Even as a boy, Jesus used inquiry to prompt people’s thinking: ‘After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions’ (Luke 2:46). We turn to the Bible for answers, but it actually is also full of questions: ‘For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?’ (Matthew 5:46); ‘What must I do to be saved?’ (Acts 16:30); ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?’ (Romans 8:35).
Bible Gateway interviewed Brian J. Wright (@brianjwrightphd) about his book, Inspired Questions: A Year’s Journey Through the New Testament (Christian Focus, 2019).
You say that a substantial portion of the Bible is comprised of questions, and that asking questions was a primary teaching method of Jesus. Please explain.
Brian J. Wright: Questions are numerically significant in Scripture, even if often overlooked. The New Testament alone contains almost a thousand questions, and the Old Testament has several thousand more. To put this in perspective, you could explore a new question from Scripture every day for the next nine years or so and never see the exact same one.
Think about all the questions God asked Job. Remember how often Jesus asked and was asked questions. Recall all the questions Paul asked the recipients of his writings.
Indeed, we find questions throughout the whole Bible. Satan first approached Eve with a question in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1). When the angel of the LORD first appears in the Bible, he asks a question (Genesis 16:8). When the Witch of Endor conjures up Samuel from the dead, he immediately asks Saul questions (1 Samuel 28:15–16). When the angel Gabriel first appears in the book of Daniel, he starts with a question (Daniel 8:13).
When we turn to the New Testament and examine the life of Jesus, we see the same emphasis. From his youth, Jesus spent time asking people questions (Luke 2:46). He engaged lawyers, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and other leaders with questions (Matthew 22:41). Moreover, asking questions was a primary teaching method of Jesus.
Bottom line: the importance of questions in the Bible is unquestionable.
How does the process of asking questions contribute to growth and maturity in general?
Brian J. Wright: Our minds focus and engage in a more powerful way when we’re asked something as opposed to being told something. Questions put us on the spot in a good way. They demand a response. They get people talking. They’re personal, while at the same time communal.
As to how questioning contributes to our growth and maturity in general, I think of Albert Einstein’s famous quote: “Question everything.” He understood that asking good questions is at the heart of discovery. Indeed, we all know that good leaders ask great questions. They surround themselves with people who have permission to ask them the most difficult, awkward, and challenging questions. When we honestly respond to such questions, they help us identify where opportunities lie for our growth and maturity.
How does asking questions lead to a deeper engagement with God’s Word?
Brian J. Wright: Asking questions is foundational to reading any literature. That’s why teachers will often tell their students to start with the Five Ws—who, what, when, where, and why? Yet, as absolutely necessary and helpful as those core questions are, they can eventually become sterile, cold, and impersonal. In due course, they can leave us interested in only the bare facts.
Asking additional questions—especially inspired questions—can lead us into a deeper engagement with God’s Word. For instance, they move us from being passive observers to being active participants. They reveal our hearts in ways other methods cannot. They’re a uniquely powerful tool for unlocking key information in the Bible. They persuade us toward a godly direction.
How did your job as a prison chaplain lead you to write this book?
Brian J. Wright: Almost ten years ago, shortly after becoming a full-time prison chaplain for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, I did a Q&A series with the inmates. I fielded dozens of their questions, and did my best to point them to pertinent passages for further study and discussion.
Then the thought occurred to me, how sad would it be if I only dealt with their questions and neglected God’s inspired questions. Pointing them to the questions in Scripture is perhaps more relevant and sanctifying than I had ever considered. The great variety of questions alone testifies to this. For instance, there are questions that pertain to marriage, parenting, leadership, finances, employment, community, and self-image. All of these are key reentry topics that are typically covered in release preparation programs.
By allowing God to lead in the question asking, I figured I was also setting them up for future success—for they can always have God’s Word bombarding their souls with questions even when I’m not around. So I began to use inspired questions in my prison ministry—for small group discussion, Bible studies, counseling, sermon series.
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What makes the questions of your book “inspired” and why is that important?
Brian J. Wright: There’s an extremely important reason why my book is not called “inspirational” questions, or “inspiring” questions, but rather “inspired” questions. That’s because they’re not the result of someone’s witty concoctions. All of the questions that begin each day come directly from God’s inspired Word—the Holy Scriptures. They’re the very questions the Holy Spirit inspired for us to read and consider. They’re the ones God has preserved in his Word. Indeed, they’re for everyone who lives on this planet for the simple fact that God’s Word is for everyone. The fact that the Spirit inspired them means we’re meant to ask and answer them as well.
Why is it important to understand each inspired question in its inspired context?
Brian J. Wright: Put simply, it’s because each inspired question has an inspired context. There’s nothing inherently supernatural about the questions stripped of their context. Their home is the Bible, where we must study them and properly understand them. If we don’t, we might mistakenly give a generic answer to what looks like a generic question. Or we might give a completely wrong meaning to a text. Sadly, this plagues many devotionals based off the common “verse-a-day” structure. They only capture a word or principle from the quoted verse stripped of its context.
This devotional is different in that it seeks to capture the original context and purpose of the verse. Each day’s devotion is based off the entire context where the inspired question occurs, even though the exegesis is not mentioned or discussed. The intended result is a robustly biblical, theologically driven, and gospel-centered devotional.
Provide 2 or 3 inspired questions that you found influential for yourself as you wrote the book and explain why they had that impact.
Brian J. Wright: Through both personal experience and pastoral counseling, I can testify that asking inspired questions has radically changed my life and ministry. My marriage has been positively impacted because of them, such as the ones posed in James 4:1. My counseling benefited from questions like Luke 12:25. Indeed, there are many others: witnessing and missions via Romans 10:14; communion via 1 Corinthians 10:16; and parenting via Hebrews 12:7.
How do you want people to use your book?
Brian J. Wright: In the introduction, I list a number of ways people can use this devotional. But if I were to pick just a few examples to highlight here, I’d offer these four: read one entry a day as part of your time alone with God, discuss them as part of your family worship, use them to disciple others, or engage nonbelievers with them.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Brian J. Wright: Oddly, I don’t have a favorite one. It usually just depends on what I’m reading at the time someone asks. But ironically, the first passage that came to my mind just now is not one I’ve been reading recently. Rather, I heard it shortly after becoming a Christian my junior year of college. My new Christian friend, Grant, told me that his deceased grandmother put Nahum 1:7 on her tombstone. For some reason, I’ve never forgotten that verse and recall it frequently.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Brian J. Wright: I love Bible Gateway and use it frequently. I can’t count the number of times I’ve relied on it for a keyword search or passage lookup when having discussions with inmates in my office at work, for example.
Bio: Brian J. Wright (PhD, Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia) is author of Inspired Questions: A Year’s Journey Through the New Testament, Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus: A Window into Early Christian Reading Practices and The Rhythm of the Christian Life: Recapturing the Joy of Life Together. He is also a chaplain for the Federal Bureau of Prisons and teaches for several universities and seminaries as an adjunct professor. Brian and his wife, Daniella, live in Florida with their four children. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, or Academia.
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