Column: Mastering the art of asking the right question

Rt Rev Geoff Pearson, Bishop of Lancaster

Rt Rev Geoff Pearson, Bishop of Lancaster

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Recently, the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, delivered a Peace Lecture at Lancaster University where young people are encouraged to have an enquiring mind.

While I appreciated many of the things he said, I was disappointed he did not take any questions at the end of his lecture.

And speaking of asking questions that is the stock-in-trade of another public figure, Jeremy Paxman, but when answering questions on the radio, he was just plain rude and annoying.

At one point he rounded on the Radio 5 presenter with the response “What kind of question is that?”.

By contrast, and listening recently to Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, was a pleasure.

He answered questions politely and in a way that inspired confidence in his leadership, even though I must confess some of the economic language was way over my head.

If you want the most brilliant answers to difficult questions, then just turn to Luke chapter 20 and see how Jesus compares to some of our leaders and celebrities. Jesus is asked, ‘Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor or not?’

And in response to a hypothetical situation put to him about a woman who had married seven husbands, and what happens in the after-life, Jesus is brilliant.

He’s not rude, he is firm and tells his audience they were wrong because they did not know their Bible.

He answers questions clearly and he does it in a way people can understand. Even some of his opponents acknowledged he had spoken well and they no long dared to ask him another question.

Not all the questions were serious. The hypothetical one, mentioned already about marriage, was a bit of a riddle and a way of baiting Jesus.

However, Jesus took the bait and gave them a serious answer. Such sceptics are still around today. They often find different ways of calling into question the truths of the Bible.

Last week, I was in a clergy procession parading past a pub in the Isle of Man when the chant rang out “Darwin, Darwin …” I really wondered how Jesus would have coped with that one. I think probably the drink question rather than evolution might have engaged him.

You will also find Jesus asked penetrating questions in return. He certainly had a way of using the question and answer form that makes me stop to think.

I am just about to face members of a youth group who are all ready to ‘Grill a Bishop’.

If only I had Jesus’ way of speaking well.