Creating the right question

I’ve heard it said that, in terms of relating the gospel to culture, the mistake that traditionalists make is that they give the right answers to the wrong questions; they’re answering questions that no-one is asking anymore. They’re tackling issues and fighting fights that belong to a previous generation.

If that is true, then there is another counter-balancing group of people who are giving the wrong answers to the right questions. They’re answering the questions that people are actually asking today. They’re seeking solutions that connect with real and current problems. However, the problem is that the answers and solutions they provide involve complete capitulation to the current mood of the culture. People are uncertain about ‘true truth’, so we need to make sure that we’re not too dogmatic about absolute truth. We need to find ways to include gay and lesbian people in our churches, and so we affirm those lifestyles without making a call to repentance. We’re answering the questions people today are asking, but our strategy is just to blend in.

On this paradigm, you would think that the way to go would be to concentrate on giving the right answers to the right questions—that is, work hard at carefully analyzing the questions that people are asking and the issues they are facing, and then provide them with sensitive, biblically faithful answers and solutions. Such truthful and confronting answers ought to show that only the gospel deals with these issues in a satisfying way.

That is certainly the right way to go, but it is only part of the solution.

In addition to giving people truthful answers to the questions they’re asking, we also need to help people ask the right questions. No-one of a particular generation or culture may be asking, “How can I be sure I will go to heaven when I die?”, but that is a question we want to encourage people to ask. It may be true that no-one is asking, “How can I receive forgiveness from God my Creator?”, but the solution is not to ignore that question and focus on the issues that are of immediate concern to people; rather, it is to show them from the Scriptures that this is the question they need to be asking.

As we wrestle with the difficult task of bringing the gospel to our culture, we can’t fall into the trap of allowing culture to be king. We can’t just be satisfied with resolving to give clear, biblical answers to the questions people have; we also have to be showing people the questions they ought to be asking.

One of the keys to doing this is the methodical and sequential exegetical preaching of God’s word. Topical preaching can be an excellent way to scratch where people are itching, but only the book-by-book exposition of Scripture creates the itches that people need.

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