Book Review: Tactics
Last year, I and a friend led an apologetics training weekend for a group of young people from my church. It turned out to be a really beautiful time of discussion, teaching, reading, and gospel-sharing on the streets in Maine. The vision for the weekend started when I read a terrific book by Greg Koukl, Tactics. At times, nagging questions surface in my mind about evangelism: Is talking about Christianity with unbelievers really helpful? Does anyone really change their mind? If so, how do I explain Christianity coherently? This book turned out to be a highlight of 2019, and one that I’ll turn back to many times in thinking about evangelism.
In case you need some positive motivation to pick this up, here are two previews of the stellar points that Koukl makes in his book:
- Countering the claim that arguments (think, discussions) are bad, Koukl writes, “The ability to argue well is vital for clear thinking. That’s why arguments are good things. Arguing is a virtue because it helps us determine what is true and discard what is false.”
First of all, I’m not using the word “argument” to mean a quarrel. That’s never helpful. In logical terms, an argument is a system of reasons why the listener should agree with the conclusion. In this way, Koukl is using the word “argue” to refer to the process of comparing values in open discussion. In chapter 1, Koukl gives his paramount strategy: asking questions. When in a conversation about religion and values, always take time to ask many questions. No one likes when it seems that the other person is missing her point entirely and doesn’t seem to notice. If we carefully use questions to reveal the truth instead of using statements, we will be far more winsome and effective.
- Koukl explains in Chapter 10, aptly named “Taking the Roof Off,” the tactic of “taking a test drive” of the other person’s worldview in order to show its lack of integrity. “First, adopt the other person’s worldview for the sake of the argument. Next, give his idea a test drive. Try to determine where you will end up if you follow his instructions faithfully. If you arrive at an odd destination, point it out and invite the other person to reconsider his starting point…If you take a view seriously and apply it consistently and it leads to disaster, you are on the wrong route.”
Koukl calls this approach “taking the roof off” because just like someone not knowing their location because they are enclosed in a building, many people have not been exposed to the conclusions of their beliefs. When the roof comes off their worldview and the real world comes raining down, they will need a different house of reason and can discover Christianity instead.
Koukl is a calm, humble man who tries to always conduct his conversations without anger on either side. His life is an example to anyone who intends to learn to reason effectively, as Paul did in the first-century synagogues.
This book is a masterpiece of wisdom and wit for Christians of today. I definitely suggest picking up a copy of Tactics and learning to engage people around you in the truth.