Into the Book

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Gregory Koukl’s Tactics is one of those books I’d have read much sooner had I realized how good it was. After I finished it, I immediately added it to my favorites, and I’m already certain that it will be among the best, most helpful books I’ll read this year.

Tactics is essentially a game book for discussing your Christian convictions, specifically with non-believers. Koukl – who holds MA degrees in both apologetics and philosophy – introduces various techniques that will help you share your faith with others more confidently, graciously, and effectively.

In the first chapter, Koukl points out the difference between strategy and tactics, something I had never particularly considered before.

Strategy involves the big picture, the large-scale operation, one’s positioning prior to engagement… Tactics, literally the ‘art of arranging’, focus on the immediate situation at hand.

He also points out another simple but oft overlooked fact: apologetics is not about beating the other guy over the head with your ideas.

Jesus said that when you find yourself as a sheep among wolves, be innocent, but shrewd (Matthew 10:16). Even though there is real warfare going on, our engagements should look more like diplomacy than D-Day. 

In this book I would like to teach you how to be diplomatic. I want to suggest a method called the Ambassador Model. This approach hinges more on friendly curiosity – a kind of relaxed diplomacy – than on confrontation.

As ambassadors for Christ, we must be always be prepared “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Yet we are to do this with “gentleness and respect”. The Ambassador Model which Koukl mentioned essentially consists in the following creed, which he shares towards the end of the book.

An ambassador is…

Ready. An ambassador is alert for chances to represent Christ and will not back away from a challenge or an oppurtunity
Patient. An ambassador won’t quarrel, but will listen in order to understand, then with gentleness will seek to respectfully engage those who disagree.
Reasonable. An ambassador has informed convictions (not just feelings), and gives reasons, asks questions, aggressively seeks answers, and will not be stumped by the same challenge twice.
Tactical. An ambassador adapts to each unique person and situation, maneuvering with wisdom to challenge bad thinking, presenting the truth in and understandable and compelling way.
Clear. An ambassador is careful with language and will not rely on Christian lingo nor gain unfair advantage by resorting to empty rhetoric.
Fair. An ambassador is sympathetic and understanding toward others and will acknowledge the merits of contrary views.
Honest. An ambassador is careful with the facts and will not misrepresent another’s view, overstate his own case, or understate the demands of the gospel.
Humble. An ambassador is provisional in his claims, knowing that his understanding of truth is fallible. He will not press the point beyond what the evidence allows.
Attractive. An ambassador will act with grace, kindness, and good manners. He will not dishonor Christ in his conduct.
Dependent. An ambassador knows that effectiveness requires joining his best efforts with God’s power.

It’s simple, but eminently helpful.

Koukl shares nine useful tactics throughout the course of the book, and these include:

  • Columbo – using thoughtful questions to expose and defeat an argument.
  • Taking the Roof Off – pressing an idea to its logical conclusion.
  • Suicide – recognizing views that self-destruct

Here’s an example of how Koukl practically utilizes the last tactic, Suicide, to dismantle Theistic Evolution:

Some people suggest that God used evolution to design the world. They are motivated, I think, by two impulses. The first is the desire to affirm the Bible. The second is a suspicion that Darwinism might have merit. Thus, they declare both to be true. 

These two notions, however, seem incompatible to me. It may sound reasonable for God to “use” evolution, but if you look closer I think you will see the problem. 

Suppose I wanted a straight flush for a hand of poker. I could either pull the cards out of the deck individually and “design” the hand, or I could shuffle the cards randomly and see if the flush is dealt to me. It would not make any sense, though, to “design” the hand by shuffling the deck and dealing. There’s no way to ensure the results. (I guess if I were really clever I could make it look like I was shuffling the deck when in reality I was stacking it, but that would be a deceitful kind of design called “cheating”.) 

In the same way, God either designs the details of the biological world, or nature shuffles the deck and natural selection chooses the winning hand. the mechanism is either conscious and intentional (design), or unconscious and unintentional (natural selection). Creation has a purpose, a goal. Evolution is accidental, like a straight flush dealt by a poker rookie.

Pretty neat, huh?

I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under 14 (due to mature content), but for older readers Tactics really is a must-read. As another critic put it, “Greg Koukl is a wise, seasoned, front-lines apologist. I am happy to recommend a book so full of practical insights and careful guidance for skilfully, winsomely defending the Christian faith.”

– Corey P.


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Published on 29 August, 2011. Last updated on

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