Using Rhetorical Questions . . . .

questions 1

Silly Questions Generally Produce Silly Answers

A common practice of speakers and preachers is to begin with a question or a series of questions . . . .

  • Have you ever wondered . . . .
  • When was the last time you . . . .
  • Where were you on 9/11 . . . .
  • Do you remember what it was like when your first child . . . .
  • How does one know that . . . .
  • What does the Bible say about . . . . ?  Where would you go to find help in that particular area of life?  Is there specific help in the Bible for addressing that kind of situation or are there biblical principles which give us direction?
  • etc.

While not examining the effectiveness of introducing a speech or a message which a question or a series of questions, it would be helpful to knock out one species or category of questions — “Nonsensical Rhetorical Questions.”

I was reminded of the all too common use of “Nonsensical Rhetorical Questions” after listening to a message from I Corinthians 6.  After reading the passage, these questions were asked . . . .

 

 

Is life change optional or is it essential in the Christian life?

In other words, can you change your identity, but not change your activity in life?

 

 

When a question is asked, of which the answer is so clearly obvious and/or it is so clearly understood as true or untrue, at best it is ineffective.  At worse, the audience is subtly insulted.

Exceptions: 

  1.  The answer is a contradiction of what “all know-believe” to be the answer.
  2.  The answer is uncertain (Does Satan ever tell the truth?).
  3.  The answer is nuanced (Are you saved by saying a prayer?)

 

Nevertheless, that is not the variety of rhetorical questions we are addressing.  Rather, we are talking about such rhetorical questions as . . . .

  • Can a person follow Jesus and not live for Him?
  • Are the sins of those who know not Christ as their Savior forgiven?
  • Are “Fathers” who are uninvolved with their children and family good fathers?
  • Is adultery an unimportant sin in God’s eyes?
  • Are Jehovah Witnesses right when they say that Jesus was not God?
  • Is there any help in the Scriptures for those struggling with a trial?
  • Can you love God and not love people?
  • Is “life change” part of the salvation?
  • Do we have an obligation to share the Gospel with others?
  • Is sinful rebellion and sins of ignorance the same?
  • Can you be a dishonest Christian?
  • etc.

 

This variety of rhetorical questions are . . . .

ineffective at best.

quickly dismissed by an audience.

the kind which may call up “silly mental answer.”

what can cause an audience to go into a “mental cruise.”

questions which probably insult the “theological intelligence” of the audience.

what may lead an audience to “check out,” to disregard as trifling – a “mental eye roll”.

what can cause a listener to regard the message as not worth their further time and/or attention.

 

Just some simple notes:

√ Take care that you do not sound like you are “speaking down” to your audience by posing questions of which the answer is obvious.

√ Answer obvious questions quickly — “Of course that is . . . . (not true / is true).”

√ Answer obvious questions in a way that recognizes that the audience knows the answer — “We know that is . . . . (not true / true)” / “Of course you would answer that question . . . . (absolutely / absolutely not”) /  “You know what the Scriptures teach — you would say . . . . . (no/yes).”

√ Best Practice — Just stay away from asking “Nonsensical Rhetorical Questions.”

 

 

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