When I learned of Holly Ordway’s Not God’s Type, a book testifying to the spiritually transformative power of literature on an atheist academic, I could not wait to get my hands on it. I recommended it to my Catholic book club, and when they voted to include it in our reading list for the year, I eagerly awaited the month in which it was scheduled.
Not God’s Type chronicles Ordway’s conversion, a journey best described as one of reasoned inquiry guided by charity. Raised in a non-religious home, Ordway recounts being formed by some of the most cherished, significant—but Christian—literature of the last three centuries. Though Ordway had developed a seemingly impenetrable atheism in her early college years, her fascination with metaphysical poetry and faith-filled fantasy literature was a spark that ignited a slow-growing fire. The great art of these Christian writers and poets, some of which include John Donne, George Herbert, J.R.R Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis, conveyed the reality of faith, and Ordway’s heart was opened to the possibility of something greater than the comfortable, convenient godlessness she had embraced.
Once she was open to the possibility of divinity (it took her some time before she could call it ‘God’), Ordway was able to be led down a path towards belief by, oddly enough, her fencing instructor. Ordway’s bout with faith mirrors a spiritual fencing match, which inevitably ends with her final “touché.” This second edition, published through Ignatius Press, expands upon her conversion story by including her ultimate adoption of Catholicism. Her emergence into the beauty, tradition, orthodoxy, and truth of the Catholic faith will resonate with those who love being Catholic.
Not God’s Type is a testimony to the power of a patient, non-judgmental, intelligent approach to leading someone first to God as Creator, then to God as Father, and then finally to Jesus Christ. Ordway’s conversion experience is a teaching moment for believers, illustrating that the words we use in our attempts to evangelize sometimes fail to resonate with those who have no context of “God” or “faith” in their interior vocabulary. Instead, Ordway’s trusted fencing coach provides an example of friendship without an agenda, of someone who accepts an unbeliever in love, regardless of whether or not she chooses to share in his own belief. Ordway’s story describes a different kind of evangelization, one that may prove to be more effective at changing the hearts of those who live inside their intellect.
Being a self-proclaimed bibliophile, I enjoyed the plentitude of literary references. However, those in my book club who were unfamiliar with the works she mentioned had difficulty appreciating their impact on her perspective. Also, the book is not eventful. Most of the “action” lies in Ordway’s mental strides through a labyrinth of philosophical and cosmological inquiries. While I dove into these reasoned processes due to my own personal encounters with atheism in academia, some of my book club friends found her cerebral calisthenics a bit dry. However, all ultimately found the book to be a worthwhile and inspiring read, despite the challenges of navigating it.
Most everyone agreed that we were most impacted by Ordway’s need to come into the faith in her own way—a way that was meaningful to her as an intellectual academic. Ordway was not only hard-hearted, she was also hard-headed, and she needed to meet Christ through unconditional love and skilled, patient reason—two qualities many who hope to evangelize may find difficult to practice. In a time when many reject Christianity, religion, or even a basic belief in God, Ordway’s story provides insight and hope for those who await their own loved ones’ acceptance of faith in our increasingly doubtful, secular world.
By Jacqueline Hollcraft
Purchase this book at http://www.ignatius.com/Products/NGT-H/not-gods-type.aspx