Friday, January 16, 2015

Book Review: Not God's Type

Not God's Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms by Holly Ordway

I enjoyed reading this account of a woman who followed her reason from atheism to Christianity and finally to Catholicism, mainly through the reading of rich literature and the relationship with her fencing coach. If I had ever been an atheist, this book would probably be exactly how I would have discovered my faith, so I was interested to read about this woman who in many ways is like me. More than anything, though, I read it as a Catholic who knows she should be evangelizing but is uncomfortable with many of the ways I've encountered others who evangelize (like walking up to someone and asking if they are saved). This book showed me how I might reach out to others through reason and the written word.

From the beginning, she admits she had heard about Jesus and God but had almost dismissed them without hearing the message at all.
The difficulty was not a lack of opportunity to hear about God. The problem lay deeper: in my very concept of what faith was. I thought faith was by definition irrational, that it meant believing some assertion to be true for no reason. It had never occurred to me that there could be a path to faith in God involving reasons, or that there might be evidence for the claims of Christianity. I thought you had to 'just have faith'--and the very idea of faith baffled and horrified me.
Kansas Dad, who also read himself into the Catholic church, has always been clear that faith and reason are not exclusionary at all. There's a Christmas song by a Christian artist that speaks of Mary's irrational decision to carry Jesus in her womb that bothers him particularly: Following the will of God is in fact as rational a decision as anyone could make.
Believing something irrational on demand to get a prize: that is what the evangelical invitation to "accept Jesus and get eternal life in heaven!" sounded like to me.
I'm uncomfortable with those kind of statements, too. Eternity in heaven is not the only reason to become a Christian. Living in accordance with Scripture and the church's teachings is not just a ticket to heaven; it's how we can be most fulfilled in this life.

I loved one of the interludes in which she experienced how prayer can encompass the whole world. She was reading the liturgy of the Prayers of the People in which the congregation prayed for those who had not yet hear the Gospel and realized she was one of those people. Year after year, people all over the world had been praying for her.
How easy it would have been to write me off: a lost cause, a waste of time, an enemy of Christ. And yet, I had been prayed for, by those who knew me and by those who did not. For just a moment, I sensed a living web of prayer, bright and strong, connecting past, present, and future, far and near.
She repeatedly speaks of her comfort in speaking with her fencing coach and his wife, confident they would respond to her questions with logic and reason without attempting to convert her and without dodging the hard questions.
The mere thought of philosophical apologetics might cause some people's eyes to glaze over. For me, it was like asking for a mere glass of water and getting champagne instead. I was stunned by the very concept that there were rational arguments for the existence of God.
The author claims that her readings of Tolkein and poetry by those of great faith helped lay a foundation for her eventual conversion. For someone who spends most of her waking hours seeking out and sharing quality literature with children, it's always encouraging to read how literature helped change the course of a real life.

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