Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Book Review: "Tactics"

Tactics: A Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Faith
By Gregory Koukl

Greg Koukl has written a fantastic book for conversational apologetics. Koukl starts out this book by explaining that the intent of this book is not to be manipulative or make the other person look like a fool in conversation. He explains the importance of a coherent worldview and the importance of being able to identify incoherence. He provides a defense of the reasons for being able to provide a defense for the Christian faith. All of which are very important to anyone who wishes to engage someone in conversation about their faith. Koukl then starts the reader on his list of ways to progress through conversation. Before Koukl describes a tactic, how to use it, and how not to use it; he explains why each tactic is important.

As with any conversation, you need to make sure you have as much information and understanding as possible about the situation. He starts with this, what he calls the "Columbo Tactic". Koukl shows how his "Columbo tactic" can be used to keep you in control of the conversation and to keep the burden of proof on the one making the claims. Next he discusses tactics that will help you discover the flaws and inconsistencies in your opposition's worldview. He talks about how to find views that "self destruct" or "commit suicide". Koukl then discusses some of the other fallacies that one may discover and how to deal with them.

Koukl covers how to deal with difficult and belligerent people thoughout the book, but focuses a bit more near the end. He concludes the book by once again, reminding us that tactics are not to be used to manipulate people into believing what we believe. He also reminds us that even though these tactics are powerful, that we should not have an attitude of arrogance or just be looking for a fight.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wishes to engage people about their faith. Tactics emphasizes that you do not need to know everything about every topic to be an effective ambassador for Christ. The book is not technical in any way and is an easy read but will make you stop and think many times.

Here's a few videos of Greg Koukl describing some of his tactics:


  1. what does he recommend when people just say, "well that's just what I believe and I don't care what anybody else says" or some variant thereof?

  2. Why does that person not care what anybody else says?

  3. I have no clue.... but try to go talk to someone, *cough* Duane *cough* about the shortcomings of capitalism (yes, there are legitimate criticisms) and the pros of socialism (yes, there are some).

    Or ask your average lay person about their theology, find inconsistencies in it, and call them on their inconsistencies. I bet at least 50% of the time they will respond with "that's just what I believe."

  4. I get that you find yourself quite frustrated in this type of situation. I don't blame you; I get frustrated with this too.

    Let's go back to the original statement.
    "well that's just what I believe and I don't care what anybody else says".

    There are a few ways to deal with this.

    1. You may assume they have closed the door to further discussion.

    Drop the particular subject that triggered that response, lest you look like you are being pushy and lose credibility with them altogether.

    2. You may assume that they don't think that you understand their point of view and it is useless to continue discussing it.

    Let them know that you understand what their position is, but you want to understand what caused them to come to their conclusion. This opens the floor to them to explain themselves and for you to ask further questions to better understand their point of view and continue the conversation. Providing this opportunity may give you insight that they were not articulating before.

    3. You can assume they don't want to continue to discuss that particular subject, but try another subject (still related) that might be constructive.

    In my last comment, I asked in response to the statement "Why does that person not care what anybody else says?"

    You answered, "I have no clue..."

    I think that you do; you just don't want to say because you might be wrong.

    You can continue the conversation by shifting the subject slightly. Change your focus to the new statement. If you ask them why they don't care what anyone says, you might open doors to a deeper issue that you can speak to. This will also allow you to determine if further discussion will be fruitful, and will prevent you from coming to mistaken conclusions about the person.

    4. You may assume they are saying that they haven't thought too hard about your objections, and they need time to investigate it before discussing it more. (An extension of 1)

    You may want to ask them if they want to pick up where you left off later. Whether you expect them to actually investigate or not, you should be respectful of the implied request and allow that particular point to rest and move on.

    My point in all this is that if you want to have a meaningful conversation, ask questions. If you sense frustration, ask a question specifically designed to dispel the frustration (such as 2).

    We also have to be self-conscious that we are not coming off as frustrated, because that will turn them off just as quickly as their frustration turns us off.