Friday Five: Stan Guthrie
Stan Guthrie is an editor at large for Christianity Today magazine; he authored the “Foolish Things” column for CT. Stan writes opinion pieces for Crosswalk.com and BreakPoint.org. His articles have been honored in the Evangelical Press Association’s Higher Goals in Christian Journalism competitions.
Stan has appeared on National Public Radio’s “Tell Me More,” WGN’s Milt Rosenberg program, ABC’s Nightline Twittercast, WFMT, and many Christian programs, including Moody Radio’s “Chris Fabry Live,” “Inside Look,” “Prime Time America,” and “New Day Florida.” An inspirational speaker, he served as moderator for a debate with Christopher Hitchens entitled “Does the God of Christianity Exist, and What Difference Does It Make?”
Stan is married and has three children.
He is the author of several books, including his latest, All That Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us. Stan was kind enough to stop by and answer questions about this book for today’s Friday Five.
You’ve been a Christian journalist for some time. How has the Church changed, in your view, since your career began?
I believe we have become broader politically, socially, and theologically. In some ways, this is a positive development. The church is supposed to be a people set apart from the world, but we need to differ from our neighbors in things that matter: in our integrity, in our willingness to speak out against injustice, in our commitment to our families, in our willingness to suffer for our beliefs.
We don’t need to be different for difference’s sake. Some of the old rules, holdovers from our lingering fundamentalism, have started to melt away. I believe it is important not to divide people over non-essentials; there are enough essentials out there to keep us on our toes!
Yet our desire to rethink some of these things sometimes gets us into trouble. In our attempt to be broad and welcoming, we face the temptation to water down or redefine the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection. The pressure is always there to harmonize the offense of the cross with the good things that we do or that the world says need to be done. It is great to fight for environmental stewardship or against sex trafficking, but these things are not the gospel, and doing them does not, in itself, usher in the kingdom of God.
We are also more broad politically, with many moving away from Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to folks such as Tony Campolo and Jim Wallis. I fear, however, that the Christian left is repeating many of the same mistakes that the Christian right made.
Your latest book, All That Jesus Asks, discusses 300 questions Jesus asked. We typically don’t think of Jesus as a probing questioner, but he was. How do the questions of Jesus change our view of Him?
To me it is mind-blowing that the Lord who created everything, who knows everything, asks us questions and respects us enough to wait for our answer. His questions assume that human beings have special dignity because we can relate with God on a very real level. Probably because we are made in his image, we can connect with him. That’s an amazing truth that the questions bring to the fore, and also an awesome responsibility. To me it speaks about how very loving God is, that the Creator and Sustainer of all seeks a relationship with us.
What is the most important question Jesus asks?
“Who do you say that I am?” If we get this one right, the rest will follow. If we get it wrong, the rest won’t really matter.
Christians often get defensive of the questions being asked of Jesus (and by extension of us), but should we be turning the tables (like Jesus) and ask questions of those seeking the truth?
Yes! I like to quote my friend Dinesh D’Souza, who has done a fair amount of debating of the New Atheists. Dinesh says, “Atheists attempt to put Christians on the defensive by questioning the authority and goodness of God—the God whose existence they call into question. This book turns the tables by allowing Jesus to ask the questions.” Questions force the one being queried to examine his or her assumptions and heart. They also show respect, because after you have asked your question, you must listen for the answer. So please do ask good questions—but then be prepared to answer a few yourself!
And how can Jesus’s own followers learn from the questions he asks?
In writing this book, I was amazed at how comprehensive Jesus’s questions are. They apply to the spiritual inquirer, to the new believer, and to the skeptic. They move from the Lord’s identity to how to follow him, to some vital doctrines of the Christian faith. In a way, my book is a basic primer on Christian discipleship and doctrine. That’s not my doing; I was just following the questions Jesus asked—and still asks today. But his questions were asked of specific people with specific needs at specific times. Jesus knew how to quickly get to the heart of a person’s issues with his questions. By God’s grace, so can we.