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Plenary at Mid-Winter Convocation

Mid-Winter Convocation


Ron Choong, presenterRon Choong

Founder and Director, Academy for Christian Thought

Ron Choong is into his 25th year of an evolving research project which seeks to build a global narrative of humanity, its origins, migrations, development of language, moral thought, religious ideologies, as well as scientific discoveries and technological innovations that led to medical advances.

Plenary: "Religious Encounters Along Chinese and Indian Silk Roads: Reflections on the Spiritual and Inter-Religious Issues in Christian Missions"

One of the most formative contexts for the emergence of Christian apologetics was the Old Silk Road between Venice and X'ian via Central Asia, a route that dates from Roman times to the 17th century.  Here, traders from Christian, Buddhist, and Islamic backgrounds encountered each other and exchanged ideas, which resulted in the development of new theological and cultural paradigms.  In this engaging lecture, Choong will bring together his interdisciplinary approach to apologetics using the Old Silk Road as a springboard for putting history, cognitive neuroscience, human origins, inter-relious engagement, and theology in conversation with one another.  The result will be insights into Choong's spiritual quest for God's presence in the world by detecting the fingerprints of God in the beauty and abundance of created nature.

Lea SchweitzLea Schweitz, presenter

Associate Professor of Systematic Theology/Religion and Science at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and Director of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science

Since 1988, the Zygon Center has been engaging questions, encouraging creativity and exploring connections in religion and science. Schweitz collaborates across disciplinary and institutional boundaries to organize conferences, mentor emerging student scholars, and serve on advisory committees with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Religion.  Her current research reimagines urban nature as a locus for theological reflection and spiritual formation; it can be found at her blog ( and in her forthcoming book.

Plenary: "Creation Catechesis and Reading the Book of Nature"

There is a growing body of research that shows that being in nature is good for human well-being.  At the very same time, we find humans are disconnected from the nature and the Earth's natural systems are threatened. In this presentation, Lutheran Traditions of natural history will be resurrected in order to make religion and science allies in the task of creation catechesis for the sake of climate justice.

Grace Wolf-Chase, presenterGrace Wolf-Chase

Astronomer, Astronomy Department, The Adler Planetarium 

Her position at the Adler Planetarium integrates academic research in her field of expertise (star formation) with public education, particularly through engaging people around the world in "citizen science."  A lifelong Lutheran, Wolf-Chase holds a bachelor's degree in physics from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Arizona. 

Plenary: "The Interactive Universe: It's All About Relationships"

The concept of interaction is critical to comprehending both process and progress in science. Our contemporary understanding of nature is better described in terms of interactions and relationships rather than forces and simple cause and effect. The universe appears to be best understood as an evolving web of relationships instead of a collection of "things." Similarly, modern science is not a lone effort carried out by a handful of individuals, but a collaborative enterprise involving many people who bring complementary and overlapping skills to build on the work of past generations. There may be useful analogies here for theological thinking. Scripture is also about relationships -- God's relationship to nature, our relationship to each other, etc. Indeed, in the Christian traditions, the idea of relationship is fundamental to how Trinitarian theology articulates our limited understanding of God.

Andrew Root, presenterAndrew Root

Associate Professor and Carrie Olson Baalson Chair of Youth and Family Ministry, Luther Seminary

He is most recently the author of "Faith Formation in a Secular Age" and "The Grace of Dogs: A Boy, a Black Lab and a Father's Search for the Canine Soul." He also has authored "Christopraxis: A Practical Theology of the Cross" and "Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker."  Root puts together theology and storytelling to explore how ministry leads us into encounter with divine action.  He also has worked in congregations, parachurch ministries and social service programs.

Plenary: "Taking Einstein to Youth Ministry: Faith, Science, and the Faith Formation of Young People"

In our culture, a massively expanding, fourteen billion year old universe has become more believable than a personal God who answers prayers.  Many would say that science proves the universe is expanding but it's pure speculation that there's a God.  In this presentation we'll engage in a conversation about a personal God in relation to scientific theories and what this has to do with ministry.

Alan Padgett, speakerAlan Padgett

Professor of Systematic Theology, Luther Seminary

Alan Padgett earned a bachelor of arts with honors from Vanguard University, Costa Mesa, Calif., in 1977. Following a call to the ministry, he graduated from Drew University, Madison, N.J., with a master of divinity in 1981. In 1990, he received his doctor of philosophy from the University of Oxford in England. Previously, he served as professor of theology and the philosophy of science at Azusa Pacific University, Azusa, Calif., (1992-2001). Padgett has been on the faculty of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., since July 2001.

He currently serves as the chair of the history and theology division. Padgett is an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. His most recent books Blackwell Companion to Science & Christianity (co-edited with Jim Stump, 2012); and Faith and Reason: Three Views (co-author, ed. S. Wilkens 2013).

Plenary: "Is Religion Dangerous or Just Plain Stupid?  On Atheism Dressed-up as Science"

Our culture presents a model of conflict between the science and Christian theology. Actually they can and should be in partnership for a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world. Here we take up one topic: neurobiology (“brain science”) on the one hand, and the doctrine of the soul on the other. Is there not a deep conflict here? What can we learn when we bring theology and the sciences into a mutually enriching dialog around the idea of a soul? And what can we learn about ministry, worship and prayer?