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Monday, August 1, 2011

Tactics: A Book Review

My friend Steve works small miracles.  A campus minister with a book coming out soon, he takes time each week to host a coffee-shop discussion group on Biblical topics.  This would not seem particularly extraordinary unless you were to survey the regular attendees.  Agnostics, Atheists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians alike come repeatedly to hash things out with Steve.  How does he engage them long-term without equivocating?  Well, maybe Steve is just a naturally diplomatic ambassador.  But for people like me who lack his skills and gifts, there’s Tactics by Gregory Koukl.

This book is a systematic approach to discussing faith in a way that keeps the conversation open.  It is as much a way of listening as anything, of distilling an argument and uncovering flawed logic and errors.  Titling each approach with a memorable name, Koukl teaches how to question graciously rather than to preach.  If the Bible is true, arguments against its content will contain discernable flaws.  If we can root these out gently, we clear a path, so to speak, to the cross.

Books of this nature raise two mental objections for me, and Koukl addresses both early on.  First, while the questions seem simple and artless, it takes a trained mind to pinpoint logical fallacies and practical errors in even the most common argument against Christianity.  I may even have a Biblical answer for, say, the problem of evil, but can I turn it into effective evidence for the existence of God?  Can I do it under pressure?  Systematic reasoning takes practice, and Koukl doesn’t paint the learning process rosy.  Instead, he offers encouragement for the task and practical steps for self-educating.
Second, it is easy to write out a deconstruction of someone’s thinking.  It is harder to imagine the person gratefully capitulating on the spot, though.  Here, too, Koukl strengthens his credibility by reminding us that “closing the deal” is not the goal.  Tactics challenges, but replete with maneuvers for handling the worst gracefully, it is also realistic.  I recommend it as a launching point for your continuing education, a framework for applying your zeal and knowledge effectively.

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