5 Strategies for Tough Questions–Part 3: Points to Ponder

Imagine a universe with no end. A universe that goes on and on forever. Right now. Do it. Ok, now imagine a universe with an end. You get to the edge of the universe, there is a big wall, and on the other side, there is nothing. Which is harder to imagine, a universe with no edge, or a universe with an edge?

Rock Climber

(Photo by escultura on http://www.sxc.hu)

There are things our brain can’t understand. There are questions that can’t be solved in 30 seconds or less (or even 30 minutes, for that matter). “What about evil and suffering in the world?” “How can you claim you have the only way to God?” “Aren’t Christians just a bunch of hypocrites?”

A hard question rarely has easy answers. A hard question rarely has one answer. Answering a hard question is typically more like climbing a rock face than going up a step ladder. We find a toe-hold here, and a finger ledge there. We piece together metaphors and pictures and half-answers and partial glimpses until we reach a level of confidence (but rarely certainty). This isn’t because we’re lazy or stupid or guillible. It’s because a hard question is hard for a reason—no matter what answer you give to it.

A student asks about “all the evil and suffering in the world,” and we offer them Points to Ponder:

  • What would this world be like if God stopped all evil, according to His definition?
    •      You could never cheat on a test
    •      He’d stop you from being able to have sex outside of marriage
    •      Every time you try to lie to a teacher or parent He would make you tell the truth
  • How much evil is too much evil?
    •      Is 99 people dying ok, but 100 too many?
    •      At what age should people die? Is 65 too young but 70 ok?
    •      Which diseases are too evil, and which ones are ok?
  • What do you consider evil, and what do you consider ok? Where do you get those ideas from?

A student balks at the idea of only one way to God, so you offer them Points to Ponder:

  • How can the religions of the world be so different but all lead to the same god? Why would God tell each religion that only they are right? Doesn’t that make God just confused and unsure about himself?
  • Pretend for a second: What if there is only one true God? Would you want to know him? Would it be loving of me to tell you about him?
  • I’m not trying to convince you that my way is better than your way. I’m trying to tell you about the most incredible relationship I’ve ever had—my relationship with God. It’s so amazing that I just really want you to experience it.

Often, when wrestling with a hard question, we don’t need a signed and sealed, top to bottom answer.
We need Points to Ponder. We need toe holds and finger ledges.
We need someone to offer us a new angle or a new perspective so that we can piece together an answer.
We need nuanced answers to a nuanced question.
We need meaningful dialogue.
We need someone to listen, and to think with us.

Have you ever given someone Points to Ponder?  How did they respond?

(This post is part of a series on 12 Questions Young People are Asking. Here is Part 1 and Part 2. To get a sneak peak on the 12 Questions, sign up to receive my free e-book on the right sidebar.)

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