November 18, 2007


Which Way to the Damascus Road?: The modern conversion narrative seems less convincing. (CHRISTINE ROSEN, November 16, 2007, Opinion Journal)

In the 1970s, just before he began serving a prison sentence for his Watergate crimes, former Nixon aide Charles Colson read Mr. Lewis's "Mere Christianity," and he says that it persuaded him to come to Christ. More recently, scientist Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, has discussed how, when he was a young doctor and an atheist, Mr. Lewis's writings led to his own embrace of faith.

Perhaps now more than ever, converts must combat a pervasive cultural cynicism that views conversions--particularly those made during moments of crisis--with suspicion. It was only his decades-long devotion to his Prison Fellowship ministry that eventually silenced those who doubted Mr. Colson's sincerity. Mr. Flew's claims have prompted many to wonder if his rejection of atheism and embrace of a deity is driven less by genuine faith than by the normal fears of old age.

This is where therapeutic Christianity, however popular, has failed to extend the legacy of converts like Mr. Lewis. The secular public can be forgiven for failing to find in a woman's marital problems, for example, a life-changing reckoning with belief.

The most persuasive conversion narratives recount not merely emotional surrenders to faith but also intellectual grapplings with it. Although devout atheists would vehemently disagree, the conversions of men like Mr. Lewis, Dr. Collins and even, perhaps, Mr. Flew reveal that intelligent people--trained in rigorous fields such as philosophy and the hard sciences--can embrace faith and tell persuasive stories without extremes of emotional flagellation. The Road to Damascus is paved with theology not therapy.

While Dr. Collins book is a lovely personal narrative of one man's journey of faith, his attempts to square that faith with Darwinism can't help but be comical. Let's put it this way, at the point where you settle on the notion of "Theistic Evolution" you've departed the realm of Science no matter how hard you try to deny it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 18, 2007 8:15 AM

I read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis first and I later read Collins' The Language of God. Mere Christianity is compelling and worth reading more than once. After I read the Language of God, I loaned it to a friend and he could only get half way through it. The first half is a compelling personal tale of the conversion of a noted scientist, but the second half is not nearly as strong -- as Orrin pointed out.

Posted by: Kurt Brouwer at November 18, 2007 8:13 PM