Ask Alycia Wood (June 4-8, 2018)

alyciawood

(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends,

I am so excited that Alycia Wood, an RZIM itinerant based in Alpharetta, GA, is available to answer your apologetics and evangelism questions!

Personally, I always enjoy seeing her at the office and catching up - she is not just a terrific speaker and passionate evangelist, but she is kind, thoughtful, and truly cares for the needs of others. It is an incredible opportunity for us to dialogue with her this week.

Enjoy!
Carson

Alycia Wood’s RZIM biography:

Alycia Wood graduated from Roberts Wesleyan College with a degree in Criminal Justice and from Marygrove College with a Master’s in Social Justice. She also graduated from the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and spent two years as a Fellow with RZIM in New England. Alycia’s speaking background is quite diverse. From universities (such as MIT, UCONN, Harvard, University of Massachusetts, Boston University, Dartmouth College, and Brown University), to retreats, from conferences to men’s and women’s prisons, Alycia has addressed major issues surrounding faith to diverse audiences.

Additionally, she has traveled to countries such as Haiti, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica, volunteering at soup kitchens and orphanages as her passions for “showing Christ” extends beyond her local environment.

In her spare time, Alycia enjoys music and is a lover of all things football and hockey.

Talk Titles:

God, Pain, and Why?

Why I Am Not An Atheist

If God Exists Why is He Not More Obvious?

Why I Am a Christian

Why Do I Need God?

Can Science and Faith Coexist?

God, Justice, and Love

The Problem of Evil

Where is God in Suffering?

Why Jesus?

Engaging Culture with the gospel (a talk on how to communicate the gospel to friends and family)

Is Christianity Intolerant and Outdated?

God of the Old Testament. Is He for real?

The Uniqueness of Christ


(Joe Gonzalez ) #2

I read an article that Albert Mohler shared on Twitter regarding the Revoice Conference & wanted your opinion on this statement made:
"There is no righteousness in a believer, a truly born-again Christian, identifying as bisexual, gay or homosexual.”


(Steven White) #3

I’d be curious to know the gist of your “If God exists why is he not more obvious” talk.
My form of that question has been “Why doesn’t God manage his organizations better?”
I think the answers lie in the topic of free will, and also in the value to God of us learning to walk in faith, not by what is obvious.


(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #4

Hi Alycia. May the Lord continue to use you mightily for His kingdom. I would just want to ask about your talk about “Engaging Culture with the gospel.” What are tips you could give in making sure we communicate the gospel effectively with our friends, family, or maybe the society where we are situated in general?


(Olivia Davis) #5

Hi Alycia! Your biography says you have spoken in lots of diverse places. I’m wondering, how do you prepare for speaking in front of different crowds, like universities compared to prisons? Have you found that regardless of the venue, people ask about the same questions, or do particular types of speeches tend to resonate with particular crowds? Thanks!!!


(Jennifer Wilkinson) #6

Hi, Alycia! Thanks for taking time to answer our questions. I’m preparing to teach a children’s class about Elijah, and I get to tell the story of Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. I was tempted to leave out the detail about Elijah killing the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:40) because it doesn’t feel right in our pluralistic society to kill people for worshiping a different god. However, I realized I need to mention it since Elijah’s killing of the prophets is the reason Jezebel wanted to kill Elijah in the next story.

How would you answer a question about God’s command to kill false prophets (Deuteronomy 13)? I doubt the children in my class will be bothered by this, but I want personal peace about it. Also, this is the type of thing that disturbs my agnostic and atheist friends, and I want to be prepared with an answer for them.


(Alycia Wood) #7

Hi @Olivia_Davis!

The question you ask is a good one. I have often quipped that, “Apologists are just Theologians who are good communicators”. What I mean by that is that we as people are skilled in a variety of ways. Some are able to spend hours in the rigors of study, others are able to spend hours laboring over the words to write in a particular book or piece etc. But being able to communicate well what you learn I think is important to the Apologist. It’s one thing to know material or information, it is another thing to be able explain it to another person.

Why did I go through all that? Because your question is an important one for those reasons. Doing your best to get to know your audience ahead of time helps you to be a better communicator. When you know the questions that people are asking, you will communicate the information differently. In other words, while you may be speaking on the same topic in two different places, your angle or approach may change based on the location. For example, when you speak at many prestigious Universities, the students are often looking for you to engage with the head as well as the heart. When speaking there, you want to make sure you can provide rational reasons for Christianity when you are speaking of its relevance to the individual. However, when I spoke in rural Iowa a few years back, the pastor specifically asked me not to take the head approach as that is not where his congregation is at. Rather, they needed someone to speak to the heart. When I go to India, a society where many beliefs are accepted as true, I focus on demonstrating what makes Christianity separate and distinct from the rest.

So, when I am asked to speak at a venue, I always speak to the host. I want to do my best to understand where they are coming from, and about their expected audience. That helps me better prepare and better reach and connect with the audience.

In regards to what kind of questions people are asking, many are the same, no matter where I am. While questions may differ initially in terms of specifics, they tend to be more broad in topic. For example, popular questions now are, God of the OT, the hiddenness of God, and Why would a loving God send people to hell? While they are specific in the way they are asked, they all share a common thread- Is the Character of God in Christianity really good?

Finally, I think the younger the crowd, the more they are interested in evidence and rationality. They aren’t going to believe just because someone says it, they need more. And that’s fair. The younger generation is quite educated and is encouraged to approach their subject of study such as, mathematics, science, computer, medical fields etc. with an intellectual and academic approach. Why should they be asked to abandon that when it comes to Christianity?

Hope that helps!
@Alycia_Wood


(LOUIS ADJASE TETTEH) #8

Hello Alycia may the peace of the Lord be with you. I pray the grace of resilience and the oil of longevity on your life.Forgive me, I don’t know if my question fall under any of the topics of discussion but please attend to it for me with all urgency because I am almost giving up. Please I am a Ghanaian and was born into the christian faith even though my family that is extended family course was an idol worshiping. My mum who married my Dad from the family stood so firmly in Christ for us and eventually succeeded in snatching my Dad out of the destructive hands of the devil. But the long and short of my story is that somewhere along the line as result of lack of strict coaching I fell with a thud (backslid) and just when I came back to my senses with the most deepened conviction and ever zealous love for God and His work, and just when I have been convince in my heart that nothing matters anymore except Jesus, I spend hours of time fasting and praying and eagerly calling on God to make me here of Him and its since been silence. I just completed the University with my first degree and have decided to join a missionary trail on a mission of evangelism and soul winning in some of the most deprived areas in the Northern territories of Ghana but I am in dilemma since I am not hearing from God On any issue. Please share with me what biblical directives the Lord lays on your heart for me. God bless you.


(Alycia Wood) #9

Hi @Jennifer_Wilkinson!

Thank you for teaching children! I find it to be one of the best ways to get better at teaching the Bible. If you can teach kids, you will be better at teaching adults!

There are a couple of questions here. Number 1, how do we explain sections of the OT to kids, Number 2, how do we explain sections of the OT to agnostic/atheist friends? These are good questions and I do think that there is something to the whole idea of speaking differently to different audiences. With that said, here are some thoughts I have on your question.

First, when it comes to kids, I agree that adjusting the content of what you say is completely ok. It’s the reason we have kid-friendly TV versus teen shows and adult shows. There are certain things that are age appropriate. With that said, I do not know the age of the children that you are teaching, so I will leave it up to your discretion whether or not you should share the full details of this story, but what I will do is give you some more information about this situation and allow you to adapt it to children/adults as you see fit.

When it comes to the Old Testament, one must be prepared to do a little research for the simple fact that the OT culture is so different from ours. Reading it can leave us in a tricky situation since we generally, unintentionally, read it through 2018 eyes. The OT cannot be treated like that. We need to read passages before and after questionable verses, but we also must read the OT in light of all the books of the Bible as many of the stories speak to larger narratives and themes that are happening from beginning to end. The specific passage you raise is interesting because it makes people wonder why would God want people to die? All they were doing was believing in other gods? Your observation about this not feeling right in our pluralistic society is spot on. This is a question that we ask today. It certainly is not one they would have asked then. No one then found God unfair for punishing sin no matter which religion they were. In fact, one possible idea as to why Jezebel was killing the prophets of the Lord in 1 Kings 18:13 was because she thought that it would please Baal and he would in turn end the drought! The idea of a drought being the cause of human sin, failure, disobedience, evil was very common, same with famine and disease etc. So, people at that time wouldn’t struggle with the Baal prophets being killed for being false prophets in the same way people today would see it.

Secondly, let’s take a look a bit further into these prophets. Baal’s prophets were leading people to follow a false god, Baal. That may sound trivial for today, but think it through a bit. These were people who were negatively impacting people’s eternity. Directing them away from experiencing the real God! People were following them right into hell. That is serious! Who knows what kind of sacrifices or offerings they were encouraging people to do to this false god! People weren’t opposed to serving the true God, as evidenced by the fact that once they saw the fire fall on Elijah’s sacrifice, they immediately fell prostrated and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—He is God!” (v. 18:39). So they were open to the truth, but were not taught it by the false prophets. If Elijah hadn’t come along, what would have happened to their knowledge of the true God? Idolatry and blasphemy were serious sins which brought with them punishment of death even for the Jews (Exodus 22:20, and Leviticus 24:13-16).

Thirdly, knowing that the character of God is good is essential for every Christian. If you don’t have confidence through life experiences, or through reading the Biblical text that God is perfectly good, then there are many passages that will trouble you. You probably remember the story in Genesis 18 where Abraham is asking God not to reign down punishment on Sodom and Gomorrah? Abraham pleaded with God, not for the unrighteous people, but for the righteous that were in that area. And he said something very interesting in verse 24-25: "Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (NIV). Abraham also had the expectation that God would do right- meaning that judgment should fall on the unrighteous and not the righteous. I think Abraham’s mindset is helpful for us.

God hates sin so much that He punishes people with death for it. Rom. 6:23 tells us that the penalty for sin is death. That means spiritual death (broken relationship with God), and physical death regardless of how that occurs. So, if I was speaking to kids or adults, Christian or non, I would focus on the fact that God punished people severely for sinning and worshiping other gods. While our culture doesn’t see worshiping false gods as all that bad (as long as you are a “good” person), it doesn’t mean that God sees things the same way. God hates it when we do things that are wrong. God hates it when we live in a way that is contrary to how He desires us to. In fact, God hates it so much that He penalized Jesus for sin. The problem is that in our society, we don’t always see things as wrong as God does. Pre-marital sex? No big deal. To God it is serious. Lying? No big deal. To God it is serious. Gossip? No big deal. To God it is serious. In other words, God takes our sin very seriously and that is what makes us even more grateful for the cross. Jesus steps in to pay the penalty for our sins. Part of the reason people have a hard time grasping the idea of God punishing sin is because we like to only speak of the Christian God as a “God of love”. But if we say that and don’t go on to explain further, then it brings further confusion to other Biblical truths. This is why people have a hard time understanding the idea of Hell, or why they ask the question couldn’t God just forgive humanity for doing wrong? Why send Jesus to die when He could have just forgiven people? If God is only about love, then the answers to this are weak, but love is only a partial description or at least it needs to be further qualified to explain that love carries with it judgment, wrath against evil etc.

I know it’s a long answer, but it’s a big question. I hope that helps in some way!
@Alycia_Wood


(Jennifer Wilkinson) #10

Thank you so much! This helps a lot. You inspire me to dig into the Bible more to understand the context and the heart of God. Our society has so many misconceptions about love. May God guide us as we try to communicate a clear picture of His love with those around us.


(Alycia Wood) #11

@omnarchy

I think there are a few tips that I can give! One tip I would give would be to truly know and understand the gospel message. Be able to explain it in words that are not “Christianeeze”. This is where teaching kids comes in handy. Try teaching kids about Christianity, why Jesus had to die, what salvation means etc. They won’t necessarily understand your “Christianeeze”, and so that will force you to have to break things down simply, but truthfully.

Second, know where your audience is at. In that talk I go through Acts 17 and look at the different ways that Paul changes explaining the gospel to people based on his audience. Notice, I did not say that he changed the content of the gospel, we should never do that, but he changed the way in which he explained it or taught it to people. There’s one way he explains it in Thessalonica, and another in Athens. He takes the same message and adapts it for the audience. In Thessalonica, he used the Scriptures, meaning the Old Testament Scriptures because he was speaking to a Jewish audience (see v. 2-3). In the Areopagus, Paul doesn’t refer them to Scriptures at all, because these are people who do not accept the Scriptures. What Paul does is teach them the content of the scriptures without them knowing it. He let them know who the unknown god they already believe in is. He goes on to explain who that God is and that this is the God who made the world and everything in it. He isn’t a statue, He’s a live being and gives life to all men. In other words, what Paul is trying to do is use what they already understand and believe is true, to help them realize the actual real Truth. And through that, he helps them to see that they should not have any other gods, because this is the one true God, and that he desires repentance. AND He has provided evidence that He’s the real God by raising Jesus from the dead. Paul even quotes from their own poets (v. 28)!

So I would say, you need to know the gospel message and your audience. And remember that it can be helpful to use things that your friends and family already like (such as art, poetry, or even pop songs), when trying to find ways to explain the gospel or to get your conversations started. A lot of people talk about god, gods or God in their music. Are any of those verses good launching pads for conversation about God?

It is also beneficial to know the answer to some of the popular questions people ask, such as, why would God allow suffering? Why would God send people to hell? Don’t all religions to God? Why isn’t God more obvious? Can the Bible be trusted? Those questions pop up very often, and while the answers don’t usually lead people to God, they help clear out the traffic in the way so that there is a much clearer pathway to getting to know Christ. A lot of times you have to get through those answers, to really get to the deep meaningful questions people have about God when they want to be in a relationship with him.

Finally, it is beneficial for you to get in conversations even if you get stuck on the answers. You don’t have to know the answers to everything. No one does! Rather, do your best, and if you get stuck, tell them you’ll research the answer and get back to them shortly. Now you have inadvertently scheduled another opportunity for you all to talk about God!

Hope that helps!
@Alycia_Wood


(Alycia Wood) #12

@Jingle

Thank you for your question. I want you to know that I will answer it tomorrow so check back soon!

Alycia


(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #13

Thank you so much, @Alycia_Wood. :slight_smile:


(LOUIS ADJASE TETTEH) #14

Thank you. Looking forward to it.


(Olivia Davis) #15

This is exactly what I needed! Thank you so much for clarifying this for me! I feel like I have a perfectly fresh perspective now on how to approach all people. Thank you so much for your very thorough and thoughtful answer!


(Alycia Wood) #16

@Jingle,

I appreciate you reaching out and can sense the desperation in your message. First, let me tell you, you are not alone. What you are experiencing is something I’m sure every Christian goes through. In fact, there is a term for it! It is called the Dark night of the Soul.

Check out this paragraph from R. C. Sproul:
“The dark night of the soul. This phenomenon describes a malady that the greatest of Christians have suffered from time to time. It was the malady that provoked David to soak his pillow with tears. It was the malady that earned for Jeremiah the sobriquet, “The Weeping Prophet.” It was the malady that so afflicted Martin Luther that his melancholy threatened to destroy him. This is no ordinary fit of depression, but it is a depression that is linked to a crisis of faith, a crisis that comes when one senses the absence of God or gives rise to a feeling of abandonment by Him”. (1)

I show you that quote by Sproul to say that what you are experiencing is actually normal for a Christian. And I also must tell you that we often go through these periods as Christians more than once in our lives. We feel like God is far. That He doesn’t care. That He is not listening. That He has abandoned us. His silence can almost feel like death- like a big, long and dark spiritual death.

I think that there are several ways in which we as Christians can know how we have grown in our faith. For some people, the minute things get hard (life circumstances), the minute they say forget this Christianity thing. That often shows the depth of their belief. That maybe it was more shallow than they realized. For others, when they don’t get a particular answer to prayer (maybe a family member who was sick dies), they decide that there is no God that is listening and answering prayers or else that family member would be alive. Once again, a possible reflection of the strength of their belief. For others, it is these dark period where we feel that God has abandoned us through “no fault of our own” that makes us question His existence or goodness. But, I think this is where we can move to a new level in our knowledge and relationship with God- trusting Him even when we don’t feel Him. Even when we feel lost.

So, how do we deal with this? I think in several ways. First, know that God’s existence or His hearing our prayers isn’t based on our feelings of His closeness. We cannot always trust our feelings. In those moments when we feel God is far, or when our feelings are making us believe things that aren’t true, we have to decide to trust verses like, Matthew 28:20 where Jesus says, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (NIV). Or Hebrews 13:5, when the author of Hebrews quotes Deuteronomy 31:6 where God says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (NIV). There are times as a Christian where you have to verbally speak truth to yourself to help yourself believe it.

Second, we need to realize that is seems that this is the way God has always interacted with His people. Philip Yancey, in his book, Disappointment with God, (a book that I would highly recommend), says: "Genesis closes with a single family, small enough for the Bible to name all its sons, settling into the friendly haven of Egypt. The next book, Exodus, opens with a swarm of Israelites toiling as slaves under a hostile pharaoh. Nowhere in the Bible will you find an account of what happened during the intervening four hundred years. I have heard many sermons on the life of Joseph, and many more on Moses and the miracle of the Exodus. But I have never heard a sermon on the four-hundred-year gap between Genesis and Exodus. (Could some of our feelings of disappointment stem from a habit of skipping over times of silence in favor of the Bible’s stories of victory?)”. (2)

And of course, what about our dear friend Job, who went through a long period of time before God broke His silence! The story of Job is a wonderful story. In fact, it is one of my favorite books of the Bible. I think many people share my love for the story, but I wonder if in some way our appreciation for the story is somehow influenced by the fact that we know the ending? We greatly rejoice over the beautiful way God breaks His silence in chapters 38-42, that we can somehow forget all the chapters before where God spoke not at all. And being in this position, where we are able to read the story knowing how good it ends, seems to skew our ability to experience the hardship in it. In that moment, it might be helpful for us to remind ourselves of how Job felt in chapter 6. Or chapter 26. Or chapter 36. My friend, considering that God is silent with His people throughout the Bible, just may mean He still at times is silent with us. The story makes it clear that Job was not going through all of this because of anything he had done wrong! God’s silence isn’t necessarily an act of punishment. It might just be a way in which he helps us grow in our relationship with Him.

As I write this reply to you, you may be like Job; begging God for a hearing. But can I suggest to you that perhaps you are only in chapter 6? Perhaps, you, like Job, must learn to worship and serve God even when you feel like you are talking to just air. God hears all, but for whatever reason is choosing to be silent. Regardless, your ability to continue to serve Him well in the silence will significantly help your growth as a child of God. Listen to truth, not to emotion. Hold on. Chapter 38 will come.

Finally, I want to remind you that God speaks in a variety of ways. Through a still small voice, through others, through a dream, and through His Bible to name a few. Don’t focus solely on the way that you expect God to speak. If you don’t hear Him, and are regularly reading your Bible, praying and living for Him, ask Him to guide you as you are making decisions. If you get it wrong, ask Him to pick you up and put you back on track. God hears you and sees you and has the ability to redeem even our failures.

Hope this helps,
@Alycia_Wood

(1) https://www.ligonier.org/blog/the-dark-night-of-the-soul/

(2) Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God p. 69


(Krishnam Raju) #17

I just want to add that @Alycia_Wood travelled to Vizag, India many times and she is exceptionally good with school and college/university students.


(Jarvis Boccorh ) #18

Hi Alycia. Was watching a frank turek YouTube video where a guy asked about eternal suffering. I wasn’t really convinced on his answer. I have a hard time reconciling how one could be tortured in Hell fire forever. He said something about continuing to sin in Hell but do you have that luxury whiles in pain and how does one in heaven reconcile the fact that your loved one is going to suffer forever.

Thanks


(LOUIS ADJASE TETTEH) #19

Thank you so much Alycia I am kind of relived. God bless you and grace you with more anointing to continue with this remarkable work. Once again God bless you so much


(Alycia Wood) #20

@Narphi

Greetings! Thank you for taking the time to write a question. I am a little unsure of what you mean by “Why doesn’t God manage his organizations better?”, but I can at discuss what my talk is about.

Because most of my talks are geared toward evangelism, I don’t necessarily approach that talk by trying to unpack different theories of God’s hiddenness. Rather what I talk about is the fact that I do think that God is partially hidden, but that He also reveals Himself because He desires for us to know Him. One reason why He partially hides Himself is because if His presence was too forceful and we could experience His majesty (ie. Exodus 33:12- 34:7), we wouldn’t be able handle it. Further, it just might interfere with our free will ability to say no. Even with Moses, God only shows a part of Himself. I think when people say they want God to show up and show Himself, it shows the lack of understanding of who God really is.

However, I think we do see evidence of God’s existence in His creation (see Romans 1:20) and specifically through the life of Jesus. In the life of Jesus we can know fully who God is because Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He is God himself. This is very important because it means not only through Jesus’ miracles and resurrection can we know God exists, but we can also understand God’s character through what we learn of Jesus is life here on earth!

For most people, when it comes to lack of belief, I really don’t think the issue is that God is hidden, I think the issue is that many of us do not want to believe. People will choose to say that God has not revealed Himself enough, or that there is no evidence for Him, as an excuse to not believe. The reason I say this is because often when people say to me that they need more evidence of God’s existence to believe, I offer them evidence. However, instead of accepting and being amazed and what evidence there is, they find another way to explain the evidence as insignificant or they don’t accept the evidence as credible. For example, if I speak to people of a miracle that has happened, let’s say that someone was paralyzed but can now walk, I’ve had people say to me that it wasn’t God that healed the person, but rather that the brain was able to fix their body and make it better. In other words, no matter what I say, people will not accept that God did it and was therefore giving evidence of himself.

I think free will is very important, and I think God’s hiddenness has a whole lot to do with Him protecting our free will. But keep in mind, God did make Himself very, very, very known, and people who saw still did not believe. How did God make Himself so known and clear? Once again, through Jesus. People saw Jesus raise the dead, heal the sick, speak with incredible wisdom, and still they refused to believe. Why do people assume they would respond differently if Jesus was walking the earth today? I think even if God was so obvious and in our faces, we would still not always want Him.

In summary, God reveals enough of Himself so that there’s enough evidence for us to believe in Him, but He hides enough of Himself so that if we choose to not believe we can.

One last thing, you are not implying this, but often I hear people say that Christians just believe by faith as if there isn’t something to back up that faith. Many people define faith as just believing in something when there is no evidence. But Christianity defines faith as placing your trust in a being because of the evidence! The clearest and most known evidence being the resurrection of Jesus! Faith in Christianity is the response one has to God when they’ve decided to bow their knee to the God and Savior who created and loved them and who proved Himself true.

Blessings,
@Alycia_Wood