Tactics Read Through: Chapter 1


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.


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.