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Taking the Roof Off

Some points of view lead to unusual–even irrational–results when played out consistently. This tactic helps you test the accuracy of someone’s worldview “map” by showing that his particular position leads to absurdity. this is also known as reductio ad absurdum, or reducing an argument to its absurd conclusion or consequence. First, adopt the other person’s viewpoint for the sake of argument. Next, give the idea a test drive. Try to determine the implications that his reasoning has for other issues. Where will you end up if you follow his rationale faithfully to its logical end? Then, using well-placed questions (Columbo), help him see the error. Consider these examples: Some Christians oppose capital punishment because Jesus would forgive. On this reasoning, though, any punishment for criminals would be wrong because one could always argue, “Jesus would forgive.” This seems absurd, especially when Scripture states that government is meant to punish evildoers, not forgive them (1 Pet. 2:14). The Pharisees claimed Jesus cast out demons by the power of Satan. Jesus “took the roof off” by showing where such reasoning led: If Satan is the source of Jesus’ power in exorcism, then Satan is casting out Satan, destroying his own kingdom. This is absurd. Some people believe abortion is wrong for them because they believe it kills a baby, but think it’s wrong to “impose” this personal belief on others (the politician’s favorite “modified pro-choice” vide). Counter by taking the roof off. “So, you really believe that abortion kills an innocent baby, but you also think mothers should be legally allowed to do this to their own children. Right?” As you can see, this view is morally absurd.

More from Tactics

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.