Ask Andy Wickham (June 17-21, 2019)

Hello, everyone! (@Interested_In_Ask_RZIM, @ApologistasHispanos)
We are so very exited to have Andy Wickham with us this next week to answer our burning life, apologetics and evangelism questions! Andy is the RZIM Regional Director for Europe. He studied theology at Schloss Mittersill Study Centre (Austria) and earned his MTh in Old Testament Theology from UNISA. He also spent a year in the UK at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, and previous to his current role directing the RZIM office in Spain and serving Europe, he was a staff worker for Grupos Bíblicos Universitarios (GBU) in southern Spain.

During the last decade, Andy has spoken on the Christian faith and engaged in Q&A sessions in many different contexts across Spain, most often with audiences of skeptic university students. Andy enjoys engaging with secular audiences around life’s big questions and topics such as hope, the Resurrection, the trustworthiness of the Bible, belief in God in the 21st century, or faith as a psychological crutch.

Andy is also committed to investing in the next generation. He started Proclama in 2013, a joint mentorship initiative between RZIM and GBU to raise a generation able to communicate the Christian message in the public arena, concretely in the Spanish academic context. Despite Andy’s British surname, his first language is Spanish. He lives in Madrid with his wife, Elizabeth, and their three children.

You can listen to Andy’s talks on the podcast, Las Razones de la Fe. Just know that they’re all in Spanish!

Do reply to this thread to ask him a question either in Spanish or English! Though, since the main language of this forum is English, if you choose to communicate in Spanish, a quick English translation would be much appreciated. :slight_smile:

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Andy, in my atheist days I really believed that Christianity was just a crutch.
I no longer believe that, but apart from telling my own story, how would handle the statement that Christianity is just a crutch for weak people?
Thanks
Bill

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I am in module #9 of the Bible elective which looks at this question. How do you defend the trustworthiness of the Bible Andy?
Thanks
Bill
P.S. I watched a GBU Proclama Utube video. Well done.

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Thanks for this question, Bill! How wonderful to hear that you found Christ as an atheist. It would be great to hear your story.

This is a question I get asked a lot here in Spain too. I believe it’s a crucial question not only for Christians but also for everyone else.

We all have beliefs about the big questions of life. When it comes to our own worldview, we all need to ask ourselves: How do I know that what I believe about the nature of reality, my identity, truth, morality, meaning… is true? How can I be sure that I have not arrived at my beliefs out of comfort, tradition or preference…? i.e., How do I know that what I believe is not a psychological crutch?

Our culture puts a lot of pressure on religious people to answer this question. Sadly, as Christians, we fall into believing the slogan that claims atheism or agnosticism is the neutral arena: “I don’t believe in anything; I’m not a religious person” sort of thing. But there isn’t such a thing as a neutral arena, as postmodernism has reminded us so well.

The atheist has to ask himself the same question as the Christian: How do I know that my atheism is not a psychological crutch? Because atheism offers apparent benefits or crutches itself like “freedom from God,” not having to answer to God, being your own god.

We really need to come to terms with the evidence that supports each worldview. Does the evidence lead to a materialistic worldview, or does it actually point to theism? For Christianity, the straightforward path to testing its claims is to look closely at Jesus, His life, His work and His words, and see whether it stands up to the test. For example, many intellectuals have considered the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus and concluded that it was absolutely solid.

Let’s consider the phrase, “Christianity is for the weak”. If by that we mean, intellectually weak, nothing could be further from the truth. Many Nobel Prizes and many top scientists from our time call themselves followers of Jesus. Many of them turn to Christ as adults, not conditioned by their upbringing. Take, for example, C. S. Lewis, who was professor at the University of Oxford, an expert in mythological literature who, when he read the gospels, recognised that they were historic narrative genre. As an outspoken atheist he finally gave his life to Christ saying: “ [in] 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”

The renowned atheist philosopher Anthony Flew, after a whole academic life fighting against the idea of God, changed his mind. He said: “ I now believe there is a God… we have all the evidence we need in our immediate experience … only a deliberate refusal to ‘look’ is responsible for atheism of any variety .”These were people of the highest academic standing who did not approach Christianity happily, but on the contrary, gave in to the evidence reluctantly. Lewis said, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” In fact, if Christianity is an invention to make us happy, we could have done better…

If we asked the first Christians (and still today, many Christians the world over, outside Western culture) what they thought about this idea that “the faith in Jesus Christ was a psychological crutch,” they would probably laugh in disbelief. Why? Christians of all ages were being tortured and dying for their faith every day. Far from meaning an easy, happy life, trusting Jesus with their lives meant horror, and yet, they would die singing to God. Why? Because the evidence convinced them Jesus was real, and truth is the most powerful weapon in the world. The Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset said: “ Life without truth is unliveable […] it is the only thing that man essentially needs, his only unconditional need .”

What truth did the first Christians find? That Jesus was God, that he was “ the Way, the Truth and the Life ” and that he had defeated our two greatest enemies: sin and death.

There’s another angle to think about too. The Bible explains that we are actually all broken because we have declared independence from God. In a world of brokenness, it would follow that all of us would be looking for crutches. Some might think atheism will do, others Islam, and yet others will find their support in drugs, romantic relationships, sex, work, you name it. The reality is that everyone is holding on to a crutch. To think that we are OK is naïve, proof of being poor historians and blind to the needs of our culture. But there is on unavoidable truth: We need a doctor much more than a crutch. The question is not whether we need a crutch or which one to use. The question must be bigger. Can we actually be healed?

Jesus said, “ Those who are healthy do not need a doctor .” The prerequisite for coming to God is recognising our existential and moral need. Jesus throws away the crutches and heals the root of our brokenness. He heals our hearts and transforms us from within. This is real power that has transformed millions. It is not a fantasy, but an undeniable reality. The gospel of Jesus Christ offers real power to change. Far from being a psychological crutch, it is the healing we all need.

So, in a sense, yes, we need to recognise we are weak, not intellectually, but morally and existentially. It starts by recognising that we are not God, but He is. That He is perfect and we are not. We carry the virus of vanity, egocentrism, aggressiveness, lust, and envy… an entire “zoo” of infections within, consuming us every day.

Recognising our problem, our weakness, is the first step toward healing. It shows honesty and willingness to be treated by another. Who to trust? Just like you, Bill, I have found only Jesus.

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Hi Andy,

How do you help Christians overcome their fear of proclaiming the good news?

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Will we be able to retain our consciousness and memory in heaven? If not, then we will lose everything within our human experience in this life that shaped and molded us into the unique person that we have become and that came to know Christ. If we do, then how will we be able to function the same in heaven considering that our minds are always adapting and changing. Will we cease to change or improve for all of Eternity and never grow weary? I would like to know your thoughts on this. Thank you.

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Hi Justin,

I love your question and the fact that we share the same Spanish surname — my mother is also López. :slight_smile:

I agree with you that losing our memory and our consciousness would mean to lose who we are and become someone else entirely. If we lost our memory, we would forget why we are in heaven in the first place, we would look at Jesus’ scars and wonder where they came from, or what on earth a Bible is.

From the beginning to the end of the Bible we see a God who restores and redeems, not a God who wipes out everything and starts brand new.

In fact, in Revelation 21:1, when John talks about the new creation “new heaven and new earth” the word for “new” is kainos ,not neos. Even though they are interchangeable synonyms in some instances, neos tends to be used in the sense of “brand new,” while kainos is the word you would choose for a new version of Microsoft Office or a new BMW X6, i.e., an updated version, based on the previous one.

The example par excellence is in the resurrected body of Jesus, the firstfruit of the resurrection of all our bodies, according to 1 Cor 15. Jesus’ resurrected body enjoys a new physicality, but it is pretty much based on the previous body. The incarnate Jesus is the same person as the resurrected Jesus. He is still a Galilean man, speaking Aramaic. The disciples would not recognise Him in the beginning because “their eyes had been closed” (Luke 24:16, 31) or did not expect Him to be alive. Once these barriers where gone, people could recognise Him even from a distance, as John and Peter did from the boat (John 21:1-14).

Revelation talks about every nation and every culture worshipping Jesus in eternity. That means that we will retain our culture, our language, along with their nuances, humour, intricacies. For example, I will be Spanish for eternity, even though that is not my main identity. This speaks very highly of how God wants to redeem our cultures and cultural identities. But this would be impossible if we lose our memory and consciousness.

I am of the opinion that our memories will be more active and empowered than ever because we will be more human than ever, fully new Adams, not less than we are now.

One might ask, “But will we not be sad by the mere memory of our sins, and sufferings? Isn´t that a problem since the Rev 21:4 says, ‘There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’?”

Maybe our sins will be erased from our memories; after all, isn’t that what God says about His own memory? The Lord says, “I will remember your sins no more." Does it mean that He has erased that memory from His consciousness forever? That He cannot retrieve the facts and circumstances around our sinful actions? That would pose a serious difficulty for a God who is all-knowing. The way I understand it is that God chooses not to bring back those memories, not to dwell on them, not to pay attention to them because they have been dealt with in a satisfactory way through the cross. They are a done deal.

In the same way, I believe we will be able to remember our sins even for eternity, but with a redeemed mind. We will choose not to bring up those memories or let them condition our present reality, or shape our identity, as we often do now.

About growing, maturing and changing our mind, I think that will be a crucial part of our eternal experience. I do not think that all of us will suddenly speak all languages (although it could be argued that speaking in tongues and the gift of interpretation might be given to all in full) or be expert painters or amazing worship singers. I believe we will have all eternity to learn through loving relationships, a renewed Christlike mind, and in the full power of the Holy Spirit.

As a human the Lord Jesus grew in maturity and wisdom according to the gospels. I do not believe that poses ontological problems for the nature of God, but it does reflect on the fact that we are going to be eternally growing, mainly because we are not God; i.e., there will never be a time when we will say, “I have arrived. Now there is nothing else for me to learn.” We have been made to know the triune God and enjoy Him forever. He is so amazing that we will never grow tired of getting to know Him, adoring Him, and having fun with Him and with one another as we glorify Him forever. Author and pastor Tim Keller talks about the “dance” of the triune God into which we are invited. A dance is not a mechanical impersonal relationship but a ongoing creative expression of the self.

In part, that is the beauty of relationships. Where there is true love, there is genuine interest and discovery of one another. In a sense, I believe this is even true of the Trinity, one God but three persons joined in perfect loving relationship. Part of the eternal fun for God is to relate to one another, in Himself, which is what makes Him so incredibly unique compared to any other concept of divinity in any other religion.

What is really exciting, Justin, is that we are going to enjoy eternity not with a lesser but a greater awareness than now of who we really are, becoming who we were always meant to be, in full consciousness of the price God paid in order for us to be saved and in full reality enjoying Truth at its best and, as the apostle Paul says in 1 Cor 13:12,“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

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Your response is very insightful and I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question. It has definitely given me something to think about. I wonder if there will be new ways to learn something, considering now that sometimes we learn through trial and error or by practice until it is “perfected”. Or will we have perfect knowledge so that it would eliminate that feeling of inadequacy when we don’t get it right as we do here in this life. A lot of the lessons we’ve learned have been through those failures and trials and I wonder if that would continue to happen in that way. Thank you for your time and your insight. This is actually my first conversation since joining RZIM Connect

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That is fabulous. Thank you Andy. I never thought of that before.
Bill

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I am very glad you got to ask this thoughtful question here at RZIM Connect, Justin. In case you want to read a bit more on this, I found a couple of articles that you might find interesting: https://www.epm.org/resources/2010/Mar/6/heaven-chapter-32-what-will-we-know-and-learn/
and this one:
https://www.epm.org/blog/2019/Apr/24/learn-heaven

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Hello,

Why should we be punished for Adam’s and Eve’s sins?

Hello Bill,

Sorry it has taken me some time to answer! Thanks for the encouragement about Proclama. We are seeing more and more people interested in receiving training on evangelism here in Spain, which I find quite encouraging.

I love the Bible Elective Module. I hope you are enjoying it! It is very complete about the question you ask, and, actually I wouldn’t know what to add to the material the team put together so thoughtfully.

In any case, here are a few things I find helpful:

The sheer amount of early manuscripts in several languages has no comparison to any other document in antiquity. According to Professor John W. Montgomery, “…to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested biographically as the New Testament.”

Or take Sir Frederic Kenyon, a leading scholar in Ancient Manuscripts who said: “The interval then between the dates of the original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible…Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.”

When we look at the field of archaeology, the data is also impressive.Every procurator, governor or Roman official named in the NT has been confirmed through external sources. Every city, village or region mentioned in the NT has also been corroborated. We have historic evidence for at least 31 people mentioned in the NT.

Millar Burrows, Professor of Archaeology from Yale University says, “On the whole…archaeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the scriptural record. More than one archaeologist has found his respect for the Bible increased by the experience of excavation in Palestine. Archaeology has in many cases refuted the views of modern critics.”

Archaeologist Nelson Glueck, who discovered more than 1500 sites says, “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference. Scores of archaeological discoveries have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible.”

When you look at the statistics and probabilities for the amount of prophecies fulfilled, especially in the person of Jesus, the numbers are overwhelming.

But if I had to choose one main reason for trusting the Bible, apart from the many personal stories I have in my interaction with the Scriptures and hearing the voice of God, it would be the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The historical evidence for the resurrection is solid and convincing. If, after examining the evidence, we conclude that Jesus is God, and he is the Truth, then the whole quest for the trustworthiness of the Bible moves to a different sphere, since Jesus told us to trust them. If we can trust Jesus wholeheartedly, and Jesus trusts the Scriptures, then I have good reasons to trust the Bible.

I’m sure, Bill, that you’re familiar with many of these arguments, especially about the resurrection. However, I have found that many times, in spite of all the evidence we can provide, people of other faiths still want to reject it on the basis that it contains miracles and, therefore, has to be false.

This, however, is a completely different topic. If someone has dogmatically excluded the idea of God and is totally committed to materialism, then no matter what we say, their decision is made. But it has nothing to do with the trustworthiness of the Bible. It has to do with their unquestioned devotion to their materialistic worldview. Once we open ourselves to the possibility that there is a God and that the world is more than matter, the fact that the Bible contains miracles should not be a problem.

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