Welcome to the the Tactics Blog Tour. For those who don’t know, Greg Koukl has written a great little book that I believe will be beneficial to believers of all stripes. If the mood strikes then take a few moments to read my review. Throughout the day Greg will be keeping an eye on the blog and interacting with readers and commentators, so please, feel free to join in the discussion by asking questions or making statements about the book or about Greg’s answers to the questions posted here. Each stop on the tour features a question from the blog’s author as well as a Koinonia reader. Due to time restraints Greg has only been able to answer mine but I’ll post the other question in hopes that he will be able to answer it in the comments to this post. So without further ado here are the questions with Greg’s answer(s):
At the end of Part 1 on p. 102 you said to the waitress in Seattle that you had studied the issue of the Bible’s textual transmission extensively and that the “[t]he manuscripts were accurate to over 99 percent precision. The Bible hadn’t been changed.” Could you clarify exactly what “over 99 percent precision” means and also explain how you came to that conclusion?
Greg Koukl’s Answer:
The question of the textual purity of the New Testament documents is not a theological question, but purely an academic one since the disciplines pressed into service to answer this challenge are used equally of other ancient documents that have no theological significance. The question here is not whether the content is true, but whether it has been accurately preserved from the pen of the original author. It can be answered without any reference to personal “faith.” Instead, all that’s needed is a simple appeal to facts, a technique I call “Just the Facts, Ma’am” (chapter 13 in Tactics).
Here are the facts, as I understand them. N.T. scholar Daniel Wallace notes that although there are about 300,000 individual variations of the text of the New Testament, this number is very misleading. Most of the differences are completely inconsequential (spelling errors, inverted phrases and the like). A side-by-side comparison between the two main text families (the Majority Text and the modern critical text) shows agreement a full 98% of the time (see “The Majority Text and the Original Text: Are They Identical?,” Bibliotheca Sacra, April-June, 1991, 157-8).
Of the remaining differences, virtually all yield to the disciplines of the academic tools of textual criticism. This means that we can have confidence that our New Testaments have over 99% textually purity, a stunning statistic compared to any other documents from antiquity. In the entire text of 20,000 lines, only 40 lines are in doubt (about 400 words), and none affects any significant doctrine (Geisler and Nix, General Introduction to the Bible, 475).
Scholar D.A. Carson sums it up this way: “The purity of text is of such a substantial nature that nothing we believe to be true, and nothing we are commanded to do, is in any way jeopardized by the variants” (Carson, D.A., The King James Version Debate, 56).
Though recent works that have challenged this conclusion (e.g., Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus), there have been a number of scholarly responses to show that there is no good reason for our confidence to be shaken. Characteristically, the textual problems are way over exaggerated as to their number (e.g., every misspelling is counted as a variant), and as to their significance. Though many of the textual conflicts might be new—and alarming—to popular readers (e.g., John 8 and the woman caught in adultery, and the longer version of Mark 16), these difficulties have been known to biblical scholars—and solved by them—long ago.
Koinonia Reader Question:
Why did you use “Tactics” as the title, seeing how tactic has such a militaristic definition? I noted the use of a chess piece (pawn). Is there any significance to this? Are we just “pawns” in apologetics in evangelism and outreach? — Don, Virginia Beach, VA
Greg Koukl’s Answer:
When I started developing this material more than 15 years ago, “tactics” seemed like an apt word to describe the skill I wanted to impart to others. Here’s how I explain it in chapter one:
Though we are following a diplomatic model and not a military one, the military metaphor is still helpful to distinguish strategy from tactics. Tactics, literally “the art of arranging,” focus on the immediate situation at hand. They involve the orderly, hands-on choreography of the particulars. Often a clever commander can gain the advantage over a larger force with superior strength or numbers through deft tactical maneuvering.
I think you can see the parallel for you as a Christian. You may have personal experience with how the Gospel can change someone’s life, but how do you design particular responses to particular people so you can begin to have an impact in specific situations?
Tactics can help because they offer techniques of maneuvering in what otherwise might be difficult conversations. They guide you in arranging your own resources in an artful way. They suggest approaches anyone can use to be more persuasive, in part because they help you be more reasonable and thoughtful—instead of just emotional—about your convictions as a follower of Christ.
I understand the concern in the question, though. Tactics is a military term, suggesting bellicose engagements instead of genial ones. Zondervan raised this question when we first discussed the book. The problem we faced was trying to rename the concept after the word had served us so well for15 years and tens of thousands were already familiar with it through STR materials. We figured it would be better to stick with the tried and true, then be sure I clarified in the text what I had in mind: diplomacy, not D-Day.
The pawn and chessboard visual was only meant to suggest the importance of pondering your moves in the process of engaging others. That’s all. And it’s much better than crossed bayonets.
For a list of reviews and the other stops on the blog tour see Andrew Rogers’ post on Koinonia.
Greg received his Masters in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Talbot School of Theology, graduating with high honors, and his Masters in Christian Apologetics from Simon Greenleaf University. He is an adjunct professor in Christian apologetics at Biola University. He hosts his own radio talk show advocating clear-thinking Christianity and defending the Christian worldview. (Learn more about Greg on his website)