-year-old rolled around on the floor, seemingly bored by the more “advanced” conversation going on around her. When I asked her each time if she had a question, she gave me an embarrassed look and said, “Nooo!” She was intimidated by the questions from her older siblings.

But one night she finally spoke up and said she had a question.

“Mommy, why did God create soldiers who kill people?”

I was more than surprised that this was a question on my 4-year-old’s mind (I still don’t know where it came from).

If you have young kids, don’t assume they don’t have big questions. Kids as young as 3 or 4 can benefit from doing this! It might take time for them to speak up, but you just might be surprised how much they’re already thinking.

 

7. When your kids ask a question that the Bible doesn’t clearly answer, be honest about that and use it as a key teaching opportunity.

Quite often, I find myself answering a question with “the Bible doesn’t tell us for sure” or “the Bible doesn’t give us all of the details on that.” For example, my kids often ask questions about heaven—what it will be like, what we’ll be doing, etc. I tell them that the Bible doesn’t give us all the details, and that there are many things like that.

But I don’t like to leave it there. I think it’s an important time to teach them about the three points I described in my post, How to Handle Questions God Didn’t Answer: God’s revelation is not broken, we can trust that God has revealed all we need to know, and it should be our life’s work to understand the answers He has given us.

 

8. When your kids ask a question that’s been a struggle for you personally, tell them as much.

This might sound counter-intuitive, but I actually love when the kids ask something that’s a difficulty in my own faith. As for many people, the problem of suffering in the world has always greatly troubled me. When the kids ask questions on this subject, we discuss free will and its implications, but I’m quick to tell them that this has always been hard for me (and many others) to understand. I explain to them that it’s easy to look at those things and see them as evidence against God. I’m very honest about it. But after I acknowledge that, I use it as a perfect opportunity to talk about how much evidence there is for God and why we are Christians despite those difficulties.

Getting real about your own faith challenges gives you credibility with your kids and helps give them a more realistic understanding of what a living, breathing faith looks like.

 

9. If you miss a week…or two…or three…don’t give up on it.

There was a period of about a month when we got busy and didn’t do our questions night. It would have been easy to let it go at that point. But when we told the kids one evening that it was time to do it again, they cheered and all ran into the living room to sit down. They started waving their hands in the air to be the first to ask something. And we literally couldn’t stop the questions from coming.

After just one month.

Again, they could have asked us those questions at any time. They didn’t need a “questions night.” But in the hustle and bustle of life, those questions often don’t naturally arise. So give it a try in your own family. It could completely transform your kids’ spiritual life.

 

Here’s a challenge to all of you as an easy start toward this. Ask your kids today, “What is one of the biggest questions you have about God, Jesus, or the Bible?” Come back and share what they asked and what happened in your conversation!

 

For more articles like: How to Get Your Kids to Ask More Questions About Their Faith visit Natasha’s site at ChristianMomThoughts.com

How Can Students Stand Strong for Their Faith in College?

Students: Are you prepared for the spiritual, relational, and moral challenges that will come after high school? What is your plan to stay strong for your faith in college? It’s heartbreaking to see Christian high school students disengage their faith and the church in college. While the numbers have often been manipulated and overstated, there is certainly a genuine concern about students leaving the faith after high school. If you think it couldn’t happen to you, and that you’re somehow immune, then you probably haven’t seriously considered the challenges that lie ahead.

Problem of Understanding

The purpose of this post is not just to help you survive in college, but to help you thrive in your faith during these formative years. There is no reason so many students need to disengage their faith and the church. If you are a student, then these six points are meant to help you stand strong for your faith in college. If you’re not a student, then please pass them on to a present or future college student that you know:

  1. Determine in your heart that ahead of time that you will stand strong. One of my favorite characters in the Bible is Daniel. Even though he was surrounded by pagan influences in Babylon, and he obviously wanted to fit in and be successful with the king, he refused to compromise his convictions by eating non-kosher food. He had every reason to compromise—money, power, influence, status—but he had already decided that his first loyalty was to God: “But Daniel determined in his heart not to defile himself” (Daniel 1:8). If you want to have a successful faith in college, it begins by going into college already determined that you will follow the Lord.
  1. Find good Christian friends. The Bible has much to say about the power of friendship. For instance, Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” It is certainly important to make friends with non-Christians, but you must surround yourself with some fellow believers who will pray for you, encourage you, hold you accountable, hang out with you, and strategize together about how to reach your campus for Christ.
  1. Find Christian professors. There are good, solid, caring Christian professors at even the most secular schools. They may be hard to track down in some cases, but I guarantee you they are there. It would make sense to begin with professors in your department of study, but if you can’t find any, then branch out. While there may be a few exceptions, I guarantee you that most Christian professors would be thrilled to pray with you, guide you, and possibly even mentor you. Visit them in their office hours and get to know them on a personal level. They’re a resource waiting to be tapped!
  1. Join a Christian group on campus. There are tons of great Christian groups on campus, such as Cru, Navigators, Ratio Christi, and InterVarsity. Many universities also have church groups that meet at or near campus. Find out about these groups online, during an on-campus club fair, or from other students. Here are a few things to do: (1) Contact one of the leaders and introduce yourself, even before you show up on campus, (2) Visit a meeting, and (3) Talk to other students about the group.
  1. Keep in contact with key people from home. While it may be tempting to sever ties when you leave for the “real world,” be sure to stay in touch with key people from home town, such as pastors, youth pastors, teachers, coaches, and other caring adults. I love it when my former high school students drop by to say hi or meet me for coffee. Make it a priority to stay in touch with them from time to time. They know you well and can be an important source of encouragement and strength.
  1. Go to Summit Ministries. Students often ask me what I consider the single most important step they can take to be prepared to thrive in college. My answer is simple: Go to Summit Ministries. In case you’re not familiar with Summit, it’s a 12-day intensive (but fun!) apologetics and worldview experience for students ages 16-22. Conferences are held in Tennessee, Colorado, and southern California. In fact, I personally host the California conference at Biola University (June 19-July 2). Summit brings in the best Christian speakers to help students learn to think Christianly about the toughest issues of our day including politics, the existence of God, economics, theology, the reliability of the Bible and more. I regularly meet students who consider attending Summit a “game-changer.” It’s simply a must for students who want to develop a Christian worldview in order to thrive in college.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 15 books, and internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org

 

 

65 Apologetics Questions Every Christian Parent Needs to Learn to Answer

By Natasha Crain

In prior posts, I’ve talked about why parents have to care about apologetics (the reasoned defense of Christianity) and I’ve shared resources for getting started with apologetics. I realize, however, that it can seem pretty ambiguous to have a goal of “learning apologetics.” We need to know the specific questions we most need to study and discuss with our kids; the ones that non-believers most frequently challenge Christians on and the ones that most frequently turn young adults away from faith after spending 18 years in church.

That’s the purpose of this post.

I want to give you a very specific list of 65 apologetics questions every Christian parent needs to learn to answer and discuss with their kids (in age appropriate ways). Of course, any such list is subjective. I created this list based on my own study and experience with engaging in these topics, with a special emphasis on the issues challenging young adults today.

You may not think I’ve narrowed it down much by giving you 65, but there are hundreds of questions that could have been listed! In case this looks overwhelming, I’ve highlighted in red my “top 20.” Start with those if you’re new to these topics.

I encourage you to take some time and challenge yourself here. Read each question and give yourself a “point” for each one you feel you could thoroughly answer. What would your score be if you had to answer these questions today?

 

Questions About the Existence and Nature of God

1. What key arguments are there for (and against) God’s existence?

2. What are the practical implications of an atheistic worldview?

3. Why would a good God allow evil to exist?

4. Why would a good God allow suffering to exist?

5. Why would God command the death of so many people in the Bible (e.g., the Canaanites)?

6. How can a loving God send people to hell?

7. Why does God remain so “hidden?”

8. Why does the “Old Testament God” seem different than the “New Testament God?”

9. Why would God need people to worship Him (isn’t that egotistical and arrogant)?

 

Questions About Truth and Worldviews

10. What is the difference between absolute and relative truth?

11. How can it be reasonable for Christians to claim knowledge of an objective truth?

12. What is the role and danger of using “common sense” in evaluating truth claims?

13. Isn’t hell an unreasonable punishment for not believing in a specific set of truth claims?

14. How can Christians think their personal religious experiences with God are any more “true” than those of adherents to other belief systems?

15. Do all religions ultimately point to the same God? Why or why not?

16. What are key similarities and differences between the world’s major religions (e.g., Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism)?

17. Is Christianity a less intelligent worldview than atheism? Why or why not?

 

Questions About Jesus

18. What extra-biblical evidence is there that Jesus existed (as a historical person)?

19. What major Old Testament prophecies did Jesus fulfill?

20. Was Jesus wrong about the timing of his second coming? Why or why not?

21. What are the key passages in the Bible that show Jesus claimed to be God?

22. What does the Bible say about the exclusivity of Jesus with regard to salvation?

23. Why did Jesus have to die on the cross for our sins to be forgiven (couldn’t God have just pardoned sins without a gruesome death involved)?

24. What are the four minimal facts of the resurrection that are “so strongly attested historically that they are granted by nearly every scholar who studies the subject, even the rather skeptical ones?”

25. What are the main theories non-believers have about the resurrection (e.g., unknown tomb, wrong tomb, disciples stole the body, authorities hid the body, etc.)?

26. Why do Christians believe a supernatural (bodily) resurrection explains the minimal facts better than all the other theories?

27. Why does it matter whether or not Jesus was resurrected (and that the resurrection wasn’t simply a metaphor)?

 

Questions About the Bible

28. Who selected what books are in the Bible?

29. How were the books of the Bible selected?

30. Why were some “books” we know about today (e.g., the Gospel of Thomas) left out of the Bible?

31. How can we know that the Bible we have today is a reliable record of the original writings?

32. What major “contradictions” exist in the Bible (and what are the explanations)?

33. Does the Bible support slavery? Why or why not? (Don’t laugh at this and the next two questions…these come up constantly in discussion with atheists.)

34. Does the Bible support rape? Why or why not?

35. Does the Bible support human sacrifice? Why or why not?

36. What does the Bible say about homosexuality?

37. How do Christians determine what parts of the Bible are prescriptive and which are descriptive?

 

Science and Christianity

Young Earth Creationism

38. What is Young Earth Creationism (YEC)?

39. What are key pieces of scriptural support for the YEC interpretation of creation in six 24-hour days?

40. How do YECs determine that the earth is 6,000-10,000 years old?

 

Evidence for an Old Earth (i.e., billions of years old)

41. What areas of science have implications for the age of the earth?

42. What are major methods scientists use to estimate the age of the earth, and what is their consensus on the estimate?

43. What is the relationship between belief in a global flood and the age of the earth?


Old Earth Creationism

44. What is “Old Earth Creationism (OEC)?”

45. What are the major reasons OECs reject the YEC interpretation of creation?

46. What are the key pieces of scriptural support for the OEC interpretation?

 

Intelligent Design

47. What is Intelligent Design?

48. Why do Intelligent Design proponents consider it a scientific theory and not a religious one?

49. What are the major reasons Intelligent Design proponents reject evolution as a sufficient explanation for the existence of life?

50. What does it mean that the universe appears to be “finely tuned?”

 

Evolution

51. What is evolution (from a purely scientific perspective)?

52. What are the key pieces of evidence for evolution?

53. What are the key questions evolution has not answered?

54. What do people mean when they talk about “macroevolution” versus “microevolution”?

55. Why do evolutionists reject the theory of intelligent design?

56. What are the theological implications for an acceptance of evolution?

57. What are the theological implications specifically for Adam and Eve not being literal, historical people?


Other Science and Christianity Questions

58. Why would Jesus-loving, Bible-believing Christians differ on their view of origins?

59. How can Christians believe miracles are possible, given what we know about science (e.g., the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection)?

 

Other Important (and Common) Questions

60. What does it mean (biblically) to have faith, and how is that different than the popular definition of faith?

61. If Christianity is true, why are there so many Christians whose lives look no different than those of non-believers (aren’t many Christians hypocrites)?

62. Why are there so many denominations (and does the fact of many denominations invalidate the truth of Christianity)?

63. Is Christianity “responsible” for millions of deaths throughout history? Why or why not, and what implications does the answer have for the evaluation of Christian truth claims?

64. What happens to people who have never heard the Gospel?

65. Why don’t miracles happen as frequently today as they did in the Bible?

 

You needed something to work on in 2016, right? I know I have my work cut out for me! I’ll be blogging about these topics over time, with my usual emphasis on delivering the message to our kids. Want to be sure to see each post? Sign up for my email list below!

Does anyone want to share their “score?”  Are there questions that stand out to you which aren’t on my list? Please add them below!

“Editor Note: Natasha Crain’s book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith, provides answers to 40 of these questions, written specifically for parents. The book will be available March 1, 2016.” (You could either link to Amazon, or to my landing page: www.keepingyourkidsongodsside.com.)

 

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