We hear stories of Christians deconstructing their faith regularly. While the reasoning given for their deconstruction might differ, the consistent theme in nearly every deconstruction story is some level of skepticism about the traditional claims and beliefs of the Christian faith. With such a common occurrence today, it can be easy for educators to seek to protect students from deconstructing their own faith. However, if we are not careful, we may actually stifle the most useful tool for preventing deconstruction in the first place: questions.
Students Want to Ask Questions
In the social media age, we are all bombarded with information. Much like food, we can have a healthy relationship with information, or we can have an unhealthy relationship with it. Brett McCracken writes about this in his book The Wisdom Pyramid, showing how just like with food, consuming too much information, consuming information too fast, or consuming only the information you want will ultimately lead to an unhealthy relationship with information. When you take in too much information, you cannot analyze It. When you take in information too fast, you cannot synthesize it; when you consume only the information you want, you cannot think critically about it. Ultimately, this leads to you not being able to think well about it.
Our students are children of the social media age and have grown up in this inundation of information, however they are not immune to it. Instead, they are unaware of just how affected they are by it, since they do not know anything different. They engage countless posts from influencers and personalities who do not share the Christian worldview, all while living in a home and attending a school that embraces the Christian worldview. The result of this clash will be dissonance in the mind of the student.
We all want cognitive rest—the experience of our thoughts working together in harmony. However, when we encounter something that challenges our thoughts, we experience cognitive dissonance—the uncomfortable feeling of our thoughts being out of alignment. As students encounter competing claims and struggle to think well about them in contrast to a Christian worldview, they begin to doubt and ask questions in pursuit of cognitive rest. Therefore, the questions they ask should not be discouraged or ignored, otherwise they will look somewhere else for the answers. Instead, we should engage their questions as a means of helping them to find the best answer.
Questions as Discovery, Not Deconstruction
Since questioning is a means of pursuing cognitive rest for students, it offers three particular benefits for Christian educators as they help shape the worldview of their students.
Questions are diagnostics for doubt.
The questions that students ask give insight into where they are in their spiritual maturity and what areas they are most in need of shaping in their own thinking. As they are free and safe to engage in their questioning, their doubts will come to the surface so that they can be addressed.
Questions are tools for discovery.
If questioning reveals doubts, then questioning is also a tool for discovery. Doubts are not a bad thing; denial is a bad thing. Doubts, however, are opportunities for discovery, learning, and maturity. As we encounter our own doubts and find good answers for our doubts, our faith is strengthened and our worldview is more solidified. Therefore, questioning might expose doubts, but it also leads to discovery.
Questions are opportunities for growth.
Since questioning exposes doubts and leads to discovery, it is also an opportunity for growth as we help students find meaningful and helpful answers to the questions they have. When students are guided in their questioning, the result can be a stronger, more robust faith.
Using Questioning to Shape a Student’s Worldview
So how can we as Christian educators use questioning to shape the worldviews of our students? How can we leverage the questions they are asking to not only show the superiority of the Christian worldview, but also the flaws and inferiority of competing worldview?
First, we can show that the reason why they are asking such good questions is because the Christian worldview is capable of answering even the deepest questions of life. While other worldviews do ask good questions, the fact that the Christian worldview assumes a knowable ultimate truth allows us to ask meaningful questions with confidence. Without truth, there can be no true answers; with truth, questions are a means of coming to a knowledge of the truth.
Show how the Christian worldview gives better answers.
Second, since the Christian worldview prompts better questions, it also inherently provides better answers. As students engage in their own questioning, we can show how competing worldview seek to answer their questions and can show that the Christian worldview provides better, more consistent, more practical answers.
Show how the Christian worldview produces a better life.
Lastly, when better questions are prompted and better answers are discovered, the result will be a better life. Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. James Sire, however, points out that for the naturalist, it is the examined life that is not worth living because the only conclusion for meaning in the naturalistic worldview is that there is no meaning. However, the Christian worldview shows us that a better life is a meaningful one in which we fulfill our God-ordained purpose of reflecting our creator for his glory and our good.
Although students are examining and questioning their faith, it does not mean that they will ultimately lose their faith. Engaging the questions of our students is not a gateway to deconstruction, but a means of discovery for a more robust Christian worldview. Questioning is a human experience. How can you engage questioning in your school?
Editor’s Note: Join Stefan at ACSI’s Flourishing Schools Institute (FSi), where he will be speaking on the flourishing construct of Questioning. The next FSi will be in Phoenix, Arizona on November 7-9, 2023. Register your team today!
About the Author
Stefan Wilson is a teacher, pastor, and speaker specializing in worldview belief-shaping. He holds a Masters from Phoenix Seminary in biblical communication and is a PhD candidate at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Based out of Gilbert Christian Schools in Gilbert, AZ, Stefan is a voice for Colson Educators and works with Christian schools across the country, helping teachers and administrators teach and lead from a biblical worldview.