Saturday, January 17, 2009

Book Review: Tactics by Greg Koukl

by Brian Auten

This week I received my copy of Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Koukl. I was anxious to have a look at the book, as I have been following Greg Koukl’s ministry of Stand to Reason for a number of years. On one hand, I was excited to see in book form what I have heard Koukl demonstrate so many times on his live radio program: an effective and gracious way to communicate one’s faith in an articulate and winsome way. On the other hand, my familiarity with Koukl’s Tactics audio program made me wonder if this was just a repackaging of the same material. I was thoroughly surprised. I’m a reader – but it’s been a while since I have devoured a book.

Tactics is an immediately practical book. The author’s heart is that Christians be equipped to be good ambassadors. An ambassador has three skills: “knowledge, an accurately informed mind; wisdom, an artful method; and character, an attractive manner.”1 Koukl describes the goal of a tactical approach – one that seeks to converse more persuasively by being thoughtful and reasonable, rather than emotional, about one’s convictions.

In a very balanced way, Koukl carefully introduces this approach and neutralizes some of the negative connotations that come with sharing and defending the faith. Some people immediately object at the idea of argumentation or “methods.” However, Koukl summarizes a more biblical approach:
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. By the power of God, the gospel transforms. And with Jesus at work, arguments convince. God is happy to use each of these methods.2
Now Koukl dives into the meat of the book. He presents about a half dozen “tactics,” as he calls them – each with a memorable name, such as, “Columbo,” “Suicide,” and, “Taking the Roof Off,” among others. As he teaches you these tactics, Koukl’s experience and mastery in this area immediately become evident. He is not a theorist presenting untested ideas. Instead, he is a veteran, discussing situation after situation gleaned from countless personal encounters, public debates, radio interviews, and friendly conversations. The phenomenal part is that these approaches are simple and the applications are immediately accessible to the reader.

One particular insight Koukl shares should bring relief to those who feel fear come over them at even the thought of discussing their faith: you don’t have to hit home runs. In fact, Koukl stresses that you don’t even have to get on base. The goal is to leave them with something to think about. His advice: simply leave them with “a stone in their shoe.”

Navigating through the book, you will find gem after gem of wisdom. So many of the common objections that the Christian encounters are found here – but with answers that are actually useful in conversation. Although much of the substance is philosophical in nature, Koukl drops the jargon and replaces it with practical expressions. This is a handbook suitable for the layman and professional apologist alike.

After passing the halfway point in the book, you will realize that you are not just learning how to steer safely through a conversation – you are learning how to think. Koukl will sharpen your thinking skills and your ability to spot fuzzy logic and faulty arguments. You will realize that this is a book about truth. By the time you reach the end (it’s about 200 pages), you will be amazed at the amount of wisdom, insight, and courage you have gleaned. A second reading is definitely in order.

Koukl’s Tactics is endorsed by a long list of notable apologists and Christian thinkers: Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, J. P. Moreland, Hank Hanegraaff, Jay Wesley Richards, David Noebel, Justin Taylor, Paul Copan, Sean McDowell, Frank Turek, and Craig Hazen.

For those familiar with Koukl’s Tactics audio program (found here), many of the same personal encounters are cited. However, this is not a repackaging of old material. I found the book to be immensely helpful even after recently re-listening to Greg Koukl’s Tactics in Defending the Faith audio program. In addition to the expanded and fresh material, I found the summaries at the end of each chapter to be particularly helpful.

Greg Koukl's Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions is not designed to give you pat answers or lists of facts to bring to your conversations. Far from being “another evangelism book,” Tactics is a book that will challenge you to be a critical thinker, a logical communicator, and a gracious ambassador for Jesus Christ.

1 Gregory Koukl, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), p. 29.
2 Ibid., p. 40.


taddelay said...

My reviews here:

Andrew said...

Have you seen this?

Great review!

Josh Walker said...

Thanks for your review.

My review of Tactics can be found over here at Bring the Books.

Brian said...

See another review over at Truthbomb Apologetics.

Sparky said...

I appreciated your review! I needed some info on the book before I got it myself, and you convinced me.

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