Posted by: Tim | March 16, 2009

Book Review: Tactics by Greg Koukl

Tactics, by Gregory Koukl,  is a Christian apologetics book with a difference. It does not focus on issues in Christian apologetics (like, for example, Lee Strobel’s excellent The Case for Christ books). Instead it focuses on strategies for having productive conversations with people about these apologetic issues.

If you have ever walked away from a conversation, thinking about all the things you wish you had said but did not think of at the time, this book is for you. Koukl gives you the tools to say the things you would want to say at the time when you need them, not half an hour later. This is why the book is called Tactics. He is giving you tactics for having productive conversations about your faith.

Christians are often confronted with broad statements that are meant to discount the Christian faith in one sentence. Here are a few examples: “The Bible is full of errors”, or “All religions are basically the same”, or “It is arrogant to think that your view is the right one.”  Koukl notes that most Christians stumble over their words to try and refute these broad claims, instead of asking the person to provide evidence for such broad statements. His approach reminded me of Tim Keller’s challenge to skeptics, to doubt their own doubts (see Keller’s book The Reason for God. I reviewed it here).

Koukl’s basic tactic is called ‘the Columbo’ (named after the famous TV detective), where he asks the question “What do you mean by that?” His purpose in asking this question is to clarify what the person is saying, making sure he understands it, and making sure they themselves understand it, since many people are just repeating statements to which they have not given much deep thought. It also gives you time to think.

His second part of the Columbo has to do with the burden of proof. Here he asks the person to support the opinion they have expressed. As Koukl puts it, “It’s not your duty to prove him wrong. It’s his duty to prove his view.” The question that Koukl uses is “How did you come to that conclusion?”

Koukl’s two Columbo questions, “What do you mean by that?” and “How did you come to that conclusion?” are simple but powerful. Instead of having to squirm and feel bad because you are not an expert on every area of apologetics (thinking to yourself, ‘If only Ravi Zacharias were here to help me!’), you make the other person squirm by asking them to explain and justify their statement. You don’t really have to know much about the apologetics issue they have raised, since you are just asking them to elaborate and support their opinion. (Koukl would still certainly encourage readers to learn more about apologetics, but his point is that you don’t have to know everything about an issue to be able to challenge a person’s statement.)

Koukl notes that many people can’t answer these two basic questions and it quickly becomes evident that they are uninformed and cannot support the statement they have made. His goal when interacting with people is to metaphorically ‘put a rock in their shoe’, causing them to walk away thinking about the conversation in a way that challenges them to reconsider their view of Christianity, and that draws them them one step closer to the Lord.

Koukl’s explanation of “The Columbo” takes up about half of the book. The second half deals with how to handle various forms of self-refuting statements. Koukl does a great job helping you to identify this type of statement (for example: “You can’t know anything for sure”, Koukl’s response: “Are you sure about that?” 🙂 )

I really enjoyed this book. It is an easy read and I gobbled it up in just over a day. The tactics are practical and the examples are helpful in illustrating his points. He provides a summary at the end of each chapter, and the book’s main points are easy to remember.

I would strongly recommend this book to any Christian who is interested in being ready to share their faith in an intelligent and effective way, by learning tactics to respond to challenges to their faith that will inevitably come.

Koukl, Gregory, Tactics, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2009, 207 pages.

You can purchase Tactics here from


  1. […] longer in each chapter. I would also suggest reading Greg Koukl’s much shorter book, Tactics (my review is here), in combination with Reasonable Faith. Tactics gives very practical tools for how to use Christian […]

  2. […] Tactics by Gregory Koukl. I wrote a full review which can be read HERE. Tactics is an apologetics book written to teach you how to interact in apologetics conversations. […]

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