There are almost always questions behind the questions.
Every parent knows this is true. For example, let’s say there is a plate of cookies on the counter. In your family of five, everyone has had their daily allotment of sugar, and there is only one cookie left. So the youngest child asks an innocent question:
“What’s going to happen to to the last cookie?”
Again, an innocent question. It’s a question seeking information. But it’s not the real question. The question behind the question is this: “Can I have the last cookie?”
Of course, as we get older, the questions get harder. More complicated. And yet there is almost always still a question behind those questions. And when we start to think about it, we can trace back those surface level questions, which usually deal with circumstances or information, to a very few but pivotal main questions. These base level questions are about the core of reality. They are questions about who we are, where we came from, and where we are going. They are questions about the nature of God and life itself.
Another example here – let’s say we look at some terrible issue of injustice or violence in the world today, and we wonder why it is happening. Though that’s certainly a valid question, we can still trace it back further, and somewhere close to the core, we get to another question:
Are human beings fundamentally good or fundamentally bad?
This is not a question about an individual circumstance; it’s a question about human nature. This is a question the Bible answers for us very clearly:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath (Eph. 2:1-3).
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned… (Rom. 5:12).
If the answer to that question is, sadly, that we are born in our sin, then we can start threading out the implications. But we can also confront one of the great ironies of modern thought. That irony finds its source in the opposite answer to that question, that the prevailing, though perhaps unstated, belief is that people are actually good in their hearts. The ironic thing, then, is that we think people are basically good and yet spend so much time trying to figure out why people are bad.
If, on the other hand, we accept the truth from the Bible that we are all corrupted by sin at our core, then we are ready to move into the corresponding truth which the Bible also gives us:
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous (Rom. 5:18-19).
Do we need to confront those surface questions of circumstance? Yes.
Do we need to work to bring issues of injustice to bear? Yes.
But we must not fail to trace those questions to the core and turn again and again to the answer – the gospel of Jesus Christ.