Paul L. Caron

Sunday, December 26, 2021

NY Times Op-Ed: Why Jesus Never Stopped Asking Questions

New York Times op-ed:  Why Jesus Never Stopped Asking Questions, by Peter Wehner (Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center; co-author, City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era):

City of ManTwenty centuries after his birth, Jesus still holds a revered place in the hearts of billions of people. I am among them. I imagine that it has influenced almost every area of my life, like food coloring dropped in water.

Among the things that have long fascinated people about Jesus and explain his enduring appeal is his method of dialogue and teaching. He asked a lot of questions and told a lot of stories in the form of parables. In fact, parables form about a third of Jesus’ recorded teachings. The Gospels were written decades after he died, so his questions and parables clearly left a deep impression on those who bore testimony to him.

Martin Copenhaver, a retired president of Andover Newton Theological School, claims in his book “Jesus Is the Question” that Jesus was more than 40 times as likely to ask a question as answer one directly, and he was 20 times as likely to offer an indirect answer as a direct one. “Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger,” T.S. Eliot wrote in “The Rock.” “Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.” ...

Kerry Dearborn, a professor emerita of theology at Seattle Pacific, told me that in terms of the ways in which Jesus communicated, “I’m convinced he used questions and stories as a means of connection and transformation — to awaken us, to whet our appetites, to invite us to draw nearer, that we might open up more fully to God and to God’s purposes in and for us.”

“With his use of everyday elements of life, people felt seen,” Ms. Dearborn added. “With his powerful depictions of a father who loves prodigals, tax collectors and Samaritans, people were comforted and felt safe enough to follow him. And hearing stories of the ways in which God stands on the side of the oppressed, people would know they could trust this God of both justice and love.” ...

Kate Bowler, an associate professor at Duke Divinity School who was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer at the age of 35, told me, “Jesus’ tender birth and violent death leave the problem of suffering unanswered until the end of days. We must learn to live and die in the not-yetness of suffering and empire, fear and uncertainty. But our questioning hearts in the face of evil is not an affront to faith. Jesus simply says: Wait. All will be revealed.” ...

Christmas is meaningful, for those of us of the Christian faith, because it situates each of our lives — the joys and the sorrows, the hope and the despair, the dramatic and the mundane — in a larger narrative: Not only did God author it; the son of God became a protagonist within it.

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