Here, Not God’s Type, author interviewed by Brandon Vogt. (Hey, it’s Sunday morning):
Growing up, Holly Ordway was convinced God was little more than superstition, completely unsupported by evidence or reason. She later attained a PhD in literature, traveled the country as a competitive fencer, and became a college English professor, none of which left room for God.
But one day a smart and respected friend surprisingly revealed he was a Christian. That sent Holly on a search for the truth about God, one that weaved through literature, aesthetics, imagination, and history. It culminated in 2012 when she entered the Catholic Church.
BRANDON: You followed a unique route to God, one that was philosophical but just as much literary. How did your background as an English professor fuel your conversion, and how did the imagination play a significant role?
DR. HOLLY ORDWAY: I wasn’t interested in hearing arguments about God, or reading the Bible, but God’s grace was working through my imagination… like a draft flowing under a closed and locked door.
To begin with, classic Christian literature planted seeds in my imagination as a young girl, something I write about in more detail in my book. Later, Christian authors provided dissenting voices to the naturalistic narrative that I’d accepted—the only possible dissenting voice, since I wasn’t interested in reading anything that directly dealt with the subject of faith or Christianity, and thus wasn’t exposed to serious Christian thought.
I found that my favorite authors were men and women of deep Christian faith. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien above all; and then the poets: Gerard Manley Hopkins, George Herbert, John Donne, and others. Their work was unsettling to my atheist convictions, in part because I couldn’t sort their poetry into neat ‘religious’ and ‘non-religious’ categories; their faith infused all their work, and the poems that most moved me, from Hopkins’ “The Windhover” to Donne’s Holy Sonnets, were explicitly Christian. I tried to view their faith as a something I could separate from the aesthetic power of their writing, but that kind of compartmentalization didn’t work well, especially not with a work of literature as rich and complex as The Lord of the Rings. More.
The Lord of the Rings is interesting in this context because the trilogy is not an allegory of the Christian religion, yet there is always something in the background that is best explained by the fact that Tolkien was a devout Catholic Christian.
Here’s another interview, with Crystal Hurd:
8. What advice would you give to young intellectuals who are struggling with the choice to accept belief?
First, seek the truth – don’t be afraid to ask questions, to keep asking questions, and to seek out answers to those questions.
Second, remember that it is not possible to have 100% certainty about questions of faith – any more than you can have 100% certainty about whether you can trust your best friend, or whether you ought to take a particular job offer, or marry a particular person. There is always one more question you could ask, or one more doubt you could indulge; if you’ve concluded that Christianity is probably true, the existence of doubt doesn’t negate that conclusion. Nor, as a Christian, does having doubts mean your faith isn’t real. Even the disciples said to Jesus, “Lord, increase our faith!” More.
Didn’t one of Darwin’s descendants do something similar, though perhaps less excitingly?
Well, you know what they say about the Catholic Church: Here comes everybody.
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Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose