Unpacking Atheism

Part 2: The Artist & the Lawyer

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Part 1 | Part 3

On October 14, 2012, Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg hosted a conference designed to both help Christians understand atheists and help atheists understand the journey many have traveled from atheism to a faith in Jesus. Guest speakers included Dr. William Lane Craig, Dr. Holly Ordway, and Got Questions Ministries board member and co-founder Randall Niles. The conference was simulcast, but no DVD will be offered.

After philosopher and apologist Dr. William Lane Craig spoke, Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg interviewed two former hardcore atheists who have come to a faith in Christ through remarkably similar means.

The Artist

Dr. Holly Ordway is a doctor of English Literature and has a master's degree in apologetics. Her journey from confirmed atheist to master apologist is an interesting tale—and only took seven years.

Ordway grew up a-religious. Religion and God were just not mentioned in her family. Her university days built upon the belief that religion was passé nonsense. By her late 20s, she knew only hostile Christians, characterized by their habit of confronting her with what she considers the worst pick-up line possible: "If you died tomorrow, do you know where you would go?" Irritated, she would simply say, "Yes, my molecules would disintegrate into the matter of the cosmos, and I would cease to exist." A philosophy she both believed in and yet understood was rather depressing.

She found a much more positive and intellectual view of Christianity in her literature studies. She loved John Dunne, T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien. She not only picked up on the Christian themes, she appreciated how their Christian worldview informed their writing. But there was something she couldn't quite grasp: Dunne's "faith". In her a-religious mindset, "faith" meant believing in something when all evidence pointed to the contrary. She couldn't understand how the literary giants she loved could be so duped.

In the interest of furthering her academic understanding, Ordway decided to find out what this faith thing was. In her search, she realized that her belief that Christians were pushy was because her primary experience with Christians was with those who demanded attention. Her fencing coach, however, had identified himself as a Christian, then let it go. She figured if he wasn't pushy with the evangelism, he might be able to answer her intellectual questions without "shoving the Bible at her."

Her coach indeed answered what questions he could and then referred her to books, including Mere Christianity by her beloved C.S. Lewis. Her journey took her through the cosmological argument to the moral argument. She felt it was important to be good and decent but didn't know why. Deism gave her the why. But with that deism came a personal obligation that was frankly inconvenient.

Continuing on in the spirit of intellectual honesty, she researched the veracity of the Bible and the resurrection of Jesus. Being a literature expert, she understood the historicity of manuscript proof and oral tradition. Her search into spiritual truth was directly informed by her literary expertise, and that expertise told her the Bible and Jesus' resurrection were historically indicated.

Her next hang-up was also solved by literature. Even if the Bible was historically true, Ordway couldn't accept how God would—or could—allow Himself to be incarnated as man. So she went to the literary character that best represented such a leap—Aslan of C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. If God became incarnate, it could be like Aslan. Not exactly, but the artistic representation was enough to allow how the incarnation could be possible.

Many atheists have gotten to this point and stopped. All the intellectual proof in the world won't matter without the surrender of the heart. Ordway understood this. She read the Bible and saw such things as submission to Jesus, picking up her cross, dying to self. She knew head-knowledge wasn't enough, and she had to make a choice to go further.

At last, she understood Dunne's faith. It wasn't belief in something contrary to evidence; it was submission to something that was true. What was more important: truth or her comfortable paradigm? She could remain an "atheist", but it would be a rejection of God, not a belief that He didn't exist. She took the leap and accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior.

That prayer, she said, was the least climactic moment in her life. No trumpets, no feeling of grace. Just a decision to submit. She recognized God as her authority, but it took a while before she learned to love Him. It was vital to her spiritual walk that she had mature Christians around her who were open enough to admit the difficulties of the Christian life. Meeting her own moral standard was easy because she set the bar. Meeting God's was impossible. But even the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith. It was a key moment when someone told her that obedience is a show of love.

You can find Dr. Ordway's book, Not God's Type here.

The Lawyer

The final speaker was Randall Niles, lawyer, one of the founders of, and a board member of Got Questions Ministries. You can see his testimony here.

Niles's journey parallels Ordway's in that they both investigated Christianity thoroughly in the interest of intellectual honesty. They were both impelled to accept whatever turned out to be true. God also used their professional expertise to lead them to truth of Him. For Niles, who was a lawyer for many bigwigs in Silicon Valley, it was the thought of computer code vs. DNA. If programmers were paid small fortunes to write faulty code with 1s and 0s, how did 4-letter, uber-complex DNA come to be? The only logical explanation was the influence of an intelligent designer.

After his long, circuitous, extremely well-researched arrival at faith in Jesus (please do watch his testimony), Niles realized that there was a need in the church that he was uniquely qualified to fill. A lot of his research was done online, when search engines were just getting started. What the world needed was an online source where biblical truth was easy to find. He joined with computer expert Greg Hamon and was born. was being developed by recent college graduate S. Michael Houdmann about the same time, and Hamon and Niles were eager to lend their help. Although the two ministries are separate entities, we are still spiritually and geographically very close.

Randall Niles's book, What Happened to Me is sold on Amazon.

Next: How to reach an atheist without making them want to run away

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Published 10-29-12