Tactics Read Through: Chapter 1

Chapter 1: DIPLOMACY OR D-DAY?

Summary:Tactics enable me to thoughtfully and charitably maneuver a conversation with someone ignorant of, or opposed to, the reasonable faith of Christianity.

“Even though there is real warfare going on,1 I think our engagements should look more like diplomacy than D-Day.” (Location: 247)

Note:If we consider it D-Day, the fighters in our midst get a smile on their faces and those who don’t feel prepared, shy back. Neither of those attitudes are what we need for the majority of our interactions. I think there are relatively few moments where a direct frontal attack are necessary, and even in fewer instances are they spontaneous.

“I want to suggest a method I call the Ambassador Model. This approach trades more on friendly curiosity—a kind of relaxed diplomacy—than on confrontation.” (Location: 250)

Note:This might seem anti-biblical to some, pointing back at the Old Testament prophets, the apostles in Acts, etc. However, I think that Jesus himself engages in a variety of tactics, and only in very important conflicts with specific individuals or groups, does he engage in a direct attack.

THE WITCH IN WISCONSIN (Location: 261)

Note:This is a great example. If you haven’t read through it, this interaction highlights how our conversations and apologetic encounters could go.

“This happens all the time, of course, on both sides of the aisle. We trot out our pet slogans—whether secular ones or Christian ones—letting our catchphrases do the work that careful, thoughtful conversation should be doing instead. The habit often obscures the full significance (or ramifications, in this case) of our words.” (Location: 312)

Note:Very true. This is a double-edged sword. Once we start questioning the slogans of others, we have to realize that we use them all the time!

“True, I hadn’t gotten to the gospel, but that was not the direction this conversation was going. This wasn’t a gospel moment but a gardening moment that involved a vital moral issue. It was time to abandon the pursuit, entrust her to the Lord, and move on.” (Location: 325)

Note:There is an incredible relief in this realization. God doesn’t intent for me to say everything to everybody. He is doing something that I will never see. I am not the sum total of his work in their life, but I can be part of it!

“This is the power of the tactical approach: staying in the driver’s seat in conversations so you can direct the discussion, exposing faulty thinking and suggesting more fruitful alternatives along the way.” (Location: 350)

Note:This is in contrast to being defensive, responding to every hydra-headed question, speaking of what I don’t know, and pushing for a decision.

“Our knowledge must be tempered with the wisdom that makes our message clear and persuasive. This requires the tools of a diplomat, not the weapons of a warrior, tactical skill rather than brute force…These three skills—knowledge, an accurately informed mind; wisdom, an artful method; and character, an attractive manner—play a part in every effective encounter with a nonbeliever. The second skill, tactical wisdom, is the main focus of this book.” (Location: 361)

Note:I have often failed here, believing that memorizing quick and snappy responses to popular beliefs will win an argument.

“Keep in mind that strategy and tactics are different. Strategy involves the big picture, the large-scale operation, one’s positioning prior to engagement. Here’s how this concept applies to our situation as Christian ambassadors. As followers of Jesus, we have a tremendous strategic advantage. We are well positioned on the field, because our worldview holds up well under serious scrutiny, especially considering the alternatives. Our strategic advantage includes two areas. The first, called offensive apologetics, makes a positive case for Christianity by offering reasons that support our view—giving evidence for the existence of God or for the resurrection of Christ or for the inspiration of the Bible, for example. The second area, often called defensive apologetics, answers specific challenges meant to undermine or disprove Christianity—responding to attacks on the authority and historical reliability of the Bible or tackling the problem of evil or addressing the challenge of Darwinian macroevolution, to name a few.4 Notice that in the way I am using the term, the strategic element focuses on content. Virtually every book ever written on defending Christianity takes this approach. Faithful Christian authors have filled bookshelves with enough information to deal decisively with every imaginable challenge to classical Christianity. Still, many Christians have an inferiority complex. Why? It might be because they have never been exposed to such excellent information. As a result, they are lacking the first skill of a good ambassador: knowledge. But I think there is another reason. Something is still missing. A sharp lawyer needs more than facts to make his case in court. He needs to know how to use his knowledge well. In the same way, we need a plan to artfully manage the details of our dialogues with others. This is where the tactical game plan comes in.” (Location: 367)

Note:If I keep this in mind I can start to see the other individual, not as an enemy to be defeated, but someone who needs to hear a better way.

“The tactical approach requires as much careful listening as thoughtful response.” (Location: 397)

Note:Not normally what you think of when it comes to apologetics! But it is the truth.

“Tactics are not manipulative tricks or slick ruses. They are not clever ploys to embarrass other people and force them to submit to your point of view. They are not meant to belittle or humiliate those who disagree so you can gain notches in your spiritual belt.” (Location: 405)

Note:A very necessary caution.

“It is axiomatic that these learned and intelligent people—academics of all sorts and professionals of every stripe—often make foolish and fundamental mistakes in thinking when it comes to spiritual things.” (Location: 428)

Note:Christianity is a reasonable faith. I must remember that.

Tactics Read Through: Foreword and Preface

If you are like me, you are most likely feeling some level of discouragement or resignation in light of the political environment. The atmosphere is abismal and I don’t think it is necessary to convince you of that fact. Rather, I am assuming you are already frustrated. We can skip all the facts and rehashing of what is going on in the USA and around the world.

But you may also be discouraged about the religious environment. You see evil winning. You see the canceling of the freedom of speech and belief. You perhaps have had frustrating conversations with others of different religious beliefs. There seems to be a darkening of the moral order.

So where do we go from here? Do we hole up? Do we circle the wagons? Do we close down communications and simply hurl statements through social media at the opposing side, at least until we are kicked off? Is there any hope?

Enter Greg Koukl and his book, Tactics: a game plan for discussing your Christian convictions. This book has changed me over the years (here is a review I wrote 9 years ago). I don’t know how many times I have read it and been challenged. But here on the blog I will be reading through it again over the coming weeks. I need to hear this again. You need to hear this. Believe me. Please buy the book and read through it with me. Leave comments, talk through it with others, learn with me. Koukl points us to a better way. A hope.

Below is from the foreword and preface.

“There are plenty of resources that help Christians understand what they believe and why they believe it, and certainly those are vital. But it’s equally crucial to know how to engage in a meaningful dialogue with a skeptic or a person from another religious viewpoint.”(Location: 141)

Note:This is the heart and hope of this book. We do not need to have all the answers within reach. We do not have to have the perfect argument or be able to shut down someone who has a different belief system.

“I am going to give you a game plan that will allow you to converse with confidence in any situation, no matter how little you know or how knowledgeable or aggressive or even obnoxious the other person might be.” (Location: 181)

Note:This is a high claim, but I have seen it in my own life. I don’t always do it, but I could if I kept myself from trying to appear smart.

“My plan follows Paul’s pattern found in Colossians 4:5–6. Here’s what he says: “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” Notice three elements in Paul’s injunction. First, he says, “Be smart.” Make the most of the moment, but watch your steps. Come in slowly, under the radar. Be shrewd, not blunt. Next, he says, “Be nice.” Show warmth. Probe gently. Be calm and patient. Remember, if anyone gets mad, you’ll lose. Finally, he says, “Be tactical.” Adjust to the individual. Tailor your comments to his special situation. Each circumstance is different. Each person is unique. Treat them that way.” (Location: 200)

Note:So often I just want to follow the plan, “prove them wrong”. They might be wrong, but they will never agree with me that they are wrong if I belittle them. And then again, I may be wrong as well, or be right but for the wrong reasons. That is a dangerous place to be!

“When I talk with people about spiritual matters, I’m not looking to close the deal with them. I’m just looking to do a little gardening in their lives. That’s all. I want to get them thinking. If I can do that, then I’m satisfied, since I know they are ultimately in God’s hands.” (Location: 211)

Note:This is so much better than the misconception often found in evangelism – that of pushing for a decision. We don’t want that done to us in other areas of life. Why would I want to be pushed into a decision about marrying someone, purchasing a house, children, job, etc? And then to push someone to make a “decision” in following Jesus Christ…that is dangerous.

Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

I highly recommend this book.
Butterfield, Rosaria Champagne. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: Expanded Edition. 2nd ed. Crown & Covenant Publications, 2014.
Here are some quotes:

 

How do I tell you about my conversion to Christianity without making it sound like an alien abduction or a train wreck? Truth be told, it felt like a little of both. The language normally used to describe this odd miracle does not work for me. I didn’t read one of those tacky self-help books with a thin coating of Christian themes, examine my life against the tenets of the Bible the way one might hold up one car insurance policy against all others and cleanly and logically “make a decision for Christ.” While I did make choices along the path of this journey, they never felt logical, risk-free, or sane. Neither did I feel like the victim of an emotional/spiritual earthquake and collapse gracefully into the arms of my Savior, like a holy and sanctified Scarlett O’Hara having been “claimed by Christ’s irresistible grace.” Heretical as it might seem, Christ and Christianity seemed eminently resistible. (Kindle: 177)

 

Christians always seemed like bad readers to me, too. They appeared to use the Bible in a way that Marxists would call “vulgar”—that is, common, or in order to bring the Bible into a conversation to stop the conversation, not deepen it. “The Bible says” always seemed to me like a mantra that invited everyone to put his or her brain on hold. “The Bible says” was the Big Pause before the conversation stopped. Their catch phrases and clichés were (and are) equally off-putting. “Jesus is the answer” seemed to me then and now like a tree without a root. Answers come after questions, not before. Answers answer questions in specific and pointed ways, not in sweeping generalizations.

(Kindle: 204)

 

Ken stressed that he accepted me as a lesbian but that he didn’t approve of me as a lesbian.

(Kindle: 398)

 

I learned the first rule of repentance: that repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin. How much greater? About the size of a mustard seed. Repentance requires that we draw near to Jesus, no matter what. And sometimes we all have to crawl there on our hands and knees. Repentance is an intimate affair. And for many of us, intimacy with anything is a terrifying prospect.

(Kindle: 506)

 

 

Conversion put me in a complicated and comprehensive chaos. I sometimes wonder, when I hear other Christians pray for the salvation of the “lost,” if they realize that this comprehensive chaos is the desired end of such prayers.

(Kindle: 602)

 

Sometimes in crisis, we don’t really learn lessons. Sometimes the result is simpler and more profound: sometimes our character is simply transformed.

(Kindle: 629)

 

A mistake is a logical misstep. Sin lurks in our heart and grabs us by the throat to do its bidding. (Kindle: 871)

 

This experience taught me a powerful lesson about evangelism: The integrity of our relationships matters more than the boldness of our words.

(Kindle: 1,169)

 

 

Even when faced with the blinding sting of someone else’s sin, it really is not someone else’s sin that can hurt us. It is our own festering sin that takes the guise of innocence that will be the undoing of us all.

(Kindle: 1,464)

 

What good Christians don’t realize is that sexual sin is not recreational sex gone overboard. Sexual sin is predatory. It won’t be “healed” by redeeming the context or the genders. Sexual sin must simply be killed. What is left of your sexuality after this annihilation is up to God. But healing, to the sexual sinner, is death: nothing more and nothing less. I told my audience that I think too many young Christian fornicators plan that marriage will redeem their sin. Too many young Christian masturbators plan that marriage will redeem their patterns. Too many young Christian internet pornographers think that having legitimate sex will take away the desire to have illicit sex. They’re wrong. And the marriages that result from this line of thinking are dangerous places. I know, I told my audience, why over fifty percent of Christian marriages end in divorce: because Christians act as though marriage redeems sin. Marriage does not redeem sin. Only Jesus himself can do that. The audience seemed a little shocked to hear this.

(Kindle: 1,648)

 

 

The more God-centered our worship practice, the more mercy-centered our life. Worship is our rehearsal for how to live today and how to glorify God in heaven. It is not merely a Sunday morning exercise meant to make us feel good.

(Kindle: 1,788)

 

 

Learning to be refreshed in the context of intense labor is important spiritual work. God truly gave us what we needed. When Christ was at the center, we learned to “draft” off God’s word the way cyclists draft off of another cyclist during a long race. Perhaps even more importantly, when Christ was at the center, we learned to say no and to close the door.

(Kindle: 2,073)

 

I learned, during those years, that the idea that one is ever too busy to pray is delusion of the most dangerous variety.

(Kindle: 2,083)

 

 

Over the years, I have contemplated what this really means. What does it really mean to “lack fellowship”? At least as it regards the handful of families that showed immediate excitement and then after a month a changed heart, this is what “lacking fellowship” means. It means that the family needs to be in a church made up of people who are just like they, who raise their children using the same childrearing methods, who take the same stance on birth control, schooling, voting, breastfeeding, dress codes, white flour, white sugar, gluten, childhood immunizations, the observance of secular and religious holidays. We encountered families who feared diversity with a primal fear. They often told us that they didn’t want to “confuse” their children by exposing them to differences in parenting standards among Christians. I suspect that they feared that deviation from their rules might provide a window for children to see how truly diverse the world is and that temptation might lead them astray. Over and over and over again I have heard this line of thinking from the fearful and the faith-struggling. We in the church tend to be more fearful of the (perceived) sin in the world than of the sin in our own hearts. Why is that?

(Kindle: 2,118)

 

 

When God brings children out of neglect, abuse, dysfunction, gangs, drugs, and hate, and places them in a covenant home, he has just moved a mountain in the hearts and families of men. When God gives a childless couple a child of any age using the means of his powerful will, he has just moved a mountain in the hearts and families of men. When mountains move, the earth shakes. When you stand as close as we have to real-life miracles, you will get roughed up. Mountains are big and we are small. A moving mountain can crush us. Splinters fall from the cross. They travel a long distance and they pierce the skin—maybe even the heart. And wrapped in this risk and danger are God’s embrace and promise to work all things (even evil ones) to the good of those who love him.

(Kindle: 2,287)

 

 

God is not crushing the dreams of parenthood when he deals the card of infertility. God is asking you to crush the idolatry of pregnancy, to be sure. And, he is saying: Dream My dreams, not yours!

(Kindle: 2,515)

Top Shelf Book: Making Sense of God

Book: Keller, Timothy. Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical. Viking, 2016.

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Point: Every single individual lives a life based on a complex tangle of “experiences, faith, reasoning, and intuition.” Although the materialist or secularist can claim that belief in a God outside of space and time is unreasonable, that position is only tenable if the presupposition “God cannot exist” is there prior.

Path: In three main parts, Keller patiently and systematically guides the reader through the reasonability of faith in God, and not just any God, but the God of the Bible. Those parts are titled “Why does anyone need religion?”; “Religion is more than you think it is”; and “Christianity makes sense”. The middle part is by far the largest and most comprehensive, dealing with meaning, satisfaction, freedom, self, identity, hope, morals, and justice. His purpose is not to give a definitive argument for God, but demonstrate that arguments against a God are unfounded and fail repeatedly.

Sources: Keller does his normal deep digging and provides the reader with a lifetime of supplementary reading ranging from early church fathers to reformers, philosophers to militant atheists.

Agreement: After reading nearly every chapter I thought, “I just had this conversation last week!” This book both opened my eyes to a greater understanding of the problems and a greater appreciation to how Jesus solves them.

Personal App: The greatest compliment one of my unbelieving friends can pay me is “you understand and state my belief better than I could!” I feel as though this book helps me do this.

Favorite Quote: There is no way to pick a favorite, but one which points to a strength of the book is this one: “The point is rather that science alone cannot serve as a guide for human society.”

Stars: 5 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • Believes science has all the answers.
  • Is struggling to believe in the God of the Bible while surrounded by “real life”.
  • Wants to better understand their neighbor, coworker, or family member who thinks “faith” is a crutch.
  • Anyone trying to engage the modern and postmodern man.

Other books along this theme would be:

Anderson, James N. What’s Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions. Crossway Books, 2014.

Craig, William Lane. On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision. New. David C. Cook, 2010.

Keller, Timothy J. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Riverhead Books, 2009.

Koukl, Gregory. Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions. Zondervan, 2009.

Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York: HarperCollins, 2001.

Strobel, Lee. The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ. 1st ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.

The story of reality

Book: Koukl, Gregory. The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important That Happens in Between. Zondervan, 2017.

(for a full review, click the title above) Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 10.15.00 AM

 

Point: There is a Story of everything. It is a reasonable story and one for everyone, although many have chosen not to believe it. It is a story about God, man, Jesus, cross, and resurrection.

Path: Koukl takes the reader through the Big Story, taking time to address concerns, questions, critiques, and misrepresentations. It is a patient tour of the greatest Story of all time. He addresses each of the five key words he has delineated in order to summarize the story.

 

Favorite Quote: More to the point, what good would it do the disciples to steal Jesus’ remains, then lie about a resurrection? The basic rule with lying is this: Invent a story that benefits you, not one that gets you beaten, whipped, stoned, crucified upside down, or beheaded. My personal view is that any skeptic who is attracted to that explanation is simply not skeptical enough.

Stars:  4.5 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • Is thoughtfully considering the Christian story
  • Is relatively new to their Christian faith
  • Is interested in sharing the gospel story in a more thoughtful way

Other books along this theme would be:

Keller, Timothy. Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical. Viking, 2016.

Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York: HarperCollins, 2001.

Encounters with Jesus

Book: Keller, Timothy. Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions. Reprint edition. Penguin Books, 2013.

For the full review, click on the title above

Path: Keller has given us a unique book which is both apologetical and devotional.

Keller takes a chapter to explain the interactions of various individuals with Jesus and how they can challenge us. Those individuals are: Nathanael the skeptic, the Insider – Nicodemus and the Outcast – the Samaritan woman, Mary and Martha the Grieving Sisters, the disciples and town at the wedding party,  Mary Magdalene, Satan and his temptations, Jesus at his Ascension, Jesus in the Garden, and Mary after the Angel’s revelation.

Keller explains the interactions in an interesting and enlightening way, and then applies them to skeptics, seekers, and mature believers.

 

Favorite Quote: “Jesus not only died the death we should have died in order to take the law’s curse for us, he also lived the great life of love and fidelity we should have lived in order to earn God’s blessing for us.“

Stars: 4.5 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • Is skeptical about Jesus
  • Is seeking to know more about Jesus
  • Is seeking to love Jesus more

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Medalist Podium

With the Olympics starting soon we are seeing more people using their platform of abilities to point to Christ. I think that is good. I think it is appropriate for an athlete, or artist, or recognized person to speak about their Savior as they have that opportunity (and tact). We are told to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…but with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
But I can assure you that I won’t be standing on an award podium, or interviewed on television, any time soon for winning a race.
The world can look at those shining athletes and guess. But me? “Why did He pick you?” they will think.
– Not because of any secret talents yet to be revealed.
– Not because of something unique in me.
– Not because He needed something I have.
– Not because I was worth it.

His choice says very little about me, but it shouts volumes about Him.

I look forward to watching the Olympics and seeing individuals excel. I look forward to individuals being consistent with their faith in that arena. But my platform for speaking of my Savior is not a medalist podium. My platform is the utter absence of goodness in me overwhelmed by His incredible grace.

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The Art of Neighboring by Pathak and Runyon

Book: Pathak, Jay, and Dave Runyon. The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012.

For a full review – click the link above

Point: Until we recognize that “neighbor” in the second greatest command in Scripture can actually mean “someone living next to us,” we will fail to see our responsibility to those God has placed in our lives to love.

Agreement: I appreciated the challenge. How easy is it for me to generalize “neighbor” to everyone, and miss the individual right next door. It was very convicting to see what was, and at the same time, exciting to see what could be.

Personal App: Am I loving my neighbor specifically? Do I know my neighbor?

Stars:  4.5 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • Is interested in obeying the Great Commandment
  • Is looking for good ideas about how to love their neighbor

Other books along this theme would be:

  • Coleman, Robert E. The Master Plan of Evangelism. Revell, 2006.
  • Dever, Mark. The Gospel and Personal Evangelism. First Edition. Crossway, 2007.
  • Stiles, J. Mack. Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus. Crossway, 2014.