St. Basil on Loaded Questions

In the classroom I often come across the ever annoying phenomenon we call the “loaded question.” You know the one I am talking about, its the argumentative question, the question where the student already knows the answer but is actually trying to make a point. Its the type of question where the student flat out disagrees with you but doesn’t have the courage to say it, rather he has to word it in such a way so that it doesn’t seem as combative as it really is. Luckily I haven’t found myself on the receiving end of those types of questions too often, neverthless I have been in a classroom setting where the student blasts the professor with a loaded question, needless to say, its quite annoying. Yet I am not the only one who considers loaded questions annoying, St. Basil the Great does too!

Check out what St. Basil has to say about asking questions well and, not so well:

I admire your proposing questions not for the sake of testing, as many now do, but to discover the truth itself. For now a great many people listen to and question us to find fault, but it is most difficult to find a soul that loves learning and seeks the truth as a remedy for ignorance. For the questions of may contain a hidden and elaborate bait, like the hunter’s snare and the military ambush. These are the people who throw out words, not so that they may receive something useful from them, but so that they may seem to have a just pretext for war if they find answers that do not accord with their own liking. (On the Holy Spirit 1,1)

As you can see, St. Basil isn’t a fan of people who ask questions in order to find fault. The type of questions he admires come from people who genuinely want to know the truth. I like those kinds of questions too….

On the Holy Spirit - Basil


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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