Holly Ordway began her conversion to faith in a casino in Reno, Nevada, surrounded by slot machines. She had just competed in a North American Cup fencing tournament and was having dinner with her coach and his wife. “One of the Narnia films had just come out,” Ordway told me. “Our discussion of the film led to the question, Does God exist?”
As they talked late into the night, she traveled through a Lewisian wardrobe that landed her in a mysterious new country. “I discovered it was possible to think rationally about the faith,” says Ordway. “There were arguments that at least stood up to preliminary testing. That was a fundamental aha moment, when my intellect was able to wake up and say, Okay, this is interesting. It was frightening and exciting.”
At the time, Ordway was in her early 30s and teaching literature and composition at a public college in Southern California. Since graduate school, she had thought of Christians as superstitious, Christianity as a “blemish on modern civilization,” and the Bible as a collection of fairy tales. “I was radicalized as an atheist and hostile toward Christians in general,” says Ordway.
But as she continued talking to her coach and reading works of apologetics—including N. T. Wright’s defense of the Resurrection—Ordway confessed faith in Christ. Now she finds herself in another new country, directing the master in apologetics (MAA) program at Houston Baptist University (HBU), a small liberal arts college in the heart of the nation’s energy capital. There, she is among a burgeoning group of women who are reshaping apologetics in the West.
“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 MAA program was born in part from Reynolds’s experience as a public apologist. “When I would give a talk about the Russian Revolution, a particular kind of person would light up,” recalls Reynolds. “I knew there must be people who wanted something more than analytic philosophy. For every person I met interested in ‘five reasons to believe in God,’ a thousand others were interested in thinking Christianly about film and literature and economics….