As an atheist Dr. Holly Ordway had always felt like she wasn’t quite “God’s type” — that is, until she says she began deeply questioning the ins and outs of the Christian faith.
In her autobiography, “Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms,” Ordway, who directs the Master of Arts in Apologetics Masters program at Houston Baptist University, tackles how she transitioned from an atheist who wasn’t interested in the Almighty to a fervent Christian.
“The title [of the book] reflects pretty much my attitude before I was a Christian,” Ordway recently told TheBlaze. “If I even gave any thought to whether God existed, I thought, ‘It’s not for me … it’s fine for other people, they like that sort of thing.’ I was very much not God’s type.”
As an English professor who looked more at the Bible as a piece of ancient literature than anything to be literally revered or followed, she admitted to once believing that “smart people don’t become Christians.”
“It was more the absence of positive evidence and the general cultural attitude,” Ordway said of her belief that intelligent individuals couldn’t possibly embrace biblical teaching.
It’s a view she now fully repudiates — and her journey to that conclusion is a fascinating one.
Growing up in a nominally Christian home which she described as unreligious, Ordway said that she ended up going off to college, where she embraced the “pervasive assumption that secularism was simply true — that naturalism, evolution — all that explained everything.”
“Faith was a nice thing people did as a hobby or cultural thing,” she recalled believing at the time.
Ordway said it took about 10 years before she began asking the questions that led her out of atheism and into the Christian realm.
Having read Christian writers like J. R. R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis as a child and during her college years, she said that the writings stuck with her and made an impact despite her atheistic worldview.
When Ordway eventually moved to California to take a teaching job, she began encountering other Christian poets and writers, which she said started getting her to think a bit deeper about the theological themes these individuals addressed in their work.
“God’s grace moving in and through my imagination was stirring me up, so when I went to california and took a new job and was teaching literature [and] reading Christian poets I found myself again responding at a very deep level,” she said. “I was assuming that you couldn’t be a smart Christian, [but] how could these talented, gifted men [believe this stuff]?”
So, Ordway embarked on a journey to find out what writers like Tolkien and Lewis meant when they talked about faith. And she said that as soon as she started asking key questions about Christianity, the answers began to make sense to her — and she began to find the evidence quite compelling.
“I got to the point where I accepted that Jesus was the son of God and died and resurrected, but I wasn’t at a point where I had made a decision to follow him,” Ordway said.
Then, she recalled waking up one night around 2 a.m. in the midst of her spiritual questioning after having a dream about Jesus — a dream that Ordway said was likely the result of her mind so intensely considering religious themes. In it, she recalled observing tourists visiting Jesus’ tomb.
“And I thought, ‘No one would go see the tomb. He’s gone,” she told TheBlaze.
When she awoke from the dream, Ordway said she realized for the first time that she believed in Jesus’ death, resurrection and the overarching and associated Christian message, but that she was afraid to make a total commitment.
Still, she decided to do so anyway, as she had a deep feeling in her gut that the faith she had rejected for so long was actually true. Ordway prayed soon after to accept Christ into her life — an act that many Christians refer to as “getting saved” — and began to live in an entirely new and divergent way.
“Even as an atheist I tried to live a moral life,” she said. “[But] that was one of the things that led me to the Christian faith. My inability to reconcile my morality with atheism.”
Watch her speak about her faith journey below:
Ordway said that the transition from atheism to Christianity transformed her life. She initially entered the faith through the evangelical vein, but has since become a Catholic, noting that there was much more in Catholic theology that personally resonated with her.
“I look back at myself before I was a Christian and I look at myself now and I think God’s grace is tremendously transformative,” Ordway said. “I have such a deeper understanding of who he is, an awareness of my own sins, a greater ability to be patient, to love.”
Find out more about her here.