Q&A with Matthew Anderson on Called Into Questions
With his book, Called Into Questions, hitting shelves today, Assistant Professor of Ethics and Theology in the Honors Program, Matthew Anderson, D. Phil., invites readers on a captivating journey into the realm of Christian faith and a posture of questioning. In this interview, we sit down with Anderson to explore the intricate interplay between faith and inquiry, shedding light on a profound relationship explored in his latest release.
Could you provide our readers with a brief overview of your book and what inspired you to write it?
Ever since my days as an undergraduate, I have sought to understand the relationship between faith and reason. There is a real sense in which Christians are answers people. When the jailer asks Paul and Timothy "what must I do to be saved?" in Acts 16, Paul is unequivocal that he should believe in Jesus. But that answer only generates new questions: Who is Jesus? How does Jesus save us? What does it mean to be saved, anyway? And so on. Even though we think we have answers, then, Christians are also people who love questions. I wanted to help young Christians, especially, start to understand how questioning works and learn to love it as a central aspect of their Christian life.
In your book, you talk about the importance of questioning well. Could you delve into what it means to question well and why it's a crucial skill in today's world?
Children ask the most questions, and they often ask the best ones—precisely because they ask very simple, direct questions about features in the world they do not understand. I sometimes think the most important part of learning to question well is having the boldness to ask the questions you have. "Obvious" questions are often extremely difficult questions. Learning to question well is always important: humans are questioning animals, after all. These days, though, I think the challenge of learning to question well is especially acute, as many of us are saturated with noise, stimulation, and information that kills the quiet and reflection which is necessary for questions to arise within us.
You mentioned in the book's summary that "Faith is not the sort of thing that endures so long as our eyes are closed." Can you explain how faith and questioning are interconnected in your perspective?
The Honors College crest includes the classic Christian saying, fides quaerens intellectum, faith seeking understanding. Questions are one form that seeking takes: they are an act of love, of searching, of looking with patient (or not-so-patient!) expectation and hope that an answer will be given to us. Faith that fails to ask questions of God and the world around us has gone dormant. Questions are the fire that lifts us to the understanding that comes when we see God face-to-face.
Can you provide a compelling example or story from the book that illustrates how questioning can lead to a transformative and faith-enriching experience?
I am not much of a storyteller, but I will say this much: I only became convinced that Christianity was true through asking questions with Plato.
What do you hope readers will take away from the book in terms of their relationship with faith and their ability to navigate the challenges of questioning?
I want people to have the confidence to question well in the freedom of God's grace and love, but also to realize that questioning is hazardous. The first question in the Bible is the Serpent's convoluted, deceptive question to Eve in Genesis 3:1. Our questions are seeds that eventually bear fruit within our life. Learning to question well means learning to conform our intellects to God's love in Jesus Christ, which sets us free from fear and guides us into the truth.