When Answers Aren't Enough

An important goal of the Sabbath School class discussion is to deepen the members’ relationship with Christ and enhance love for and faithfulness to the Scriptures. The Sabbath School is a fertile venue for developing and strengthening members’ commitment to truth found only in the Word of God. However, Sabbath School facilitators occasionally, if not often, find themselves addressing questions and arguments that do not relate to the lesson. Thus the challenge is to lead the class in the right direction.

When confronted with questions arising from speculations, we need to maintain a Christian atmosphere for those who are under our direction. How then do we handle speculations or even senseless arguments from class members?

Roget’s Thesaurus defines “speculation” as a conjecture, guess, or supposition. To speculate is to “believe something on uncertain or tentative grounds.” Statements of this kind are usually based on observation and by following trends.

Is there a place for speculation in the Sabbath School? If at all, the goal is to develop a love for truth that is found in God’s Word. Although we value the role of practical application, facilitators will have to ensure that Bible principles are central to such application.

The apostle Paul strongly articulates sound advice in 2 Timothy 2:23: “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels” (NASB). Parallel translations render this verse in similar striking terms. Contentions and divisions in Christian churches often stem from heated arguments on trivial matters as if they were essential to salvation.

Several approaches to handling speculations presented here aim at addressing this matter in a Christian manner, endeavoring to keep the unity of the class and the church as a whole, and encouraging members to realize that only God’s Word can be used as the basis for truth in this world. And in the context of the Sabbath School lesson review where varying opinions and ideas are expressed, the facilitator’s maturity is demonstrated in how he handles differences and controversies. Some suggestions are here presented:

  1. Avoid getting into “foolish” arguments with class members who present speculations. Other Bible translations render the term “foolish” as “stupid.” The term for this is moros, from which we get the word “moron.” Paul is referring to “moronic discussions, trivial matters, which even when they are settled after a long and loud debate, do nothing for you; they do not advance the Christian cause in the least degree” (Ray C. Stedman, Guidelines for Controversies, p. 1).
  2. Exemplify tact and kindness through positive feedback. No matter how “senseless” the comment may be, recognize the effort that was exerted to share it with the class. A word of appreciation for sharing the idea or opinion will do a lot to soften what could be “stony ground.”
  3. Direct speculating members to the Bible. Facilitators should not be contented with leaving the class guessing as to their stand on issues. While we are to be kind in dealing with our members, it is equally our duty to correct whatever does not conform to Bible truth. Tactfully, yet firmly, refer to what the Bible says on the issue. Without antagonizing the speculator, we are to lead him to realize his error.
  4. Avoid speculating about issues on which the Bible is silent. Avoid falling into the same trap as speculating members. There are issues or questions that may not be answered on this earth. Accept this fact, and encourage your members to rely on what is presently available in God’s Word.

A vibrant Sabbath School discussion allows active participation and open communication. Profitable lesson review is characterized by a prayerful and diligent study of the source of truth for salvation, the Bible. And when answers aren’t enough, point leaders to the lively conversations to be had in heaven.

Eppie A. Manalo
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist