googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Proverbs 26:4-5: To Answer or Not Answer

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Proverbs 26:4-5: To Answer or Not Answer

Critics sometimes cite supposed "contradictions" in the Bible as evidence against inspiration. They must feel that, if they can discredit a particular part of the Bible, then none of the Bible can be trusted.

One example of a "contradiction" often cited by critics is Proverbs 26:4-5

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

At first glance, these two verses seem to say exactly opposite things. One might wonder, "Do I answer a fool according to his folly or not?" But with a little thought, it's not difficult to reconcile these seeming conflicting verses.

I spend a lot of time discussing evolution online. I'm a staunch YEC (young-earth-creationist). While debating people who believe evolution, I sometimes encounter logically flawed arguments. If I'm not careful, it's easy to get caught up in these types of arguments. Let me give you an example:

Some evolutionists use the appeal to authority argument. They might say something like, "I'm a biologist and have studied evolution first hand. I also teach evolutionary biology at the college level. Evolution is real. You simply don't understand evolution and so you don't believe in it." Now, nothing in that statement proves evolution is true. He's implying that evolution is true because he's a biologist and so I should believe him. If I get into a debate about his qualifications to discuss evolution, I am answering a fool according to his folly - that is, I'm engaging in a debate around a flawed premise. If I do this, I'm actually giving the impression his argument has merit and I end up sounding like the fool.

Instead, I have found it useful to point out the flaw in the logic. So I answer a fool according to his folly - that is I show him why his argument has no merit. Hopefully, he will no longer continue using his fallacious argument nor "be wise in his own conceit."

In other words, don't answer a fool by sounding like him. Instead, try to show him how foolish he's being.

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