“Essential Questions” and the Book of Job

Posted on by Brooke

Please help me shape a list of “essential questions”[*] raised for you by the book of Job. Offer suggestions or questions in the comments.

What are “essential questions”? Briefly, they are big, open-ended questions that force one to evaluate one’s own evaluations. “What is worth fighting for?” is an essential question. “Should the U.S. continue fighting in Iraq?” is not. “What makes good art ‘good’?” is an essential question. “Is the Piss Christ (warning: explicit content) good art?” is not. These examples show that a question can be thought-provoking but not yet itself be in the form of an essential question.

Essential questions:

  • lend themselves less to argument than to reflection;

  • invite participants to reconsider their own norms and valuations;

  • prove themselves to be interdisciplinary;

  • generate an unpredictable set of other questions;

  • are “non-judgmental,” and often have “ethical or moral foundations”;

  • are “life-long” questions to which one may return again and again, in different life contexts.

This is how I would begin a list of essential questions raised by the book of Job:

  • What does a Creator God owe to God’s creatures?

  • What is “blasphemy”?

If you would, take a moment to continue this list in the Comments. I also invite further discussion on what makes an “essential question.”

Thank you!

[*] I was first exposed to the notion of “essential questions” by Brigid Schultz of Loyola University Chicago, in her keynote address to the Focus on Teaching workshop of January 7, 2009. Her title was, “Strategies for Sustaining Teaching Effectiveness.”