Little old ladies make good foils for preachers’ stories. There was that little old lady (maybe in tennis shoes) on a guided tour in Westminster Abbey. And there, surrounded by noble and ignoble monuments and competing guides, she asked a ridiculous question. “Tell me,” she demanded a little nervously and therefore a little louder than she had planned, “has anyone been saved in this church lately?” The question shattered things; it hung out there in embarrassed silence. “Anybody saved here lately?” My dear lady, have you noticed the beautiful architecture? Have you no feeling for history? Being “saved” is for the Salvation Army, or maybe sweaty tent meetings; this is a cathedral. But there the question stood.

There are things hidden from the wise yet revealed to babes, and the foolishness of God is wiser than men. Apart from becoming like little children, we cannot even see the Kingdom. I am not sure what all that means. But one gets the notion in theology today that both the questions and the answers are being set up and controlled by the deviously subtle experts, and that the questions people really ask are not being answered.

In a theological seminary where I once was the chairman of the question-and-answer period for a visiting lecturer, the famous guest rephrased every question to suit his theological slant. Finally I became blunt and maybe rude and said, “Why don’t you answer the question the boy asked?” Well, he was dear enough, too: “Because he asked the wrong question, that’s why.” That simple questions can be very puzzling and lead to ambiguity or even mystery I should be the first to admit. But such answers as we know should ...

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