DEVELOPING AN INQUIRING MIND
T. PIERCE BROWN
Those of us who preach and write need to make sure we preach and teach only those things authorized by our Lord. Those who hear and read need to take heed in two areas. Second in importance to taking heed WHAT you hear (Mark4:24) is the admonition to take heed HOW you hear (Lk.8:18).
Perhaps the most fundamental principle of learning is to develop and inquiring mind. I am persuaded that most normal little children have an inquiring mind. They want to know everything from “Why do rats have 4 legs?” to “What makes water wet?” I also think it probable that our social system, family style, teaching techniques and other things may tend to stifle or pervert this inquiring mind. Therefore we need to deliberately stimulate it, not only in our Bible classes, but also at home, school, and anywhere else.
In every class or situation where it can be done appropriately, the teacher should teach the students to ask the following kinds of questions about any situation in or out of the Bible: who, when, what, where, why, how, and so what? Not every one of these questions is pertinent in every kind of situation, of course, but if a teacher will ask, let the students know why he is asking, and encourage the students to ask these kinds of questions in their own study and in all other situations, he will find that his teaching has automatically become more productive, because he will have stimulated individual private learning and will multiply his class efforts many fold.
A word or two of caution needs to be given. First, NEVER discourage the asking of ANY kind of serious question. If the student asks, “Where did God come from?” do not EVER reply something like this, “That’s silly! Of course God did not come from anywhere. He always was!” If a person should ask, “How do you know there is a God?” do not ever reply, “Any fool can tell by the evidence there is a God!” or “A person with faith does not raise that kind of question! You must just take it by faith!”
Preachers can preach a whole series of sermons on almost any subject using these questions. Take such subjects as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, church music, giving, or most items of worship or service. What simpler, more powerful and easy to be remembered lessons can be found on baptism, than a lesson including “What is Bible baptism, and how do you know?” “Who is to be baptized?” “When?” “How is a person to be baptized, and why that way?” “Why is one to be baptized?” “Does every `why’ question have an `in order to’ as well as a `because of’?” “Do you need both? Why?” “For example, does one need to be baptized because Christ authorized and commanded it?” “Does he also need to be baptized for the remission of sins, in order for it to be valid?” “Can you think of one or more examples of where a person did something in order to please God who was, nevertheless, a sinner?” One can do the same kind of thing with any of the above subjects, and any number of others and have simply powerful, and powerfully simple lessons.
But the main point I am trying to emphasize now is that the preachers and teachers need to teach their students and audiences to raise these questions themselves about any subject they study. Whenever you preach a sermon or teach a lesson with this format, tell them what you are doing, and encourage them to do likewise in all cases.
If you are teaching about marriage, for example, either in class or private counsel, get them to ask, “Why should I?” or “Why not?” “To whom? why?” “When? Why?” (Note that “why’s” can be asked, not only about the original questions such as “Why get married at all?” to “Why to this person?”) But the point is, there is scarcely a Bible subject or a personal situation in life where it would not be profitable that these kinds of questions be asked, and an answer sought.
If we can help all others develop an inquiring mind, not only about what God said, but also about persons, jobs, and our relationships with them, thousands of problems could be solved more readily. For example, if you are involved in personal evangelism, you need to know, “Who or what is this person religiously?” “Why?” (You might just ask, “Why are you a _______?” Their answer might be revealing to them as well as to you!) If church members could be trained to do this on their own, they might not come whining around saying, “The elders haven’t given me anything to do.” They would be asking themselves, “What jobs need doing? Why? When? How can I best do them?”
Preachers, teachers, and all readers: In every class or situation where you can, encourage an inquiring mind and help others to develop it.