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Answering the Critics Without Being Foolish

There is a pair of verses that may perplex Christians at first glance, and scoffers call it biblical contradiction. This is Proverbs 26:4-5. The claim that they are a contradiction is easily dismissed, but the question about not answering a fool according to his folly, followed by answering, can be clarified. It is also a powerful method for defending and presenting the faith.

Christians are to engage with unbelievers who want to have good discussions, but we must not let them derail a talk and be foolish ourselves.
Originally, this now-public domain image by Sidney Paget
was used to illustrate the 1903 Sherlock Holmes story "The Empty House"
The Bible makes it clear that God calls unbelievers fools. That's not God being on the prod and calling them stupid, but it is deeper than that because it is about character, not intelligence (although some exhibit a lack of intelligence).

Do a Bible search with theWord, other software, or online and look for fool, foolish, and similar words. It's not gratuitous abuse. I can't think of a good way to open a discussion by telling someone that he or she is a fool, that would be counterproductive. Nor should any Christian be smug when dealing with unbelievers (unlike some groups I could mention who have the "one true doctrine", but never mind about that now). After all, we want them to come to Christ!

Also, many misotheists try to put Christians on the defensive with assertions, generalities, accusations, and so on. Such things are frequently used to derail the discussion — suddenly, it is on their terms. There are ways to handle these tactics and keep them on the subject without joining in their folly.

Instead of my self-consciously cringing internally whenever someone asked about my faith, my one-on-one conversations with non-believers became fun and exciting—not least because of the potential eternal benefits for them! I’d like to recount here one such conversation, not just because it was tremendously encouraging and memorable for me, but also because in hindsight I can see I unwittingly brought into play a number of scriptural injunctions relating to evangelism, including ones that atheists wrongly say are contradictory: Proverbs 26:4 and 5.

The conversation extended unbroken for more than three hours during a commercial airline flight from the northern Australian city of Darwin to Brisbane on the east coast.

To read the full article, see "Answering fools’ folly". Also recommended is "Fool-Proof Apologetics — A Powerful Way to Defend the Christian Faith".

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