Both of these books are about doing evangelism with the method of asking questions. Overall, I don’t think I prefer one to the other. So if you’re interested in this subject, I recommend both. But in certain areas and chapters, one is definitely better than the other. I passionately loved Tactics when I first started it (especially Part 1) but got really stuck at the beginning of Part 2. In contrast, I started Questioning Evangelism as a “duty” (to write this blog) and wasn’t very impressed with its Part 1 (especially after just reading the brilliant Tactics! I’ll explain later). But its Parts 2 and 3 are extremely helpful; Tactics does not touch on those aspects at all. But it’s unfair to compare them like that: I won’t blame a book for not explaining something that it does not set out to explain! And that’s exactly why I recommend you read both!
First of all, the table of contents:
(Just to get one minor point out of the way that only bugs a small number of people like me: Questioning Evangelism uses a serif font and Tactics uses a sans serif font. I think a book should almost always use a serif font.)
For the content page, Questioning Evangelism definitely wins. It’s clear and gives a good idea of what each chapter covers. Tactics has the most confusing table of contents. Without knowing what “Columbo” is, the whole of Part 1 makes no sense. Part 2 is not better either. Because each chapter is also labelled by the name of the tactics. However, after you read the book, the table of contents does remind you of each chapter quickly. But it’s not great for getting an idea what the book is about by a quick scan when someone picks it up from a bookshelf.
Secondly, the content of the books.
There are many books on defending Christian faith. Overall, Questioning Evangelism belongs to the category that teaches you knowledge and information, and prepares readers for specific topics. Tactics belongs to the category that teaches you wisdom in communication and interpersonal skills while having a conversation about faith. So in that sense, Tactics is a new genre I’ve never come across before and was very excited about (because I studied linguistics).
Part 1 of Tactics gives the readers three questions. Three magical questions for all the conversations. There is no pressure to remember a whole formula for each possible encounter on every controversial topic (e.g. if he says A, you reply with B). That would never work. But only three simple but surprisingly effective questions. It was such an enjoyable read I won’t spoil it here.
Chapter seven to ten in Part 2 teaches logic and clarity in thinking. I found this section the most challenging since my brain started in the Critical Thinking Department really late in life. It lays out a few logical inconsistencies / contradictories and demonstrates them with plenty of examples of common objections to Christian beliefs.
The rest of Part 2 talks about why sometimes good arguments don’t work; what to do when you face someone who does not listen, keeps interrupting and is only interested in his own opinions; how to deal with impressive experts, academics and knowledge authorities; how a good memory for facts is your friend in many situations. The author concludes the book with encouragement to practise, and emphasises the motive, ultimate loyalty and “measurement of success” of a Jesus’ ambassador.
There are a couple of things I really appreciate right from the introduction of the book. Firstly, it mentions that the combination of Bible knowledge, communication skills and character makes or breaks our gospel mission. They are equally important but this books focuses exclusively on the communication part. Then the author fills the whole book full of helpful methods and real-life examples to demonstrate his points and equip readers for the task. The content does what it says on the tin, unlike a book called Reading the Bible Supernaturally which spends half of the content talking about The Ultimate Goal of Reading the Bible. Yes it’s important to know the goal, but 178 pages is way too long.
Secondly, the author warns the readers to use the tactics graciously and not abusively. When the tactics are mastered, they can be powerful and expose people’s foolish ideas and weak arguments. I don’t think I’ve come across any warnings that are so encouraging before.
Thirdly, there is a summary at the end of each chapter! It saves me so much time doing it myself and it does a way better job than I’m able to.
Now, about Questioning Evangelism. Part 1 is like a shorter version of Tactics. It talks about the advantage of asking questions in gospel conversations; wisdom in talking; logic flaws and questions to respond them with. It’s good. But after reading Tactics, I have to say this is not the highlight of the book.
The highlight comes in Part 2 of Questioning Evangelism, which discusses seven common questions / objections to Christian faith, God and Christian people. It’s very helpful and clarifies many of my own muddled answers to these questions. The author dives under the questions on the surface and explains the motives underneath them, and provides a potential response accordingly. Most of us have been doing that unconsciously. It’s helpful to have them all laid out on paper.
Part 3 of Questioning Evangelism talks about some wrong attitudes of Christians and the art of listening. The word “Question” is in each chapter title, but the content is not about “asking a question” anymore.
As I said at the beginning, both are very good. But if you have read many books on similar topics already, Tactics is more likely to bring you a new perspective. Happy reading!