The Remarkable Conversion of Molly Worthen

Dear friends, this is an absolutely wonderful interview with a recent and unlikely convert, Molly Worthen. 90 minutes long it covers a wide range of personal and theological history. The last half hour is a time of real transparency about the joy and difficulty of her faith. She begins by talking about her work as a historian and journalist and how that brought her to early 2022 when she began working with J.D. Greear for an article she was publishing.

She touched on so many of the questions and issues we talk about here with the Christian faith. She mentioned how when she went back and reread the early Schaeffer, she was surprised to find how Keller-esque he once was. How important N.T. Wright’s scholarship was for opening her eyes to the ancient world and how radical a resurrected messiah was even then. And yes, Francis Collins book The Language of God was pivotal in this time as well. But it was more than just reading books.

Please give it a listen, I am confident you will not be disappointed.

Oh and of all things, Lewis’s Space Trilogy snuck up on her, and was a kind of initial awakening before she began to form a friendship with Greear.

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This other link is a good intro and teaser for it too:

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Great find on the Great Courses material! She is an excellent communicator. So that doesn’t surprise me. Do check out her conversion story in the interview.


Molly Worthen makes this telling comment when talking about how The Language of God made a huge impression on her:

I, of course, knew about Francis Collins, but I had always assumed that he grew up in a Christian home. And when I read that, in fact, he did not that he converted as an adult in medical school here in Chapel Hill, UNC. Okay, he was living on my street, when this happened, okay. That made me - I had no choice but to hear him and read him differently.

Oh! This adds a little more background to the irony Molly admitted and laughs about in the interview. That she always thought that if she became a Christian she would go Catholic or Anglican, but not ever did she think she would go Megachurch. Which the church Greear pastors is the epitome of. She said that the most surprising thing happened in the dimly lit sanctuary and amid the loud music, she met Jesus and marveled how she didn’t see him before. He was always there but she didn’t see him. I’ll have to find the quote.

Kind of goes back to what we expect him to be like. What clothes will he be wearing. Will he be meek or wild. Dark or light skinned. The truth is, when we find him, we know him very differently from that stuff. As he does something to our heart. I guess that’s where we really or more importantly meet him.

  • S5E3: Is Conservative Christianity Anti-Intellectual?: Molly Worthen
    • This 59:44 Youtube Audio of Season 5 Episode 3 of the *Tokens Show" opens as follows:
      • "“Apostles of Reason” begins with a quote from the historian Sidney Mead. It reads, quote: “Americans, since 1800, have in effect been given the hard choice between being intelligent, according to the prevailing standards in their intellectual centers, or being religious, according to the standards prevalent in the denominations. This, continues Mead, really is no secret”, end quote. Mead is saying that the choice we’ve been given in American culture is simple: ‘You can be smart or you can be religious, but you cannot be both.’ Ah, what a fine dichotomy to explore. Is it a false one? Is it a true one? Is it partly false and partly true?
  • Gee, maybe–instead of asking whether Atheism is rational–one could
    ask: “Is Christianity rational?” Methinks Molly says: …

Given my long held position that reasonable people can disagree about the place of Biblical authority in Christianity, I would say that Christianity can be rational or irrational depending on which side of the issue you stand. The thing with reason and reality though, is that there are things in philosophy or metaphysics that reasonable people cannot disagree about.

  • Have you ever met a presuppositional Reformed Protestant who believes that the truth of the law of Non-Contradiction depends on [i.e. presupposes] your reference frame?

A classical apologist also accounts for a frame of reference: A cannot be non-A at the same time and in the same relationship

Was that a “yes” or a “no”?

Honestly I don’t know if I have or not. Presuppositional apologetics never caught on with me. Being exposed to classical apologetics early on kind of ruined it for me. And then later seeing how the God arguments don’t actually prove God, I figured there was probably something here someone smarter than me could work out and arrive at a new synthesis between classical and presups.

Now that I think about I did know a person in my old church that was a big fan of Greg Bahnsen and his style of debating. So unless there’s a hidden angle in your question, I have met a PRP.

    • “While theology was going irrational, positivist philosophy was questioning all knowledge. C. I. Lewis, for example, the positivist philosopher of Harvard, once wrote that “not even the law of noncontradiction is necessarily true of the real world.”11 Of course, apart from the law of non-contradiction, Lewis cannot even think that, much less say it. Even to make the charge, one must make use of the law. An intelligible objection to the law of non-contradiction cannot be made without it. To conceive of a real world in which the law does not obtain requires the law in order to conceive of a world where it does not obtain. We cannot even imagine such a world without this law because it would be utterly dissimilar from a world with it. Philosophers such as Lewis say as little as necessary and possible; they live in fear of being loquacious. But in the above remark he has uttered the unutterable, the unthinkable, the ultimate rhetorical extravagance.” [CLASSICAL APOLOGETICS: A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional Apologetic by Sproul, Gerstner, and Lindsley]

Nice! I have my well worn, note littered, autographed by Sproul copy on my bookshelf. The critique of presuppositionalism, however, is still unread.

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  • The quote is from Pages 23-24.
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The section on the ontological argument is what I remember best. They credit their version of the argument to Edwards, but I have not been able to source it.

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I am certainly a fan of C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy. …and Eastern Orthodoxy as well I suppose.

Though… I read the Narnia series first and I think the ideas there are more profound. In dialogue with people I find myself quoting portions of the Narnia books often, which is not the case with the space trilogy.

Also my conversion was a very long painstaking process. I just wasn’t a package buyer. So while the realization that sin was problem and that I needed a savior came quite early… everything else (so that I can honestly say I was a Christian) took decades.


How long would you say? Years or decades? (oops, you did say decades) For me it was a probably a little over a year to where I would say I was solidly marked for life. It took me a few more years to work out some specifics and arrive at a kind of settled certainty about who Jesus is.

My biggest concern for Molly Worthen, is that while she is an exceptionally smart, knowledgeable and sincere person. She is still new in the faith and I hope the evangelical world doesn’t prop her up on a pedestal. It’s been almost a year since her conversion, so that’s not terrible. I do hope she is surrounded by wise and decent friends.

At the same time, I am very encouraged by what God is doing in her life. I told a friend she could be this generation’s Strobel. I realize that is still setting the bar pretty low… :slightly_smiling_face:

I’ve listened to most of this, and it is quite good, but what does it have to do with science?

Indirectly, since Francis Collins is a factor?