Charlton on questions

Bruce Charlton writes:

“Q: Is asking questions good or bad?

A: Neither: it depends on the reason for asking.


I can perceive that the skeptical and questioning stance is a reaction to the amount of nonsense and dishonesty in the world; but it is the wrong answer.

What we should do about nonsense and dishonesty is ignore them[.]

He continues:

“The proper motivation for questioning is not from skepticism but from belief.

The essence of proper questioning happens when we question authorities that we trust, to discover more concerning that which we believe.”

I think there is a corollary to this: the essence of proper answering happens when we answer people who trust us, and who are asking to discover more concerning that which they believe. Otherwise, the best tactic for the would-be answerer – as Charlton notes in the case of the questioner above – is probably to ignore the questions.

One thought on “Charlton on questions

  1. Bruce Charlton

    Good point. And relevant to a politically correct world with increasingly totalitarian tendencies.

    People may find themselves in situations where giving a direct and straightforward answer will be heads you win, tails I lose.

    Many questions are purely aggressive acts. An explicit refusal to answer (polite, if possible) is probably the best general strategy.

    In effect every answer is like a contract, which binds you – and for which you are then held responsible; but if there is no answer then there is no contract. People may then do things *to* you but cannot excuse themselves with the claim that you did it to yourself. The thing is not to enter the arena – if you can avoid answering the first question you may be okay – because one answer leads onto another question, and then it can be very difficult to draw the line.

    (It is rather like dealing with cold callers – a complete refusal to answer any question or discuss anything will swiftly terminate the sales pitch – but any response to an initial query will mobilize the whole repertoire of engagement.)

    Jesus’s answers (or non-answers, or counter-questions) to the hostile authorities in the New Testament are remarkable examples of the way in which aggressive questioning may intend to trap (rather than to discover), and the way that honest answers may sometimes evade such traps – however, there are times when Jesus said nothing, perhaps because whatever was said would not be heard.

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