“Have you stopped beating your wife?”That question is the classic example of a loaded question. It is already assumed in the question that the respondent at some point in the past is guilty of having beaten his wife. The question itself begs for a “yes” or “no” answer. Either make the respondent guilty.
Many of the questions in Christian books, small group studies, and Sunday school material reads like this question. At risk of side-tracking discussion, I will cite one question from Multiply by Francis Chan:
“Take a minute to think about your past experience with studying the Bible. Which of the wrong motivations listed above are you guilty of? Can you think of any others?”My only option is to admit guilt for one of the three. Could it be that God has rescued me from these? A question a few pages later says, “How do you need to adjust your approach to studying the Bible?” Could it be that I don’t need to adjust my approach? I know that we all probably need to adjust in small ways, but should it be assumed that I have wrong motivations in studying the Bible?
Listen, I am greatly benefiting from Chan’s book. It’s very helpful in many areas. I love the plan and it’s a great resource for doing discipleship. We will probably continue to use this. However, I am concerned about an unhealthy focus that this could instill. And this unhealthy focus seems to be in many books that are meant to help with discipleship.
Most material these days has a general feel that seems to come from the assumption that almost everyone and every church is blowing it in their Christian life. And let’s be honest—we do still have remaining sin and no church or person is perfect. There is plenty areas in which we aren’t matching up to what Christ has called us to.
Yet I wonder if such a focus might train disciples to think more about their failures than the work that Christ has already been wrought within us. I am not advocating erasing all of the questions that point to areas where we need growth. We need these questions. But we need another question added. We need to also ask, “In what way do you see God’s grace evidenced in your life?”
Let’s celebrate redemption at the same time we cry out for further rescue.