I came across a comment from Julia Child on Twitter the other day (@rorysutherland). She was asked what kind of wine she liked, to which she replied, "Gin!" Don't always allow the question to define the answer was Sutherland's takeaway from her comment. I couldn't agree more. All too often questions are way too loaded, so loaded that the answer is anticipated, expected even--questions like this are something of a trap. I think about the encounters that Jesus had with his detractors whose questions were often front-loaded with assumptions, expectancies and agendas--to answer the question as anticipated would have done no-one any good, I doubt that it would have even satisfied the questioners--because they probably weren't looking for the answers anyway, they just wanted to hear their own opinions spoken back to them.
I was watching a video of Rob Bell in a bit of an intense conversation with another bloke in England, where he was being pressed to answer a specific question--which he did well to not answer--he actually kept trying to re-direct the conversation, not, it seemed to me anyway, to avoid it, so much as try to take the conversation into less predictable, cul-de-sac territory. This got him nowhere, except to a place of frustration. I found it sad to watch (even though I felt rather proud of him for being willing to take hits), mostly because, as he rightly declared--this kind of bullshit is what keeps people away from churches.
I realize I am probably a long way from Julia Child's original comment, and a fair distance away from Sutherland's interpretation in talking about this in theological contexts, but that is where I live and it is where the comment resonates. Certain questions comes with certain answers. For instance, in Rob's conversation, which, if you haven't heard, was essentially about homosexuality, the other guy, Andrew somebody, I forget right now, seemed to reduce his sense of all things gender down to genital activity--that is what he kept coming back to again and again--and of course, the issue isn't as simple as genitalia and bedroom activity--except of course, it is, if you live with a certain set of questions and answers.
I would go as far as to say I think we need to lay some questions aside completely--they aren't the right ones to be asking anymore, they were borne of a different time, a different set of criteria, and yes, I do think many questions are contextual and that they become burdensome when the context shifts. I don't say that because I want to avoid certain questions or am afraid to answer things in a forthright manner, its just that I think its time to move past some of them.
Julia Child's reply was a reminder that the world is bigger than one kind of beverage, there is, if you will (with all apologies to the French), more than wine to be drunk--and when it comes to theology, there isn't just one easy, prescribed and expected answer to every set of issues--that's why perhaps Jesus constantly answered a certain question with another question--they were looking for wine, he was drinking gin!!