Quotes Sampler

Here is a selection of independent quotations from books I am reading. I hope they offer as much food for thought for you as they have for me!

“If you come to the end of yourself and wonder if there’s help and are surprised to find yourself at times hoping for a grace from beyond, it’s a sign that grace is already at work. Keep asking. You don’t have to believe in order to ask. Here’s the thing: You can ask for help believing too. Wanting help is its own nascent trust. The desire for grace is the first grace. Coming to the end of your self-sufficiency is the first revelation.” (Smith, On the Road with Saint Augustine)

“Reading the greats ought to breed modesty, and he who spends time with these giants should sense what a clod he is. The reality, though, is that even the vaguest familiarity with a celebrity can induce the most cockeyed egotism.” (Reeves, Theologians You Should Know)

“…ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense—love as distinct from ‘being in love’—is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.” (Lewis, Mere Christianity)

“What is more (and I can hardly find words to tell you how important I think this), it is just the people who are ready to submit to the loss of the thrill and settle down to the sober interest, who are then most likely to meet new thrills in some quite different direction. The man who has learned to fly and become a good pilot will suddenly discover music; the man who has settled down to live in the beauty spot will discover gardening. This is, I think, one little part of what Christ meant by saying that a thing will not really live unless it first dies. It is simply no good trying to keep any thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go—let it die away—go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow—and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time. But if you decide to make thrills your regular diet and try to prolong them artificially, they will all get weaker and weaker, and fewer and fewer, and you will be a bored, disillusioned old man for the rest of your life.” (Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Tactics Read Through: Chapter 6


Summary:When we get into conversations with others where we feel overwhelmed or manipulated, there are some tactics we can use which will help us have a more profitable conversation and charitable ending.

“The approach rarely works, because it violates a fundamental rule of engagement: never make a frontal assault on a superior force in an entrenched position. An unwritten law of nature seems to govern exchanges like these: the man with the microphone wins.” (Location: 1,285)

Note:The Professor’s Ploy is to switch the burden of proof on the student and demand a defense before the student has even voiced an opinion.

“There’s a better way. Don’t disengage. Instead use your tactics. Raise your hand and ask a question. For starters, you might ask, “Professor, can you give us a little more detail on what you mean? What kind of fable are you talking about? Do you think nothing in the biblical documents has any historical value? Is everything in the book a fanciful invention of some sort? What’s your opinion?” Notice that these are all creative variations of our first Columbo question, “What do you mean by that?”” (Location: 1,288)

“Instead when you find yourself facing any form of the you-prove-me-wrong challenge, politely shift the burden back where it belongs—on the person who made the claim.” (Location: 1,309)

Note:Again going back to, “How did you come to that conclusion?”

“The Professor’s Ploy is the attempt any person makes to shift the burden of proof for his claim onto someone else. The professor (in this case) demands that students defend views they have not expressed, sidestepping his own responsibility to give an account of his beliefs.” (Location: 1,316)

“Do not be afraid to question your professors. Challenge them on your terms, though, not theirs. And do it with grace, respect, and tact. You don’t have to be the expert on every subject. You don’t have to have all the answers. You can still be effective even when you know very little, if you ask the right questions.” (Location: 1,318)

“When you feel overmatched and overwhelmed in a conversation, immediately shift from persuasion mode to fact-finding mode. Don’t continue to argue your case. Instead, using your first two Columbo questions, become a student of the other person’s view by asking for clarification and for reasons.” (Location: 1,342)

Note:This is how we “Get out of the hot seat”

“Many people you talk to will struggle when you turn the tables by asking them to give evidence for their claims or by using questions to expose their bad thinking. When a person has not thought much about his assertions, avoiding your questions may be his only recourse. He may try to change the subject or reassert his point in other ways. When this happens, it may be helpful for you to narrate the debate. Take a moment to step outside of the conversation, in a sense, and describe to your friend the turn the discussion has just taken. This will help him (and others listening) to see how he’s gotten off course.” (Location: 1,380)

Note:Narrating the debate both helps me and the others remain honest.

“When you’re dealing with an evasive or intellectually dishonest person, don’t let him get off the hook by dodging the issues or distorting the argument. Narrating the debate keeps the other person honest while keeping the conversation cordial. Encourage him to clarify himself. Call him on any false moves he’s made. Forcing him to face the music may be the first step toward a change of mind, either his or that of others listening.” (Location: 1,404)

Tactics Read Through: Chapter 5

Chapter 5 COLUMBO STEP 2 Reversing the Burden of Proof

Summary:An argument needs reasons, otherwise it is just an opinion. Giving the other individual the benefit of the doubt, we should ask what reasons they have for making their argument. “How did you come to that conclusion?” Is a way to both understand better someone’s argument, but also to free myself from being burdened to respond to every opinion that someone makes.

“There is a difference between an opinion and an argument. An opinion is just a point of view. An argument, by contrast, is a point of view supported by reasons” (Location: 1,094)

“It’s not your job to refute every story a skeptic can spin or every claim he can manufacture. If he makes the claim, then it’s his responsibility to give reasons why anyone should take his claim seriously. Don’t allow yourself to be thrust into a defensive position if you’re not advancing a view.” (Location: 1,107)

Note:I get caught in this all the time. It isn’t my job, and it isn’t loving either. I need to be willing to listen to their reasoning, or let them see that they have no reasons.

“These stories often have great rhetorical power. They have the ability to psychologically unsettle you and undermine your confidence in your point of view. But every story has to be put to the test. Critics need to have more than a good imagination. They need reasons. That’s the way arguments work.” (Location: 1,136)

“An argument is a specific kind of thing. Think of an argument like a simple house, a roof supported by walls. The roof is the conclusion, and the walls are the supporting ideas. By testing the walls, we can see whether they are strong enough to keep the roof from tumbling down. If the walls are solid, the conclusion (the roof) rests securely on its supporting structure. If the walls collapse, the roof goes flat and the argument is defeated.” (Location: 1,139)

Note:This is an excellent metaphor, and might be helpful even drawing it out in my mind while I am listening or evaluating an argument.

“I frequently get calls on my radio show/podcast from people who think they are giving me an argument, when all they are doing is forcefully stating a view. This move may sound compelling at first, and their story may even seem plausible. But there is a difference between giving an explanation and giving evidence why the explanation is a good one. Your job is to recognize when the roof is lying flat on the ground and simply point it out.” (Location: 1,151)

“How do you reverse the burden of proof when the other person is making the claim? You do it Columbo style—with a question. Here it is: “How did you come to that conclusion?”4 This question effectively shifts the burden of proof onto the challenger, where it belongs.” (Location: 1,156)

Note:Such a simple question, but so helpful!

“The first Columbo question helps you know what a person thinks. The second question helps you know why he thinks the way he does. It charitably assumes he has actually come to a conclusion, that he has reasons for his view and not merely strong feelings about it.” (Location: 1,165)

“There are three questions you should always ask whenever someone offers an alternate explanation: Is it possible? Is it plausible? Is it probable?” (Location: 1,202)

Note:These are good to keep in mind. Just because I disagree with something, does not mean it isn’t possible. I can grant that position without having to change mine.

“Reversing the burden of proof is not a trick to avoid defending our ideas. When we give opinions, we have to answer for them, just like anyone else. We have a responsibility, but so do they.” (Location: 1,224)

Note:This is convicting. If I am not able to demonstrate the reasons for my belief, why would I expect that from others?

Quotes Sampler

“A shade of sorrow passed over Taliesin’s face. ‘There are those,’ he said gently, ‘who must first learn loss, despair, and grief. Of all paths to wisdom, this is the cruelest and longest. Are you one who must follow such a way? This even I cannot know. If you are, take heart nonetheless. Those who reach the end do more than gain wisdom. As rough wool becomes cloth, and crude clay a vessel, so do they change and fashion wisdom for others, and what they give back is greater than what they won.” (Lloyd Alexander, The High King)

“Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.” (Augustine in Wax, Psalms in 30 Days: A Prayer Guide through the Psalms)

“In other words, when Hebrews 5:2 says that Jesus ‘can deal gently with the ignorant and the wayward,’ the point is that Jesus deals gently and only gently with all sinners who come to him, irrespective of their particular offense and just how heinous it is. What elicits tenderness from Jesus is not the severity of the sin but whether the sinner comes to him. Whatever our offense, he deals gently with us. If we never come to him, we will experience a judgment so fierce it will be like a double-edged sword coming out of his mouth at us (Rev. 1:16; 2:12; 19:15, 21). If we do come to him, as fierce as his lion-like judgment would have been against us, so deep will be his lamb-like tenderness for us (cf. Rev. 5:5–6; Isa. 40:10–11). We will be enveloped in one or the other. To no one will Jesus be neutral.” (Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly)

“Of course, the most popular way to quell this unsettling sense of not-at-home-ness is by trying to make ourselves at home in the world, even if that looks like mostly distracting ourselves from the unsettling fact of our alienation. As Heidegger would put it—in a way he learned from Augustine—I am absorbed by ‘everydayness’; I give myself over to those ‘producers of bustling activity’ who are more than happy to take the burden of selfhood off my hands.16 We learn to forget our alienation by letting ourselves be taken over by the distractions and entertainments and chatter of the world. We trade one sort of self-alienation for another that gives the illusion of homey comfort: ‘You belong here’ is the lie told to us by everyone from Disney to Vegas. We try to cover up not knowing who we are by letting everyone else sell us an identity, or at least a distraction from needing one.” (Smith, On the Road with Saint Augustine)

Tactics Read Through: Chapter 4

Summary: Being a student of other’s views is one of the best ways you can love your neighbor, learn more, and share Christ. We can start by asking a simple question, “What do you mean by that?”

“Your initial goal is to gather as much information from the other person as you can before you move on. You want him to talk as much as possible about his own convictions first. This approach gives you the best chance of “making the most of the opportunity,” as Paul put it in Colossians 4:5.” (Location: 867)

Note:There is a second side to this as well. Most people have very few opportunities where another individual is genuinely interested in them. Even with social media, many people are pumping out information for everyone to see because they don’t have anyone specific asking them about it, or showing real interest. What a gift we could give to someone else, the chance to be heard and understood.

“Would you like a model question that will help you get going? Here’s the one I use: ‘What do you mean by that?’” (Location: 893)

Note:There is a reason this is the first question. It is so crucial. But many times I just assume I know what they mean and have formulated an argument even before they have finished.

“When someone says to me, ‘Reincarnation was originally part of Christian teaching but was taken out of the Bible in the fourth century,’ I ask them to explain how that works (a variation of our first Columbo question). The devil, as they say, is in the details of such a challenge.” (Location: 913)

Note:There are so many of these textual statements made from individuals who have no idea what “textual criticism” even is. Taking a moment and listening to what they think happened is a good opportunity for someone to see they don’t know what they are talking about. It is also a challenge to me, how many things am I repeating which I have no idea of?

“There are three reasons why gathering information is important. First, you don’t want to misunderstand the person you’re talking with. Second, you don’t want to misrepresent him. Third, you don’t want him to misunderstand himself.” (Location: 921)

“Sometimes the reason you are confused about another person’s meaning is because she is confused too. She objects to Christianity for reasons she hasn’t carefully thought through, and her objection flourishes because no one has challenged the lack of clarity that led to her muddled thinking in the first place. Your first question compels her—maybe for the first time—to be more precise.” (Location: 952)

Note:We often don’t really know what we believe until we say it. And once this person has said it, they need to own it.

“I know that sounds surprising, but it’s true. Even though people have strong opinions, they rarely reflect on their views. Often they’re merely repeating slogans. When you ask them to flesh out their concern, opinion, or point of view, they’re struck mute. They’re forced to think about what they do mean, so be patient with the pause in the dialogue. You’re doing them a favor by requesting clarification.” (Location: 961)

“And be forewarned. When someone says there’s no proof of God’s existence, it’s sometimes a trick. It may be a reasonable request for evidence, but often it’s not. Unless you know in advance what kind of evidence would count (scientific data? historical documentation? philosophical arguments? revelation?) or what kind of proof would be satisfying (absolute proof? proof beyond a reasonable doubt? proof based on the preponderance of evidence? proof that’s a reasonable inference to the best explanation?), you’ll probably be wasting your time. If you’re not clear on his criteria for proof, it will be too easy for an intellectually dishonest person to dismiss anything you offer. ‘Not good enough,’ is all he needs to say. ‘That’s not proof.’” (Location: 988)

“Believing in leprechauns is irrational. Believing in God, by contrast, is like believing in atoms. The process is exactly the same. You follow the evidence of what you can see to conclude the existence of something you cannot see. The effect needs a cause adequate to explain it.” (Location: 997)

Note:There are those who would belittle others for believing in God, stating that they are “weak minded”, “ignorant”, “deniers of science”, etc. The questionis, though, who is more open minded: the one who disregards any possibility of God before considering the evidence, or the one who believes that their own senses and scientific method could be missing something, and thus there could be a God? I think Keller’s book, Making Sense of God, is a great resource for this.

“If you want skeptics to believe in the Bible, don’t get into a tug-of-war with them about inspiration. Instead, invite them to engage Jesus’ words firsthand, then let the Spirit do the heavy lifting for you.” (Location: 1,045)

Note:Yes! Read “One to One Bible Reading” for an excellent example of this.

“As to legislating morality, Aristotle famously observed that all law rests on a necessary foundation of morality. If the government’s use of force is not in the service of the common good, then its actions are illicit. Put simply, morality is the only thing you can legislate. Anything else is simply a raw exercise of power.” (Location: 1,058)

Quotes Sampler

Here are some quotes from books I am reading:

Not from a book, but a newsletter.So, in the middle of a workday, we ordered two 1lb cheeseburgers, stacked them on top of each other and then proceeded to make a terrible decision.” (Jon Acuff)

“Frustration is a matter of expectation.” (Luis Van Ohn in Ferris, Tools of Titans)

“I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” —Mark Twain

“They were now in the palace garden which sloped down in terraces to the city wall. The moon shone brightly. One of the drawbacks about adventures is that when you come to the most beautiful places you are often too anxious and hurried to appreciate them; so that Aravis (though she remembered them years later) had only a vague impression of gray lawns, quietly bubbling fountains, and the long black shadows of cypress trees.” (Lewis, Horse and his boy)

“Life’s a forge! Yes, and hammer and anvil, too! You’ll be roasted, smelted, and pounded, and you’ll scarce know what’s happening to you. But stand boldly to it! Metal’s worthless till it’s shaped and tempered! More labor than luck. Face the pounding, don’t fear the proving; and you’ll stand well against any hammer and anvil.” (Lloyd Alexander, Taran Wanderer)

“Many have pursued honor, and in the pursuit lost more of it than ever they could gain. (Lloyd Alexander, Taran Wanderer)

Tactics Read Through: Chapter 3

Summary: Questions are the key to meaningful conversations, and meaningful conversations should be a key goal of every Christ follower.

“Let’s start this chapter by putting you in a tough spot. I want you to imagine yourself in the following situations…” (Location: 682)

Note:If you don’t already have the book, buy it. The situations which follow are very common. I would guess every single one of us would have been in something similar.

“In each of these cases you have an opportunity, but there are obstacles. First, you must speak up quickly because the opportunity will not last long. You have only about ten seconds before the door closes. Second, you’re conflicted. You want to say something, but you’re also concerned about being sensitive, keeping the peace, preserving friendships, and not looking extreme.” (Location: 701)

Note:These are very real battles within each one of us. I would also add, “guilt.” I often feel guilty if I don’t say something.

“I want you to notice several things about these responses. First, each is a question. My initial response in a situation like this is not to preach about my view or even disagree with theirs. Rather, I want to draw them out, to invite them to talk more about what they think. This takes a lot of pressure off me because when I ask a question, the ball is back in their court. It also protects me from jumping to conclusions and unwittingly distorting their meaning…” (Location: 733)

Note:There are many reasons why we don’t ask questions. It could be because we are angry and our first response is not a calm question, but a response. We have been taught to attack false ideas, so we respond in attack. It might seem easier to just build a wall and hurl arguments over it. Maybe those tendencies help to explain how we have gotten to this place in our society.

“Second, each of these questions is an invitation to thoughtful dialogue. Each is an encouragement to participate in conversation in a reflective way.” (Location: 740)

Note:If I am truthful, I would have to say that I am more interested in “winning an argument” than in conversing with an individual. Part of the reason is I want my beliefs to be right, and if I win the argument I have another assurance that they are. But that idea reveals that I am not all that confident in my faith, which is to say, in my God.

Third, these are not idle queries. I have a particular purpose for each question. With some, I’m simply gathering information (“Do you vote?”). Others, you might have noticed, are subtly leading; the questions are meant to make a point by indicating a problem with the other person’s thinking.” (Location: 743)

Note:The point isn’t to simply ask questions. The point is to ask good questions.

“The key to the Columbo tactic is to go on the offensive in an inoffensive way with carefully selected questions that advance the conversation. Never make a statement, at least at first, when a question will do the job.” (Location: 774)

Note:This first tactic, the Colombo tactic, is what enables us to step out from our normal fighting stance and actually make some headway in the conversation.

“Your sincere questions, though, provide a number of benefits and will move you forward without risking a direct confrontation. For one thing, sincere questions are friendly and flattering. They invite genial interaction by focusing on something the other person cares a lot about: herself and her ideas…Second, you’ll get an education. You’ll leave a conversation knowing more than when you arrived…Third, questions allow you to make progress on a point without being pushy…Questions buy you valuable time when you’re not quite sure what to do next…Finally, and most important, carefully placed questions put you in the driver’s seat of the conversation. ‘Being an asker allows you control of situations that statement-makers rarely achieve,’ Hewitt notes. ‘An alert questioner can judge when someone grows uneasy. But don’t stop. Just change directions. . . . Once you learn how to guide a conversation, you have also learned how to control it.’ (Location: 809)

Quotes Sampler

Here is a selection of quotes from books I am reading:

“Without saying that God does evil that good may come, we can say that God overrules the full tendencies of preexisting evil so that the evil promotes God’s eternal plan, contrary to its own tendency and goals” (Hard Sayings of the Bible; 1 Kings 22:20-22)

“The clincher question Cal used to get free room and board around Europe as a poor traveler was: “Can you tell me: How do you make the perfect goulash?” He would purposefully sit down next to grandmas, who would then pour out their souls. After a few minutes of passionate pantomiming, people would come from around the train to help translate, no matter the country.” (Ferris, Tools of Titans)

“So Beowulf, friend, ban such thoughts. Better be humble, (1760) As the best of brave men, the better part take—Eternal gains, everlasting life; arrogance is death, Famed warrior and friend.” (Wilson, Beowulf)

“It doesn’t follow that you’ll be anyone very special in Narnia. But as long as you know you’re nobody very special, you’ll be a very decent sort of Horse, on the whole, and taking one thing with another.” (Lewis, The Horse and His Boy)

Tactics Read Through: Chapter 2


Summary: Arguments are not bad things, rather necessary interactions. But the arguing, or reasoning, of the ideas we have is not done in a way to anger others intentionally, but to place a pebble in the shoe of another.

“Always make it a goal to keep your conversations cordial. Sometimes that will not be possible. If a principled, charitable expression of your ideas makes someone mad, there’s little you can do about it. Jesus’ teaching made some people furious. Just make sure it’s your ideas that offend and not you, that your beliefs cause the disruption and not your behavior.” (Location: 469)

“We cannot grasp the authoritative teaching of God’s Word unless we use our minds properly. Therefore the mind, not the Bible, is the very first line of defense God has given us against error.” (Location: 487)

Note:This is why the author can make the statement, “Arguing is a Virtue”.

“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 hold to what is true and discard what is false.” (Location: 503)

Note:Viewed this way, one of the most loving things we can do for our neighbor is reason with them. And one of the most loving thing our neighbor can do for us, is reason with us. I am not immune to faulty thinking! I need others to argue with me.

“Arguments are good, and dispute is healthy. They clarify the truth and protect us from error and religious despotism. When the church discourages principled debates and a free flow of ideas, the result is shallow Christianity and a false sense of unity. No one gets any practice at learning how to field contrary views in a gracious and productive way. The oneness shared is contrived, not genuine. Worse, the ability to separate wheat from chaff is lost. When arguments are few, error abounds.” (Location: 535)

Note:Read the previous paragraphs for the reasoning which led to this. In a church, or a relationship (!),where there are no arguments, the unity is most likely surface level.

“Here’s the key principle: without God’s work, nothing else works; but with God’s work, many things work. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, love persuades. With Jesus’ help, arguments convince. By the power of God, the gospel transforms through each of these methods. Why do you think God is just as pleased to use a good argument as a warm expression of love? Because both love and reason are consistent with God’s character. The same God who is the essence of love (1 John 4:8) also gave the invitation, “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isa. 1:18). Therefore both approaches honor him.” (Location: 570)

Note:This is in response to the statement that “you cannot argue anyone into the kingdom.”

“I focus on being faithful, but I trust God to be effective. Some will respond, and some will not. The results are his concern, not mine. This lifts a tremendous burden from my shoulders.” (Location: 582)

Note:This is a great relief!

“It may surprise you to hear this, but I never set out to convert anyone. My aim is never to win someone to Christ. I have a more modest goal, one you might consider adopting as your own. All I want to do is put a stone in someone’s shoe. I want to give that person something worth thinking about, something he can’t ignore because it continues to poke at him in a good way.” (Location: 598)

Note:I love this metaphor and have adopted it as well. Placing a stone in a shoe is so much easier than trying to convince someone.

“I encourage you to consider the strategy I use when God opens a door of opportunity for me. I pray quickly for wisdom, then ask myself, What one thing can I say in this circumstance, what one question can I ask, what single idea can I offer that will get the other person thinking? Then I simply try to put a stone in the person’s shoe.” (Location: 656)

This is an excellent prayer to make while I’m in a conversation with anyone.