Sometimes the apparent contradictions of the Bible happen in such quick succession that it is apparent that they are intentional devices to provoke thought.
For example, in Proverbs 26:4, the person of wisdom says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.” The very next proverb in vs 5 says answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.”
One of the purposes of a proverb is to turn an idea around and look at it from different sides to see how situation, motive, and the needs of others help us find the way of wisdom.
For instance, in the case of these two proverbs, they help us see the error of two common responses. One mistake is to get dragged into an argument in such a way as to take on the unbecoming attitudes of someone who is acting beneath their dignity. The opposite approach is to allow fear of a foolish person to keep us from saying anything at all—which in turn only reinforces their inclination to think they have it all together. Jesus gives us examples of masterful responses to people who are walking in the dark even though they regard themselves as teachers of the light.
Before seeing how some other examples of apparent contradictions help us to think more clearly, would be interested to know whether you can think of examples either in your own experience, or in the conversations of Jesus that illustrate the intended tension between saying, “Don’t answer a foolish person…” “Do answer a foolish person…