Does every question need an answer?
(This month’s article was submitted by Paul Taylor, a very gifted biblical apologist, author, international speaker and a good friend of mine.)
Richard Dawkins once said, “Some questions simply do not deserve an answer.” Of course, his particular ire was directed at creationists, so that he could claim that creationists were not worth answering. But does this assertion work in reverse? Are there questions asked by atheists, which do not deserve an answer?
A large part of my work is answering questions. I love answering questions. I love to show that our belief in the truth of Scripture is a reasonable and rational position to take. However, there are some questions, which may not need to be answered directly. This is because they have not been asked with the intent of receiving the answer to the question. Their purpose is to attempt to mock, or to deflect attention from something else. In those instances, it is better to answer the underlying motives, rather than, necessarily, the question itself. Sometimes, I will provide a brief answer to the question as well, to show that an answer is available, but concentrate more on the underlying motivation.
The Bible has something to say on this strategy. In the book of Proverbs, we find an amazing pair of statements, which, at first sight, appear contradictory.
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. (Proverbs 26:4)
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26:5)The main reason why these statements are not actually contradictory is the very fact that they are placed together. Surely no one in his or her right mind could suppose that the inspired writer of this Scripture had not noticed the issue. Therefore, a correct interpretation must take into account the fact that the two proverbs are not contradictory.
The reason why we should not answer a fool according to his folly is “lest you be like him yourself.” It follows that we should not abandon our presupposition of biblical truth in order to answer questions. For example, I am often asked “how can you prove creation to be true, without using the Bible?” The question has a presupposition. The questioner is saying that he cannot accept the Bible as true, so he wants external evidence. But my presupposition is that all evidence is interpreted in the light of biblical truth. If I reject that starting point, then I have already conceded the argument. This is a tremendously important point, which is often not seen by many creationists, who spend a great deal of time trying to find the “silver bullet” that will disprove evolution. But if we play that game, we are actually working in an unbiblical manner. If we try to prove the truth of creation, or try to prove that God exists, by giving evidence only, it is as if we are putting God on trial. In a courtroom, evidence is presented to the judge and jury. So, the non-Christian questioner is being made judge and jury, and his judgment is over whether God exists or tells the truth. The intentions of such creationists are good, but when the scenario is analyzed, we find that the intentions are unbiblical. Indeed, the Bible never attempts to publish an argument about whether or not God exists. If evidential apologetics were correct, then Genesis would open with a treatise on this subject. Instead, Genesis opens with the words “In the beginning, God…” The existence of God is assumed to be self-evident. That is why Paul explains in Romans 1 that actually everybody knows inside that God exists, so they are without excuse. The only discussion on the possible non-existence of God in the Bible is the repeated verse found in Psalm 14:1 and again in Psalm 53:1 — “The fool says in his heart ‘there is no God’.” It may seem offensive to refer to someone as a fool, but that is how God describes an atheist, however intelligent they may be, and Proverbs 26:4-5 explains how we speak to them. We do not abandon our presupposition and use theirs in order to answer them.
But Proverbs 26:5 tells us that we should answer a fool according to his folly! Why? “Lest he be wise in his own eyes.” In other words, having refused to accept his presupposition, we now answer him to show him the absurdity of his presupposition. So instead of attempting to prove creation by using a non-biblical presupposition, we are happy to show that the non-biblical presupposition leads to nonsensical arguments. An example of this is when we show the unbeliever that they have no absolute standards of morality against which to judge that with which they disagree. For instance, there are a number of website atheists who like to refer to creationists as “liars for Jesus.” This is because they maintain that we are telling lies about evolution. Of course, we are not doing so — we are telling the truth. But, they need to consider why it matters to them if we were to be telling lies! They are upset because they feel we are lying. However, if we assume for the time being that their atheistic worldview is correct… why is it wrong to lie? They might not like it, but there’s no basis in their worldview for saying that it is actually “wrong”. With no absolute standard, the atheistic worldview cannot deem anything as being truly morally right or wrong. So that is the point we would make while “answering them in their own folly”. In reality, the atheist has to borrow from the biblical worldview (i.e. assuming there are absolutes), so that they can argue against the biblical worldview! Without a biblical worldview, there is no reason for lying should be considered immoral.
The absurdity of the atheist position is exemplified by some questioners who ask us questions, which have merely been copied and pasted from other websites. Some of these people have become upset when I haven’t responded to their questions. But if they haven’t thought through the argument themselves, why would I want to spend the time answering them? One such writer claimed that just because he had copied the question did not invalidate its content. That is true. But my response — simply to direct him to an article on another website that had already answered his question — was considered insufficient for him! The question might have been pertinent, but his repeated use of copying and pasting, rather than thinking, rendered the requirement for detailed original response unnecessary. Whereas, somebody else might have asked a question on the same point, but from his or her own thought processes, at which point I would have given a personal detailed response.
I hope readers will continue to ask questions. I hope readers will continue to think and, yes, to pray about these issues. I enjoy answering the questions and, although I will get it wrong sometimes, to the best of my ability, as many questioners as possible will receive an answer that I think or hope they deserve.
Guest Writer – Paul Taylor
- Dawkins, C.R. (2006), The God Delusion, (London: Bantam Press), p. 80
- This particular analogy of putting God on trial was explained to me [Paul] by Sye Ten Bruggencate of www.proofthatgodexists.org
As with all of our other articles, much more could be said about this, but if you have any questions at about this article or any other issues, please don’t hesitate to contact us any time. We'd love to hear from you! You can even arrange a FREE ENGAGEMENT at your church, school, conference or camp.
Jay Seegert (Co-Founder & Principal Lecturer, Creation Education Center)