Exploding Stars, Dead Dinosaurs, and Zombies: Youth Ministry in the Age of Science

Many things threaten the faith of youth today, but none more than science. The commitments of science and Christianity seem to be at odds science makes truth claims based on experiments and proofs, while religion asks for belief and trust. But Andrew Root demonstrates that, in fact, the two are not incompatible.

Root, a renowned expert on adolescent spirituality, shows how science overstates its claims on truth, while faith often understates its own claims. Both faith and science frame the experience and reality of teenagers, and both have something valuable to offer as adolescents develop.

Drawing on a fictional account of a youth pastor and the various students he encounters, Root paints a compelling picture of how faith can flourish, even in our scientific age.

You may find my video discussion guide helpful when using with a group:



“This a love story. A double love story, to be exact. It’s the story of science and faith, two lovers who had a falling out that resulted in a bitter rivalry for the last few centuries. And it’s the tale of a youth pastor who loves God and his teens too much to give up on them. Like a good relationship counselor, Andy Root calls into memory the shared story of science and faith, showing us that they have more in common than we first suspected.”

-David M. Csinos, Atlantic School of Theology, founder of Faith Forward, and coauthor of Children’s Ministry in the Way of Jesus

“Too few of today’s youth have had productive ways of engaging science and religion modeled for them because youth workers largely feel ill-equipped to do that. Sound familiar? Then this book is for you. Root’s oh-so-real fictional encounters display the tensions youth face between the messages they imbibe about science from culture and the lives of faith they acquire from their families and youth groups. He unpacks these tensions and shows a way forward without avoiding the hard questions or delegitimizing accepted science or orthodox Christian faith. The dialogue between science and religion is an important one for our culture in general—all the more for youth. Please see that the youth ministers in your community get a copy of this book.”
—Jim Stump, senior editor,

“Early appetizers in this book whet my appetite for a main course that was immensely satisfying to both mind and soul. I’ve long held that too many persons positioned to shepherd young people do not think faithfully or critically about their practices. With Exploding Stars, Root offers next-level nutrition to so many who are still desperately undernourished as thoughtful ministers.”
—Dave Rahn, senior ministry advisor, Youth for Christ USA

“With the skill of a master storyteller, Root once again pokes at the boundaries of ministry practice and theology, pressing us to see beyond our constrained, artificial limits to precisely out where young people (and their pointed questions) live. If all the universe is bound up in relationship, as Root urges, this fundamental face-to-face relationality becomes a key that unlocks the mystery of the connection between faith and science—without doing away with that mystery. Thankfully, we can finally kill the false rivalry and instead put faith and science in dialogue. Now, instead of fearing these conversations with young people, I can’t wait to start them!”
— Brad M. Griffin, youth pastor, director of the Fuller Youth Institute at Fuller Theological Seminary, and coauthor of Growing Young

“Andy Root’s new book offers youth workers (and everyone else) an exemplary study around debates in science and theology anchored in everyday narrative encounters with youth, reminding readers of the need for this crucial engagement for our future. Root’s creative, practical, theological response weaves a theology of relationality and salvific ministry, emerging from a personal, Triune God and sustained through the everyday work of ministers. Root’s theological response easily warrants our consideration for its originality and depth, standing alongside any other theologian working in the fields of science and religion. Andy engagingly provides historical reconstructions that reveal the humanity of many famous scientists and sound theological reflections around issues like the Big Bang, the immensity of the universe, the place of evolution, and even how we read Scripture. A text very accessible to anyone in ministry, this book breaks new ground, setting a hopeful table where young people, both enthralled by science and engaged in faith, can find new conversations.”

— Dean G. Blevins, Nazarene Theological Seminary

“Andy Root tells the truth: you can’t keep faith and science apart. Evolution, the Big Bang, and other scientific topics have revolutionized the way we understand ourselves, yet the church remains unprepared to deal with them. This is especially so in youth ministry, where kids in the midst of deep intellectual formation wonder how faith can possibly make sense in light of an evolving, 14-billion-year-old cosmos. To this question Root brings his gift for storytelling, his love of science and philosophy, and his abiding concern for the pragmatics of ministry. The result is a moving, exhaustively researched, and imminently useful guide for youth workers who want to welcome science into their ministry but don’t quite know how.”
— Paul Wallace, astrophysicist, lecturer in physics and astronomy, Agnes Scott College, Decatur, GA, author of Stars Beneath Us

“One might not expect a book entitled Exploding Stars, Dead Dinosaurs, and Zombies to be a work of serious theology that rigorously engages scientific and historical research—but this is exactly what Andrew Root has achieved. It would not be an exaggeration to consider this book the youth ministry book on science and theology. As a highly regarded theologian of youth ministry, Root here brings the specific developmental and spiritual realities of young people into conversation with some of the most challenging questions surrounding the intersection of faith and scientific knowledge. Root is refreshingly and unapologetically theological in his engagement not only with specific scientific theories but with the socially constructed metaphysical edifice of science. Root’s work is exceptionally well-researched and—just as importantly—remarkably accessible; one need not hold a PhD to follow its arguments (though even academics will be challenged by them!). Exploding Stars is a gamechanger, deserving a place on the bookshelves of not only all youth ministers but anyone seeking an intellectually honest and spiritually sensitive engagement with science and theology.”
—Sarah Lane Ritchie, University of St Andrews, Scotland

Exploding Stars, Dead Dinosaurs, and Zombies is an exceptionally important work for youth workers ministering with today’s emerging generation of young people. It’s important because it will profoundly impact the youth minister who commits to really engaging the thesis of this book. It’s important because the content in this book is at the core of how young people are thinking about faith in a world of science.

In a postmodern world, which declares that we can’t really be sure about anything, Root’s critical realism rooted in orthodox Christian history and thought rings profoundly true and Christocentric. This book led me to contemplate the astonishing mysteries of the cosmos, the reality that we are even alive as human beings created in the image of God. And it inflamed my passion to follow Jesus Christ in ministry shaped by the relationality of God’s own being and divine action. I loved this book.”

—Mike King, president and CEO of Youthfront, author of Presence Centered Youth Ministry

“Thanks to this resource for the church, the long-suffering rivalry between faith and science can take a historical and deeply theological turn. Root ministers to us through these pages, inviting us to imagine a world where everything from particle physics to P. Diddy is pertinent to youth ministry and where faith and science must be reconciled if youth ministry is to have anything to do with Jesus.”

—Abigail Visco Rusert, Princeton Theological Seminary

“Once again, Andrew Root comes to the rescue of youth leaders trying to ‘keep it real’ with young people. If the title alone doesn’t stop you in your tracks, its basic premise should: instead of fearing the scientific knowledge that permeates young people’s world, churches should embrace youths’ God-given curiosity to question, explore, and investigate the world God made. Exploding Stars, Dead Dinosaurs, and Zombies helps youth leaders bring science and theology together as conversation partners, not sparring partners. This book will change what you talk about in youth ministry.”
—Kenda Creasy Dean, Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church and Culture, Princeton Theological Seminary, author of Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church

Over the life of the grant, we will produce three books related to science and faith. All three books are contracted and promising. Jason Lief (Assistant professor of Religion, Northwestern Collegel) and Sara Tolsma (Professor of Biology, Northwestern College) will be publishing a book called Incarnation, Evolution, and Youth Ministry: Sharing God’s Love for Embodied Life in late 2018; Russell Haitch (Professor of Christian Education, Bethany Theological Seminary) will offer a project called Eyes of the Heart: Helping Youth See God in an Age of Science in 2019; and—we’re most excited about —Paul Wallace’s (Instructor in Physics, Agnes Scott College) forthcoming book, aimed at high school and college students, tentatively titled, Jesus Loves Megalodon.