This tactic is effective because many challenges to Christianity are based on bad information and can be overcome by a simple appeal to the facts. If you know them – or can at least show that the truth is being twisted – then you can beat the objection. First, isolate the specific claim that drives the challenge. Separate that precise point or points from the rest of the rhetoric. Next, ask if the assertion is accurate. Did they get their facts right? Does anything about the claim seem unlikely or implausible on its face? Take the common charge, “More blood as been shed in the name of Gad than any other cause.” Even if this were true it would tell you nothing about God’s existence or the truth of Christianity. But it’s not even true. Lenin, Stalin, and Mao exterminated more than 100 million people in the 20th century. Their institutionalized atheism led to unprecedented loss of human life. The fact of history is that the greatest evil has not come from zeal for God, but from the conviction there is not God to answer to. Sometimes pacifists cite the Fifth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” to show that the Bible supports their cause. Their facts are wrong, though. Hebrew (like English) distinguishes between killing and murder. Ex. 20:13 actually reads, “Thou shalt not murder” –that is, don’t take human life without proper justification. Since not all killing is murder, biblically, it’s clear the Bible does not prohibit taking human life.
Just the Facts, Ma'am
Goal of Tactics
The goal of the tactical approach is to stay in the driver’s seat of any conversation without being pushy, uptight, or unpleasant, but also without having to be especially clever or knowledgeable. You can do that by learning a handful of simple techniques to help you deal with objections, manage aggressive challengers, and even turn the tables by exploiting the bad thinking found in many of the objections against Christianity. Our theme verse is Colossians 4:5-6: “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.” Simply put, Paul says we are to be wise, gracious, and tactical when talking with others about the things we believe.
Columbo Part 1
“Do you mind if I ask you a question?” The first tactic is central to our game plan. Lt. Columbo (of 70s TV fame) came across as bumbling, inept, and harmless, but he had a trademark approach that always helped him get his man. He’d furrow his brow, scratch his head, then turn to his suspect and say, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” Asking carefully selected questions is the key to creating a convenient bridge from the content you know about christianity to the conversation you want to have with a non-Christian. It’s a friendly way to draw people out while keeping the pressure off you. As a general rule, never make a statement when a question will get the job done. The Columbo game plan has three elements, each launched with a different question. 1. Gather information by asking, “What do you mean by that?” Sometimes you need more information to know how to proceed further. This first question encourages the other person to clarify his view so you don’t misunderstand or misrepresent it. It also forces him to think more carefully than he may have about precisely what he does mean.
Columbo Part 2
2. Shift the burden of proof by asking, “How did you come to that conclusion?” Don’t give your challenger a free ride by letting him make claims without having to give reasons for his view. If he thinks there are many ways to God, it’s his job to explain why, not yours to show otherwise. If your professor attacks Christianity and then invites you to prove him wrong, don’t take the bait. The person who makes the claim bears the burden of proof. If the professor is doing all the talking, and you’re listening, you have nothing to defend. He does. When you’re up against a tough challenger you can’t handle, go immediately into fact-finding mode. Ask your first two Columbo questions, listen carefully to the answers, then dodge the heat by saying, “I need to think about that.” Later, when the pressure is off, study up and work out a response.