Watch now: My conversation with Tom Holland Live in London

Why a cancer diagnosis and answered prayer brought him to the edge of belief

I was delighted to be joined by historian Tom Holland and a 600-strong audience at our recent conversation event on ‘The Surprising Rebirth Of Belief In God’, hosted by Paul Woolley and Grace Fielding of LICC.

It was a memorable evening for several reasons. The beautiful surroundings of Westminster Chapel London, the wide range of questions from those in attendance, Holland’s sparkling reflections on church and history plus some very personal stories of his own experience with faith (more on that below).

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Holland also spoke candidly for the first time about a cancer diagnosis he received in December 2021, which would have necessitated the removal of part of his digestive system. The news came at a time when hospitals were being overwhelmed by the Omicron spike and a clear picture of the diagnosis was hard to come by. Reeling from the news, Holland attended midnight mass at St Bartholomew The Great, where he prayed a desperate prayer. 

Within a couple of weeks it appeared his prayer had been answered. A set of unusual circumstances led to the diagnosis being reversed. No surgery was needed, says Holland. 

600 people attended at Westminster Chapel, London

The historian freely admits that his experiences are unlikely to sway a hard headed skeptic. But they’ve impacted him. He also admits the answered prayer story won’t fit neatly into every Christian box either. 

The Lady chapel at St Bart’s commemorates the only place in London where a Marian apparition is purported to have occurred. Holland says that his desperate prayer was directed towards the virgin Mary. Holland says he was as surprised as anyone that this was the circumstance to persuade him that Christianity might be true. “God must have a sense of humour,” he laughed.

It was one of many memorable moments in the evening.

Holland and I were able to sign books and chat to many attendees following the event. It was a pleasure to meet so many who have been reading ‘The Surprising Rebirth of Belief On God’ book or following the podcast. You can watch the whole of our conversation plus audience Q&A right NOW when you become a Silver or Gold supporter via Patreon or US Tax-Deductible giving.

Listen now: A new act of our podcast series has begun

The death of the Bible has been predicted many times, yet today it remains the bestselling book in the world as a new generation of meaning seekers turn back towards its ancient wisdom.

In episode 14 of the Surprising Rebirth podcast I examine how thinkers such as Jordan Peterson, Marilynne Robinson and Jonathan Haidt have been rehabilitating the Bible and hear from scholars such as Tim Mackie, NT Wright and Matthew Lynch on why the Bible continues to resonate, even as the New Atheists critique its violent 'conquest' passages.

The evidence for Jesus: Get early access to Ep 15

New Atheism popularised 'Jesus Mythicism' - an online movement denying the existence of Jesus. But in recent years the trend in academia has gone in the opposite direction as research sheds new light on the reliability of the story of Jesus in the Gospels.

Get early access to this new episode and the amazing conversion story of academic Molly Worthen when you become a Silver or Gold supporter via Patreon or US Tax-Deductible giving.

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