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  • Writer's pictureJohn Kim

The Value of Questions

Jude 1:22 “And have mercy on those who doubt.”

I once brought Kyan to an enrichment center and waited patiently in the hallway. Anxious to see how he did on his first day, I burst into the classroom upon dismissal and asked the teacher. She responded “well, good… except you know… he kind of asked a lot of questions.” Her face squinted in an apologetic air, as if she just announced that my son had no hope of amounting to anything.

This response shocked me, because I’d been raised with the idea that questions are a good thing. I see with the founders that I work with, that when they question things, they build great companies. When they doubt the assumptions of the status quo, it serves as a doorway to the magical.

I had an Israeli friend over for a playdate with our kids this weekend, and when another friend asked him why it was that Jews were so successful, he responded that “it’s because we’re taught to think outside the box and question everything. A rabbi will often pit two of his students against each other in an argument about a particular passage, and when they’re done duking it out, he’ll reverse their positions and have them duel the other side. The commentaries on Torah fill infinitely more volumes than Torah itself, because scholars constantly question why this verse was included, or how the lesson would have shifted if this circumstance changed, or whether an accepted interpretation needed a revolutionary overhaul.”

If Jesus came from such a rich spiritual tradition of questioning, why is it that doubt and questioning are off-limits in many of the institutions that bear his name? My sense is that many pastors have a lot more doubts than they’re willing to let on, mostly because they feel it's unsafe to share within the walls of the church. I’ve heard of several pastors who got fired when they expressed some doubts to their leaders. Many of those pastors then become vocal opponents to doubt and questioning when approached by struggling congregants. Many of those congregants then turn away from faith altogether.

I believe more churches and more people are becoming more open to approaching doubt head on… even seeing it as a blessing. We have a long way to go, but I’m encouraged by that.

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