When I first became a follower of Christ, I was not very biblically literate. I had a very basic understanding of the Bible as a whole. I knew the bullet points of how we historically got to Jesus and beyond to His Church, but I’d never really read Scripture and definitely hadn’t studied it.
I knew a few Old Testament and Gospel narratives from the several Vacation Bible Schools I had attended, but I had no idea how to study Scripture or how to discern false teaching. I needed to learn what kind of questions to ask of Scripture, of Christian content I found online, and of those around me.
But this isn’t just a post to teach new Christians how to engage with Scripture or learn from Christian thought leaders. I am sure that there is not a single person reading this who doesn’t have questions of eternal significance. Whether that question is rooted in prior knowledge, cultural context, a difference of religious opinion, or a crisis of belief, it is there. It is important that none of us shy away from asking questions.
Asking Questions to the Lord
I know that many people leave the Church because they feel like there isn’t space to question. When we look to the Bible, though, that is not what we see. There are many instances in Scripture where people directly question God. Job does this in the face of suffering (e.g., Job 3:11; 9:2; 14:14). Abraham intercedes for Sodom, asking God to spare them (Genesis 18:22–32). Even in the Gospels, at Jesus’ first miracle, Mary questions and pushes our Savior to begin His ministry here on earth (John 2:1–12). But I think one of the most important places we see someone question the Lord is in the Book of Habakkuk.
Habakkuk 1:2 says, “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and You will not hear? Or cry to You “Violence!” and You will not save?” And that is truly the first sentence we hear from Habakkuk. Throughout this short book of the Old Testament, Habakkuk wrestles with trusting in God’s plans while violence, destruction, and chaos reign all around him. He is trying to reconcile a good God in a world where sin causes so much pain. These are big questions, and God leads Habakkuk to greater faith through Habakkuk’s specific questions. The whole Book of Habakkuk shows us how faith can be grown in the midst of questions. If in God’s Word we see faithful people in their doubts ask Him questions, we can know it is good to ask them. If we weren’t ever supposed to have doubts or questions, these instances likely wouldn’t be in His Word. So ask away, and ask Him often.
Asking Questions in a Group Setting
One of the biggest things I had to learn in a group Bible-study setting was that I wasn’t the only one with questions. This may seem simplistic, but seeing others in my youth group asking questions made me feel like there was space for me to ask my questions. Sometimes, in order for others to feel comfortable speaking up, one person has to speak up to help others generate their own questions.
In my college classes, there was this mantra that you have to “take space to make space.” My peers asking questions showed me that I wasn’t dumb for not knowing what a miracle Jesus performed really meant or how we should see “I can do all things” as hope during rough times. While some of my questions may have been a little behind the rest of the group, they gave my peers the opportunity to answer and show friendship to me. Asking questions during Bible studies, small groups, or other appropriate events can feel intimidating, and sometimes it can feel like you don’t even know where to begin. Here’s my favorite starting question: “But how…?”
When I am in a group setting with a trusted leader and I ask “But how?” toward something I am not necessarily understanding, the whole group gets to dive deeper into what was just said. For me, a good “but how” question starting point is “But how does this matter?” or “But how does this affect how we think about Jesus?”
Asking Questions One-to-One
Even a few years into my walk with Christ, I was still feeling biblically behind. I felt like I couldn’t confidently study Scripture on my own. I felt good asking questions and learning in a group setting, but I felt like my personal study was lacking because I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. I felt like I needed another person to help me dive deeper; I wanted someone I could just ask my questions about Scripture and theology to. I ended up finding multiple people over the years who I felt comfortable asking my questions to and learning answers from.
Finding these people wasn’t hard, but it took a bit of guts. At different points in my walk, I did different things. Sometimes I asked peers to recommend verses to look at and then asked them questions about those verses. Other times, I looked for someone who was much further along in his or her Christian life to give advice or look over a piece of writing from a Christian-thought leader with me. But what was the same about all of the different people I asked questions with is that I needed to let them know I needed help. And you know what? It wasn’t embarrassing or awkward. I reached out in person, through text messaging, or even video chats, and just asked, “Hey, what’re your thoughts on…”
If you feel like you are in the place to be this person to someone else, then recommend resources to people in your community. You don’t have to have all the answers to be this person, you can start by investing in those around you. Ask people about what they’ve been reading, make suggestions, and let people know you’d like to study Scripture with others. Be an example of how questions do not make you “lesser” in church.
To recap: for those of you new to the faith, ask your questions to God, in groups, and to a person you can walk through questions with. You won’t look silly. God invites us to seek Him through our questions of Scripture. For those of you further in your faith walk, remember that you can continually ask questions and also find ways to grow faith in others. Take some space in Bible study this week to ask a question of the text and theology you are studying.
Start asking and answering questions with The Big Book of New Testament Questions and Answers.