“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.” Proverbs 26:4-5
At first glance this verse seems to be a glaring contradiction, yet the contradiction is actually deliberate to force the reader to compare the two concepts and find the balance and truth of both statements. Many times in the Bible there are apparent conflicting ideas, such as predestination and free will, that are really just both true. We must compare them to find the truth on both sides of the coin and discover the balance that God intended. Christianity is not a faith for the brainless; it is simple and easy to understand the gospel and to have salvation but to learn the word of God in depth is one of the most challenging, and greatest, endeavors this side of heaven.
When you encounter a fool, do not answer him in such a way that you become foolish as he is. If an angry atheist attacks me personally and insults my intelligence I am not to retort back with an insult to him. Part of life is dealing with fools, especially part of the Christian life. Don’t become like them as you do.
That said, you must answer them lest they be wise in their own eyes. Many a fool has thought “Hah, I got them on that point.” Simply because the wise man was disinterested in bothering with a response, since it is quit tiring to attempt to rationalize with the ignorant. An answer must be given though, in a way and in an attitude completely unlike that of the fools, for the mere sake of the fool not continuing in his foolishness. Many a fool is wise in their own eyes simply because no one has ever had the courage to oppose them.
While I do not fully support all of John Calvin’s ideas he once said something that resonates with me, “A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent”. If the least I can do is bark, then that is what I will do. I would rather bark like a dog than be a coward. Contend for the faith, but do so in a way that you do not become like the fool. Be as bold as a lion, fearing no one but God. Just make sure you don’t forget the reason for defending truth in the first place; to lovingly and humbly guide people into the Truth that they may know Him and be set free.
Strength and Honor,