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Creation Groans | Into the Darkness

We allow ourselves to fully contemplate the woundedness of the planet and we reach into the Christian practice of lament as a way to find hope in the midst of the suffering we see around us.


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Trail into dark woods

We allow ourselves to fully contemplate the woundedness of the planet and we reach into the Christian practice of lament as a way to find hope in the midst of the suffering we see around us.

Description

How should we respond to a problem that seems unsolvable? This is the question we ask in a series about the environmental crisis as we explore the fine line between hope and despair. In this episode we allow ourselves to fully contemplate the woundedness of the planet and we reach into the Christian practice of lament as a way to find hope in the midst of the suffering we see around us. The episode ends with a guided lament liturgy. 

This is the second of three episodes in the Creation Groans series. 

Before You Read

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Transcript

Hoogerwerf: 

Welcome to Language of God. I’m Colin Hoogerwerf. 

Stump:

And I’m Jim Stump

Hoogerwerf: 

This is the second episode in our series, creation groans. If you didn’t hear the last one, you might want to go back and listen in order. 

80 years ago, Aldo Leopold gave us the language of “the world of wounds”. In those 80 years the wounds have gotten pretty bad, to the point that many of them are becoming visible even to those who haven’t had specific, scientific training to help them see what’s happening. We talked about coral reefs and wildfire in the last episode as two examples of wounds that might not be entirely visible to most of us in our everyday lives. But it’s pretty hard these days to be an informed citizen and not know that we’re in a pretty bad place. 

Stump:

Climate change is just one part of the environmental crisis we face, but probably gets the most attention these days. And thankfully there has been increased awareness of the problem over the past few years. Regardless of political affiliation, a majority of Americans now agree that climate change is happening and are worried about its effects. While accepting the science is good, that alone won’t do much to solve the problem.

Lindroth: 

The most realistic perspective, or the one that resonates most with me is probably being true, is that we’re not going to be able to keep emissions and co2 levels at the level needed to come in under the 1.5 degree aspirational Paris Climate Agreement. And in fact, we might not even be able to keep it under the two degree.

Hoogerwerf: 

This is Rick Lindroth, an ecologist who we heard from last episode. 

Lindroth: 

So we are most likely going to overshoot those endpoints. I mean the latest IPCC report, pretty much in every scenario, we surpass the 1.5 aspirational goal. So overshooting is probably going to happen.

Hoogerwerf: 

Scientists have been trying to tell the public about the seriousness of climate change since the late 1980’s. 

Stump:

On the podcast this spring, we heard that story from Bill McKibben, who has been writing books warning about climate change to the general public for more than 30 years. 

Hoogerwerf: 

But communicating the seriousness of climate change can be tricky. Opening the world of wounds to people who aren’t prepared or don’t have the tools to hold the grief and fear that come along with the knowledge can be a dangerous business. The environmental movement has been cautious of this for a long time, and I think mostly for good reason. The main goal of the environmental movement, I think, has been to motivate people to make the necessary changes to fix the problems. And fear and despair are not good motivators when it comes to solving climate change. 

Bruininks: 

Yeah, I mean the evolutionary aspect of fear, right, so negative emotions, especially these basic emotions, and I think fear is the best example of this, have this very narrowing focus that should result in like a specific action tendency.

Hoogerwerf: 

This is Patricia Bruininks  

Bruininks: 

I am a professor of Psychology at Whitworth University

Hoogerwerf: 

Patricia studies the psychology of emotion.

Bruininks: 

So the example I give to students is if you’re out walking in the woods, and it’s a beautiful day, and you come across a bear, it’s not adaptive to continue to look at how beautiful the woods are. You should be very focused. There’s a bear. What do I do?

Stump:

There’s that bear again. 

Hoogerwerf: 

And I think we can assume this one is not sleeping. But that’s just the point! Once we open ourselves up to the wounds we realize there’s an angry bear and we get scared, we panic. 

Stump:

But what Patricia points out is that fear may be a really good motivator when there’s a really obvious action to take. Run! 

Hoogerwerf: 

Actually, let’s be clear, running is usually not the correct action to take when you see a bear… 

Stump:

Hmm… good to know. I suppose that might be a literal instance of someone without an ecological education ending up with a world of wounds!

Hoogerwerf: 

But with the environmental crisis there is no obvious action to take. And so fear tends, instead of motivating people, to paralyze them. 

Cordero: 

It actually is an issue for students, because they seem to acknowledge—I mean this is if they have fully accepted that climate change is this issue, it’s going to be part of their future, what’s their future going to be like? 

Hoogerwerf: 

This is April Cordero. She’s a board member at BioLogos and she has been doing research on the teaching of scientific issues that evoke controversy, such as climate change, for many years. 

Cordero: 

And then they acknowledge, well, you know, if I don’t use straws, if I use my bike more, I’m not really making much of a dent. And the problem is so big, and there’s so many boomers or older people—you know, and I think anybody over 35 is the older people, right—that just don’t care or just deny it. So what’s the point and this feeling seems to spiral down into, “I do nothing.”

Hoogerwerf: 

This is one of the reasons why the environmental crisis has been called a wicked problem. Wicked problems are not wicked in that they are evil, but wicked in that they are very hard, some might say impossible, to solve. 

Stump:

The terminology was developed in the early 70s by two design theorists, Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber and they came up with ten characteristics of wicked problems. We’re not going to go through all of them but there’s a good video about wicked problems we’ve linked to in the shownotes. 

Sollereder: 

You know, one of the characteristics of climate change, you know, absurdly, a wicked problem is that they don’t have a definitive formulation. 

Hoogerwerf: 

Bethany Sollereder has been on the podcast before. 

Sollereder: 

I’m a Lecturer in science and religion at the University of Edinburgh.

Hoogerwerf: 

Much of Bethany’s research has been on the problem of evil, but more recently she has been working on a project about the environmental crisis and how to respond to such a massive problem. 

Sollereder: 

So you can’t just say, here’s the aims, here’s the solutions. There’s a million aims and a million solutions, even when we look at something like what does a healthy ecosystem look like? That seems like a simple kind of question. But then you could say, well, are we looking at fidelity to a certain historical state that it had? Are we looking at biodiversity? Are we looking at what ecosystem services it provides? Are we looking at the health of the creatures in the ecosystem? So there’s a lot of different ways that you could try and decide whether say, a forest is healthy.

Hoogerwerf: 

Wicked problems also have the annoying feature that every part of the problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem. 

Stump:

And one more characteristic is that the way in which you describe the problem will determine how it should be solved. 

Hoogerwerf: 

And just knowing three of the ten characteristics of a wicked problem, you can see that things get pretty complicated. Even among those who agree, it can be hard to see exactly the same wounds and so every single one of us will have a slightly different idea of what the problem actually is, and then we can trace any of those problems to be caused by different problems. It all gets really messy and very overwhelming. 

[short music interlude]

Hoogerwerf: 

As we mentioned briefly in the last episode, there has been, at least a strand within the environmental movement, which has been careful to avoid those dark emotions that come from the acknowledgement of the wickedness of the problems. And it has tended to be optimistic in its messaging. It has said things like, “if we just get our act together, everything will be ok.” Other strands have said things like, “if we just work hard enough we can come up with technological solutions to the problem.” 

It’s tempting to think that we can skip over the grief, sadness, fear, and anger that might come alongside the world of wounds. And I get the desire, as someone whose job it is to communicate science to people, to do so in a way that doesn’t overwhelm them. 

Stump:

We don’t want to scare people. We want people to be inspired. We want them to become advocates for change. 

Hoogerwerf: 

But I’m worried that it’s impossible, to become people of hope and joy and to advocate for change without having acknowledged, at least a little bit, the suffering and darkness that is a part of the environmental crisis. And I wonder sometimes if we have gone too far in our avoidance of the darkness. 

Jennings:

I do think the theme of mourning, the theme of sorrow is important, when we think about the environment and when we think about the devastation we’re all witnessing. And I join with all those who don’t, who no longer want to have this, this very naive optimism that things will get better. Because as it now stands, they’re not going to get better. So how should we respond to that? 

Hoogerwerf: 

That’s Willie James Jennings, Professor of theology at Yale University. And that’s the question I’ve been asking myself. How should we respond when it doesn’t seem like things will get better? 

Stump:

Well it turns out that Christianity has a long tradition of dealing with pain and suffering, even when there is no reason for optimism.

Hoogerwerf: 

I’ve had Psalm 126 above my desk for the past year. 

Multiple Voices:

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.

Hoogerwerf: 

I’m struck by the fact that in this psalm, those who are weeping are still working. The psalmist doesn’t say, those who stay home and weep in the darkness of their bedrooms will reap with shouts of joy. 

Stump:

It also doesn’t say that those who go out into the fields hiding their sorrow from all those around them will come home carrying sheaves. In the Psalm, those who find joy and bounty are those who weep, while working, presumably in community.

Hoogerwerf: 

And, as a culture, even as the church, we’re not very good at these things. We’re not good at weeping. We’re especially not good at doing it in public or in our places of work. 

Here’s Rick Lindroth.  

Lindroth: 

Historical Christianity, and certainly the texts that we use the most, grief and lament are deeply embedded into our traditions, into scripture. And yet, the way we currently practice our expressions of faith, especially, I’d say, in corporate worship, rarely takes into account communal grief and communal lament.

Stump:

Steve Bouma Prediger said something similar. 

Bouma-Prediger: 

We ought to be good at grieving, we Christians. You know, I mean, lamenting and grieving, we have rituals when humans die. Why are there not similar rituals for, you know, the closest thing we have probably is when your favorite pet dies? I mean, the Book of Common Prayer, for example, in the Anglican tradition, there’s, there are liturgies for but what about, you know, what about the big tree that died?

Hoogerwerf: 

So we’ve lost touch, somehow with many of the parts of our tradition that help us to grieve and to lament, especially publicly. But what we learn in scripture is that suffering is a part of the journey. 

Stump:

Back to Paul’s words from Romans, “we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character hope”

Hoogerwerf: 

Exactly. We found a lot of support for this idea as we did our interviews. Here’s Norman Wirzba, a theologian at Duke Divinity School. 

Wirzba: 

Grief is certainly an entryway because the grief becomes a way for us to deal with  the realities that we’re facing. And if you’re not feeling grief, you’re dead, emotionally.

Stump:

And Patricia Bruininks again. 

Bruininks: 

So we need to enter that world. But I think all of us who have entered that world have these moments of man. I wish I didn’t know about all this. And now I know about all this, and I can’t walk that back. But I think that’s the faithful thing to do. Because change isn’t going to happen if you don’t recognize what needs to be changed. So you have to enter that world to know what needs to be changed.

Hoogerwerf: 

And Willie James Jennings.

Jennings: 

So what we need is a way to walk away from, you know, a theological optimism that’s not grounded in God’s life, that is just grounded in willful ignorance and blindness. And to step into a reality of lament and mourning that actually invites us to further work, to further protest, to further reconfiguring our lives. And that’s why lament is so important. Lament is really a part of recognizing that something has gone terribly wrong and something radical must be done to address it.

Hoogerwerf: 

This is a fine line. We know that suffering is a part of the world, and even that suffering and joy are strangely tied together. But we also know that there is a chance that people will get overwhelmed and give up on any kind of meaningful change. We can’t just throw everyone into the world of wounds and expect that they will find their way into a world of hope and joy, as Bethany points out.

Sollereder: 

For some people being sad for a little bit will be helpful to the way of reconstruction. I think that’s a long process though. And mostly when you’re talking to people, you don’t actually have them for that long, right? You’ve got your 30 minutes or so of their attention and then they’re going to be off and assaulted by all the other things.

Stump:

I think I remember Steve Roels saying something about this when we sat down and talked to him after coming back from visiting the aftermath of the East Troublesome Fire.

Steve Roels: 

I think there are ways to delve into it without—basically, what you’re saying is that the risk is that people become fatalistic. And it’s so bad there’s nothing that can be done to change this suggested future, that these predictions will come to pass no matter what we do. So you know, eat, drink and be merry. And I think there’s definitely ways in which you can get into very dark places while avoiding fatalism, and fatalism is a manifestation of a sense of powerlessness, right. And there are plenty of ways in which I think we can feel empowered to address environmental issues. And the ways in which that manifests itself will  be different for different people based on their own skills and their own inclinations.

Hoogerwerf: 

We’ve been suggesting here that suffering may be necessary on the path toward hope. But here’s the other thing I deal with. Sometimes I’m afraid that I am not suffering enough, or maybe that I’m not sad enough. Not angry enough. I know of the problems we face. I know my children will have to deal with more pain and fear than I have had to deal with. I know that even in my own lifetime I will probably need to give up many things I love. But I wake up each day and go about my business, often without a thought about coral reefs or distant wildfires. Even when I am thinking about it, I dont scream out or weep or tear my clothes like so many of the Plasmists did in their anguish. 

Stump:

There is a Christian tradition of self-flagellation, of monks who wanted to identify with the suffering of Jesus, so they’d whip themselves or otherwise intentionally make themselves suffer. Is that what you’re wanting to do? 

Hoogerwerf: 

Maybe not whipping myself, but I do wonder whether I need to walk around with a piece of coral in my pocket or something. 

Stump:

That sounds healthier. There’s obviously a problem if there really is as much suffering as we’re saying there is with the environmental crisis, and most of us can go days, weeks, even months, without even considering it. We want to cultivate the eyes to see this world of wounds, we want to be responsible in our actions so that we are not introducing more suffering into the world. Paul telling the Romans that suffering leads to perseverance, and character, and hope was not an invitation to seek out more suffering. Rather, it is the recognition that the suffering that is happening can be leveraged for good. 

Hoogerwerf: 

Suffering and pain and grief come to all of us in different ways, and I think they really can lead a person or a community of people to find meaning, but that doesn’t mean we should put it on a pedestal or even try to claim someone else’s pain as our own. But we should remember that there is a communal aspect to this, which Willie James Jennings reminds us of. 

Jennings:  

Here’s the thing about sorrow and about lament and about even melancholy. We don’t want to imagine those things inside the kind of individualistic framework that all of us were raised with. So the lament in Scripture is corporate. The sorrow is shared. The melancholy is exchanged. And so what’s important for us to do is to tap into, not simply our morning—”oh, I’m so sorry to hear about—” and, you know, “it’s terrible to see what’s going on the environment”—but to join those who are actively, not only lamenting, but trying to survive. You know, the folks I know who live on islands that are quickly going underwater, with no place to live. No alternative. And the number of people who this climate disaster has made them unwilling migrants, unwilling immigrants. We not only mourn with them, but we we engage in the fight with them of how to reconfigure life, given the fact that, you know, this part of the planet may be uninhabitable, or that part may be underwater, or whatever food that one has survived on that food is no longer possible to be grown here.

Hoogerwerf: 

With all this talk of suffering and pain and grief and lament, do we need to talk a little bit more about those words?

Stump:

Yes, let’s start with suffering. We’ve been making the case here that the planet is suffering. And we’ve called this series Creation Groans after the passage in Romans 8, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” 

Hoogerwerf: 

Of course, neither you nor I can speak with any kind of personal knowledge about labor pains, but both of us have been witnesses to labor pains and I think anyone will agree that it is definitely a kind of suffering. But it is a kind of suffering that is productive, that goes somewhere and leads to life. You can’t ignore labor pains completely, even with the modern medicine that makes the pain so much easier to bear. Childbirth requires some serious acknowledgement and anticipation of suffering. 

Stump:

The suffering of the environmental crisis does sometimes manifest as personal human suffering. There are many people around the world who have experienced that suffering whether it is losing a home to a fire, flood or rising sea water, or due to violent conflict or disease that is exacerbated by changing climate, or due to the loss of a place or a creature they love.

Hoogerwerf: 

But even if you haven’t suffered personally you can still respond to the pain of the suffering that exists around you. 

Stump:

That brings us to some of those other words. Grief, sorrow, and lament are responses to that pain. And lament, is a specific kind of response. 

Hoogerwerf: 

You can’t just flip a switch and decide I’m going to start feeling the pain of suffering, and then flip the switch back off when life requires a cheery disposition. But the Christian tradition does do a kind of this work, creating space for us to enter into lament, and by creating a space, it also allows us to leave that space. While the sorrow might linger, it lingers alongside the hope, joy, and love that we experience as the body of Christ when we do lament well. 

So that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to practice lament, right here, right now.

Creation Groans: A Liturgy

Hoogerwerf:

Lament is a form of prayer. Lament is also a practice that can allow us to go into the darkness without letting the darkness overwhelm us. And we go into lament with some caution. Our world is so broken and we have learned to build high walls between ourselves and the suffering. 

We enter into lament only because of the realization that there is another side to lament. Lament is not the end but only a path to hope.  

Enter with us now. 

Wherever you are, whether you are doing work around the house, or out for a run, or driving in the car, take a moment to let yourself be open to the darkness, open to what you might find as you consider the environmental situation we face. 

We recognize that we all enter into this from a different place. Some of us have listened to the news, have heard the talk, but the environmental damage has always seemed distant. Others have seen the wounds close up. Some are scared, some tired, some are wondering what’s the big deal, some are grieving losses, some are frozen, some are just waiting. Take a moment to think about where you are. Wherever you are, give yourself the grace to be in that place and also freedom to be moved to some place, if even just for a moment.

We recognize also that wherever we are, we are all connected. We share our ground, our food. We share viruses and microbes. We share air. We share ideas. And we share our world with so many other creatures, in ways we know and in so many ways that we will never fully understand. 

As we allow ourselves to be open to the brokenness and suffering of the planet, we enter with caution, knowing that suffering can be like an overwhelming flood, that if we open the gates at all we might never stop the rush. But we cannot find hope without acknowledging the suffering. 

But we do not go into lament as an ending.  

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. 

The wounds are so great:

We see them in deep places, far from the world we usually inhabit, where once brightly colored reefs teeming with fish are now stretches of bleached white coral skeletons. We think of elkhorn and staghorn coral and many other threatened species. We think of the scientists who watch their beloved laboratories fading away.

Where forests once covered the mountainside and were filled with the sounds of life, the trill of birds, the crash of deer through the underbrush, the hum of insects, so many mountain sides are now ash and others threatened by invading insects. We think of the many wildfires like the East Troublesome Fire, Cameron Peak Fire or Boulder County Fire in Colorado, The Dixie fire in California and other wildfires around the country and around the world, burning even now. We also think of the pine bark beetle, the emerald ash borer, hemlock wooly adelgid which continue to leave our forests bare and dead.

And we think of the other invaders, which are creatures themselves, asian carp in the waters of North America, cane toads in Australia, zebra mussels and asian long-horn beetles.

We know that rising waters mean that many people who live on the coasts will lose their homes, we know that many have lost their homes already. We think of the Solomon Islands and the islands of Micronesia. We grieve the loss with those who are now wandering and homeless. 

We know that the suffering is not only in far off places but closer to home.

What suffering is on your heart or mind? Name it now. 

Take a moment to grieve this suffering, to let these wounds become our wounds.

These problems can seem insurmountable. We try and do what we can but the work seems to go nowhere. We get angry. We get tired. We get distracted. We forget. 

Many of us live in relative comfort as we listen to these words and we fear what our future might look like even as we make the necessary changes. We wonder what we might have to give up. We wonder whether we will be able to travel, drive the cars we drive, eat the food we love. We wonder what the world will look like for our children. Whether they will see the same landscapes, catch the glimpse of the same fantastic creatures that we have glimpsed in the dark of a deep woods. 

Here in this place we cry out with the rest of creation, as one voice. Creations groans. We are creation. 

We bring our complicated emotions to you. And we leave them with you. 

Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the streams in the Negev. May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves with them.

We come into this lament only because we know there is another side where there are loud songs of joy and bountiful harvests. 

In our lament, we recognize how little we know about the creation. We are reminded that there is so much hidden to us. Tiny interactions between microscopic creatures, and massive interstellar happenings beyond what our best telescopes can see.

And because we cannot see it all, we do not know how things will turn out. And in that not knowing there is surprise and there is hope. 

And God, we know also that you know suffering. That you hear the groaning of creation. 

And so we find here a bridge from suffering to imagination. It is only by knowing the suffering that we imagine a better place, a restored world.  

Take a moment to do that now. Begin to build, in this place of lament, an imagined future where the wounds of the world become the trace of scars and the fertile ground for new life. 

In nature, restoration often happens in small, dark places. In places of devastation there are small refuges where life holds on. Let our lament be one of those places. 

And as we come to the end of our lament here, let us return to our world, one in which there are wounds, with a renewed spirit. And when the darkness comes to us, as we know it will, in the depths of the night or in the bright of the day, let us acknowledge it, let us share it together so that we might bear it more easily. 

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.

Conclusion

Hoogerwerf: 

In the next episode we are going to dive deep into hope, knowing that lament is never truly behind us, but that it will be a natural rhythm to our lives. As a movement toward that episode we’re going to end this episode by hearing from Sarah Bodbyl Roels and Steve Roels. 

Stump:

We heard from Steve earlier in the episode. Sarah’s background is in ecology and evolutionary biology. We sat down with the two of them at their home in Colorado, looking out at the native gardens in their front yard after having returned from hiking through where the East Troublesome Fire had burned almost 200,000 acres. And we talked about the immensity of the environmental problems we face. 

Sarah Bodbyll Roels:  

The process of grieving in an ecological situation is tied with the hope in the sense that when you turn from grief, and start thinking about decisions or responses, you need somewhere to look. And you always look for something to kind of fill your sadness and move it forward in some type of way that you can, I guess, cope with. And so I think for Christians, the process of grieving allows space for reflecting on not only what was lost, but what could be, and how you can move forward to do things that can prevent similar losses. The other thing about grief is it’ often a community endeavor. And so you share grief with others, you hear the experience of someone else’s sadness, and you feel that with them, and you want to help. And so ecologically, I feel like there’s some lessons there for kind of the awareness and recognition of ecological degradation and what can be, and sharing that experience can help motivate people to do things slightly differently. Again, that was a very rambling, round-about kind of thing. 

Steve Roels: 

No it was good. I like the part about community grieving I think is really important. You know, it’s people that grieve alone, oftentimes struggle to move beyond their grief to some other stage of their life. And the community aspect is really part of that. I’d also note that some of the most resolute people that I know are those who have experienced great loss and gone through the grieving process. And it has been a great motivator for them to make sure those losses are either mitigated or avoided in the future, not because of some sunny, “oh, technology, whatever that is, or whoever is going to invent it is going to avert this ongoing disaster.” But I’m going to do my part to avert this ongoing disaster because I have that motivation that comes from a recognition of loss.

Hoogerwerf: 

Next time, we’ll take all we’ve learned, all we’ve lamented and turn it toward building a future of hope. 

Stump:

See you then. 

Credits

Language of God is produced by BioLogos. It has been funded in part by the John Templeton Foundation, the Fetzer Institute and by individual donors who contribute to BioLogos. Language of God is produced and mixed by Colin Hoogerwerf. That’s me. Nate Mulder is our assistant producer. Our theme song is by Breakmaster Cylinder. 

BioLogos offices are located in Grand Rapids, Michigan in the Grand River watershed. If you have questions or want to join in a conversation about this episode find a link in the show notes for the BioLogos forum or visit our website, biologos.org, where you  will find articles, videos and other resources on faith and science. Thanks for listening. 


Featured guests

Richard Lindroth

Rick Lindroth (Ph.D., University of Illinois-Urbana) is a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Ecology and recent Associate Dean for Research at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. His research focuses on evolutionary ecology and global change ecology in forest ecosystems. He has been a Fulbright Fellow and is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Ecological Society of America, the Entomological Society of America, and the American Scientific Affiliation. Funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and other agencies, Rick and his research group have published 250 journal articles and book chapters. He has served in numerous roles at his church, including many years on the governing board. He and his wife have two daughters and three grandchildren. For recreation, they enjoy road cycling, flyfishing and reading, though not necessarily in that order.
April Cordero

April Maskiewicz Cordero

April Maskiewicz Cordero, PhD, is a professor of biology and Dean at Point Loma Nazarene University. Her research focuses on developing more effective approaches for teaching ecology and evolution that enable students to develop not only factual knowledge, but biological ways of thinking and reasoning about the living world. As a Christian biologist trained in science education research, she is in a unique position to investigate science students’ perceptions of the relationship between scientific issues that evoke controversy (i.e. origins, evolution, human origins) and Christian faith. Dr. Maskiewicz Cordero gave a TEDx talk on evolution and faith and she was featured in “From the Dust,” a BioLogos sponsored documentary. She is also active in several professional development projects with schoolteachers as well as university biology faculty, is one of the six authors of the BioLogos Integrate curriculum, and was one of four professors coordinating the PLNU/BioLogos Biology by the Sea Christian school teacher program.
Bethany Sollereder

Bethany Sollereder

Dr. Bethany Sollereder is a research coordinator at the University of Oxford. She specialises in theology concerning evolution and the problem of suffering. Bethany received her PhD in theology from the University of Exeter and an MCS in interdisciplinary studies from Regent College, Vancouver. When not reading theology books, Bethany enjoys hiking the English countryside, horseback riding, and reading Victorian literature.

Willie James Jennings

Willie James Jennings is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies at Yale University. His book The Christian Imagination won the American Academy of Religion Award of Excellence in the Study of Religion and the Grawemeyer Award in Religion. He has also published the book After Whiteness. He is an ordained Baptist minister and served as interim pastor for several North Carolina churches. He received in undergraduate degree from Calvin University, his M.Div from Fuller Theological Seminary, and his Ph.D in religion and ethics from Duke.
Steven Bouma-Prediger

Steven Bouma-Prediger

Steven Bouma-Prediger (PhD, University of Chicago) is Leonard and Marjorie Maas Professor of Reformed Theology at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. He also oversees the Environmental Studies minor and chairs the Campus Sustainability Advisory Committee. In addition, Bouma-Prediger is adjunct professor of theology and ethics at Western Theological Seminary. He is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including For the Beauty of the Earth, is a former board member of the Au Sable Institute, and regularly writes and speaks on environmental issues.

Norman Wirzba

Norman Wirzba is the Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor of Theology at Duke Divinity School, and a Senior Fellow at Duke’s Kenan Institute for Ethics. He is the author of several books, including (most recently) This Sacred Life: Humanity’s Place in a Wounded World and Agrarian Spirit: Cultivating Faith, Community, and the Land.
Steve Roels

Steve Roels

Steve Roels (Ph.D., Michigan State University) is the Senior Natural Resource Specialist for a municipal Parks and Open Space department near Denver. His graduate research and professional work focus on restoration ecology and conservation biology in tropical forests and prairie ecosystems. When not matching wits with wily prairie dogs in town, he enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains with his wife, Sarah Bodbyl Roels.
Sarah Bodbyl Roels

Sarah Bodbyl Roels

Sarah Bodbyl Roels is Associate Dean at the Van Andel Institute Graduate School where she supports the curriculum, student fellowships, and student internships. Sarah earned her doctorate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Kansas, where she studied mating system evolution, behavioral ecology, and conservation. Postdoctoral experiences at Michigan State University formed Sarah's continuing interests in science communication and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Prior to her current appointment, Sarah supported faculty development at Colorado School of Mines, offering professional teaching and learning opportunities across the university. Sarah enjoys assisting continuous improvement of teaching and learning across all instructional levels. Sarah is a member of the BioLogos Voices speakers bureau, the Advisory Council, and the BioLogos Integrate curriculum development team. Sarah passionately explores the relationship between science and faith and appreciates opportunities to learn from others. She and her husband Steve, also a scientist, are avid birders and their family includes a horse, a donkey, a dog, and numerous chickens.
Patricia Bruininks

Patricia Bruininks

Patricia Bruininks is Professor of Psychology at Whitworth University. Her area of specialization is the study of hope and how different expressions of hope relate to different aspects of the emotion, as well as how hope differs from optimism. Her undergraduate degree is from Hope College and her doctorate is from the University of Oregon.

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