Answers without questions are like trees without roots

Written by on August 7, 2018

I recall in my mid-twenties sharing my faith story with a very wise man. After listening attentively for 20 minutes or so, he responded with a few affirmations and observations and prayers for me. His one observation that still lingers with me today is this: “Rob, seems like growing up you knew all your answers before you knew what your questions were. I suspect your formation into Christ is going to involve growing into your questions.”

His words have consistently rung true over the last 20 years or so; this “growing into my questions” has often been the way the Spirit has met me and shaped me. Both in my own formation and in walking with other friends I have been struck by the critical importance of making space that helps others grow into the central questions and deep need of our lives.

In my reading this week I recalled that encounter of some 20 years ago, and found myself pondering the subsequent path his words provided, a fruitful and generative path I find myself on still. I have been re-reading a very thoughtful and challenging book by Tomáš Halík, entitled Patience with God: The Story of Zacchaeus Continuing In Us.  Halík’s words have reminded me of many things this week, particularly the importance of dialogue in connecting truth and life. So here is a particularly thought-provoking section of the first chapter that is worth reflecting upon as we consider our own faith journey or as we give guidance to others. 


Halik writes,

I once saw on the wall of a Prague subway station the inscription “Jesus is the answer,” probably written by someone on the way back from some high-spirited evangelistic gathering. Yet someone else had aptly added the words: “But what was the question?” It reminded me of the comment made by the philosopher Eric Voegelin that the biggest problem for today’s Christians wasn’t that they didn’t have the right answers, but they’d forgotten the question to which they were the answers.

Answers without questions—without the questions that originally provoked them, but also without the subsequent questions that are provoked by every answer—are like trees without roots. But how often are “Christian truths” presented to us like felled, lifeless trees in which birds can no longer find a nest?…

It takes the confrontation of questions and answers to return to a real meaning and dynamic to our statements. Truth happens in the course of dialogue. There is always a temptation to allow our answers to bring to an end the process of searching, as if the topic of the conversation was a problemthat has now been solved. But when a fresh question arrives, the unexhausted depths of mysteryshow through once more. Let it be said over and over again: faith is not a question of problems but of mystery, so we must never abandon the path of seeking and asking. (Tomáš Halík, Patience with God)

Questions to ponder:

  • In the Christian life, how can we have the “right answers” but have forgotten the question to which they were answers?
  • What is a fresh question in your life that is drawing your attention? Through this question, could the Spirit be trying to more deeply connect truth and your life? How so?





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