On Questions and Patience

The British physicist Andrew Steane has this to say about questions.

Questions should not be dismissed or discouraged, but sometimes answers have to be postponed, because the student has to first acquire the necessary conceptual apparatus in order to understand the very language of the answer. . . . [O]ne wants the student to . . . ask really probing questions, but one does not want the student to give air to mere vanity that declares it to be nonsense before it is even understood.

(Andrew Steane, Faithful to Science: The Role of Science in Religion [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014], 39.)

This reminds me of a line from Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of the Answerer”: “He is the Answerer, / What can be answer’d he answers, and what cannot be answer’d he / shows how it cannot be answer’d.”

In academia there are plenty of issues or questions that, at the present, cannot be completely resolved or answered. This is also true with some issues in Church history and doctrine. What do we do in this case? Hugh Nibley urged,

The two rules to follow here are 1) to ask the right questions, and 2) to keep looking.

(Hugh Nibley, “The Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham: A Response,” in An Approach to the Book of Abraham, ed. John Gee [Provo, UT: FARMS, 2009], 499.)

This is very wise advice from two very wise men. If someone were to come to me asking how best to address a faith crisis, I would strongly recommend he or she first adopt the paradigm of Steane and Nibley.

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