Questions ain’t questions

soils truck

Growing up in Australia, I was used to seeing trucks from a company called “Soils Ain’t Soils.” Strange name for a company but I get it. They’re saying there are different types of soils, and some soils are better than others. The same could be said of questions.

Perhaps you’ve noticed an upsurge in the number of questions being asked by believers. More people are questioning things and this is a good thing. There is nothing wrong with asking questions. I love asking questions. I wrote a book full of questions.

But we need to take care that the questions we ask are good questions that lead to good places. You’ll never get the right answer if you ask the wrong question.

Good and bad questions

Did you know there are good questions and bad questions? Consider the following:

  • Do you know that you are married to the most amazing person in the world?
  • Do you know what your spouse really does when he or she goes out?

Here are two questions about your spouse. The first promotes love and confidence. “Yes, I know she is amazing! Thank you for reminding me.” But the second question promotes doubt and distrust. “Actually I don’t know what she does or where she goes. Why doesn’t she tell me? What is she hiding from me?”

See the difference? The way you feel about your spouse is partly based on the questions you ask yourself. Questions matter. A good question will bless your marriage; a bad one will curse it.

Recently I read a popular Christian book that was full of questions. I thought, What great questions! I can’t wait to see where this is going. But the questions weren’t answered and I was left hanging. I came away tossed and turned with a head full of useless thoughts.

I was reminded of some of the philosophy courses I took in university. Philosophers love to ask questions but sometimes their questions led nowhere at all. Questions ain’t questions.

What are good questions?

A good question is one that leads you to good places. Look at the questions Jesus asked and see if you can spot the pattern:

  • “Who do people say I am? Who do you say I am?”
  • “What do you want me to do for you?”
  • “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is he?”
  • “If God clothes the flowers of the field, will he not much more cloth you?”
  • “Which is easier to say: Your sins are forgiven? Or get up and walk?”
  • “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

See the pattern? Jesus’ questions were all designed to lead people to a greater revelation of himself and God’s grace. From this we can say that a good question is one which leads us to a deeper understanding of God’s love for us. Here are some more good questions:

  • “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psa 139:7)
  • “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom 8:35)
  • “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24)
  • The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Heb 13:6)

God made us innately curious because he knew our curiosity will ultimately lead us to him. Except that it won’t if we ask bad questions.

What are bad questions?

A bad question is one that leads to bad places. It causes you to draw on your own finite understanding instead of trusting in God and his unlimited understanding (Jer. 17:5-8). A bad question points you away from Wisdom, distracts you from Truth, and keeps you from finding the Answer. Here are some examples of bad questions:

  • “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22).

This question was intended to diminish the Son of God and put him in a box. Similar questions include: Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Isn’t he buried somewhere in Israel? Wasn’t he just a good teacher? Didn’t he have a wife? These sorts of questions do nothing but fuel uncertainty, inflame controversy, and kill faith.

  • “Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope?” (Job 4:6).

This question was intended to make Job examine his navel for sin and rely on his own self-righteousness. Similar questions include: Are you keeping short accounts with God? Have you confessed all your sins? Jesus died for you, what will you do for him? If you really loved God shouldn’t you be a missionary/go to Bible School/join our carpark team? These sorts of questions fuel self-trust and lead you away from the grace of God.

  • “Did God really say…?” (Gen 3:1)

This is the baddest question of all because it can cause you to distrust your Father and his good intentions toward you. Similar questions include: Can the Bible be trusted? Is it really God’s Word? Was everything Jesus said good? Did he even say those things? These sorts of questions lead to doubt and deception.


Religion vs philosophy

Religion discourages questions. Religion says, “Who are you to question God? Just believe.”

Philosophy, on the other hand, encourages questions but often does so from a close-minded presumption of unbelief. “God is dead” or “Jesus is something other than what the Bible says.” Any philosophical quest for truth that isn’t based on a desire to know the One called Truth will be marked by bad questions.

When he was in Athens, the apostle Paul visited the Areopagus, which was a place people went to have philosophical discussions (Acts 17:22-33). Paul preached the gospel and the philosophers mocked him. Others said “tell us more,” but Paul was done wasting his time and he left (v.33).

Social media platforms such as Facebook have become the new Areopagus. They are places people go to ask questions, debate, and discuss. If these discussions lead you to a greater revelation of Jesus, that’s a good thing. But if they waste your time and wind you up, that’s not.

D.L. Moody once observed:

There are two kinds of skeptics – one class with honest difficulties; and another class who delight only in discussion. … Men of this stamp used to hang around Christ to entangle him in his talk. They come into our meetings to hold a discussion. To all such I would commend Paul’s advice to Timothy: “but foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes” (2 Timothy 2:23).

Sometimes bad questions are sold with the line “they make you think.” But they don’t make you think, they make you doubt. They replace faith with uncertainty and distract you from Jesus. Have nothing to do with such questions and discussions. Be like Paul and walk away. Be like Jesus and ask better questions.

A big God prompts big questions

The universe is big and your Father is bigger still. We should have plenty of room for questions. As Bill Johnson says:

Mystery should be a continual part of your life. You should always have more questions than answers. If your encounters with God don’t leave you with more questions than when you started, then you have had an inferior encounter … It would help all of us a great deal if we had to walk out of a few more church services, scratching our heads, wondering what just took place.

We are defined by the questions we ask so ask good questions. And don’t be afraid to take your questions directly to the Holy Spirit. Jesus never said, “Facebook would guide you into all truth.” You have been given the Spirit of Truth. Ask him your questions.

Here’s my challenge to you: The next time someone puts a question to you, question the question. Is it a good question, worth investing in? Does it have the potential to take you someplace good? Or is it an unlearned and ignorant question, and something to avoid?

Any question that distracts you from Jesus or causes you to doubt his Word, is a bad question. It will take you places you don’t want to go just as surely as the serpent’s question took Adam and Eve where they didn’t want to go. We’ll learn more about the fruit of bad questions in my next article.


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28 Comments on Questions ain’t questions

  1. Love this one, Paul! I used to be terrified of asking questions because for some reason I thought it would insult God, or that if I didn’t just accept everything I heard without question I was a terrible Christian and therefore not saved. I would spend ages Google-ing things and trying to find concrete answers to all my insecurities. Now I know it’s much better to ask Jesus than Google, and that there are going to be things I’m unsure about in this lifetime. And I know my Father loves me no matter how many questions I ask, which is honestly one of the best aspects of the grace message (for me) so far!

  2. Thank you for sharing some great wisdom… Looking forward to the next one.

  3. Excellent article! What great points. I enjoy how you perfectly detail the religious mindset. perhaps this is why they continually believe all events in life have God’s hand or signature upon them. Disasters, tragic situations, death are not God’s acts! He is a good God!

  4. Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, That he not be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26:4, 5 NASB)
    I have never been strong enough to win a a fist fight so I always avoid one of those if I can but I myself am still a sucker for a question that picks a word fight. But a stupid question is hopeless.
    “Sin can be repented of but stupid is forever” Reverend Billy Sunday

  5. Great post!!

  6. love this! i was one of those kids that always had questions. my mom told me that one time she got so frustrated with me that she actually yelled at me to stop – she said i sat quietly for a few minutes – and then i asked her one more question : ‘can you just tell me everything you know? that way i wont have to ask you any more questions.’ lol!
    i still love asking questions. the best part now, is that God has all the answers and i know He never gets frustrated with me asking them 🙂

  7. i think you nailed it Paul, I have found that the more I realize how saved i am,the more my relationship grows, the more confident i am to question, and not be afraid to not have the answers,many times you realize the debates,questions, arguments etc,are ……..Much ado about nothing.

  8. Excellent and Useful post!

  9. I always ask questions but maybe lots of them are bad questions given in by bad theology or just my doubts. I have many doubts and they don’t help me.
    One of the ( I think now) bad questions some kind of theology asked me was is Jesus God himself or just man, or the son of God created before mankind ever was in Gods mind, like it was his first child his first born into creation and everything flow out of Christ into creation?

    could go on and on, but will stop here.

    • Taco- those are by no means bad questions my friend. The questions you ask about Jesus are the most important and the best questions anyone can ask. Your questions are an honor to Jesus.
      Also having doubts about Jesus is a normal part of the process of inquiring about Him. I know He will honor your honest questions and doubts about Him and make Himself known to you personally. He loves you enough to die for you and I assure you He will love you through your questions and doubts. Is Jesus God? He Himself claimed He was God. He proved it by his many miracles that only God can do and by his own resurrection from the dead . His death is a historical fact of history verified by even unbelievers of his day and by historians namely Josephus. His resurrection from the dead is also a fact of history verified by over 500 eye witnesses who saw him die and saw him alive after his death. Most of who gave their lives in order to maintain their testimony. A false witness would never die for their testimony but many of these eye witnesses died testifying they saw and spoke to Jesus alive after his resurrection from the dead. Was Jesus eternal? The Son of God always existed and it was through Him God created the universe but it wasn’t until the Son of God was born as a man through a virgin that He became Jesus the man. Since then Jesus has and will always remain both fully God and fully man.

  10. Hi Paul,
    Same history as so many.
    Many years in a works/grace mix. In my case. It was the saved/progressive sanctification model.
    7 years ago I got a hold of a book called “Grace Awakening”, which I read 3 times in a row. It resonated. It made sense, it changed my life. The truth was freeing. Up to that time, I saw the lake of grace as something you took a dip in when you needed it (lost your job, take a dive into grace, need saved take a swim in the lake of grace). But I found myself so far from the shore of not needing grace, I couldn’t see it, and didn’t want to. The prayer, “God, give be the grace to…” (Common in this church) no longer made sense because I lived and breathed it every moment. Stayed in that church and works/grace mix ministry for 5 years after that. And struggled a lot with the message. Read many books and taught myself.

    In the last year I have read many other authors including yourself and Andrew Farley. It truth that it’s all about what Jesus did and none of my effort. This message combined with the Holy Spirit will produce fruits which will produce good works.

    But (the verbal erasor 🙂 ), I’ve been reading your blogs. Really enjoy them, especially the comments sections. They often answer my questions. Under your heading of healing, you state it is dependent on degrees of faith, suddenly it sounded like 27 years of progressive sanctification. The more effort I put in, the more work that will be produced.

    I hope you understand the nature of my question and can give some clarity to this question. It’s likely in a blog somewhere already 🙂


  11. Could you elaborate on the difference that once we are saved, sanctification is complete, we can not earn, and do not, earn more righteuosness nor favor by our works nor our faith; yet with the discussion on healing, it does appear that the amount of faith we bring to the table appears to affect God’s ability to work through us?

    Realize this might be a misguided interpretation on my part. That’s why I am asking.

    Thank you,

    • Hi Jimmi, it’s a good question but not directly relevant to the post above. So I will direct you to some other posts on holiness such as this one and this one.

      Regarding healing, you may want to check out this book or this post. If you don’t find answers there, one of those posts would be a good place to pose your question because you will be entering a room of previous commenters with thoughts and insights on the subject.

      Regarding your earlier comment, which now makes more sense to me, I don’t think I have ever said it depends on your degree of faith. In fact, I’ve said the opposite.

  12. Paul,
    Thanks so much for the response.

    Btw: I sent a follow up, before your first reply, that apparently I did not send correctly. I reread my post and corrected that sentence. In that posting I stated that I didn’t like my sentence. I stated that it was a mis statement of my thoughts; that you did NOT make that statement, rather, I meant to say, that this was is my interpretation of the discussion. I wish you had seen that followup earlier because that was poor wording on my part. (Excuse: typing this I. My iPhone 🙂 ).

    Thanks again for the reply.

  13. michael jenkins // April 28, 2014 at 10:04 am // Reply

    Another great post, some questions are good, others are not.

  14. Andre van der Merwe // May 4, 2014 at 7:24 am // Reply

    There is no reason to HAVE TO have an answer for everything (that is, unless a person possibly fears the fact that there is no answer to their question?). Saying “I don’t know” is quite often the best possible answer there is. It’s no use speculating when there is no proof for your beliefs, because in the end they are just that: BELIEFS.

    Religion makes people addicted to being able to pull out the correct answer for everything, so much so that even when their answer is pure speculation, they will utter it with such conviction that there is no room left to reason about it.

    FAITH is “A” way of viewing the world, one which causes people to feel safe in the knowledge that there is an answer iut there, and eventually they will find it if they just keep looking hard enough. Logic and Reason on the other hand admits that some questions simply cannot be answered. I wrote a post the other day entitled “Faith, Blind Faith” (because that’s what you do when you don’t walk by SIGHT, right)?

    I encourage people to ask ANY questions, because as you said, God is big enough to handle any questions, right?

    Not trying to argue here, just encouraging critical thinking and wanting to hear your thoughts on it?

    • We may be talking about different types of faith. Blind faith, which is wishful thinking, is distinct from Biblical faith, which is a positive response to what God has said or done. Biblical faith is not the absence of sight any more than love is the absence of hate.

    • Andre- biblical faith is reasonable faith and it is knowable faith . Leaps of faith and blind faith is not congruent with biblical reality. While we do not understand everything regarding the faith we can know the faith.
      God calls us to “reason together with him. ” Isaiah He sends his apostles to “reason with people in the synagogue ” Acts. He gifts people within the church to equip people using sound teaching and biblical logic so that they may come to a mature, sound and thorough grasp of the faith Eph 4.
      To be sure not everything that can be known has been revealed but everything regarding the faith once for all handed down to the apostles from our Lord Jesus Christ has been revealed and is knowable.
      God has created mankind in such a way that unless his mind is convinced he cannot and will not believe. Repentance is not the absence of reasonable thinking . Biblical repentance is changing ones thinking from the unreasonable to the reasonable. Unless a mans mind is convinced by a faith that is rooted in biblical reason and he has his honest doubts and questions satisfied his faith in Jesus is at best shakey and at worst non existent. Blind faith is faith in nothing. Biblical faith is faith in that which is knowable and reasonable .

    • Here is a quote I have hanging on my wall. “God wants our faith based on trust not on what we can figure out.” A passerby may simply comprehend that as a call for blind faith. However in the context it was spoken to me a deeper meaning emerges. Human logic and reason want everything figured out, lined up, laid out explained. “Faith” in the sight, measured and known. However true faith is saying “I do not know or may not always know but I still trust…..” whatever the object of the faith is. That is the meaning of my posted quote. Faith is trust when we cannot figure it out. “I do not know” and choosing to trust any way.

  15. I have been asking the question “Did God really say…?” for many months and it is leading me out of legalism into grace! It’s not always a bad question! The teachings/interpretations I have been taught in a legalistic tradition for 20+ years are falling by the wayside, and I am happy I asked the question.
    I think this question is my attempt to separate God’s truth from the teachings of men. When a teacher is saying something that pulls me back under Law, I ask myself “Did God really say that?” and then I try to find a grace teacher to explain the verse from a grace perspective.
    And some of the answers have been found on this blog! Thank you!

  16. It helped me tremendously thank you!

  17. Bronnie Tait // February 21, 2017 at 6:08 am // Reply

    I love reading these and I send them to people to encourage them about the wonderful love of God

  18. How would I respond to someone who asks a bad question? For example (just one), if I talk about the resurrection or whatever and someone says, “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?”, how would I respond?

  19. Squawks 5000 // July 25, 2018 at 1:46 am // Reply

    Great post — especially for apologetics ones like me.

    Many of the Bible questions I face on a regular basis are designed to foster doubt, and I struggle with them a lot.

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