I grew up in a Church that didn’t particularly love questions. I didn’t have the painfully alienating experiences many of my questioning friends had – at least not until I got older, but my inquiries certainly made me the weird kid who cared about a lot of stuff no one else wanted to waste time on.
Today, the Church is a different place. We’ve watched our inability to engage questions drive young adults out of the church in droves, so at least some of us are trying to make the Church a safer place to ask questions. Leaders like Rob Bell and Pete Rollins challenge us to embrace the journey, not rush to the destination, to prize the process of asking questions as its own good.
A questioning faith has always resonated deeply with me. But it’s dangerous, too.
I don’t mean dangerous in an anti-intellectual way: I was once asked if my education made it harder for me to love Jesus. And the denomination I’m a part of now – the Church of the Nazarene – has always had a strong anti-intellectual strain at odds with its deep commitment to great education.
In his new book, The End of Our Exploring, author Matt Anderson powerfully encapsulates the real danger inherent in questioning:
There can be no “merely” or “just” of our questioning. Such qualifiers indicate that we think our inquiries are somehow exempt from sin and temptation. It would be convenient to think that our questions are immune from the fundamental conflict of right and wrong, that they are quarantined from the possibility of confession and repentance. But the first moment of questioning well is the recognition that as a human endeavor, our questioning is fallen and broken, entangled with sin and in need of reformation.
Our questioning is as fallen as all our other faculties. This is at once an affirmation of the beauty of questioning – we were created to question! – and a confession that we are broken.
It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Matt Anderson. His blog Mere Orthodoxy is on my must-read and frequent-share list. And his first book, Earthen Vessels, is criminally underread and ignored to our peril.
I was expecting The End of Our Exploring to be great. But that observation – about the fallenness of our questioning faculties – was one of those paradigm-altering moments for me.
It at once affirmed everything I had suspected deep in my bones about people like me (and most of my friends) who question everything, and named the real dangers I’d always sensed but couldn’t verbalize.
The rest of The End of Our Exploring is a beautifully and powerfully written exploration of exploring. Matt questions our questioning. His discussion of the difference between doubt and questioning is particularly helpful. Matt identifies Doubt as a posture we assume toward the world, a commitment to be uncertain. Questioning, on the other hand, is a journey we undertake, a journey grounded in a deeper certainty.
Matt calls Christians to ground our questions in the historic faith of the creeds.
Ultimately, all our questions explore spaces God already inhabits. All our seeking is ultimately seeking God. The End of Our Exploring asks us to consider how to question in a world where we see as in a mirror dimly, where we will not finally have all the answers until the End, when Jesus is revealed and we know as fully as we are known.
Matt weaves theology, Church history, personal experience, pop culture and practical advice into my first must-read book this year.
The End of Our Exploring isn’t a perfect book. You won’t agree with every statement. But Matt didn’t intend it that way. As with any good question, this book is the beginning of a conversation. The beginning of a journey. The highest praise I can give this book is that I immediately bought it for six of my friends and can’t wait to join all of them in becoming a better question-asker.
Bottom Line: If you’re a person who asks questions, The End of Our Exploring will help you question better. Get it. Read it.
YOUR TURN: What did you think of The End of Our Exploring? Do you consider yourself a question-asker?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”