World of Narnia ‘made sense’

Narnia’s famed lion, Aslan, brought Dr Holly Ordway to an unexpected conclusion

Dr Holly Ordway
Dr Holly Ordway

Formerly proud of her hard-core atheism, Dr Holly Ordway, a professor of literature, has taken a surprise leap after studying C.S. Lewis and John Donne to freshly conclude that Christianity is more intellectually satisfying than atheism.

"I was 31 and hated everything to do with Christianity," Holly bluntly told an audience at Biola University in 2013.

Educated at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Holly explains, "I assumed Darwinism, materialism, and naturalism were true because intellectuals were presenting them and there was no credible alternative."

Yet, she admits, "I really was shockingly ill-informed on Christianity. I'm a college professor, so I speak as a professional. I had no clue what the [Christian] trinity actually meant or how many gospels there are [in the Bible].

"Fifty to hundred years ago, people like Bertrand Russell and George Bernard Shaw at least knew what they were rejecting."

She also candidly admits that her assumption that Christians only had unreasonable blind faith was wrong.

As she later discovered from Hebrews 11 in the Bible, Holly explains, "Faith is 'the substance of things unseen', but it doesn't mean we can't know them – like I know that my family loves me, but I can't see their love in a measurable way."

While she thought Christians were stupid, she also greatly admired many dead Christian poets, writers and artists.

"John Donne, Charlie Hopkins, T.S. Elliot, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen and Michelangelo and Handel...all very clear about being Christians and smart, talented, gifted people who did things that brought great joy into my life."

As a consistent atheist, she reasoned that if there is no God there is no ultimate purpose, but her efforts to give her life meaning failed.

Aslan

This failure did not make her want to become a Christian, but she says there was "a bleak yet romantic appeal in being a lone figure shouting my little puny cry into the darkness even though I am going to be obliterated when I die."

In the atheist worldview, Holly explains, "There are no reasons to cherish life, to protect the weak, or to be kind to others." This did not seem right but she could not explain why it was better to be kind.

As it happened, she chose to write her doctoral dissertation on fantasy novels, including the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

"I read all these Christian authors, because the classic works of Western literature are deeply Christian. And that's not accidental by the way. It's because the Christian worldview, when lived out fully, is naturally expressed in imaginative work and beauty."

At first, she thought that Lewis' Aslan lion character was "foisting Jesus on me" until she realized, "He's really just telling a beautiful story that has this other level... [which] was the genius of Lewis."

As literature professor at MiraCosta College, San Deigo, she taught her students John Donne's poetry.

While preparing for class, she felt her heart change as she studied Donne's poem "Batter my heart three-personed God, for you as yet seek to knock, breathe, shine and mend".

"There's something here," she thought. "I don't understand these words and images of God, seeking and knocking, and the poet asking God to come to him, asking Him to release him from these bonds of sin and death that he can't free himself of by his own volition."

Looking at the world through the eyes of Lewis, Tolkien and Donne, Holly realized their works showed her a beautiful world, which she says "made more sense" than her bleak understanding.

She turned to someone she admired wanting to know more. Her "very patient" coach in the sport of competitive fencing was a born-again Christian.

"He answered my questions and gave me books to read. I quickly realized there were robust intellectual arguments for theism and Christianity: William Lane Craig on the cosmological argument; J.P. Morgan, Gary Habermas and N.T. Wright on the resurrection."

As she became intellectually convinced that the supernatural existed and "Christ really had died and risen from the dead", Holly admits she was terrified.

Her old belief system now uprooted, she remembers that everything had to be re-evaluated "in the light of the living God".

Yet she was unable to grasp the truth about Jesus Christ until she went back to Narnia to "spend some time with Aslan".

"The way Lewis presents Christ allowed me to get who Christ is; what it means for God the Son to be a man and be touched, talked to and heard."

From then on, she says, "I felt a real sense that God was letting me choose. I could say no and be captain of my sinking ship, but at least I get to be in charge. Or I could choose Christ and go into the unknown. I chose to follow Him."

Upon becoming a born again Christian, Holly says she is grateful she joined a good church, who helped her understand how to follow Jesus practically.

"I could ask these questions I had, and not feel awkward. I felt safe and I felt I could actually express doubts," she shares gladly.

After her decision to trust in Jesus as her Lord and Savior in 2006, Holly gained a Masters in Apologetics at Biola University, and is now chair of a new Master of Arts at Houston Baptist University.

Holly's book Not God's Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith is available from online bookstores.

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