Why ask “Why”?

I was never on the debate team.  In fact I don’t think my high school even had one.  I do know though that before answering any argument or question you first have to step back and ask the most important question of all before entering into a discussion about anything.  That question is: “Do I accept the premise that this question is built on?”

For example, earlier this year Karl Rove made a huge mistake by calling the BP oil spill and Obama’s reaction to it “Obama’s Katrina”.  The problem for Rove was not that he criticized the President’s handling of the situation, but that he built his criticism on the premise of the management/mismanagement of the Bush administrations handling of Katrina.  Rove was of course a part of this administration and defended their reaction to Katrina during his time in the Bush white house.  Republicans, by lobbing this attack, did more to validate the perception that Katrina was mishandled by simply asking the question.  Damage was done because of the premise of the question, more to Rove then to Obama.

They same is true for question in life.  We have to ask first, what is the premise of the question?  What does it presuppose?  Even the simplest questions have this built into them.

As a father of 5, I hear questions all day long.  My two-year old has begun to ask her first questions and as any parent of a young child knows, the first and continual question you will hear is “Why”?

Go to your room. Why?

Eat your dinner.  Why?

Brush your teeth. Why?

Let’s go to the park. Why?

It is non-stop in our house now.  And it is beautiful.  Why?

It is beautiful because of the premise that the question is based on.  The simplest question, the most asked question, and the question with sometimes the hardest answer has the most wonderful premise behind it all.

Why do we ask “Why”?  Because the premise is that behind everything that goes on there lies a purpose.  Life is not meaningless.  Things don’t happen by accident or luck.  We are hard-wired by our Creator to search for the meaning in things.  Proverbs tells us that is the wisdom of Kings to search a matter out.  He created us to do it.

Let’s accept the premise that we evolved from some primordial soup.  That life is matter and that is it.  That this world and all that is in it is an accident and void of real purpose.  Then why would we ask “Why?”  Why would accidental, highly evolved creatures living in a world where only the strong survive look for a purpose outside their own self-preservation?  There is nothing to figure out in a world without purpose.  It is however ironic that the most inquisitive people in the world tend to be scientist and that many in the sciences are hostile to the idea of a Creator of all this purpose.

So there is comfort when a tragedy strikes a family, when a hurricane hits a city, when things can’t easily be explained we still seem to ask the question “Why?”  We suppose upon these situations a purpose.  We don’t become fatalistic and leave it up to the randomness of some organism in a test tube trying out chaos theory.  We, like a two-year old, beg to know why because we know there must be a purpose behind it.

It might be a big jump for unbelievers to go from “purpose” to the “God all of purposes”, but at least the question has them looking in the right direction.

And for believers, we may ask the question without ever receiving a good answer this side of eternity, but the question and its premise itself should give us comfort in the fact that there was/is a purpose if only hidden temporally by its Author.

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About Todd Van Dyke

Father, Husband, Son, and most of all lover of Christ.
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