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Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions

Gregory Koukl is an adjunct professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University and founder of a ministry called Stand to Reason, who has written this book on different ways to engage unbelievers in pointed conversations in order to share the gospel.  Tactics isn’t a difficult read, though at times his conversational style (when he is recounting an apologetical conversation) can be difficult to follow.  Conversations are usually fairly difficult to keep simple and communicate well.  Every chapter, however, contains a simple “what we learned” section that rehashes all the major teaching from the section.  Overall his stories, points, and teaching comes across as well outlined and easy to comprehend.

Koukl begins the book (chapters 1-2) with a standard for apologetically charged engagements.  He prefers to steer the conversation (getting in the “drivers-seat”) by using tactics to expose the faulty thinking of the other person. The goal of every conversation is civility and leaving them with something to think about.  We might not always get to the cross in every conversation but Koukl likens our discussions to putting a stone in their shoe; giving them something to ponder.  His first chapter is all about assuaging our reservations about sharing the gospel and arguing for our faith.

The rest of Part 1 (chap 3-6) involves the utilization of a method he calls Columbo (after an old TV show apparently).  According to Koukl, this method of questioning puts us in command of the conversation by asking your foe for more information.  The question “what do you mean by that?” challenges them to make more clear their position.  The second question of the Columbo tactic (chap 4) places the burden of proof, the “responsibility someone has to defend or give evidence for his view.” (59)  The question: “how did you come to that conclusion?” and other similar questions, places the burden of proof on the one making the claim (not on you the one asking).  The third part of the Columbo tactic (chap 5) asks the question: “have you considered…” as a leading question to steer the conversation into an alternative theory.  This is the goal of Columbo, to show the weaknesses in the opposing argument and provide the opportunity for your to posit yours.  Koukl reminds us that interactions are to be learned from and that after every conversation it pays off to rewind the tape (chap 6).

The second section (chaps 7-14) of his book is about finding the logical flaws in arguments.  Whether its formal suicide, self-refuting arguments like “all English statements are false!” (chap 7), or practical suicide, where the issue is not logic but practicality, like “it’s wrong to say people are wrong.” (chap 8)  He provides two more types of conversational suicide called “sibling rivalry” and “infanticide” which has the same results. (chap 9)  Koukl then channels his inner Francis Schaffer, showing how “taking the roof off” (reductio ad absurdum) is simply taking the opposing argument for a joy ride to see where you end up logically. (chapter 10)  Schaffer had a great saying, “Regardless of a mans system (worldview), he still has to live in God’s world” meaning that sometimes men hang onto false understandings or beliefs, but ultimately reality exposes it.  His last few chapters, Koukl spends time helping us defend against people who would run us over (steamrollers [chap 11]), inauthentic authority (Rhodes Scholars [chap 12]), or skew facts (just the facts Ma’am [chap 13]).  Each chapter is spent explaining how to see through or deflect mismanaged research and false fronts.  In the final chapter, Koukl argues that the best plan, tactic for apologetics is preparation.  The marines have a saying “the more you sweat in training the less you bleed in battle.” (189)  Koukl takes this to apologetics encouraging us to be proactive in study, diligent in preparation, and to be practiced in experience.  He gives 8 things to remember when engaging in discussions, 7 of which I agree with.  I struggle with his 3 point of not using Christian language in apologetic conversations.  Terms like “discipleship”, “saved”, or “believing in Jesus” should be avoided in these engagements.  The problem is that these are the most precise words…maybe we just need to define them better.

Overall, this was a great book that challenges and equips its readers to have purposeful conversations that can start with a 10 second window.(43)  If you want to be prepared to defend your faith, go on the offensive by asking the right questions, and be able to engage opposing worldviews, this is the perfect book to read.


1 Comment

  1. rbirtell says:

    Great review my friend. I like the approach that Koukl has in regards to asking questions. I think that that tactic endures people to you so that a “hearing” of the Gospel is earned.

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