Have you ever had one of the following encounters?
- A family member (perhaps even your own child) blurts out in front of a large group of people that they no longer believe in God;
- An unbelieving co-worker calls you “intolerant” due to your beliefs about God, abortion, and/or gay marriage in front of others;
- In witnessing to a stranger, you are asked, “How could you believe in fairy tales? Everybody knows that Christianity has been disproven.”
- Someone challenges you on a divisive issue at a church gathering, daring you to defend a controversial belief while constantly cutting you off mid-sentence.
Were you rendered speechless, wondering what to say? Or looking back, do you realize that you were more stridently combative than you should have been?
Most of us have been there. So if you answered yes to any of the above, then you would benefit greatly from Gregory Koukl’s helpful little book, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions.
The book is divided into two parts. In part one, Koukl, who has his own apologetics radio show and website (see str.org), gives you an easy to follow strategy, modeled after the TV character Columbo. If you will recall, Columbo was a frumpy, slightly clumsy detective who underwhelmed the alleged perpetrators of a crime. But right as it looked like he couldn’t crack a case, he would say, “Oh, wait a minute. There’s one things that’s bothering me.” And then, he would ask a simple yet penetrating question that would usually lead to the guilty party’s confession.
As Koukl applies this method in Tactics, let us suppose an unbeliever makes a statement like, “Of course there is no God.” Instead of getting upset, an appropriate response would be, “Can I ask how you come to that conclusion?” This is effective because most of the time, the person hasn’t thought the issue through completely.
Attached to this, it is imperative to ask follow-up questions that will show the other person where they are in error, or how inconsistent their worldview really is. In using this tactic, Koukl notes, you will have turned the tables on the unbeliever, and so put them on defensive in just seconds.
The second part of Tactics focuses on countering the various tactics of unbelievers. One of these tactics is what Koukl calls the steamroller: the person who uses bullying tactics to win arguments. If you have ever gotten into an argument with someone like this, you know how intimidating they can be.
But Koukl helps his readers to calmly handle them: first, when they interrupt you in the middle of a point you’re making, stop and gently ask them if you can continue. Second, name them. This gets their attention, and more often than not, it lets them know that they have crossed the line and are engaging in rude behavior. Third, if they continue to be belligerent, it is best to just end the conversation there. At this point, they have proven that they are not interested in dialogue; their only goal is to win the argument by force. Therefore, it is simply best to just walk away.
This is but one example of difficult situations Koukl teaches his readers to navigate. As they follow his tactics in each of them, they will find both helpful and edifying.
This is not to say that Tactics is a perfect book. Koukl’s apologetic method has its problems, in that he places reason above the Bible. Additionally, there is not much in the way of facts that the Christian can use, like proofs for Christ’s resurrection or evidence against evolution. Readers will have to look elsewhere for such information.
Those criticism aside, Tactics still has much value for the believer, as Koukl skillfully teaches his readers to respond wisely and calmly to common objections to their faith. While this should not be the only apologetics book in a Christian’s library, it is nonetheless a very helpful volume. I recommend it.