Sunday, September 25, 2011

"Tactics" by Gregory Koukl (Summary: part 1 of 3)

Tactics is a book that teaches the reader some of the most useful tools of discussion (the tactics) for debating. The specific context for using these tools is in defense of the Christian faith and Christian world view. It is interesting that these same tools can be used by anyone to defend their point of view, regardless of their faith (or lack thereof).

Purchase the book or read more about it here on

Here is a brief summary of each of the main tools and chapters presented. It is worth reading the entire book because of the conversations detailed and the specific examples of each strategy.


Diplomacy or D-Day - Be diplomatic. A diplomat tries not to be offensive but will still face up to the other side rather than running away or screaming back at a challenge. Listening to an Atheist's point of view and responding firmly but gently, rather than ducking for cover or making empty accusations in return, this is the diplomat's way.

Reservations - If you have reservations about debate or argument, remember that people can disagree with each other without screaming at each other. Greg suggests that if anyone in the argument/debate gets angry, then you lose. So try and control the conversation to keep things civil. If you are calm and speak softly and controlled it is harder for your opposition to flare up. Also remember that division is okay if you are dividing the good from the bad - clearly it is good to keep Atheist ideas out when it comes to running the church. If we are searching for truth then we have to cut away that which is untrue!

Remember that you can't argue someone into the kingdom of heaven but having the right knowledge is a good start for them. It is not your responsibility to get someone converted, that's God's part in the process, you just have to step up and be willing to give it a go - defend God and his truth, and the rest will follow.

Getting in the drivers seat: The Columbo Tactic (named after TV detective Lieutenant Columbo) - Learn to recognise when to engage someone in conversation about their ideas/beliefs. If someone makes a statement that challenges Christianity or some moral view from Christianity, ask them why they think what they do. You have roughly a ten second window to engage them. Use questions because this keeps the pressure off you and on them. Using questions you can direct the discussion and it is the other person who has to think more than you. Questions lead to thoughtful dialog rather than "loud statements" for and against. It's also a good way to really learn what the other person thinks. If you don't have an answer after that, just thank them for sharing and then think about what they said to come up with a response for next time.

Often people haven't thought through some of their ideas (which may be quite ridiculous) and just asking "Why do you think that?" or "What do you mean by that?" or "Could you explain that idea further?" these questions may make them stop and realise there is no reason for believing their ideas.

A classic example is the challenge to truth: "There is no absolute truth" or "Truth is relative". You could ask if their statement that there is no absolute truth is an absolute truth, highlighting the contradiction.

Columbo step two: The Burden of Truth - Remember that others who make claims are the ones who have to defend them. Even Atheists or Pro-choice advocates have to justify their positions if they stand up and make statements. This is where questions come in handy - if you are not making statements and asking others' opinions then they have to justify their answers, not you. Use the questions "How did you come to that conclusion?" or "What evidence led you to believe that?" Never let someone change the subject when they can't answer. Always come back to the evidence for their opinion and then let them falter when they have none. Offer the Christian answers if they ask and be ready to defend the truth because you too have to defend your ideas and justify them using evidence.

Step three: Using Columbo to Lead the Way - This chapter covers a number of situations that come up, and how to respond using Colombo questions. How to respond if someone asks if non-Christians are going to hell (a straight yes, though correct, is not diplomatic. Try asking them about their understanding of justice and punishment for crimes and whether it is right to do so. Then share Jesus as a way for justice to be paid but for us to "get out of jail")

You can use questions to help someone voice something they already know, leading them through a line of reasoning.

You can use questions to ensure a safe discussion occurs, e.g. setting rules for conversation or clarifying that the other person understands we can disagree without hating each other.

Use questions to narrate the debate, e.g. "Do you realise that you just avoided answering my question?"

Don't forget to be diplomatic (nice) because it is too easy to use these tactics to beat someone rather than love them and lead them to the truth. It's not about shaming them, it's about revealing something that needs to change and then lifting them up by helping them come to the truth.

Perfecting Columbo - Step up, give it a go, reflect on each conversation and encounter and use this as ongoing practice to improve.

Check back in a few days for part two, or subscribe to receive notifications of new posts automatically.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mid Winter Blues and Reflections

The following post was taken from my old parkour blog as a part of transferring these historical articles to the new blog.  It's also a chance to reflect on some past thoughts, both in an embarrassed and a proud way at different times.  In facing any past foolishness, I can grow and remain humble.  Here it is in it's entirety.  Enjoy!

2nd July 2009
In New Zealand we are very fortunate to have fairly mild weather compared to some other parts of the world. We get mild extremes is what I mean, and in terms of parkour there is very little in the way of weather that can prevent us from training all year round. However, something which can have a negative impact on training frequency and quality of training, is the phenomenon of "mid winter blues".

The mid winter blues is a sort of mental sluggishness, depression, or inability to deal with stress. It comes about through the lack of invigorating sunshine (shorter days in winter) which see the average person going to work in the dark and returning home during twilight hours. The more regular rain and cold is also notably depressing for many people. Documented suicides increase during this time which, while not true evidence, creates a statistical link between the seasons and mental health. It is possible that due to the weather, people will get out of their homes less and will feel lonelier and more isolated because of this. Whatever the reasons, and whatever you call it, these mid winter blues are a reality for many.

So how does this affect parkour? (And how does parkour affect this?)
If we let it, our training can suffer. The mental lethargy that accompanies depression, a sort of "can't be bothered with anything", will likely put a serious dampener on our desire to train. So the amount of training will be less. It may also be hard to keep a good intensity during training because of this same reason. I find that in a group, if just a couple of people back off and lose motivation it affects the mood of everyone. Perhaps solo training is good during these times.

On the other side of the coin: any exercise will get the endorphins pumping, directly counteracting depression and low feelings. Also, if you can get out during the weekend to enjoy some goodly amounts of sun you can lift your spirits significantly and even get a bit of a mid winter tan - a healthy natural glow!

Personally, I have found the middle of winter to be very tough this time around. I've had to drop back to just 3 or 4 light trainings each week for the last couple of weeks. This is partly due to work spilling into my home life and having to take more time out of "fun" things to complete routine things like marking and report writing (the joys of being a high school teacher). This is also due to my body taking longer to recover during the colder weather - an extra day in a lot of cases which can see me training when I'm not sufficiently recovered from the previous day's training - always a bad idea. Longer recovery time generally means less training anyway. A significant part of this reduction in training though, has been due to a kind of apathy that has felt almost physical at times. However, I believe it is mostly mental. I just couldn't be bothered gathering the energy to train (which comes so easily during the light and warm days of summer!). I'm pleased to say that I wouldn't just vegetate on the couch in front of the TV during these times. I'd practise on my new drums, read/research/write, stimulate my creativity listening to some music, or engage in some other productive substitute activity.

A more personal reflection on things
I'm not sure if this state of things is inevitable, but in some ways I don't mind. Perhaps it is the solitude that I'm really craving? Apart from one semi-solo training session each week for about 45 minutes (parkour specific weights in the gym), I normally train with at least several other people. Half of my trainings are running group sessions and the other half are training amongst people of similar ability to myself. I'm thinking that I should be training parkour solo at least once a week, maybe more. The problem is not the willingness in this case, but the time. Perhaps I need to get up a couple of hours earlier to get in some solid repetition of movement - something that lacks in most other trainings lately, as people are less motivated or are only capable of a lower intensity than myself. Alternatively I could whip the whip at group trainings and try to lift the others. Sometimes this can take too much energy though, which means less to put into the movement. One encouraging thing is that I feel capable of more than I am doing now, and I will pursue more over the coming months in the build up to summer. Looking back on the previous years of training parkour, my volume and intensity is definitely consistently higher than it has ever been. Something for beginners to look forward to perhaps!

Concluding remarks
Reflect on how different external stimuli affect you and your mental and physical state. Do your best not to let the seasons affect you negatively. Use parkour to beat the mid winter blues if you can. Try talking about your feelings with someone if you like - this can be very challenging and scary, but it is worth it in the long run. Finally, have fun and look after yourself!

Train hard!