Thursday, April 02, 2009

Proverbs 26:4-5

Don’t answer—do answer!

First published:
Creation 26(4):43
September 2004

by Ken Ham

Some who superficially read the Bible claim that Proverbs 26:4–5 makes contradictory1 statements: ‘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.

However, there are wise principles in these verses, lessons which would help Christians to be much more effective in countering false arguments and in witnessing.

Let’s look at verse 4: ‘Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.

As we have often said, one must understand that all evidence is interpreted on the basis of ‘presuppositions’. As Christians, all of our thinking—in every area—should be built upon the history revealed in God’s Word. Doing this, you have the correct ‘big picture’ way of understanding the universe so that the evidence of the present can be interpreted correctly.

Sadly, many Christians often succumb to the non-Christian’s challenge to provide evidence for the existence of God, creation and the Christian faith, etc., without using the Bible. When you agree to these terms of the debate, however, you are answering a person ‘according to [i.e. within the terms of] his folly’.

By accepting the non-Christian’s presuppositions (that thinking is not to be built on the Bible), one only has, by default, the non-Christian’s way of thinking to interpret the evidence. With no true foundation (God’s Word) on which to correctly (and differently) interpret the evidence, one cannot ‘win’ the argument. Understanding the presuppositional nature of the argument, one will not answer someone ‘according to their folly’ (i.e. based on secular presuppositions about life).

Now verse 5: ‘Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.’ As mentioned, on the surface, this seems to contradict verse 4. But when you think about it, there is infinite wisdom behind it.

As said, first you show the non-Christian that you will not argue according to someone else’s presuppositions. Rather, you use the biblical foundation of history to interpret evidence, confirming this with real science.

Then you need to proceed by applying verse 5—i.e. answering an opponent by showing the logical consequences of his ‘folly’ (non-biblical presuppositions).

For instance, if someone believes they evolved by chance, then you need to point out that their processes of logic—of thinking—also evolved by chance. So ultimately, they can’t be sure they are even asking the right questions … let alone understanding the answers!2

These verses came to mind recently when I was reading a testimony about a 14-year-old student at a church-run school. She challenged her compromising teacher, who was telling students that Christians could believe in evolution.

As reported to us, the principal called her to his office and said, ‘Well, if I believe this [evolution], why can’t you?’ The young girl simply replied, ‘If we can’t rely on the Genesis account, we can’t rely on anything in the Bible, and we can’t accept that Jesus really is our Saviour.’

This sharp young lady was answering this person according to his folly—pointing out the consequences (for a Christian) of starting with the wrong presupposition, in this case that you can accept evolution without any problems.

Praise the Lord, as a result of this girl’s argument, we read that she had ‘stirred a hornet’s nest amongst the staff … . A staff retreat had to be called to determine the truth of the matter. Never before had their theological viewpoint been so seriously shaken.’

It is vital that we don’t answer … and that we do answer. God’s Word is powerful, when we take Him at His Word.


  1. Sadly, some sceptics think that since ‘ancient people were stupid’, they didn’t realize that these ‘contradictory’ statements were next to each other. But obviously, the author intended these seemingly opposite statements to go together, and this article suggests some applications. In fact, they do not have the logical form of a contradiction, but that of a dilemma—there are problems with both ways of dealing with a fool. Also, we should add, proverbial literature is not intended to be absolute.
  2. [Ed.] Similarly when asked about the problem of evil—if the questioner rejects an absolute moral Lawgiver, then they are unable to justify absolute moral concepts, so how can ‘evil’ even be a meaningful concept?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Time - 10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now - # 3 - The New Calvinism

"If you really want to follow the development of conservative Christianity, track its musical hits. In the early 1900s you might have heard "The Old Rugged Cross," a celebration of the atonement. By the 1980s you could have shared the Jesus-is-my-buddy intimacy of "Shine, Jesus, Shine." And today, more and more top songs feature a God who is very big, while we are...well, hark the David Crowder Band: "I am full of earth/ You are heaven's worth/ I am stained with dirt/ Prone to depravity."

"Calvinism is back, and not just musically. John Calvin's 16th century reply to medieval Catholicism's buy-your-way-out-of-purgatory excesses is Evangelicalism's latest success story, complete with an utterly sovereign and micromanaging deity, sinful and puny humanity, and the combination's logical consequence, predestination: the belief that before time's dawn, God decided whom he would save (or not), unaffected by any subsequent human action or decision.

"Calvinism, cousin to the Reformation's other pillar, Lutheranism, is a bit less dour than its critics claim: it offers a rock-steady deity who orchestrates absolutely everything, including illness (or home foreclosure!), by a logic we may not understand but don't have to second-guess. Our satisfaction — and our purpose — is fulfilled simply by "glorifying" him. In the 1700s, Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards invested Calvinism with a rapturous near mysticism. Yet it was soon overtaken in the U.S. by movements like Methodism that were more impressed with human will. Calvinist-descended liberal bodies like the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) discovered other emphases, while Evangelicalism's loss of appetite for rigid doctrine — and the triumph of that friendly, fuzzy Jesus — seemed to relegate hard-core Reformed preaching (Reformed operates as a loose synonym for Calvinist) to a few crotchety Southern churches.

"No more. Neo-Calvinist ministers and authors don't operate quite on a Rick Warren scale. But, notes Ted Olsen, a managing editor at Christianity Today, "everyone knows where the energy and the passion are in the Evangelical world" — with the pioneering new-Calvinist John Piper of Minneapolis, Seattle's pugnacious Mark Driscoll and Albert Mohler, head of the Southern Seminary of the huge Southern Baptist Convention. The Calvinist-flavored ESV Study Bible sold out its first printing, and Reformed blogs like Between Two Worlds are among cyber-Christendom's hottest links.

"Like the Calvinists, more moderate Evangelicals are exploring cures for the movement's doctrinal drift, but can't offer the same blanket assurance. "A lot of young people grew up in a culture of brokenness, divorce, drugs or sexual temptation," says Collin Hansen, author of Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists. "They have plenty of friends: what they need is a God." Mohler says, "The moment someone begins to define God's [being or actions] biblically, that person is drawn to conclusions that are traditionally classified as Calvinist." Of course, that presumption of inevitability has drawn accusations of arrogance and divisiveness since Calvin's time. Indeed, some of today's enthusiasts imply that non-Calvinists may actually not be Christians. Skirmishes among the Southern Baptists (who have a competing non-Calvinist camp) and online "flame wars" bode badly.

"Calvin's 500th birthday will be this July. It will be interesting to see whether Calvin's latest legacy will be classic Protestant backbiting or whether, during these hard times, more Christians searching for security will submit their wills to the austerely demanding God of their country's infancy."

Monday, March 30, 2009

DC 202 - Week 5 - Evangelism (Part 1)

For the next two weeks, we'll be considering evangelism as our topic for discussion. In consideration of this important topic, this week's workload might look something like this:

Monday - Read Acts 1-14
Tuesday - Read Proverbs 26 and "What's the Use?" by Tim Downs
Wednesday - Memorize 1 Peter 2:12 - Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us - and review previous memory verses, such as Jeremiah 29:11 and 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
Thursday - Answer questions 1a-c, 2, and 3 (5 questions)
Friday - Answer questions 4a-b, 5a-b, and 6 (5 questions)