Exploding Stars, Dead Dinosaurs,
and Zombies: Youth Ministry
in the Age of Science
Paperback: Fortress Press, 2018
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Reviewed by Leslie Starasta
Many individuals inside and outside of the church feel that science and faith are incompatible. An oft-repeated story is that of the active youth group member who heads off to the state university only to have their Christian faith shredded by a professor. However, these questions are bubbling to the surface at an earlier age as high school and even junior high students, particularly in our STEM-obsessed society, are faced with these issues. Church members, parents, and church staff, particularly youth ministers, are often unprepared to face the questions young people raise and can easily fumble the question. Exploding Stars, Dead Dinosaurs, and Zombies: Youth Ministry in the Age of Science provides a much needed and engaging resource to help with these questions.
Readers immediately notice author Andrew Root, Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary, has experience with this topic as evidenced by his combination of research and stories. A large portion of the book is told through the viewpoint of Jared, a youth minister, and his interactions with current and former youth group members and their families. This approach grounds the story in believable situations which likely emerge from stories shared by current and former youth ministry students. Walking along with Jared while he wrestles with these questions, and how to answer his students honestly from both a faith and science perspective, creates a very readable and interesting book. Interspersed between Jared’s story, Root provides chapters where he explores the science behind the questions that are raised.
While exploring the science, Root takes the reader on a journey that includes philosophical questions, a historical journey of famous scientists, and sociological culture issues. Root spends a large portion of the book discussing the social practice of science and the social practice of faith and demonstrating that this very real tension does not eliminate the need for faith to engage with science. In particular, Root encourages individuals to examine specific scientific concepts and theories in light of faith and to see how faith is often a catalyst of scientific findings.
Flipping through the book, the large number of explanatory footnotes points not only to the large amount of research done on these topics but how knowledgeable Root is on the subject. Reading the footnotes is highly recommended to grasp the totality of the book. Root demonstrates through his own research the importance of youth ministers taking the time to read about these issues and to grapple honestly with them in order to best respond to their students. Exploding Stars, Dead Dinosaurs, and Zombies is recommended for practicing youth ministers, youth sponsors, church leaders, and parents. Youth ministers or individuals preparing to be youth ministers may find it advantageous to read and discuss the book together. Students deserve honest, knowledgeable answers to their science queries rather than a trite response.