DIPLOMACY OR D-DAY?
Apologetics has a questionable reputation among non-aficionados. By
definition, apologists defend the faith. They defeat false
ideas. They destroy speculations raised up against the knowledge
Those sound like fightin' words to many people: Circle the wagons. Hoist
the drawbridge. Fix bayonets. Load weapons. Ready, aim, fire. It's not
surprising, then, that believers and unbelievers alike associate
apologetics with conflict. Defenders don't dialogue. They fight.
In addition to the image problem, apologists face another barrier. The
truth is that effective persuasion in the twenty-first century requires
more than having the right answers. It's too easy for postmoderns to
ignore our facts, deny our claims, or simply yawn and walk away from the
line we have drawn in the sand.
But sometimes they don't walk away. Instead, they stand and fight. We
wade into battle only to face a barrage we can't handle. We have ignored
one of the first rules of engagement: Never make a frontal assault on a
superior force. Caught off balance, we tuck our tails between our legs
and retreat-maybe for good.
I'd like to suggest a "more excellent way." Jesus said that when you
find yourself as a sheep amidst wolves, be innocent, but shrewd (Matthew
10:16). Even though there is real warfare going on, our engagements
should look more like diplomacy than D-Day.
In this book I would like to teach you how to be diplomatic. 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.
Now I know that people have different emotional reactions to the idea of
engaging others in controversial conversation. Some relish the
encounter. Others are willing, but a bit nervous and uncertain. Still
others try to avoid it entirely. What about you?
Wherever you find yourself on this scale, I want to help. If you're like
a lot of people who pick up a book like this, you would like to make a
difference for the kingdom, but you are not sure how to begin. I want to
give you a game plan, a strategy to get involved in a way you never
thought you could, yet with a tremendous margin of safety.
I am going to teach you how to navigate in conversations so that you
stay in control-in a good way-even though your knowledge is limited. You
may know nothing about answering challenges people raise against what
you believe. You may even be a brand new Christian. It doesn't matter. I
am going to introduce you to a handful of effective maneuvers-I call
them tactics-that will help you stay in control.
Let me give you an example of what I mean.
THE WITCH IN WISCONSIN
Several years ago while on vacation at our family cabin in Wisconsin, my
wife and I stopped at the one-hour photo in town. I noticed that the
woman helping us had a large pentagram, a five-pointed star generally
associated with the occult, dangling from her neck.
"Does that star have religious significance," I asked, pointing to the
pendant, "or is it just jewelry?"
"Yes, it has religious significance," she answered. "The five points
stand for earth, wind, fire, water, and spirit." Then she added, "I'm a
My wife, caught off guard by the woman's candor, couldn't suppress a
laugh, then quickly apologized. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be rude.
It's just that I have never heard anyone actually admit right out that
they were pagan," she explained. She knew the term only as a pejorative
used by her friends yelling at their kids: "Get in here, you bunch of
"So you're Wiccan?" I continued.
She nodded. Yes, she was a witch. "It's an Earth religion," the woman
explained, "like the Native Americans. We respect all life."
"If you respect all life," I said, "then I suppose you're pro-life on
the abortion issue."
She shook her head. "No, actually I'm not. I'm pro-choice."
I was surprised. "Isn't that an unusual position for someone in Wicca to
take, I mean, since you're committed to respecting all life?"
"You're right. It is odd," she admitted, then quickly qualified herself.
"I know I could never do that. I mean, I could never kill
a baby. I wouldn't do anything to hurt anyone else because it might come
back on me."
Now this was a remarkable turn in the conversation for two reasons.
First, notice the words she used to describe abortion. By her own
admission, abortion was baby killing. The phrase wasn't a rhetorical
flourish of mine; these were her own words. I did not have to persuade
her that abortion took the life of an innocent human being. She already
She had just offered me a tremendous leg up in the discussion, and I was
not going to turn it down. From then on I abandoned the word "abortion;"
it would be "baby killing" instead.
Second, I thought it remarkable that her first reason for not hurting a
defenseless child was self-interest-something bad might befall her.
Is that the best she could do? I thought to myself. This comment
itself was worth pursuing, but I ignored it and took a different tack.
"Well, maybe you wouldn't do anything to hurt a baby, but other people
would," I countered. "Shouldn't we do something to stop them from
"I think women should have a choice," she countered without thinking.
Now, generally statements like "women should have a choice" are
meaningless as they stand. Like the statement, "I have a right to take
... ," the claim requires an object. Choose ... what? Take ... what? No
one has an open-ended right to choose. People only have the right to
choose particular things. Whether anyone has a right to choose depends
entirely on what choice they have in mind. In this case, though, there
was no ambiguity. The woman had already identified the choice: baby
killing, to use her words. Even though she personally respected all
life, including human life, this was not a belief she was comfortable
"forcing" on others. Women should still have the choice to kill their
own babies. That was her view.
Of course, she did not put it in so many words. This was her view
When bizarre ideas like these are obviously implied, do not let them
lurk in the shadows. Drag them into the light with a request for
clarification. That is exactly what I did next. "Do you mean women
should have the choice to kill their own babies?"
"Well...." She thought for a moment. "I think all things should be taken
into consideration on this question."
"Okay, tell me: What kind of considerations would make it all right to
kill a baby?"
"Incest," she answered quickly.
"Hmm. Let me see if I understand. Let's just say I had a two-year-old
child standing next to me who had been conceived as a result of incest.
On your view, it seems, I should have the liberty to kill her. Is that
This last question stopped her in her tracks. The notion was clearly
absurd. It was also clear that she was deeply committed to her
pro-choice views. She had no snappy response and had to pause for a
moment and think. Finally, she said, "I'd have mixed feelings about
that." It was the best she could do.
Of course, she meant this as a concession, but it was a desperately weak
response ("Killing a two-year-old? Gee, you got me on that one. I'll
have to think about it.")
"I hope so," was all I had the heart to say in response.
At this point I noticed a line of would-be customers forming behind me.
Our conversation was now interfering with her work. It was time to
abandon the pursuit. My wife and I finished our transaction, wished her
well, and departed.
Beware when rhetoric becomes a substitute for substance. You always know
that a person has a weak position when he tries to accomplish with the
clever use of words what argument alone cannot do.
I want you to notice a few things about this short encounter. First,
there was no tension, no anxiety, and no awkwardness in the exchange.
There was no confrontation, no defensiveness, and no discomfort. The
discussion flowed easily and naturally.
Second, even so, I was completely in control of the conversation. I did
this by using three important tactics, maneuvers I will explain in
greater detail later in the book, to probe the young woman's ideas and
begin to question her faulty thinking.
To start with, I asked seven specific questions. I used these questions
to begin the conversation ("Does that star have religious significance
or is it just jewelry?") and to gain information from her ("So you're
Wiccan?"). I then used questions to expose what I thought were
weaknesses in how she responded ("Do you mean women should have the
choice to kill their own babies?").
I also gently challenged the inconsistent and contradictory nature of
her views. On the one hand, she was a witch who respected all life. On
the other hand, she was pro-choice on abortion, a procedure she
characterized as "killing babies."
Excerpted from "Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions" by Gregory Koukl. Copyright © 0 by Gregory Koukl. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.