Navigating the Three Stages of Questions

Questions and Personal Growth

I’m a fan of questions. And they seem to be a fan of me too because they visit me daily. In fact, we live and even sleep together.

I wrote a book about this called Questions are the Answer. You should read it. I bet it would illuminate your own journey into QuestionLand.

questions are the answer book nakedpastor david hayward

Here’s just a brief section from the book about my theory of the three stages of questions that I believe we need to journey through:

I’ve drawn many cartoons on the subject of questions and their value.

Most of them are in this book. Questions not only open the door for answers, they also open the door to mystery and trouble. In fact, as many of these cartoons depict, asking too many questions or the wrong kinds of questions can get you into plenty of difficulty. So over the course of time I eventually came to detect that there are three stages of questions that I’ve journeyed through.

I picture a door on a hinge. The door is closed, swinging, or open. Like questions!

Closed Questions

The first kind of questions is closed questions. The answer to these questions is a simple yes or no. There are no other options but these two. It’s a very black and white world with no grays or shadows in between. It’s one or the other. I would characterize this period as a time of certainty and conformity.

Swinging Questions. 

The second kind of questions is swinging questions. The answer to these questions is yes and no. There are two options. Or maybe there’s another one we haven’t even considered yet. It’s still a fairly black and white world, but this world is getting more complicated with grays and shadows in between. I would characterize this period as a time of confusion.

Open Questions

The third kind of questions is open questions. The answer to these questions is that there isn’t an answer. Oh, there may be an answer, but we don’t know what it is, we don’t pretend that there is, and we remain open in order to discern it when or if it should arrive. I would characterize this period as a time of contentment.

 questions and personal growth cartoon nakedpastor david hayward

(Click on image for a digital download or click HERE!)

This is my journey through these stages of questioning.

Even though we may revisit the different kinds of questions at different times in our lives, I see these stages as delineating different passages of my spiritual journey.

Closed questions represent my immature spirituality. Swinging questions typified my growing spirituality. Open questions belong to my more mature spirituality.

I am not totally pleased with the word “stage”. These aren’t really places, but ways of seeing. Reality is not in the future waiting for us to catch up and arrive. It is here all the time, giving us clues to its truth if only we would see and embrace it. So, it is not reality’s elusiveness, but our resistance to it that is the problem. When I observe myself, I can say that I have been very reluctant to see throughout my life. I’m a slow learner. The clues were always there, but it took time to detect and then follow them to where they were leading me. This is the journey I want to talk about.

So… let’s take an example: the Bible.

The first stage of questioning would answer the question, “Is the Bible true?” with, “Yes, it’s literally true”, or “No, it’s not true at all!”

The second stage would answer this question with, “Well, do you mean historically or theologically? Parts seem true and other parts don’t. And what about other scriptures from other faiths? Are they true? I’m confused!”

The third stage of questions would answer this with, “What do you mean by ‘true’? It’s seems to me that even though it is historically questionable and even inaccurate, it carries a sense of truth. Kind of like mythology. Perhaps it speaks truth via the use of metaphor and myth. I no longer feel the obsession to prove the bible accurate or to compare it to the scriptures of other religions.” As the theologian Karl Barth said, “I take the Bible far too seriously to take it literally.”

This is a possible scenario.

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