Saturday, December 15, 2012

Book Review: Not God's Type by Holly Ordway

Dr. Holly Ordway is a poet, academic, and Christian apologist on the faculty of Houston Baptist University’s MA in Apologetics program, which focuses on cultural apologetics. She has a doctorate in English Literature from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, an MA in English Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. She is also passionate about the truth. This is apparent in her book, Not God’s Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith, in which she shares her remarkable journey from atheism to Christianity.

Dr. Ordway says that atheism was all she knew for most of her life. To bring this point home, she shares a memory from the first grade, where she and another student had to spell the word “God” on the chalkboard. She wrote her word with a small “g,” while the other student wrote it with a capital “G.” She was surprised when the other student was praised for his correct spelling of the word. As she grew older, her atheism grew as well. Here is how she describes the results of that growth:[1]
At thirty-one years old, I was an atheist college professor – and I delighted in thinking of myself that way. I got a kick out of being an unbeliever; it was fun to consider myself superior to the unenlightened, superstitious masses, and to make snide comments about Christians.
Then something happened. Slowly the Holy Spirit pulled on her. It started with one of her passions: English literature. She began recognizing the profound Christian faith that was expressed in some of that genre’s great poetry. Then the Holy Spirit used another of her passions: fencing. She began fencing with a new coach and, after nearly a year, she found out that he was a Christian. However, he didn’t fit any of the stereotypes she had of Christians. He was incredibly warm, personable, and most importantly, very intellectual about his faith. As she began talking to him about the existence of God, she found that he had significantly better arguments for his faith than she did for her lack of faith.

One thing that Dr. Ordway mentions at this point in her story is that she could actually take her fencing coach’s faith seriously because of the relationship she had with him. However, the important point is that the relationship came first, and it was not motivated by his desire to share his faith. She knew he honestly cared about her as a person – not as a potential convert. This leads her to make a statement that that every Christian should take to heart:[2]
That’s why the idea of building relationships so that you can share the Gospel rings false to me. If the relationship doesn’t come first, it becomes salesmanship, with Jesus as the product. Ugh. If that had been what my coach was doing, I would have noticed – and felt betrayed.
We can share our faith through relationships, but as Dr. Ordway points out, those relationships must be real in order for us to share our faith effectively. Concentrate on the relationship first. The rest will come naturally, in God’s time.

Because she was taken aback by the intellectual foundations of her coach’s faith, she decided to investigate the arguments for and against the existence of God. As she did so, she came to the very uncomfortable conclusion that the arguments for God’s existence were significantly stronger than the arguments against His existence. She didn’t want to admit this fact, but she couldn’t escape it. She says:[3]
It is a hard thing to look at the truth when it runs contrary to what you’ve always believed. The experience is like pulling back the curtains in a dimly lit room and looking out the window to see what’s really outside.
Because she is so passionate about the truth, however, she reluctantly came to the conclusion that God does, indeed, exist.

That wasn’t the end of the end of her intellectual journey, however. One of the arguments that convinced her of God’s existence was the argument from morality, and based on that argument, she realized that this God must be personal. As a result, she knew she had to do more than just intellectually believe in Him. She had to find a way to relate to Him. Since her coach related to God through the Christian faith, she decided to investigate the claims of Christianity. She began by investigating its most important miracle: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through painstaking historical research, she came to the conclusion that the resurrection did happen. As she says:[4]
I had worked through all the arguments; I knew where I stood. It was a fact of history that Jesus died on the cross and was raised on the third day, vindicating His claim to be the Son of God. It was true. I felt strangely calm, as if I were at the eye of some internal storm. All the forces within me lay quite, but in tension; I knew that I could not stay in this place. Decision was required.
In the end, she made the decision to follow Christ, and she is now a committed Christian who does what she can to serve her Risen Lord.

Dr. Ordway’s story is a compelling one, and she tells it in an easy-to-read, personable way. The print book (what is being reviewed here) is only 158 pages long, so it is also a reasonably quick read. In addition, she makes her presentation very interesting by adding short “interludes” between certain chapters. These interludes share some of her experiences after becoming a Christian and how they affect the way she looks back on her spiritual journey. Whether or not you are a Christian, this book is well worth your time. Christians will come away with a deeper understanding of what it means to be an effective witness for Christ, and anyone who is honestly looking to learn the real meaning of life will be inspired by how a fellow seeker was able to abandon her pride and her desires in order to follow the truth, regardless of where it led.


Apologetics 315 Book Reviewer Dr. Jay L. Wile is an author who holds a PhD in Nuclear Chemistry from the University of Rochester. He is best known for his "Exploring Creation with..." series of science textbooks written for junior high and high school students who are being educated at home. You can read more of his thoughts at http://blog.drwile.com.

[1] Holly Ordway, Not God’s Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith, Moody Publishers 2010, pp. 15-16 
[2] Ibid, p. 41
[3] Ibid, p. 71
[4] Ibid, pp. 129-130

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