A standard methodology for spiritual study has not been established as scientists have developed with science. It may not even be possible as I believe God works individually with each of our spirits, and there doesn’t seem to be exacting methodology in God’s “thinking.” God has ordained that each of us spiritually contemplate (ruminate, muse, revel, chew over, mull, ponder; use the verb that best fits your thinking). Each of us has an inherent longing toward this contemplation. There doesn’t seem to be a precise or even an imprecise way to do this; however, we can see that hundreds of persons down through the years have worked out personal systems and approaches that work for them. I fall into that bailiwick. Moreover, my thinking leans toward the scientific method as that is a part of my training. Here are some of my views on inquestioning methodology.
Spiritual: Thoughts or thinkings, verbal antics, are our only way of conversing with our self. The old adage that "We think, therefore we are!" has validity only when we are talking about God's physical reality. "We are, therefore we think!" is much more compelling for a study of spiritual realities. "We are" portends an architect; "we think" tends to make us the architect. God designed us just as we are, therefore we think.
Even though our “verbal” thinking is our only way to recognize God in our lives, God rarely, if ever communicates verbally. What a conundrum that becomes! As a child, I was constantly waiting for God to speak to me. It was a great disappointment when He never did. When we pray as many of us do, there is generally little communication, through thoughts or insight. We talk to ourselves. Does that make these prayers wrong? Of course not! Any time we are acknowledging God in any way, I would assume He "hears" and "understands." It is all part of what I call the Supreme Game. God requires us to play the game as long as we live. Some play well; others play little.
Recognizing His "voice" comes through immersing our selves (our spirit) into His Spirit), and I call this contemplation. As Christians, we can do this always (praying unceasingly as Paul calls it). However, many don't know how and some don't care, and it is not necessarily an undemanding activity; as a result, it is exceptional when we see it. Contemplation is difficult and foreign to many. Therefore, since the basis for contemplation is thinking but thinking cannot recognize God’s voice, few want to go though this door. However, it is my strong desire to not only to go through the door but to investigate every thing I “see” inside the door and be constantly immersed in it.
True contemplation, our spirit interacting with God’s Spirit, is rare. Most of us are used to real life thinking where persons seek answers, answers, answers; however, God, through life experiences and the Holy Spirit, provides question after question after question. Some real life questions are important, but most are petty, tied to the mundane. Even so, we must ask questions because the answers to our questions are life itself. If you do not ask the question or a more serious dilemma, do not know the question, you probably will never get an answer. It is a sad fact that most people go through life looking for answers to questions they never ask or even know. We must seek questions diligently, and only then will answers be resolved.
Seeking answers to life’s questions is one thing, but be prepared to find that most God questions are not interrogation questions. The English language does not have a word for such questions. The Spirit’s questions are questions that end with a period or exclamation point rather than a question mark. Please give me license to develop a new word for these Spirit questions and christen them inquestions (in-quest-ion). Inquestions are questions that are God given, individual, personal, and eternal, for study, for contemplation, for reveling.
Even though we experience inquestions constantly, we might not recognize one if we see it. I sometimes say that we can recognize inquestions as true “why” questions. Who, what, when, where, and how questions are all part of the physical world; why questions, when using why properly, are always spiritual questions—inquestions. Simple examples might help in gaining some understanding of them.
Picture a sunset. If there ever was a parody, it is a sunset. Why would air, dust and water particles, and photons of light combine to be so beautiful? While this question is a physical question, a part of this world question, a science question if you may, God has chosen to make a combination of these simple earthly building blocks an ultimate inquestion to most of us. Again, picture a sunset—one of the most beautiful sights we ever see. It just is so! There is no earthly reason to it; we just all “see” it. Contemplation for a lifetime cannot begin to answer the Why-this-is-so?! of this experience. Other physical examples could be a snow-covered mountain, a live coral reef, a perfectly formed race horse, a beautiful woman in candle light. These are individual, but we all have inquestions in our lives. For me, I can make an inquestion out of most of God’s creation. (Have you ever seen a buckyball?)
Spiritual inquestions are abundant. Remember the parable of the sheep and goats with the statement concerning our doing to others as doing to Jesus/God. Could anything be more poignant, severe, suspect, and beautiful, all at the same time? An ultimate inquestion. The “why answer” is in the wonder. Most of the parables could be considered inquestions. Consider all the “Heaven is like . . . .” passages given to us by Jesus. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount has several delightful inquestions. Revelation is one big multi-inquestion.
We can even make up our own inquestions. Consider the following:
There was a certain housewife who desired to bake her husband a beautiful, delicious cake. She took out just the right ingredients measuring out just the right amount of yeast, kneading the dough until it was just right, heating the oven to the ideal temperature, and baking the cake until it was perfect. The husband came home and ate the delicious cake enjoying it without even knowing the ingredients (especially the yeast), the kneading, the heat of the oven, or the time of baking, but the wife knew and remembered.
In the manner you are now contemplating this little anecdote, our spirits inquestion.
Now, let’s look at inquesting our inquestions. While there are questions and inquestions in our life, they are only problematical because we don’t know the answer. Once we learn the answer, it is no longer a question. Moreover, while we often hear comments about ultimate questions, there really are no ultimate questions. God created all the questions and all the answers, and all the inquestions for that matter. All inquestions might be called ultimate questions while a question is temporal, transient.
Some try for earthly God answers for their inquestions; this diverts our focus from the real answer “learned” through contemplation. We seem to “see” better after contemplation with the Spirit. “Answers” to inquestions result in “seeing” better. That is very different from learning. Learning involves answers through the physical, emotional, and mental makeup of the self. They are a part of this world, not a message through the Spirit. When we inquest our inquestions, the “answers” are God given, eternal, and singular.
Scientific: Science is the study of God's creation. Some would like to relegate science into a box outside the realm of the study of God. However, I believe that science is a subset of God's Spirit in the living spirits of His creation.
Scientist’s studying this creation have unintentionally created a methodology which epitomizes an ultimate inquestion—the scientific method. Here is my interpretation of that conviction.
- Observation: Perceiving ("seeing") a part of God's creation in a questioning or inquestioning manner. (Yes, researchers almost always think inquestioningly as they are performing science. Religionists have been so blatant in accusing scientists of blasphemy and sacrilege that non-scientists sometimes miss this side of their thinking.)
- Hypothesis: Guessing at the answers to that questioning based on previous scientific conclusions and theories. (Understand that hypotheses are always based on inquestions; a scientist uses his/her “intuition/sixth sense” to “divine” an answer. How else can we comprehend guessing as an integral component of the exacting process of the scientific method?)
- Experimentation: An examination of the perceived hypothesis by setting up methodic testing using procedural practices recognized by all scientists. (Experimentation is the scientist’s way of getting “answers” to one small part of God’s creation.)
- Results: The outcome of the experimentation that can be repeated by other scientists when the exact same methods are used. (Isn’t it interesting that scientists depend on experimentation that absolutely depends on God’s law of continuity—two experiments will always give the same results if all parameters in both experiments are exactly the same.)
- Conclusions: What the researcher perceives the results mean in conjunction to/with other results from previous experiments. (Might God be working some of His revelation plan through a scientist’s conclusions?)
- Theory: An accumulation of conclusions that interactively work together "explaining" one part of God's creation. (In essence, a characterization of an inquestion.)