Tactics Read Through: Chapter 8

Chapter 8 PERFECTING COLUMBO

Summary:Being thoughtful and reasonable in dialogue with others over differing views is not something that comes naturally, but we can practice! And that practice will move our discussions along in a better direction.

“In any encounter, there are two times when the pressure is off: before the conversation begins and after it’s over. Those are perfect times to focus on improving your technique. Peter reminds us to always be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). There are three things you can do to ready yourself to respond. You can anticipate beforehand what might come up. You can reflect afterward on what took place. And in both cases, you can practice the responses you think of during these reflective moments so you’ll be prepared for the next opportunity.” (Location: 1,773)

Note:If I want to love my neighbor to the best of my ability, it is worth my time to think about our conversation after the fact in order to evaluate how I might be more clear in my questions or comments in our next interaction.

“When I ask myself about the three skills of an ambassador—knowledge (an accurately informed mind), wisdom (an artful method), and character (an attractive manner)—I have something specific to focus on. Did I know enough about the issue, or do I need to brush up on something for next time? Could I have maneuvered with more tactical wisdom in the conversation? Was my manner attractive? Did I act with grace, kindness, and patience?” (Location: 1,802)

Note:Good review of the first chapter.

“Sometimes I practice this way when I’m alone in the car, listening to talk radio. After hearing a few comments by the host or a caller, I turn the volume down and then pretend it’s my job to respond to what was said. It’s almost like being on live radio, except if I say something foolish, no one hears.” (Location: 1,814)

Note:Or with books. If we take time to stop and try to respond to an author, we can begin to think for ourselves.

“As a general rule, go out of your way to establish common ground. Whenever possible, affirm points of agreement. Take the most charitable read on the other person’s motives, not the most cynical one. Treat them the way you would like others to treat you if you were the one in the hot seat.” (Location: 1,912)

Note:This is all part of loving the other person, which is extremely hard to view when we feel as though we are being attacked, not our views. One of the reasons we have gotten to such a point as unable to have reasonable dialogue in our current situation is because we have not enabled a culture of interacting with ideas. We need to offer this to others, explaining that we can disagree with them and their ideas but not hate them.

“In this chapter, we focused on refining your tactical effectiveness as a Christian ambassador by exploring three ways you can improve your skill at Columbo. First, try to anticipate objections you might face, and then think of questions in advance. This allows you to formulate responses before the pressure is on. Second, take some time for self-assessment after each encounter. Ask how you could have phrased questions more effectively or conducted yourself differently in the conversation. Enlist a friend in the process, especially if he was with you during the dialogue. Finally, if you think of anything new, work out the details in advance. Write your ideas down, construct a tactically sound dialogue, then role-play your response—and potential pushbacks from the other side—out loud, by yourself or with a friend.” (Location: 1,936)

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!

“Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we had during the war.” (Lewis, Mere Christianity)

“Resting in the love of God doesn’t squelch ambition; it fuels it with a different fire. I don’t have to strive to get God to love me; rather, because God loves me unconditionally, I’m free to take risks and launch out into the deep. I’m released to aspire to use my gifts in gratitude, caught up in God’s mission for the sake of the world. When you’ve been found, you’re free to fail.” (Smith, On the Road with Saint Augustine)

“O Lord, the house of my soul is narrow; enlarge it that you may enter in. It is ruined, O repair it! It displeases your sight; I confess it, I know. But who shall cleanse it, or to whom shall I cry but unto you? Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord, and spare your servant from sin.” Augustine

“Lord Jesus, you are light from eternal lights. You have dissolved all spiritual darkness and my soul is filled with your brightness. Your light makes all things beautiful. At night you give rest to our bodies. By day you spur us on to work. May I work with diligence and devotion, that at night my conscience is at peace. As I lay down on my bed at night, may your fingers draw down my eyelids. Lay your hand of blessing on my head that righteous sleep may descend upon me.” Gregory of Nazianzus

Tactics Read Through: Chapter 7

Chapter 7 COLUMBO STEP 3 Using Questions to Make a Point

Summary:With a target in mind, we can ask questions which will help both parties understand the issues at stake and realize the truth about our own beliefs.

“In the third step of our game plan, you are going to use questions to make a point. Think of yourself like an archer shooting at a target. Your questions are your arrows. The point you want to make is the target you want to hit. The target is key. If you’re going to use questions to make a point, then you must be clear in your mind on what point you want to make.” (Location: 1,431)

“In each of these situations, every time you ask a question and get a favorable response, your question accomplishes two things that a mere statement cannot. First, the person is telling you he understands the point. Second, he’s telling you he agrees with it, at least provisionally, and is taking a step forward with you in the thinking process.” (Location: 1,438)

Note:Getting agreement along the way will help us deal with the real issue (the target at which we are aiming). Thinking far enough ahead to ask the right questions is hard though!

“There are different ways this third use of Columbo works out in application. Generally, your leading questions will be used to inform, persuade, refute, or set up the terms of the discussion.” (Location: 1,447)

Here they are:

– TELL THEM SOMETHING THEY ALREADY KNOW

– TURNING THE TABLES

EXPLOITING A WEAKNESS OR A FLAW

PUTTING THE PIECES ON THE TABLE

– FINDING THE FLAW

“If you are placed in a situation in which you suspect your convictions will be labeled intolerant, bigoted, narrow-minded, or judgmental, use Columbo to turn the tables.” (Location: 1,488)

“You know, this is actually a very personal question you’re asking. I don’t mind answering, but before I do, I want to know if it’s safe to offer my views. So let me ask you a question first: do you consider yourself a tolerant person or an intolerant person on issues like this? Is it safe to give my opinion, or are you going to judge me for my point of view? Do you respect diverse points of view, or do you condemn others for having convictions that differ from your own?” (Location: 1,492)

Note:I absolutely love this preface to a response. I need to use this more often because it helps both of us be honest.

“You’re intolerant.”

“Can you tell me what you mean by that? Why would you think I’m an intolerant person?”

“Because it’s clear you think you’re right and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong. That’s intolerant.”

“Well, you’re right, I do think my views are correct. Of course, it’s always possible I’m mistaken, and we could talk about that if you like. But what about you? You seem to be disagreeing with me. Do you think your views are right?”2

“Yes, of course I think I’m right. But I’m not intolerant like you.”

“That’s the part that confuses me. Why is it when I think I’m right, I’m intolerant, but when you think you’re right, you’re just right? What am I missing here?”

Note:The intolerance of “tolerance” on display.

“The quickest way to deal with a personal attack is to simply point it out with a question. When someone goes after you rather than your argument, ask, “I’m a little confused at your response. Why did you change the subject? Even if you’re right about my character, could you explain to me what that has to do with this issue?”” (Location: 1,531)

“Since science only measures natural causes and effects, it’s not capable of ruling out supernatural causes, even in principle.” (Location: 1,582)

Note:As he will state later, you cannot prove that invisible men do not exist merely because you haven’t seen any. This is different than the Burden of Proof fallacy. That fallacy is when I say, “Invisible men do exist! You can’t prove they don’t exist, so they must!” Putting science in its rightful place is not the same. We are merely saying that science cannot measure what it cannot observe. The supernatural is, by definition, beyond nature and therefore not able to be measure within it. We need other tools in order to do that.

“PUTTING THE PIECES ON THE TABLE”

Note:The story that follows is a good example of asking questions instead of making assertions.

“Remember, an argument is like a house whose roof is supported by walls. In this step of Columbo, you want to find out whether the walls (the reasons or evidence) are strong enough to hold up the roof (the person’s point of view). Look, observe, reflect. Maybe your friend’s comments have tipped you off to some problem with his view. Is there a misstep, a non sequitur,14 a fallacy, or a failing of some sort? Can you challenge any underlying assumptions that might be faulty? Whatever flaw you discover, be sure to address the problem with a question, not a statement.” (Location: 1,659)

Note:This, for me, needs time. I need to listen, think, and then much later respond.

“We may spend hours helping someone carefully work through an issue without ever mentioning God, Jesus, or the Bible. This does not mean we aren’t advancing the kingdom. It is always a step in the right direction when we help others to think more carefully. If nothing else, it gives them tools to assess the bigger questions that eventually come up.” (Location: 1,679)

Note:This is loving our neighbor.

“One of the reasons this approach is so attractive is that it shows respect for the person you disagree with. First, you make an effort (with your first two Columbo questions) to understand her viewpoint. Next, you ask, “Do you mind if I ask a couple of questions about what you’ve told me?” or, “Would you consider an alternative or be willing to look at another angle if there were good reasons for it?” By soliciting permission to disagree, you make the encounter more amicable. You also stay in the driver’s seat.” (Location: 1,719)

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

Chapter 6 TWO RELIABLE RESCUES

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)