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Taking the Roof Off.

Taking a cue from apologist Frances Schaeffer,[1] author Greg Koukl likens this particular tactic with a road map: “First, adopt the other person’s viewpoint for the sake of argument. Next, give his idea a test drive… If you arrive at an odd destination, point it out and invite the person to reconsider his starting point.”[2]

In philosophy this is technically known as a reductio ad absurdum or reduction to an absurd consequence. The roof in this case is the shelter that a person places over himself to keep him from dealing with the actual world that God has created. Gently taking the roof off will remove the barriers keeping the person from dealing with the reality of his point of view.

Consider the scenario where a moral relativist asserts that there is no such thing as objective right and wrong. One dramatic way to take the roof off for the relativist is to take all the money out of his wallet and walk away.[3] In other words the consequence of the moral relativist’s position is that the act of stealing all his money is not objectively wrong. When the moral relativist protests (as he very likely will) he is affirming that it is objectively wrong to take his money. This forces him (with your help) to confront the consequences of his view.

If you haven’t already noticed, Koukl’s tactics are strongly influenced by biblical example. When Jesus was exorcising demons, the Pharisees claimed that He was doing so by the power of Satan. Jesus responded by taking the roof off: “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? (Matthew 12:25-26)” Notice the Columbo-style question designed to get the Pharisees to confront their own claim.

Don’t forget to always remain winsome and gracious in all of your interactions. This cannot be repeated enough!

Check back next week for Chapter 11: Steamroller.

*Greg Koukl is Founder and President of Stand to Reason. Please do yourself a favor and buy his excellent book here!

[1] But not to be confused with it, as it is not exactly the same.

[2] Greg Koukl, Tactics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 143.

[3] Don’t really do that, folks! This is just an illustration. I don’t want to get any emails about this.