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Apologetics: Foundational

2019 European Apologetics Network: Foundational Track

The words apologist and apologetics come from the Greek word apologia, which means to defend or to convince and persuade. So when Peter writes, “Always be prepared to give a defense (apologia) for the hope that is within you,” he is teaching that Christians must be willing and able to communicate the Gospel persuasively to their neighbours.

Europe today is in great need of gifted persuasive evangelists who, like the Apostle Paul, can demonstrate that Christianity is true and relevant. The Forum's Apologetics Network Foundational Track is designed to train, mentor, and resource Christians so they can effectively demonstrate that Christian beliefs are reasonable, true, and relevant for the 21st century. This track provides the vision and strategy for a renaissance of apologetics in Europe today.

Applicants should be those with evangelistic or apologetic gifts who have NOT attended the European Leadership Forum Apologetics Network in previous years. The purpose of the Network is to train, mentor, equip, and resource those evangelists and apologists who are seeking to communicate the Gospel in their local communities. This Network will be led by John Kirkpatrick. Also speaking in this Network are Lars Dahle, Stefan Gustavsson, Bruce Little, and Paul Coulter. Prior preparation will be set for all applicants.



John Kirkpatrick has been the pastor in Portrush Presbyterian Church for the last 21 years. This church is situated on the North Coast of Ireland very close to the famous world heritage site, 'Giants Causeway.’ John is the director of the apologetics course Reality316 aimed at equipping a wide range of people to be relevant apologists. For a number of years he served as Chairman of New Horizon, a well-known Christian conference in Ireland and has been a chaplain to the Motorcycle Racing community, quite unique to the Irish culture. John is married to Joan and they have four children, three of whom are now married. 



Stefan Gustavsson is a member of the European Leadership Forum Steering Committee. He is the director for Apologia – Centre for Christian Apologetics and makes his home in Stockholm. He was the founding General Secretary for the Swedish Evangelical Alliance. Stefan travels widely with apologetic teaching and training and is often involved in university evangelism and public debates. He is the author of several books on Christian apologetics and the Christian mind. Stefan is married to Ingrid and they have three grown children.


Lars Dahle is a theologian, educator, preacher, and apologist. Having a long previous experience in various academic leadership roles, he now works as Associate Professor in Systematic Theology and Christian Apologetics at Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication (NLA Kristiansand), where he has lectured in worldviews, ethics, and apologetics since 1991. Lars wrote his PhD on Acts 17:16-34. It is entitled An Apologetic Model Then and Now? (Open University, UK). Since 2013, he is also the Lausanne Catalyst for Media Engagement. Lars has written several academic and popular articles on apologetics, media engagement and missiology and was a co-editor of The Lausanne Movement: A Range of Perspectives (Oxford: Regnum, 2014). He is also the Founding Editor of the peer-reviewed Nordic apologetic journal Theofilos. In addition, Lars co-leads the European Leadership Forum Media Communicators Network with his wife, Margunn. Follow Lars on his blog Media Messages Matter or on his Twitter account @LarsDahle.


Bruce A. Little has master’s degrees in Apologetics and Religion and a PhD in Philosophy of Religion and a DMin in Apologetics. Presently, he serves as Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and director of the Francis A. Schaeffer Collection at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he served on faculty since 2001 until he retired in 2018. While at Southeastern he served as the second director of the L. Rush Bush Center for Faith and Culture from 2008 to 2013. From 1969 pastored several churches, three of which he helped start, and taught at a Bible college (1965-2000). Since 1995 he has travelled widely to several continents lecturing in universities, teaching in a variety of schools and presenting papers at international conferences. He has published in various professional journals, edited several books, either authored or co-authored six books and contributed chapters in several books the last being God and Evil published by InterVarsity Press, 2013.


Paul Coulter is a native of Lisburn, Northern Ireland, where he lives with his wife, Gar-Ling, and their two children.  He has just taken up position as Head of Ministry Operations with Living Leadership, whose aim is to grow leaders who are captivated by the gospel of God's grace.  Previously he has worked as a medical doctor, a cross-cultural pastor with Chinese Christians in Belfast, a youth worker and director of equipping in a large suburban church, and a lecturer in practical theology in Belfast Bible College, where he taught a range of subjects including discipleship, leadership, pastoral care, evangelism and apologetics.  His academic studies have focused on multiculturalism and the Church and church planting in post-Christian Northern Ireland.  He has written several articles for and speaks and writes regularly on the Christian mind and contemporary culture, especially relating to ethical issues.  He is a Council member for Evangelical Alliance UK and an associate of the World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission.



Day 1

Every Brief Encounter
John Kirkpatrick

Most of the opportunities we will have to share our faith will not be public debates or lectures. They will come at times when we have little time to plan and a prepare right there. Yet if we have taken the time to equip ourselves carefully, we will be able to translate these moments into meaningful steps in the lives of others. Good apologists are good personal evangelists. This session will examine what this might look like and how we can progress better towards it.


The Lordship of Christ Over All of Life: How We Use Our Minds
Stefan Gustavsson

No one who is a believer would consciously deny the full Lordship of Jesus Christ. There are, however, a number of ways we inadvertently diminish His Lordship. This talk explores how a diminished Lordship impacts the way we use our minds as believers. A strong foundation for apologetics must begin with an acknowledgment of Christ's full Lordship. How ought this impact the way we think?

Day 2

Paul in Athens (Acts 17)
Lars Dahle

Despite its prominence historically, apologetics is seen as controversial in many Christian circles. Where and when it is practised, contemporary apologetics is often characterised by a neglect of biblical foundations and models. Through discussion of an article written by the speaker, this session seeks to identify, explore, and apply such key biblical material. The focus will be on Acts 17:16-34 as a relevant case study.


God's Wisdom and the Foolishness of the Cross (1 Corinthians)
Stefan Gustavsson

Paul’s famous words in 1 Corinthians about the foolishness of the cross and his decision to preach the cross, but not with wisdom, have often been misinterpreted. For many they stand as evidence of a strong anti-intellectual strand in Paul’s thinking and a clear reason for us to neglect apologetics and instead focus on other issues. In this session we will analyze Paul’s understanding of wisdom and foolishness as we look at four particular issues: (1) Paul’s thinking when he started the church in Corinth, (2) Paul's thinking when he wrote to the church in Corinth, (3) the cultural context of the church in Corinth, and (4) Paul’s message in his first letter to the church in Corinth.

Day 3

Jesus as Apologist
Stefan Gustavsson

Jesus was a preacher, healer…and an apologist! Based on an article written by the speaker, this session will explore the role of apologetics in Jesus’ ministry by examining John 5, a passage which provides an excellent example of how Jesus related to the questions and objections of his contemporaries. It will conclude with a discussion of how Jesus’ model of apologetic engagement can and should mould and shape the modern apologetic task.


Reality in the Apologetics of C.S. Lewis and Francis A. Schaeffer
Bruce Little

This talk presents a view of pre-evangelism as identified and practiced by C. S. Lewis and Francis A. Schaeffer in the 20th Century. It was informed by their mutually held metaphysical realism, believing there was an objective right and wrong by which this world was ordered. This meant there is a transcendent moral law that stands above all men, judging all to be guilty before God. It is what Lewis called natural law. Schaeffer said men must understand true moral guilt, not just have guilty feelings, because they have transgressed God’s Law. Lewis said if you do not believe there is a God, then you cannot believe you have sinned. In their pre-evangelism, Lewis and Schaeffer first showed the unbeliever (post-Christian) that he was wrong before showing him why he was wrong. This was done by their pre-evangelism, which Lewis said was the preparation for the gospel and Schaeffer called no soft option. Schaeffer led the post-Christian to follow his beliefs to their logical conclusion as part of this gospel preparation. Lewis did the same; however, he also used imagination to awaken the objective notion of the true, the good, and the beautiful. He showed that the sense of longing could not be explained by a naturalistic worldview. In this way, the post-Christian’s beliefs were not measured against the Christian’s beliefs, but against the truth of things by which this world is ordered – a reality in which all men live. The goal of this talk is to show the importance of metaphysical realism in relation to pre-evangelism in our post-Christian world and how Christians might use pre-evangelism in their witnessing.

Day 4

Whole in Christ: Gender and Sexual Identity in Gospel Perspective
Paul Coulter

The pace of change in social attitudes and legal frameworks in the West concerning gender identity and sexuality has been breath-taking. Faced with the changing context and the allegation that the Church has oppressed LGBTI people simply because of who they are, how should Christians respond? This session will seek to understand fairly the ideas behind this massive cultural shift, to develop a positive, Christ-centred, biblical vision of gender and sexuality, and to suggest principles for speaking and acting with grace and truth around these issues.


The Next Chapter
John Kirkpatrick

As we continue to write the story of our lives of grace, what might God be saying to us – how might He be challenging us? He has not brought us to this time and place without some special purpose ... It will be our task to see if we can discern this. This session will give an opportunity to think about what the future might and could look like as a result of the past few days together.

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