Defending Your Faith Using Tactics

Scripture Reference:

1 Peter 3:15-16 (HCSB)

15 but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.


Colossians 4:6 (HCSB)

Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.


Christian Apologetics

The English word “apology” comes from a Greek word which basically means “to give a defense.” Christian apologetics, then, is the science of giving a defense of the Christian faith. Christian apologetics is simply presenting a reasonable defense of the Christian faith and truth to those who disagree. Christian apologetics is a necessary aspect of the Christian life. We are all commanded to be ready and equipped to proclaim the gospel and defend our faith (Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Peter 3:15). That is the essence of Christian apologetics.


21st Century Ambassadors

Three major skills you need—

1. Knowledge: an accurately informed mind.

2. Wisdom: an artful method.

3. Character: an attractive manner.

The above three play a part in every effective involvement with a nonbeliever.

The second skill, tactical wisdom, is the focus of this teaching.


What Are Tactics?

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. Tactics help you control the conversation by getting you into the driver’s seat and keeping you there. Tactics also help you maneuver effectively in the midst of disagreement so that your engagements seem more like diplomacy than combat.


Argument or Fight

There is a difference between an argument and a fight. Unfriendly quarrels are not productive. If anyone in the conversation gets mad, then you lose. Arguments, on the other hand, are good things. Indeed, arguing is a virtue, because it advances clear thinking. If done well, it helps refine our understanding of truth. Instead of trying to get to the cross in every encounter, just aim to put a stone in someone’s shoe. Try to give the person something to think about. Be content to plant a seed that might later flourish under God’s sovereign care.


Columbo Tactic

The Columbo tactic is a disarming way to go on the offensive with carefully selected questions that productively advance the conversation. This approach has many advantages. Questions can be excellent conversation starters. They are interactive by nature, inviting others to participate in the dialogue. They are neutral, protecting you from getting “preachy,” helping you make headway without stating your case. Questions buy valuable time. Finally, they are essential to keeping you in control of the conversation.


First Columbo Tactic

The first purpose of Columbo is to gain information. The question, “What do you mean by that?” (or some variation) accomplishes that end. It clarifies the person’s meaning so that you don’t misunderstand or misrepresent it. It also immediately puts you in control of the conversation. This question does something else that’s very important. It forces the other person to think more carefully about precisely what he does mean when he tosses out a challenge. Instead of settling for statements that are ambiguous or vague, we ask him to spell out his objection clearly.


Second Columbo Tactic

The question “Now, how did you come to that conclusion?” accomplishes something vitally important. It forces persons you are in conversation with to give an account for their own beliefs. Christians should not be the only ones who have to defend their views. Reject the impulse to counter every assertion someone manufactures. Don’t try to refute every tale spun out of thin air. Instead, steer the burden of proof back on the other person’s shoulders. Make them give you reasons, not just a point of view. It’s not your job to defeat their claim. It’s their job to defend it.


Three Important Questions

There are three questions you should always ask whenever someone offers an alternate explanation:

Is it possible? Some options seem completely unworkable on closer examination.

Is it plausible? Is it reasonable to think something like this might have taken place, given the evidence? Many things are possible that are not plausible.

Is it probable? Is it the best explanation, considering the competing options? The person you’re talking with must be able to show why his view is more likely than the one you are offering. For this he needs reasons. Why is his explanation a better one than yours?


Third Columbo Tactic

Unlike the first two uses of Columbo, this one requires knowledge of some kind. When we know what we want to accomplish (e.g., to inform, to persuade, to set up the terms, or to refute), we can use leading questions to achieve our purpose. This is a skill that develops over time, so if you stall out at first, don’t be discouraged. Instead of trying to force a conversation you don’t have the resources to pursue, you can simply move on, knowing you have done the best that you could for the moment. If someone’s thinking is flawed, the key to finding the error is to listen carefully to the reasons and then ask if the conclusions follow from the evidence. Point out errors with questions rather than statements. You might soften your challenge by phrasing your concern as a request for clarification or by suggesting an alternative with the words “Have you considered . . .” before offering your own ideas.


Self-Defeating Statements

  1. There is no truth.” (Is this statement true?)
  2. There are no absolutes.” (Is this an absolute?)
  3. No one can know any truth about religion.” (And how, precisely, did you come to know that truth about religion?)
  4. You can’t know anything for sure.” (Are you sure about that?)
  5. Talking about God is meaningless.” (What does this statement about God mean?)
  6. You can only know truth through experience.” (What experience taught you that truth?)
  7. Never take anyone’s advice on that issue.” (Should I take your advice on that?


Most of the above notes were taken from the Book titled Tactics written by Gregory Koukl.