Updated: Jan 28, 2022
Learning to ask good questions is an important skill for everyone to learn, especially followers of Jesus. It not only helps us think well, it’s how Jesus engaged people. (The two historical thinkers best known for asking good questions are Socrates and Jesus. Not bad company!)
Asking good questions is particularly helpful when engaging other worldviews and those who hold them. Worldviews are connected systems of beliefs, values, and commitments, and we misunderstand them when we’re not aware of those connections. Asking good questions helps bring them into view.
At the heart of each worldview, such as Theism, Naturalism, or Pantheism, are core beliefs—central truth-claims that define that worldview over against all the others. The most core or central belief in any worldview is its belief about ultimate reality. According to theists, ultimate reality is an infinite, personal God who created and is actively engaged with all else that exists. Naturalists hold that ultimate reality is “nature”—physical “stuff,” matter in motion. Pantheists believe, like theists, that ultimate reality is divine. But, for pantheists, the “divine” is non-personal (not a creator or agent) and equivalent to all else that exists (“pan” in Greek means “all” or “everything”), something like the Force in Star Wars.
Thus, although both theists and pantheists “believe in God,” they have very different understandings of what “God” means or refers to—very different worldview assumptions or presuppositions—which make a significant difference in the beliefs, values, and commitments of the worldview as a whole. Asking good questions is crucial for engaging views like this meaningfully and effectively.
What are some good questions to ask?
What do you mean by “God”?
Why do you hold that view?
What do you think follows from that belief, for how you understand the rest of reality and live your life?
Asking good questions helps us go beneath the surface of conversations, uncovering underlying assumptions and presuppositions, which is exactly what we need to do if we are to engage other worldviews well.
David A. Horner, D.Phil. is Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.
For more of Professor Horner's work:
Horner, David A., Mind Your Faith: A Student’s Guide to Thinking and Living Well