March 5, 2024

What do you mean by that?

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In a previous post, I talked about fifteen things that I am trying to focus on more. The last five were under the title of “culture of inquiry”. I am trying to ask more questions for a number of reasons. Also, I talked about questions in my post on how to talk to those who are unbelievers or nominal Christians. One of the most important questions you can ask is “What do you mean by that?”


Just because I ask a question does not mean I don’t know the answer, nor does it mean that I am unsure on my reasoning. Asking questions have other ramifications besides just pure learning, it may be that I just want to hear other peoples views on the topic. Many times I use them in controversial settings, or maybe to get the other person thinking about something. Once an evolutionary materialist said that observable evidences is all it takes for science. So I asked him “are you saying that observable evidences is all you need?” He said yes. I then asked him some other questions to help guide him that this was not true.


Questions also helps prevent equivocation. Examples could be like one saying “this is doctrinal”, “evolution is true”, “that is heresy” or “that is sin”, I do’t quite know how to take those comments. I would want to know what they mean by “doctrinal”, “evolution”, “heresy” or “sin” before stating my opinion. Each of these words can mean different things to different people.


We need to get in the habit to ask clarification questions before giving a comment, agreeing, or making a rebuttal to another’s views.

The first question that should come to mind is:

“What do you mean by that?”

Or any variation of that question will work.


You should try to help the other person define his or her terms by a question like this. This question alone may clear up an issue and help you understand the other better and prevent disagreement. In other words, if you and the other person have different meanings for a word, your conversation will consist of the same word being used but in very different meanings.

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