National Association of Christian Ministers

Answering His Call Is Our Purpose

How to Ask Questions

How to Ask Questions to Increase Understanding and Creativity  

How to Ask and Analyze

Some people have trouble understanding the value, or power of a question. However, a question is by far one of the most powerful ways in which a person can think. Consider for a moment the power of a few questions:

  • When I die, will I go to heaven?
  • Is God going to judge the world?
  • Is my money soundly invested in the stock market?
  • Do I have enough insurance?
  • Is my spouse cheating on me?
  • Will my children grow up and become model citizens?
  • Where did I come from, where am I going, why am I here?

As you can see, a question has the power to stimulate the mind in such a way that is both positive and negative. It can take the mind captive and fill it with fear, or it can liberate it with knowledge, wisdom, and new understanding. With the notion that understanding the power of a question, it seems reasonable to have a system by which to generate them. Listed below are five methods of questioning that will help us to understand why questions are important. If you apply these five questions to every topic in life you will have a system to analyze and understand the value of questions. This system will prove invaluable in your study of Theology, creative thinking, and problem solving skills.


Questions of Semantics:

What do words mean?

  • Example: What does it mean to love my neighbor? 
    • Is loving a strong liking, or a deep passions, or merely an emotion?
  • What is a lie?
    • Is a lie the stating of inaccurate information, or is it an intentional stating of false information?
    • Is a lie determined by the motive for passing untruthful information?  If I tell someone something that I thought was true, but really was not, have I lied? Or rather, must I intend to tell untruthful information with the motive to deceive in order to lie?


Questions of Epistemology
:

What does it mean to "know" something as opposed to merely having an opinion?

  • What do we know?
  • On what can we base certainty?
  • How do we know things?
  • How do we manage with uncertain knowledge?

 

Questions of Ethics:

What is right and wrong and the motivation behind choosing either behavior?

  • Am I my brother’s keeper?
  • Example: Murder is a crime against humanity.
  • Murder is wrong.
  • Why was the murder committed? The motivation behind the murder was envy.
  • How do we deal with this as a society?

It is important to note that there is a difference between ethics and morality and/or even law.  For example, prostitution may not be illegal (such as in Vegas), but it is immoral. The question of ethics is determined by the audience who will be influenced by the act in question.  For example, lets say a person went on vacation to a country where marijuana is not illegal. While there the decide to smoke some.  After returning to the US, they get drug tested at work and fail the test.  Have they acted unethically?  Should they be dismissed from their employment?

 

Questions of Axiology:

What is the value of choosing a right or wrong behavior?

  • Example: Stealing is wrong because it hurts others.
  • For this reason I will not steal.
  • Because I do not steal the value of my decision is that many people in the world will not be harmed by my actions.

 

Questions of Philosophy:

What is the wisdom that I can gain from experiencing, analyzing, or at least considering something?

Philosophy usually follows branches of thought.  Below is an example using theories of how we understand truth:

Theories of “Truth” (Adapted from The Handbook of Christian Apologetics, by Kreeft and
Tacelli.)

  • Pragmatic Theory -“Truth is what works.”
  • Empiricist Theory -“Truth is what we can experience or observe.”
  • Rationalist Theory -“Truth is what can be proved by reason.
  • Coherence Theory -“Truth is harmony among a set of ideas.”
  • Emotivist Theory -“Truth is what I feel.”