Posts Tagged ‘holly ordway’

This is the third part of a series I am doing on Trends in Apologetics.  I have covered Urban Apologetics and Cultural Apologetics and will look at Children’s Apologetic in a future post.

Women in Apologetics

Given the proliferation of men in apologetics, the questions that begs to be answered is “are women interested in apologetics?”

screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-12-56-19-pmThe short answer is yes. An example is the International Society of Women in Apologetics (ISWA).  ISWA is a loosely-connected group of Christian women who are theologically, philosophically, and apologetically inclined, and have a passion for encouraging and equipping other women in the church who are interested in learning how to think more deeply and intelligently about their faith.) There website is Women in Apologetics.

Women in apologetics is actually not new because Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957) was an avid defender of orthodox Christianity.  Louis Markos (one of the leading lights of Cultural Apologetics) has an excellent chapter on Sayers contribution to apologetics in Apologetics for the 21st Century.  Nevertheless, this trend of women in apologetics is much more self-aware and intentional by its practitioners.

Christianity Today has touched on this new trend with the article “Meet the Women Apologists: Apologetics has long been a bastion of men—until now.” This article chronicles the exciting growth in this trend.  Houston Baptist University is spearheading this trend.  The faculty at HBU include “Nancy Pearcey, author of Total Truth and Saving Leonardo; Mary Jo Sharp, director of the ministry Confident Christianity; Melissa Cain Travis, a national speaker and author for Apologia Press; Kristen Davis, an engineer who runs DoubtLess Faith Ministries; and [Holly} Ordway, an Inklings scholar with a PhD in literature.”  The article goes on to say:

“These women are expanding the scope of apologetics beyond the traditional male bastion,” says Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ and now on faculty in the MAA program. He sees his colleagues as building a movement that’s “cutting across gender and racial barriers” to draw more people to faith.

“Women bring a deep relational intelligence to apologetics,” says Kelly Monroe Kullberg, founder of the Veritas Forum, a university-based organization that hosts apologetics events across North America and Europe. “They bring a sense that biblical truth is the highest love for human beings.”

“The next big breakthrough in apologetics will come from women,” says John Mark Reynolds, HBU’s [former] provost and former Biola University philosophy professor.

Some of the publication and output from these women apologists have included books, conferences, ministries, and bible studies:

Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms is by Holly Ordway which is the touching story of her remarkable move from atheism to Christianity. Convinced of the truth of Christianity by reason and imagination.

Mary Jo Sharp of HBU wrote a study of Lifeway called Why Do you Believe That?: A Faith Conversation which is a video-driven women’s bible study.  The trailer for the study:

Sharp also wrote Defending the Faith: Apologetics in Women’s Ministry for Kregel Ministries Press.

This past November this was a women’s apologetic conference: No Pat Answers.  Other conferences on women’s apologetics have included DC Women’s Apologetics Conference hosted by the C. S. Lewis Institute, and the Women Teach Women Apologetics Conference by Ratio Christi in New Jersey.

Other Articles on Women in Apologetics

“Oxford’s Unapologetic Female Apologist” by Katelyn Beaty | Christianity Today April

“Women in Apologetics – Sisters Who Defend the Faith” by Mikel Del Rosario | Apologetics Guy March 14, 2014 – Ironically, this post on women in apologetics is on a website called the Apologetics Guy. Irony aside, Mikel is genuine pleased and sympathetic to women in apologetics.  He posts:

Just as the testimony of women sparked an investigation of Jesus’ empty tomb in the 1st century, so the testimony of women in the 21st century leads many to consider the evidence for the claims of Christianity.

I’m pleased to know some outstanding women who are beginning to make history in our field–a field which has long suffered from the stereotype of being “just a guy thing.”

The Women of Christian Apologetics” by Joel Furches – HubPage, March 9, 2017

Some of the Women in Apologetics

ISWA’s website has a list of women who are active in apologetics.  Here is just a sampling of some notable female practitioners in apologetics:

Amy Orr-Ewing – The UK Director for RZIM Europe and Curriculum Director of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA). She gained a first class degree in Theology at Christ Church, Oxford University before receiving a Masters degree in Theology at King’s College, London. She is currently working on her Doctoral Thesis at Oxford University. Amy has written two books exploring key questions in apologetics: Is the Bible Intolerant? which was shortlisted for the 2006 UK Christian Book Awards, and Is Believing in God Irrational?

Here is a video of her lecture on “Can I Trust the Bible?”:

Mary Jo Sharp – Mary Jo is the first woman to become a Certified Apologetics Instructor through the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  An assistant professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University, Mary Jo found the ministry Confident Christianity.  Here is fun clip by Brett Kunkle of Mary Jo:

Lydia McGrew – With PhD in English literature from Vanderbilt, Lydia  is a full-time housewife and home schooling mother living in Michigan. She has published in the field of analytic philosophy, with specialties in theory of knowledge and probability theory. Her philosophical publications, some written alone and some jointly with her husband, Tim McGrew, have appeared in journals such as Erkenntnis, Philosophical Studies, and Philosophia Christi. She writes on political, cultural, and religious topics at What’s Wrong With the World and at her personal blog, Extra Thoughts.  One of her outstanding contributions to apologetics his her co-authored chapter in Blackwell’s Companion to Natural Theology,  2009, edited by J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig titled “The Argument from Miracles: A Cumulative Case for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth” and the new book Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts which is a revival of an argument for the historical reliability of the New Testament that has been largely neglected for more than a hundred years. Undesigned coincidences are casual, yet puzzle-like “fits” between two or more texts, which the best explanation is that the authors knew the truth about the events they describe.  Here is a lecture she gave on Undesigned Coincidences:

Melissa Cain Travis – Featured alongside other women in apologetics in the Christianity Today cover story “Meet the Women Apologists”, Melissa Travis serves as Assistant Professor of Christian Apologetics at Houston Baptist University. She is a Contributing Writer for Christian Research Journal and author of the Young Defenders apologetics storybook series. She is currently writing a popular level science and faith book for Harvest House Publishers that will go to print in early 2018. Pursuing a PhD in humanities, Melissa earned the Master of Arts in Science and Religion from Biola University in 2012.  Her website.

Holly Ordway – Dr. Ordway was featured in my post on Cultural Apologetics.  In brief, Ordway is Professor of English and faculty in the M.A. in Apologetics at Houston Baptist University specializing in cultural and imaginative literary apologetics. Here memoir is Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms.  Here is her story telling of her journey from atheism to faith:

Nancy Pearcey  –  Pearcey has been involved in apologetics, journalism, worldviews, and science since the early 1990s, but she is now professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University.  Here official website. Some of her works include: Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning, and most recently Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes. Here is a short clip with Pearcey:

 Other posts on Trends in Apologetics:

Urban Apologetics

Cultural Apologetics

Children’s Apologetics (forthcoming)


This is the second part of a series I am doing on Trends in Apologetics.  I have covered Urban Apologetics and will look at Women in Apologetics and Children’s Apologetic in future posts.

Cultural Apologetics

What is Cultural Apologetics?  Answering this can be a little tricky.  So, given that this tricky I will let someone else answer the question: Holly Ordway.  Dr. Ordway is the professor of English and on the faculty at Houston Baptist University in the M.A. in Apologetics program. She specializes in cultural and imaginative literary apologetics:


In this short clip by Dr. Ordway she describes “Cultural Apologetics [as] the approach to defending the truth of the Christian faith that involves engagement with all aspects of our culture. From literature, the arts, the media, film, all the way into the political realm, to economics, to science and the way we understand those kinds of questions.  The questions how can we present the truth in such a way that is understandable and in such a way that it can be lived out in every aspect of our lives and not compartmentalized. So, culture apologetics strives to do that and do that in every sphere of activity.”

That is a good start and as I analyzed and researched what was involved in Cultural Apologetics I notice that instead of Cultural Apologetics being a narrow sub-discipline of Christian Apologetics that it is much broader and multi-disciplined.  It seems that traditionally (or sometimes termed philosophical, classical or historical) apologetics has focused, understandably, upon rational arguments for God’s existence and the veracity of Christianity.  The focus is on reason and argument.  Cultural Apologetics understands that human experience is much broader than just reason.  It’s not an irrational approach, but a wholistic approach.  Humans are more than just rational beings, we have emotions, imagination, creativity, as well as intellect.

Houston Baptist University is spearheading this movement of Cultural Apologetics with a M.A. track in the field.  They define Cultural Apologetics as focusing on integrating imaginative and rational apologetics, studying a range of issues in philosophy, literature and the arts, and cultural issues in order to analyze and engage with culture for apologetics at both the intellectual and popular level (including creative work).

Here is Dr. Ordway and Dr. Ward, two leading lights in the movement, describing Cultural Apologetics and its distinctives for Houston Baptist University’s program in apologetics:



Rational Apologetics “vs.” Cultural Apolgoetics

The “vs.” in the heading above is not meant to denote that they against each other but that there is a between them.  In a great article by Ordway, she describes the pairing of reason with imagination for a complete Cultural Apologetic:

Theologian Austin Farrer sums up the role of Reason in apologetics: “Though argument does not create conviction, the lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.”

Rational apologetics includes philosophical arguments, such as the arguments from contingency and from morality; evidential arguments, such as the arguments for the Resurrection based on historical evidence; and scientific arguments, such as the argument based on the fine-tuning of the universe for human life. However, no argument is complete in itself. For instance, while the Kalam cosmological argument and arguments from design suggest that it is reasonable to believe in a Creator, these arguments do not in themselves suggest anything about what that Creator is like, or draw people to desire a relationship with Him. Scripture-based arguments can show more of who God is and how He has acted in history, but these arguments are only helpful if people care about what the Bible says – if they are interested and willing to listen. We can’t automaticallly assume that people are interested, or that they have the adequate context to understand Scriptural references.

The best approach for the challenges of the 21st century is to provide a holistic argument involving different, complementary, mutually supportive arguments, which build up to a convincing overall picture.

ordway-photo-300x292-1Another way to approach Cultural Apologetics is put succinctly in this interview of Dr. Ordway who is recounting her conversion experience:

When I was so firmly an atheist, I would not have listened to the arguments that ultimately convinced me. I found the very idea of faith to be so repellent that I would not have listened to any arguments.

However, although I was not interested in apologetic arguments, I had, without knowing it, been experiencing the work of grace through my imagination. As a child and young adult, I read fantasy, fairy tales, and myths, and I especially fell in love with the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. I didn’t know that I was encountering God’s grace through those books, but in fact I was. Later, I wrote my doctoral dissertation on fantasy novels, and had Tolkien’s great essay “On Fairy-stories,” with its powerful statement of the evangelium, the Good News, at the heart of it. Later I began to teach college literature, and in re-visiting classic poetry for my class preparation, I was deeply moved and intrigued by the writings of specifically Christian poets. I had to admit that whatever it was that these authors believed, it was not simplistic or silly. Eventually, I realized that this question of ‘faith’ was more complex, and more interesting, than I had thought – and I decided to learn more.

There were a lot of questions that I needed to ask and have answered before I came to accept Christ, but Imagination opened the door. As George MacDonald’s novel Phantastes baptized C.S. Lewis’ imagination, so Lewis, Tolkien, Donne, and Hopkins had baptized mine.

Further examination reveals some distinctives in Cultural Apologetics. There seems to be a distinction within Cultural Apologetics between Imaginative Apologetics and Literary Apologetics.

Imaginative Apologetics

“Imaginative Apologetics” and “An Example of Imaginative Apologetics” by Gene Veith | Patheos June 9 and 10, 2015

Here is a series of articles on Imaginative Apologetics at Transpositions, which is the blog site for the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts (ITIA) which is one of the leading centers in the world for bringing together the study and practice of theology and the arts.  It contains articles from some of the leading scholars in cultural apologetics such as Holly Ordway, Michael Ward, and Louis Markos discussing issues like how imagination and reason relates, how the myth made fact in the local congregation, and the impact of Austin Farrer.

Imaginative Apologetics: Theology, Philosophy, and the Catholic Tradition published by Baker Academic attempts to provide a fresh, contemporary introduction to apologetics.  The back of the book describes it as:

A Fresh Introduction to Christian Apologetics
This timely introduction argues for a version of Christian apologetics that is theological, philosophical, and “catholic” and that embraces the whole of human reason. It emphasizes a foundation in theology that is both confident and open and makes reference to philosophy in an accessible way.


John Hughes on proofs and arguments for faith and reason
Andrew Davison on Christian reason and Christian community
Alison Milbank on apologetics and the imagination
Donna J. Lazenby on apologetics, literature, and worldview
Michael Ward on C. S. Lewis’s view of imagination and reason in apologetics
Stephen Bullivant on atheism, apologetics, and ecclesiology
Craig Hovey on Christian ethics as Good News
Graham Ward on cultural hermeneutics and Christian apologetics
Richard Conrad, OP, on moments and themes in the history of apologetics
Alister E. McGrath on the natural sciences and apologetics

Dr. Ordway just recently finished a book titled Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith with Emmaus Road Publishing:

apologetics and imagination


Literary Apologetics

Much of Cultural Apologetics focuses on the literary brights of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, G. K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, and others.  Holly Ordway, again, helps delineate this subfield:

As a poet and an English professor, I am most interested in the way that poetry and narrative can be ways to present the experience of knowing Christ.  That is, I work primarily in literary apologetics.

By that term, I mean the presentation of the truth of the Christian faith in and through literature. When I speak of doing the work of literary apologetics, I am speaking as an apologist, not a writer: I am talking about exploring Christian ideas through great literature that someone else wrote.

“Literary Apologetics: The Legacy of G. K. Chesterton and Dorothy Sayers” by Louis Markos | Christian Research Journal Vol. 34, No. 11 (2011)

This article by Markos begins:

If I were asked to identify a single root cause for the success of C. S. Lewis as academic, novelist, and, especially, Christian apologist, I would respond that the key to Lewis was his ability to fuse reason and imagination, logic and intuition, the rational and the emotional. Unlike such quintessentially American apologists as Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel, who are at their best when collecting data, sifting arguments, and marshalling witnesses in favor of Christ, the Bible, and Christian doctrine, Lewis took a more literary approach to defending the faith. Rather than divorce the facts of the Bible from the power it exerts over us, rather than separate the historical claims of Christ from the mythic force of His status as God-Man, rather than distinguish between the forensic evidence for the resurrection and the numinous awe that the event provokes in those who contemplate it, Lewis combined the testimony of head and heart, thinking and feeling, adult ratiocination and childlike wonder.

“Holly Ordway: Literary Apologist” Interview by Marcia Bosscher | InterVarsity: The Well Dec 13, 2012

“What is Literary Apologetics?” by Holly Ordway | The Christian Apologetics Alliance Aug. 19, 2012

Scholars in the Field of Cultural Apologetics

Michael Ward

Holly Ordway

Louis Markos

Gene Veith

Resources for Cultural Apologetics

“In Defense of Imaginative Apologetics” by Anthony Horvath | Athanatos Christian Ministries April 20, 2016

“Literary Apologetics” by Louis Markos | Christian Research Journal 2011

“Dr. Holly Ordway and the Power of Cultural Apologetics: An Interview” by Zak Schmoll | Entering the Public Square Jan 5, 2017

Be on the look out for Holly Ordway’s book Imaginative Apologetics which is to published this year (2017) by Emmaus Road Press.

 Other posts on Trends in Apologetics:

Urban Apologetics

Women in Apologetics (forthcoming)

Children’s Apologetics (forthcoming)