Tactics and Tools

Two Tactics to Rule Them All

Author Alan Shlemon Published on 12/20/2017

I’ve noticed something. There are a lot of bad ideas out there. You’ve probably noticed it too. I’ve also noticed something else. Most of these bad ideas can be exposed with one of two tactics: Taking the Roof Off or the Suicide Tactic.

Taking the Roof Off is a tactic based on the idea of reductio ad absurdum. That literally means “reducing to the absurd.” The principle behind this tactic is that some ideas lead to absurd consequences. Your job is to ask yourself if the idea leads to an absurd consequence, and, if it does, then ask a question that graciously exposes the absurdity of the idea. That’s just a quick summary, but you can learn more about it here.

The Suicide Tactic demonstrates that some ideas or statements contradict themselves. “There is no truth,” for example, suggests there is no truth, but the statement itself claims to be true. That’s a contradiction. Your job is to ask yourself if the idea contradicts itself, and, if it does, then ask a question that graciously exposes that contradiction. You can learn more about it here.

As those of you who follow Stand to Reason know, Greg has written and spoken on Tactics for many years now (as have I). His book includes over eight different tactics you can employ in conversation. You don’t have to learn them all, however, even though that’s a worthwhile goal.

What I’ve noticed is that many of the bad ideas that come my way can be exploited by knowing just those two tactics. Often one or the other (or sometimes both) will help you see what’s wrong with the idea.

Take, for example, relativism. This is a prevalent philosophy that expresses itself in a host of different ways (“You shouldn’t judge,” “Morals are relative,” etc.). Relativism is self-refuting and thereby vulnerable to the Suicide Tactic. It also logically leads to absurdities, which Taking the Roof Off will help you recognize.

The same is true with pluralism, many abortion-choice claims (modified pro-choice position, violinist argument, etc.), scientism, and arguments surrounding homosexuality (born-that way claims, same-sex behavior in the animal kingdom, etc.). These ideas—and many more—can be exposed with one or both tactics.

So, if you want to begin by mastering just two tactics, learn Taking the Roof Off and the Suicide Tactic. If you look at the cost/benefit analysis, there’s a relatively low cost to mastering just two tactics, but the benefits are significant as they can address numerous kinds of challenges on various topics.

Of course, don’t forget to practice them the way a gracious and winsome ambassador for Christ would. Remember, you represent Jesus. Although it might be easy to show someone’s idea is mistaken, it’s also easy to do it in a way that’s not kind. That’s not what we want to do. Often, I’ll use these tactics in my mind to determine what’s wrong with an idea, and then figure out how to graciously communicate that in my conversation.

We are showing people why their idea might be a bad one. This can be painful for some people to see this happen to a deeply-held belief. The gentleness and upright character we show them through the process can loosen their grip on the falsehood and perhaps lead them to let go of it and embrace the truth.