An Answer to Every Question

She had disliked the pervasiveness of Lutheran thought, especially the Calvinist faction, who seemed to have an answer to every question before it had even been asked.
Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card, p. 113.

I am presently reading the second book in the Ender’s Game series and I ran across the above quote. I don’t really know any Lutherans who would describe themselves as Calvinists (typically different traditions). I was, however, hit by the last sentence of this quote, “to have an answer to every question before it had even been asked.” It made me laugh because I have some good friends who are pretty strong Calvinists. One of whom takes me fishing and lets me deer hunt on his property and therefore I would never say anything bad about Calvinism. ūüėČ Truth be told the quote probably made me laugh because it hit close to home, even though I’m not a Calvinist.

1 Peter 3:15 says

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

This scripture says to be prepared to give an answer but it also tells us the specific question that we are to be prepared to answer (i.e. “the reason for the hope that you have.”) I don’t think that means that we need to pretend like we have all the other answers, because, truth be known, none of us do. If we pretend like we do then all we do is lie to ourselves and others. God and life are too mysterious and wonderful. We only know Him because He reveals Himself, not because we discover Him. If our piddly little brains can know and have ready all the answers then we have severely put God, and life, into a box. God is so much bigger than that. Ask me Who my hope comes from and I should be able to answer that on the spot, ask me another question and hopefully I take a bit longer.

The other thing about the above quote is that it makes me think that if we already have “an answer to every question before it [has] even been asked” it probably just means that we aren’t really listening to the question. It makes me think of those times that I become idiotic and focus more on how I am going to respond to something, than I do to actually listening to the other person in the conversation. Real dialogue (etymologically meaning “across speech“) and understanding fails to happen when I do this. When I am at my best I truly listen to what a person is saying, pause a moment or two to make sure I understand what they just said, and then I respond. When I am at my worst I am biting to respond before the person even finishes his or her statement. I am usually much closer to connecting with truth during the former and much further away during the latter.  As James says, we should be “quick to listen” and “slow to speak.” Sounds a whole lot like that whole “you have two ears and one mouth, and they should be used in that proportion” saying.

I think the next book I am going to read is Karl Barth’s The Humanity of God which I believe from the synopsis has some points similar to this. God is “wholly other” and thereby we only know Him through His self-revelation, rather than our own discovery. This knowledge of Him through revelation is an act of grace (undeserved) and therefore should produce grace and humility in us. Humility doesn’t pretend like it has all the answers. Pride does that. The humility that comes from knowing God through His self-revelation just points to Him as the answer.

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