Tim Challies
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November 1, 2023

When we speak to people who are not Christians, we have not failed if they make no profession of faith in Jesus Christ. While that may be our ultimate desire for them, a good and noble goal for any spiritual conversation is to simply put a proverbial pebble in their shoe—to give them something to think about, something that will challenge their worldview, something that may nag at their souls in the days or weeks to come. Where some people understand evangelism only through a “harvesting approach” in which anything less than conversion means failure, the “gardening approach” means we are content to do the planting or watering, trusting that God may give someone else the joy of harvesting.

The purpose of Street Smarts is to provide training that will equip readers to address the most common contemporary challenges to their convictions. It is to give Christians a greater degree of confidence as they engage with people who do not share their Christian faith and who may be antagonistic toward it. The way Koukl does this is not to provide responses to every criticism or answers to every question. Rather, he teaches a technique that he has used for years and taught to many others.

How effectively does he do this? Quite, I would say! The book would fail if it was meant to teach a specific response to each challenge to the gospel. That would simply be too much content to remember when it was needed. The reader would have to remember a precise series of facts, know when to bring each one to bear, and be left silent when the conversation didn’t go his way—an issue we have probably all run into at one time or another in the past. But Koukl teaches a technique, a way to listen attentively and then ask questions meant to expose flaws. This simplifies the task of the evangelist or apologist and accounts for fluidity in conversation.

Those who read this book will be better equipped to have productive “pebble in the shoe” conversations with people who hold to atheism, who insist that the existence of evil disproves the existence of God (or, at least, of a God who is good and merciful), who believe science and faith contradict one another, who spurn Christianity because it denies the morality of abortion, and who are convinced that Christianity is evil because of its positions on marriage, sex, and gender. They will be equipped to understand what the Bible says about those issues and to have productive conversations about them—conversations that will use respectful questions to expose flaws and, hopefully, promote further thought, further questions, and, potentially, saving faith. For those reasons among others, it is a book well worth reading.

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Tim Challies

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