Faith Like a Child ~ Possibilities

From Hieropraxis

….I picked up The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: this time, not to analyze it for my dissertation, but to enter Narnia like a little girl again.

And I encountered Aslan.

First just as a name, a glimpse of hope – “Aslan is on the move” – and then as a hope fulfilled, the great Lion really present in Narnia, bringing an end to a hundred years of winter. Aslan was a force to be reckoned with: he led the Narnians into battle, and killed the White Witch himself; when he roared, “they saw all the trees in front of him bend before the blast of his roaring as grass bends in a meadow before the wind.” No tame lion, indeed.

And yet he was touchable, playful, personal. If I could have stepped through the wardrobe door and seen this character for myself, I don’t know if I’d have first run up and buried my hands and face in his shaggy mane, or fallen down before his great velveted paws with their terrible claws, afraid to look at him, but love and awe would have been mingled in both.

In Narnia, I found that the Incarnation was not a bizarre idea, out of place in the world. It infused the very atmosphere; I breathed it in and was strengthened by it. That God would join His creatures by becoming part of creation Himself seemed, here in Narnia, as fitting as the fact that winter’s end brought crocuses peeking brightly through half-melted snow; as right as the fact that sunlight warms chilled limbs and water quenches thirst.

In Narnia… but here, in real life? It might not be true that God was involved with His world; it might not be likely that Jesus was God incarnate… but it was no longer unimaginable.

From The Sword and the Cross – forthcoming, Ignatius Press, 2014


If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be: if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.

From the Rational to the Relational ~ Kirsten Powers and Holly Ordway

“Certain words can mean very different things to different people. For instance, if I say to an atheist, ‘I have faith in God,’ the atheist assumes I mean that my belief in God has nothing to do with evidence. But this isn’t what I mean by faith at all. When I say that I have faith in God, I mean that I place my trust in God based on what I know about him.”

William A. Dembski and Michael R. Licona, Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2010), 38.

I found this intriguing, and, many academics and skeptics I have read who have come to faith later in life express similar thinking. That is, they have relied purely on what they think is reason — however, God gets in-there and tips over some tables and shows the non-believer that they have been ~ in fact ~ unreasonable in their conclusions. Not only this, but a reality of personal (Personal) Being is involved… and this frightens many, and why CS Lewis and others explain that they were brought into the Kingdom “kicking and screaming.” Something rises above the skeptics own intellect and they have to trust a Person on Who They claim to Be (notice the capitalization).

This is momentous. And such a shift in thinking can be somewhat frightening. This weight of importance and why it is suppressed is expressed by R.C. Sproul and his co-athors well in this excerpt:

But even a sound epistemic system, flawless deductive reasoning, and impeccable inductive procedure does not guarantee a proper conclusion. Emotional bias or antipathy might block the way to the necessary conclusion of the research. That thinkers may obstinately resist a logical verdict is humorously illustrated by John Warwick Montgomery’s modern parable:

Once upon a time (note the mystical cast) there was a man who thought he was dead. His concerned wife and friends sent him to the friendly neighborhood psychiatrist determined to cure him by convincing him of one fact that contradicted his beliefs that he was dead. The fact that the psychiatrist decided to use was the simple truth that dead men do not bleed. He put his patient to work reading medical texts, observing autopsies, etc. After weeks of effort the patient finally said, ‘All right, all right! You’ve convinced me. Dead men do not bleed.’ Whereupon the psychiatrist stuck him in the arm with a needle, and the blood flowed. The man looked down with a contorted, ashen face and cried, ‘Good Lord! Dead men bleed after all!’

Emotional prejudice is not limited to dull-witted, the illiterate, and poorly educated. Philosophers and theologians are not exempt from the vested interests and psychological prejudice that distort logical thinking. The question of the existence of God evokes deep emotional and psychological prejudice. People understand that the question of the existence of God is not one that is of neutral consequence. We understand intuitively, if not in terms of its full rational implication, that the existence of an eternal Creator before whom we are ultimately accountable and responsible is a matter that touches the very core of life

R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley, Classical Apologetics: A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 69-70. (Emphasis Added)

Here is how Kirsten Powers wrote of this first Personal encounter with God:

…Then one night on a trip to Taiwan, I woke up in what felt like a strange cross between a dream and reality. Jesus came to me and said, “Here I am.” It felt so real. I didn’t know what to make of it. I called my boyfriend, but before I had time to tell him about it, he told me he had been praying the night before and felt we were supposed to break up. So we did. Honestly, while I was upset, I was more traumatized by Jesus visiting me.

I tried to write off the experience as misfiring synapses, but I couldn’t shake it. When I returned to New York a few days later, I was lost. I suddenly felt God everywhere and it was terrifying. More important, it was unwelcome. It felt like an invasion. I started to fear I was going crazy.

I didn’t know what to do, so I spoke with writer Eric Metaxas, whom I had met through my boyfriend and who had talked with me quite a bit about God. “You need to be in a Bible study,” he said. “And Kathy Keller’s Bible study is the one you need to be in.” I didn’t like the sound of that, but I was desperate. My whole world was imploding. How was I going to tell my family or friends about what had happened? Nobody would understand. I didn’t understand. (It says a lot about the family in which I grew up that one of my most pressing concerns was that Christians would try to turn me into a Republican.)

I remember walking into the Bible study. I had a knot in my stomach. In my mind, only weirdoes and zealots went to Bible studies. I don’t remember what was said that day. All I know is that when I left, everything had changed. I’ll never forget standing outside that apartment on the Upper East Side and saying to myself, “It’s true. It’s completely true.”

Kirsten was taken out of her comfort zone and was faced with knowing that God is real and that He is personal… and that she would ultimately have to answer to a Personal Being for her life — since she now realized He is her Creator. Accepting Christ’s imputed life and sacrifice was her response.

Here we switch to Dr. Holly Ordway describing a similar feeling, just worded differently. Before meeting God ‘personally,” Holly had to first come to the realization of God/Christ truly existing in order to believe the claims made by this Personal Being (both is Scripture [Revelation] and in Jesus claims about Himself):

I had accepted God as an Idea; now I was confronted by His reality as a Person. I had known, intellectually, that He could be encountered, but I had not the least idea of what that encounter might be like.

Looking back, the experience makes sense in a way that it didn’t, and probably couldn’t, then. If I were to have a relationship with Christ, I would have to know Him as a person, not just as an idea.

When I did encounter God, it was at a moment when I wasn’t con­sciously ready for it: I was still thinking through the philosophical issues, still trying to understand what the implications might be. I wasn’t looking for a relationship with Him yet; at that moment, I didn’t even understand how a relationship might be possible. And therefore, it was the perfect moment for the Spirit to make Himself known to me.

Because there was no question of wish fulfillment. God made Himself personally known to me in a way that I could recognize without being completely overwhelmed—in a way, perhaps, that might seem oddly anticlimactic to someone else. There were no vi­sions, no voice, no tears: just a profound and inescapable recogni­tion of the Other. Trust me, it was quite enough. What’s more, He made Himself known to me before I sought Him, and before I had the slightest idea what His presence would be like. As I thought about the experience, I could not shy away from the implications.

If I had been looking for Him when I encountered Him, I might not have been entirely sure that the experience was real. I might have doubted, wondering if perhaps this was, indeed, a case of wish fulfillment. The fact that I recognized, beyond any reasonable doubt, that my “experiment” had returned a shockingly positive result be­fore I had consciously started it, was the sting in the tail. I could not disregard this experimental data even if I wanted to—not if I Were to retain my own intellectual honesty.

And that, after all, was the lodestar for me in this journey: to fol­low Reason where it led, and not to be afraid, and not to abandon the experiment even if the results were unexpected.

Well, the results were not at all what I had expected—and now I knew something that I could not have even imagined knowing just a few weeks earlier. God was real, and He was active in my life.

Holly Ordway, Not God’s Type: A Rational Academic Finds Radical Faith (Chicago, IL: Moody, 2010), 94-95.

Both these women speak to initially having their doubts, previous conclusions, presuppositions, and the like destroyed by answers to their “vague generalizations or unchallenged assumptions,” which left them wanting more of the “intellectually rigorous weaving [of] art, history, and philosophy”:

Powers ~ “…I was fascinated. I had never heard a pastor talk about the things he did. Tim Keller’s sermon was intellectually rigorous, weaving in art and history and philosophy. I decided to come back to hear him again. Soon, hearing Keller speak on Sunday became the highlight of my week.”

Ordway ~ “…whenever I challenged a point, he had solid information and clear reasoning to back up what he’d said. What’s more, he respected my intellect by not letting me get away with vague generalizations or unchallenged assumptions. That was refreshing…. I was stunned by the very concept that there were rational arguments for the existence of God. Never mind whether I agreed with the argu­ments or not, the simple fact that Josh said, ‘Let’s reason this out’ rather than ‘You have to take it on faith’ made me want to hear more…”

And then, and only then, being confronted in a personal way by God, their Creator and Owner, they realized they were dealing with a Being interested in their well-being, unto salvation.

Here is Theologian Wayne Grudem explaining this understanding a bit more for the deep-thinker:

Personal saving faith, in the way Scripture understands it, involves more than mere knowledge. Of course it is necessary that we have some knowledge of who Christ is and what he has done, for “how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (Rom. 10:14). But knowledge about the facts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for us is not enough, for people can know facts but rebel against them or dislike them. (Rom. 1:32; James 2:19)….

In addition to knowledge of the facts of the gospel and approval of those facts, in order to be saved, I must decide to depend on Jesus to save me. In doing this I move from being an interested observer of the facts of salvation and the teachings of the Bible to being someone who enters into a new relationship with Jesus Christ as a living person. We may therefore define saving faith in the following way: Saving faith is trust in Jesus Christ as a living person for forgiveness of sins and for eternal lift with God.

This definition emphasizes that saving faith is not just a belief in facts but personal trust in Jesus to save me…. The unbeliever comes to Christ seeking to have sin and guilt removed and to enter into a genuine relationship with God that will last forever.

The definition emphasizes personal trust in Christ, not just belief in facts about Christ. Because saving faith in Scripture involves this personal trust, the word “trust” is a better word to use in contemporary culture than the word “faith” or “belief.” The reason is that we can “believe” something to be true with no personal commitment or dependence involved in it. I can believe that Canberra is the capital of Australia, or that 7 times 6 is 42, but have no personal commitment or dependence on anyone when I simply believe those facts. The word faith, on the other hand, is sometimes used today to refer to an almost irrational commitment to something in spite of strong evidence to the contrary, a sort of irrational decision to believe something that we are quite sure is not true! (If your favorite football team continues to lose games, someone might encourage you to “have faith” even though all the facts point the opposite direction.) In these two popular senses, the word “belief” and the word “faith” have a meaning contrary to the biblical sense.

The word trust is closer to the biblical idea, since we are familiar with trusting persons in everyday life. The more we come to know a person, and the more we see in that person a pattern of life that warrants trust, the more we find ourselves able to place trust in that person to do what he or she promises, or to act in ways that we can rely on. This fuller sense of personal trust is indicated in several passages of Scripture in which initial saving faith is spoken of in very personal terms, often using analogies drawn from personal relationships. John says, “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12). Much as we would receive a guest into our homes, John speaks of receiving Christ.

John 3:16 tells us that “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Here John uses a surprising phrase when he does not simply say, “whoever believes him” (that is, believes that what he says is true and able to be trusted), but rather, “whoever believes in him.” The Greek phrase pisteuo eis auton could also be translated “believe into him” with the sense of trust or confidence that goes into and rests in Jesus as a person. Leon Morris can say, “Faith, for John, is an activity which takes men right out of themselves and makes them one with Christ.” He understands the Greek phrase pisteuo eis to be a significant indication that New Testament faith is not just intellectual assent but includes a “moral element of personal trust.” Such an expression was rare or perhaps nonexistent in the secular Greek found outside the New Testament, but it was well suited to express the personal trust in Christ that is involved in saving faith.

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 709-711. (Emphasis Added)

God was present in every step of the way, from the rational and logical conclusions of science, history, philosophy, and the like… to the Holy Spirit breaking through in the ultimate sense by making the presence of Jesus REAL. All truth is God’s truth and the apologist cannot even begin to make truth claims unless it is first God’s truth. An amazing coinciding of testimony from two amazing women that God loved so much that He gave His only begotten Son for.

Dr. Holly Ordway Speaks About How God Challenged Her Intellect Through Apologetics

This is an excerpt from Holly’s book, linked below, and you can access her thinking on matters of faith more-so at her blog, Hieropraxis, which is the continuing thoughts of someone Christ went back for. I will also include (below) an interview about her journey from atheism to belief. (Her presentation on “academic faith” was also posted as a Serious Saturday lecture.) Enjoy… and for the curious, one should read about how God called Kirsten Powers through apologetics as well. One should keep in mind it isn’t the Christian using his or her intellect to “best” someone in argument, but God meeting people where they are at, and the Holy Spirit quickens people’s hearts to the knowledge of God in different way, Holly is an example of this.

“I suspect that most of the individuals who have religious faith are content with blind faith. They feel no obligation to understand what they believe. They may even wish not to have their beliefs disturbed by thought. But if God in whom they believe created them with intellectual and rational powers, that imposes upon them the duty to try to understand the creed of their religion. Not to do so is to verge on superstition.”

Morimer J. Adler, “A Philosopher’s Religious Faith,” in, Kelly James Clark, ed., Philosophers Who Believe: The Spiritual Journeys of 11 Leading Thinkers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 207.

(Take note as well that God invigorated her mind towards Christ via Christian poems/literature [like John Donne] — her degree is in literature, so she has a passion for this beauty in word and really a need in all of us for objective meaning and beauty in life.)

Here is the excerpt:

IMPORTANT THINGS CAN START in odd places and at seemingly inauspicious times. It was early March, and I was in Reno for a Division II North American Cup fencing tournament—a big event for  me. 

I started the day in great confidence, feeling ready for a breakthrough performance. I was sure I’d make it to the semifinals at least, and not-so-secretly I anticipated winning the whole thing. Let us just say things did not go as planned. I fenced abysmally in the first round of pools (as my coach succinctly, and factually, put it, “You did everything wrong”). Then, instead of making a spectacular comeback in the direct-elimination round, I fenced horribly and lost the very first bout. It was the end of the line for me; an ignominious end to my high hopes. My coach studiously ignored me until I stopped crying; when I had pulled myself together, we had our debriefing conversation, analyzing what had gone wrong and why. I was glum but I realized that if Josh was talking about what we would address in the next series of lessons, at least it meant he wasn’t going to kick me to the curb for one bad performance.

Still, I felt deflated. Debrief completed, I slunk off to my hotel room, tail between my legs.

An hour or so later I wandered back down to the venue and watched the women’s sabre finals (where I’d hoped to have been! sob). I ran into Josh and Heidi, and they invited me to dinner. Their company was a welcome distraction from brooding over my lousy performance, and the conversation was sufficiently interesting to continue past our meal, so we found a place to chat in the casino coffee shop. Slot machines stood in ranks on either side, flashing and jingling; the casino traffic ebbed and flowed around us. This was Reno, where people gamble 24/7: late as it became, the lights stayed on and no tired barista came to shoo us out. And that was a good thing, because the three of us stayed there, in conversation, for hours—talking about God.

Its a curious thing, how God works. If we’d been in a normal cafe that had to close up at nine or ten p.m., we might never have gotten where we did in our conversation. If I had done well in the tournament, we’d probably just have talked about fencing. But con­sidering how disconsolate I was about my performance that day, I was glad to talk about anything but fencing. Movies we’d seen. Fa­vorite books. As it turned out, we were all fans of C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.

“I’ve read a little bit of Lewis’s other stuff,” I said. “I’m really an­noyed with him. He says Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. But he’s leaving out that we can respect Jesus’ teachings, without the re­ligion part.”

“Well,” Josh said, “actually . . .”

And the conversation went on from there.

We talked about whether it was possible to know that there was something beyond death. We talked about where morality comes from. We talked about the idea of a First Cause, a creator of the uni­verse. At midnight my roommate called to see if I was OK, since I’m not the type to stay out late. I assured her I was fine, wished her a good night, and went back to the conversation.

I’d had interesting discussions before, but this one was different right from the start. I felt completely awake, alert, and more than a little nervous, like I was handling dynamite. But then, I was, wasn’t I? All my adult life, if I discussed religion at all, it was to dismiss it as nonsense. Yet there I was, risking honesty about what I believed but had never questioned before—and genuinely listening to ideas that I’d never heard before. Why was this conversation different?

At the time, I just knew that I felt safe. I knew that I was re­spected, that neither Josh nor Heidi would try to convert me, so I could let my guard down like I’d never dared to before.

They offered no Bible quotes. No sharing of how ‘God had worked in their lives. No appeal to my happiness or peace of mind. What, then? Philosophy. Ideas. Dialogue.

The upshot was that, right there in that noisy, neon-glittering casino coffee shop, I experienced a radical turnaround from my previous perspective on all things God-related. As yet I didn’t know if the idea of God were true or false, but I discovered that “faith” wasn’t anything like I thought it was. It could be based on Reason.

I swiftly discovered that Josh knew what he was talking about: whenever I challenged a point, he had solid information and clear reasoning to back up what he’d said. What’s more, he respected my intellect by not letting me get away with vague generalizations or unchallenged assumptions. That was refreshing. It was, in fact, the same kind of give-and-take as in my fencing lessons: he knew what I was capable of, and so he wouldn’t permit lazy thinking any more than he’d permit sloppy technique.

But also—again, just as in my fencing lessons—he challenged me exactly at the limits of my comfort zone, where I had enough to work with that I wasn’t lost, yet was stretching myself past where I was really comfortable.

(A fencing lesson, working on practicing strong attacks. He’s making me repeat the attack over and over again, with corrections, till I get it right. My leg muscles are burning-I’m out of breath-he pauses. Him: “Tired?” Me: [gasp] “Yes” [gasp]. Him: “Good. Back to work. En garde.”)

As we wrestled with these ideas, Josh answered my questions-not the questions that an evangelist might think I ought to have, but the ones I actually did have.

Though a lot of Christians probably haven’t thought of it that way, talking about Jesus as Savior involves many assumptions—for instance, that you already believe in a Creator, not just an impersonal force but an actual Person, who is wholly good and who in­teracts with humanity. Miss one of those links, and the whole thing falls apart.

I needed to start at square one. For me, the term “God” was heavily loaded, so we used a safer term—the neutral, philosophical “First Cause”-and began with a basic question: can we even know, reasonably, that there is a First Cause of the universe? I’d always held to the belief that the universe just “happened.” I knew that I couldn’t back up that assertion, but I also thought that the religious take was simply to assert the opposite. I say no God; you say God; great, we’re done.

Except that it seemed like Josh had some actual reasons for his claim, some actual arguments to make. That was a totally new idea.

Sensing my interest, he laid out a few of the cosmological arguments for the existence of God. Here I can safely say that what’s helpful varies from person to person. The mere thought of philosophical apologetics might cause some people’s eyes to glaze over. On the other hand, for me it was like asking for a glass of water and getting champagne instead. I was stunned by the very concept that there were rational arguments for the existence of God. Never mind whether I agreed with the arguments or not, the simple fact that Josh said, “Let’s reason this out” rather than “You have to take it on faith” made me want to hear more.

What’s more I saw that these arguments made frighteningly good sense. I could see, even right there in that coffee shop in the casino in Reno, Nevada, that they made more sense than I wanted to admit.

Holly Ordway, Not God’s Type: A Rational Academic Finds Radical Faith (Chicago, IL: Moody, 2010), 43-47. (Emphasis Added)


(Via Apologetics 315) Today’s interview is with Holly Ordway, professor of English and literature and author of Not God’s Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith. She talks about her background as an atheist, her encounters with Christians in the past, the influence of literature and poetry, personal influences from others, looking at arguments for the existence of God, counter-arguments against God, psychological explanations, her encounter with Christ, her advice to skeptics and her advice to Christian apologists.


An Atheist`s Journey to Faith ~ Holly Ordway, Ph.D.

Holly Ordway (author of Not God’s Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith) was a hard-core atheist who thought Christian theism was a complete joke. She was openly hostile towards Christianity and thought their followers were superstitious idiots! She was even a fan of Richard Dawkins’. However, as a college academic and scholar she was challenged to look into Christianity and took a surprise turn in her life and realized how intellectually defensible Christianity was. She is now a proud born-again Christian who speaks in apologetic circles defending the faith. In this lecture, she gives her testimony of her conversion from atheism and answers five questions: Why was I an atheist? What was it that made me listen to apologetic arguments? What was it like to experience these apologetic arguments? What was the role of the imagination in this journey? Now that I’m a Christian, now what? Buy her book “Not God’s Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith