I am delighted to announce the official study guide for The End of our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Whether you read this book by yourself or in a group, you’ll find this study guide an invaluable tool for learning to question well.
We’ve worked hard to make sure this study guide provides the optimal experience for either your own personal reading or for your group. It’s been a labor of true love, which is why I have taken to calling it “the greatest study guide in the history of study guides, forever and ever, Amen.”
Okay, done? Did you read through it, marinate yourself in its wonders and glories?
You might be wondering what gives. I mean, who sends out “study guides” that are completely blank? And who does that while calling them “the greatest study guide in the history of study guides, forever and ever, Amen”? What sort of madness is this?
An amused and enjoyable madness, if nothing else (I hope!).
My goal through this book was to help people learn to question well, to undertake their inquiries with a sense of adventure and commitment and desire. My hope is for people to find themselves out in the world, entangled in questions that really matter and patiently plodding a path through difficulties. That process is difficult, but it’s a process that demands virtue and character for success and instills what it demands. The sort of deep, faithfully obedient inquiry that we are called to simply cannot be packaged and sold. A list of questions to check off in a conversation simply does not fit the task we are called to as Christians.
And so I have concerns about our dependency upon study guides. Here’s how I described it in the book:
As Christians, we want our pastors to dispense answers the way columnists pass out advice: by giving us just enough instruction so we know what to do but not so much that we have to think. We have our own Christian “guidance” industry, with its gurus and its “tribes” and its ready-to-order fixes. The advice may be better than that from other books, and even quite biblical. But they are written and packaged to satisfy the “consumer’s” immediate felt needs rather than remind him of his true needs and draw him deeper into them.
Of course, knowing what to do isn’t bad. It’s important to know how to live—and important to seek sound advice. My concern is that our answer-dispensing industrial complex is short-circuiting the work of empowering people and communities to patiently linger over the questions so that their growth into understanding is set within their sorrows and joys together as the church. Providing the answers from the pulpit or even in the small group cannot equip us to become mature thinkers and followers on our own. If we want people to think adult thoughts, then we should stop catering to their felt needs for quick answers.
We Christians should not be so answers oriented that we render ourselves incapable of coming up with the questions ourselves. We might think it a miracle that anyone learned about the Bible before we had study guides, given our total dependence upon them. What questions could the early Christians have possibly asked without the prompts we now have? And how did readers ever learn from books without prepackaged questions at the end of each chapter? If we are going to move beyond being a community that simply regurgitates “easy answers,” then we must also be willing to put an end to spoon-feeding the questions.
Yes, the study guide is something of a joke. But like all truly fun jokes, it has a serious point.