In our culture we can tend to romanticize the practice of asking questions. We like to deconstruct ideas. We like to reject easy answers. We like to question everything. Many of us have become expert skeptics. We are like Neo in The Matrix, questioning everything about reality.
Questions are good. Having an open mind is good. But as G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” There is nothing wrong with asking questions. But questions should be asked in order to seek out answers.
Lately in my personal Bible reading time, I have been journaling through the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. If any book of the Bible rejects easy answers, it is this book. The narrator deconstructs the truisms of life one by one, consistently repeating that many of the easy answers only lead toward futility.
If we are honest, we all know that there are times when we are asking questions in order to get answers, and there are times when we are asking questions just to complain. This is just as my children will sometimes ask why they have to do something, often not really wanting an answer. If you are a person who likes to poke holes and question closely-held beliefs, ask yourself if you are truly open to finding an answer to your question.
What strikes me about this sometimes-depressing book, however, is that the narrator is genuinely seeking answers. He is not simply complaining. After deciding that wealth and accomplishments and pleasure all lead to futility without God, the narrator makes a mini-conclusion in Ecclesiastes 2:24-26: “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
This section is profound to me because the narrator is not simply accepting an easy answer. And at the same time, he is not refusing to accept any answer, simply because he cannot find an answer that addresses every possible aspect of life. He recognizes that the world is a confusing place. He accepts the idea that there will always be some level of ambiguity in reality. But he does not allow this to keep him from seeking an answer. He is circling around, gazing down from his plane, not in order to criticize the runways, but in order to find a safe place to land.
And the narrator believes that the safe place to land is God himself. He believes that life cannot be meaningful apart from God. He believes that we can enjoy simple pleasures and gifts once we have embraced the goodness and power, and the mystery, of God himself. God is the solid one upon whom we close our open minds.
If you are currently questioning some big picture beliefs, then this doesn’t mean that you are doing anything wrong. It may simply mean that God has you on a journey and that you are being honest about that journey. My encouragement to you, however, is to ask questions in order to get answers. So, don’t just ask. Read good books. Have conversations with smart people. Pray for God to bring leading. Journal about your mini-conclusions. Don’t just circle the runway; search diligently, believing that there is a place to land.
There is nothing wrong with questions, and there is nothing wrong with an open mind. But as you seek truth with an open mind, look for the opportunity to close it on something solid.