Friday, January 18, 2008

Apologetics in Northern Ireland

Apologetics can be quite a narrow field. That is to say, most people don’t know what the word means. This can be disheartening when it is your passion, and it is sometimes very difficult to find anyone who shares that passion.

It would be ideal to connect and network with other Christians with a passion and pursuit of Christian Apologetics. So are you in Northern Ireland or Europe? Let me know. We need an apologetics network in Northern Ireland.


  1. Pascal January 21, 2008

    Hi Brian. Great idea about an apologetics network in NI. Any thoughts about what form it would take, what its mission would be? When I was at Queens (a decade or so ago) there was a group that called itself the C S Lewis Society, which really amounted to a talk shop about apologetic/ethical issues. I always thought NI could use something a bit more pro-active. By this I mean a group that DOES apologetics rather than merely discussing it. This could take the form of (1) training young people, those involved in the sharp end of evangelism, and other interested parties in apologetic techniques (2) challenging various prominent groups/individuals to public debates (3) providing a Christian critique on relevant issues via various appropriate media. The time for interesting internal musings about evangelical apologetic method(s) is over. There’s a war going on out there. Let’s get into it!

  2. Brian January 21, 2008

    Thanks for replying.

    I agree very much with what you said – training and application are a must. What good is it if everyone just sits around and pays homage to C.S. Lewis!

    Here are a few thoughts, and I am agreeing with your points and putting them into mine as well:

    1. Fellowship: like-minded individuals who are pushing toward apologetics learning and application. Prayer and encouragement.

    2. Training: finding and using outlets of training believers/young people to defend the faith, with an emphasis on evangelism.

    3. Media: contributing apologetic resources for media like newsletters (for churches and evangelism), podcasts, tracts, etc.

    4. Debate / Forums: open discussion through public forums open to young people in schools or churches and debates.

    5. Evangelism: bringing the gospel through strategic evangelism.

    These are what I see as the main possible thrusts of an apologetic network. Of course it would need to be shaped a little more through some more dialog and interaction – and everything couldn’t be done at once – but it could be developed over time into a fulfillment of all of those sort of elements.

    Any more thoughts on this?

  3. Pascal January 23, 2008

    Brian – thanks for the thoughtful reply. I agree with what you say. Here are a few additional issues/questions.

    (1) I was struck recently by the lack of good apologetic tracts. I’m not normally a user of tracts; they seem a little dated as a medium of gospel communication in the 21st century. However, I’ve come to the startling conclusion that (some) people out there refuse to give the gospel a serious hearing simply because they have soaked in the usual misinformation e.g. there is no proof that God exists/Jesus rose from the dead, the NT is full of myths and errors, ‘everyone knows’ that science has disproved the bible etc. Some short ‘pre-evangelism’ tracts could prove useful.

    (2) People today are interested in ‘the big issues’ of life…as long as they are propounded in non-threatening, interesting environments. People are not into church-religion, but they are into spirituality-meaning. This is the angle I am interesting in pursuing. Maybe through debates? People are really interested in the whole creation/evolution thing, and are stunned to hear the quality of the pro-creation arguments.

    (3) Speaking of such, I’m quite influenced by a simple book of Ken Ham’s called Creation Evangelism. His thesis is that we are living in a post-Christian era similar to the pre-Christian environment Paul found himself when speaking to the philosophers on Mars Hill. Like Paul, we should not start with gospel truths (as Paul did when speaking to the Jews) but with basic “pre-evangelistic” facts about who God is and God’s relationship with the world. I agree with this. My experience tells me that these days if you are to go up to Joe Blogs and say ‘Joe, ye must be born again, for you are a sinner in need of washing in the blood of the Lamb’ then Joe will look at you as if you are a nutter and quickly scarper! These phrases are meaningless to him, good pagan that he is, without the background knowledge of a Christian theism or world-view. Today, therefore, we need to start by explaining and defending this Christian world-view if our evangelism is going to have any punch.

    (4) Do you have any opinions on apologetic method (just to be nerdy for a second)? The whole presuppositional versus evidential debate used to seem important to me, but now I’m more into what works. My thinking in this area has been shaped by Francis Schaeffer and John Frame.

    (5) I see that you are in a Christian rock/blues band. Do you consider this a form of cultural outreach? Or is your music mostly aimed at other Christians within the context of worship services? I’m STARTING to get a little involved in drama. I’d love to take a quality ‘Christian’ play on the road – a kind of Christian version of Samuel Beckket…if you can imagine such a thing!

    (6) Are there many other similarly interested in this NI Apologetics Network that you know of?

    (7) Do you think there’s a special need/opening to training you people in apologetics?

    (8) Do you have a sense that various NI churches are interested in this too? That would me kind of surprising to me. But maybe you know more than I do here. Please tell!

  4. Brian January 23, 2008

    I appreciate your thoughts. Thanks.

    1) Regarding Good tracts. In regards to standard tracts, I tend towards things by Living Waters ( – the ministry of Way of the Master with Ray Comfort ( However, I use these primarily as ice-breakers and to leave them places. I figure if it is a good presentation, it may be a good seed sown. However, as you say, the apologetics side of things when it comes to tracts is lacking. This would be something that the “network” could develop. I have graphic design skill, know some good artists and printers personally, and this would be a very realistic outlet for apologetics purposes. I would value contributions from other apologetics as well as getting feedback and review so that the content and presentation would be the best possible.

    2) Big issues and debates. This I feel would be very good. I recently attended a meeting in a Belfast school where David Robertson (The Dawkins Letters) spoke. It was packed. And there were theists, skeptics and atheists there with plenty of questions. It was a tense atmosphere, and you could tell people were hungry for the topic. Robertson handled it well and gave a lot of good answers and defused a lot of tension with his manner. I enjoy listening to debates, and listen to them as often as I find them. However, I have never done it before – only lots of public speaking – so this would be unexplored territory. Other apologists may be into it more – and in preparing for such a thing, multiple people would be ideal in preparation. Also, the venue could be set up to be as conducive as possible to presenting the best possible “case” for Christianity.

    3) Ken Ham and Pre-Evangelism. I am glad to hear some influence from the young earth creation side. Although I know there is a fair case from both sides, I go with YEC. Unfortunately many belittle and ridicule young-earthers without even looking into their works or fully understanding their views. At any rate, along the line of the pre-evangelism, I agree with you on this point. One can’t always just jump into “christianese” with someone and expect to be taken seriously. I would however try to start as “high up the ladder” as possible, and move down the rungs as needed, addressing where that person is. In other words, if I can start with the Gospel, I will. If I see that they need some “pre-work”, no problem. I think the troubles come when one approach is used without sensitivity or discernment to the person you are talking to.

    4) Apologetic Method. I am like you – I go with what works – maybe you could call it cumulative case, or eclectic. I am reading both sides and see the value in both – again, depends on who you are talking to or what venue you are in I think. Sometimes all that is needed is some ‘obstacle removal’ and some quick evidence will do that. With the heavier philosophical cases, maybe the presuppositional approach is what is needed. To the science-type, evidentialist. Like Paul went with a different approach when he was talking to Jews and Gentiles.

    5) The Ned Kelly Band. This is primarily and outreach to the lost – with very approachable lyrics (but decidedly and unashamedly Christian). We do some stuff in churches, but we do not tailor it or design anything for the church venue. We went to France last year and did stuff in record stores and concert halls as a way for the local church to do evangelism.

    6) Apologetics in NI. You are the first that has been interested! By the way, if you want to email me directly, use

    7) Training. I think there is a need, but I have yet to find the outlet. I am working with a drop-in center under YFC, and am hoping this will eventually provide a means to do some training in apologetics and/or evangelism.

    8) NI Church Interest. I have seen no interest, but haven’t looked to far yet. But I don’t get a good feeling about it! Most people I have attempted to talk to say, “apollo what?” – not very encouraging. And then when it is explained a bit, I tend to hear, “ah, I think we just need to teach people how to live right” or something like that.

    Thanks again for the comments and replies – very encouraging that I have found some interest!

  5. Anonymous January 30, 2008
  6. jamie yohanis August 28, 2012

    I know this is a dated thread, but i was wondering if an apologetics group ever materialized from your discussion.

    Some members of my church are currently taking some apologetic issues seriously and i would love to correspond with those christians in NI who have experience in this field.



  7. Brian Auten August 28, 2012

    There is the Reasonable Faith Belfast Group.

    The next meeting will be October 1st, Monday at the Kings Hall in Belfast.

    You can also contact me regarding any apologetics gatherings outside of that in NI.

  8. Anna535 January 19, 2015

    We are in the process of setting up an apologetics study group in Derry. We will study WL Craig's course "On Guard" initially, but hope to branch out a bit more after that. Keen to network.

  9. Brian Auten January 19, 2015

    Great to hear it, Anna535.
    RF Belfast has done a study of the book and it was well received.