Monday, August 13, 2012

BookPastor >> "The Sacredness of Questioning Everything" (David Dark)

TITLE: The Sacredness of Questioning Everything
AUTHOR: David Dark
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009, (272 pages).

This is a book that attempts to use questions to distill wisdom out of common wisdom, truths out of perceived convictions, and to re-examine our most commonly held assumptions. That we may seek out greater understanding and the nuances of it all. Learning to question everything is according to Dark, a sacred exercise. Sacred because questions do not undermine God, for God is much bigger than questions. Instead, through reverent asking and probing, one becomes more fascinated with truths that otherwise remain hidden under the lock and key of bigotry and closed minded positions. The author is quite comprehensive about his philosophy. He makes a case against the false god, the "Uncle Ben" who punishes anyone daring to question Him. Learning to ask questions of God is a form of deliverance because, "it begins with people who love questions, people who live with questions and by questions, people who feel a deep joy when good questions are asked." Some of the points he questions provide fodder for much conversation and in depth discussion. Sacred questioning according to Dark is likened to worship.

"The summons to sacred questioning - is a call to be true and to let the chips fall where they may. This call to worship is deeper than the call to sign off on a checklist of particular tenets of beliefs. It is also more difficult." (19)

Dark questions religion, especially those that claim to have ready answers, cures, answered prayers, and all kinds of affirmative steps to faith. He uses music and literature to appreciate the needs of humanity spoken through popular culture. For any religion to have greater meaning, it needs more deepening through questions. He questions those who are easily offended when their central tenets of belief are questioned. In a world that finds security in certainties, such questioning of these humanly held beliefs tend to expose their inner securities rather than openness to truth. He questions the way we let our passions flow, which more often than not, exhibit self-seeking motivations, lust and worldly perversions. Instead, he proposes any passion to be checked periodically so that we can be free from tunnel vision that we dig ourselves into. Dark even questions our tendency to rebuke media, and those who try to control media. "Real news, I believe, is whatever drives us to think again." Listen to these wise words about media.

"To maintain some grip on reality, we have to constantly remind ourselves that the news is never what happened. It's a story about what happened, and it is only rarely worthy of it's own advertising. News product, usually quick and dependably shallow, will usually be the opposite of 'in-depth coverage.' We know this is how it works. What are we left with?" (118)

He questions language, especially the way it promotes reductionism. Sometimes, the language we use tend to "reduce, degrade, and devalue human beings." Instead, one needs to allow questioning that "unsettles our assumptions, haunts our conscience, and reorients our attention by addressing us with a summons to love." (138)

I like the way he uses the question about agnostism when questioning the interpretations of ideas. When students were asked to define the word agnostic, instead of the commonly understood refusal to belief, it is actually the lack of knowing what to believe. Even governments are not spared in Dark's book. Governments who often issue ultimatums or instructions in the name of God or person, or policy, are actually getting people to serve their own cause rather than the cause they claim to fight for. Finally, Dark touches on eschatology, which to him is simply what "we have in mind" when thinking about the future end. Everyone has their own eschatologies. The economic policies, political campaigns, advertisements, even evangelicalism. Dark holds out an "emerging eschatology" that is more about sharing earth's resources rather than squandering them, ordering our economies through the lens of justice for all, and learning to build a sustainable future for all. Through questioning the norms, one learns to restore true awareness, humble the proud, be more self aware, and resist pet answers that seldom reflect truth.

"The questions make new worlds possible. Like well-told jokes, they let the air in. We get to put questions to each other and to the world we too often settle for. Questions make a way where we ofen fear there is no way in our families, our neighbourhoods, and in our complicated relationships with people around the world affected by our consumption, our selling, and our voting. There are better ways of being in the world that await us by way of the questions we have yet to ask. It is by questions that we are born again and again." (243)

My Thoughts

It is hard not to like this book. It is also hard to teach this book in a world so caught up with wanting to find answers instead of getting more probing questions. That is why this book is difficult to read, and more difficult to share with others. Having said that, it is an important device to question our own beliefs so that we can learn and understand the nuances of faith. Learning to ask questions is not doubting. It is finding greater authenticity in what we believe. It is shedding light on why we believe. It is demonstrating conviction in how we believe. This book is most effective when used as a paradigm against people who seem so cocksure in their approach to faith. Better still, it humbles the proud, and gives hope to the humble. That said, it is important to note the attitude we bring when we ask questions. How questions are asked is equally important, if not more crucial to the whole learning process.

The threat to our spirituality is not when we ask questions, but when we fail to ask the appropriate questions. Failure to ask questions only goes to create the seeds of doubt. Only when we learn to question our beliefs, we become ready to learn more. We are free from the tyranny of self-imposed bigotry, and free to see God for who He is, and not for who we 'want' Him to be. Be not afraid of asking questions.  Be humble when answering questions. Be on your guard when you face situations where people shirk, condemn, or dismiss your questions outright. There is nothing to hide, especially from people who are genuinely interested to know the truth, for the truth will set all free. 

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


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