Events

Hebrew professor and students to present Dead Sea Scrolls fragments and findings on Oct. 10

No Comments » Written on September 29th, 2016 by
Categories: Events, General, Press Releases, Seminary, Students

PORTLAND, Ore. — Dr. Karl Kutz, a Multnomah University professor, and a number of his students will present their recently published research on several Dead Sea Scrolls fragments at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 10, at Multnomah University. In addition, the Museum of the Bible from Washington, D.C. will bring the fragments themselves for an exhibit in the university’s upper library. Read the rest of this entry »

Watching God shape the lives of students: Person to Person, Fall 2016

No Comments » Written on September 2nd, 2016 by
Categories: Alumni, Events, Newsletter, Pray For MU, Students
Michelle

Michelle Underwood is Director of Alumni Relations at Multnomah University.

As alumni director, I not only have the joy of keeping MU alumni connected to the university, but I also have the honor of witnessing the work God does in the lives of our current students.

This past year, I had the privilege of mentoring one of our incoming students, music major Abigail Green. I remember meeting Abi on her first day of school at New Student Orientation. One year ago, almost to the day, she arrived on campus with her mom and dad.

She was a little shy and reserved at first, but it was no time at all before she had jumped into campus ministry. She took advantage of worship opportunities, and she networked within the community so she could teach music lessons to children.

Every other week, Abi and I met together on Friday afternoons. I felt so honored to be an eye witness to the transformation taking place within her life. Through joys and sorrows, I listened as God shaped her right before my eyes. Abi recently applied to TEAM, a global missions agency, and she hopes to serve as a worship leader in Guatemala next year.

This week we welcomed another 160 undergraduate students into the Multnomah family. As they begin their journeys, with stories yet to be written, will you join me in praying for them? I can’t wait to see what God has in store.

Watch the New Student Welcome video

Comments Off on Watch the New Student Welcome video Written on August 29th, 2016 by
Categories: Events, Students

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New Student Orientation was last week, and the Multnomah community was thrilled to welcome a new batch of undergraduate students to campus. The weekend festivities included a Tonight Show, a commissioning service with the university president and a Portland-themed Instagram hunt. Check out our orientation video here:

Dr. Tim Mackie chosen for 2016 Alumnus of the Year Award

Comments Off on Dr. Tim Mackie chosen for 2016 Alumnus of the Year Award Written on August 29th, 2016 by
Categories: Alumni, Events
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Tim Mackie (right) and Jon Collins editing a script for The Bible Project.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Multnomah University is proud to announce the recipient of the 2016 Alumnus of the Year Award: Dr. Tim Mackie, a teaching pastor at Door of Hope Church and professor of biblical studies at Western Seminary. He also works as a creative writer for The Bible Project, a nonprofit he founded with MU alum Jon Collins.

Mackie began attending Multnomah in 1996 and was immediately captivated by biblical studies and languages. “Professors Ray Lubeck and Karl Kutz ignited an insatiable appetite for learning and discovery,” he says. “Those years shaped the trajectory of my life in every way.”

After graduating with a major in Greek and a minor in Hebrew, Mackie went on to earn his master’s and Ph.D. In 2012 he reconnected with former classmate Jon Collins, who pitched an idea: What if they created a series of animated videos that explained biblical themes and narratives? Mackie loved the idea, and the two launched The Bible Project in 2014.

The Bible can be intimidating, says Mackie. Many dive in with gusto and good intentions, but their understanding of the text isn’t strong enough to sustain their momentum. That’s where The Bible Project videos come in.

“We want a new generation to feel empowered to read the Bible for themselves,” says Mackie. “We want these videos to give Christians confidence while also helping skeptics understand what a Christian worldview is claiming and why it’s worth investing in.”

Today The Bible Project has 15 full-time employees and is supported by more than 4,000 monthly donors. You can watch their videos at thebibleproject.com. You can also hear Mackie speak at the Alumnus of the Year Chapel at 10 a.m. on Thursday, October 6, 2016.

Global ministry trends and issues, part four: Indigenous ministries and partnerships

Comments Off on Global ministry trends and issues, part four: Indigenous ministries and partnerships Written on August 15th, 2016 by
Categories: Events, Faculty, Missions

This is the fourth post in a series of articles on global ministry trends and issues presented by Dr. Greg Burch, Director of the Master of Arts in Global Development and Justice program and Chair of the Global Studies Department. You can read more articles from Dr. Burch on his personal site, The Burch Blog.

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Here I am at a Global Mission Gathering.

This week I’m writing from Seoul, South Korea, where I’m participating in an international conference that has pulled together mission scholars from all over the world. With every region of the world and dozens of countries represented here, one gets the sense that the mission of God is being fulfilled. South Korea in particular is a good place to write about indigenous ministries and partnerships. There are more than 20,000 Korean missionaries serving around the world today. The percentage of Christians (representing both Catholic and Protestant churches) in South Korea is at about 32% with over 7,600 churches in the capital city (Seoul) alone.

Globally we note a proliferation of indigenous churches, ministries and global partnerships. This is often referred to as the growth of the majority world Church (see J.D. Payne chapter 3). As noted by African scholar, John Mbiti, today the Church’s center of power does not remain in places like New York, but rather in cities like Manila, Philippines. More and more people around the world are engaging in global mission. It is estimated that nearly 35,000 American Hispanic churches are increasingly becoming involved in global missions. The following chart highlights just a sample of the growth of international missionary movements:

Country Missionaries
India 82,950
China, PRC 20,000
Nigeria 6,644
Philippines 4,500
Indonesia 3,000
Ghana 2,000
Ukraine 1,599

These statistics reflect those missionaries serving more than two years and represent Protestant, Independent and Anglican missionaries. They also do not reflect the numbers of those who might consider themselves missionaries, but are living internationally due to diaspora.

This proliferation of global involvement has changed the very nature of how we understand missions today. Bill Dyrness recently noted, “Missions is now mutual exchange among the multiple centers of influence and learning and resources traveling all directions…” (Borthwick 39). No longer can we refer to the United States as a missionary ‘sending’ country. The same can be said for many countries that have traditionally been ‘receiving’ countries of missionary involvement. Significant mission organizations that were once based in these receiving nations are now focused on sending out missionary candidates.

With these changes within global mission activities must also come a new order for partnerships. North American Christians and agencies must now consider sharing decision-making opportunities with those they traditionally considered ‘receiving’ nations. Pakistani missiologist, Michael Nazir-Ali, says “partnership in mission must mean partnership in the whole of mission. Churches in the global south need to be involved with the North in the identification and articulation of mission issues as much as in addressing them” (211).

Appropriate and contextual training will be needed for those going out to serve within multi-ethnic and international teams. Students of mission will need to understand the reality of multi-ethnic teams and global partnerships if they are to succeed. The training must include cultural sensitivity and competency in foreign languages (sometimes multiple languages). Preparing students for such action will need to be incorporated into new training courses in the U.S. and abroad.

Here at Multnomah, we continue to develop courses that will prepare students to engage with sensitivity with those from distinct cultures. This is needed in business, education, counseling, pastoral ministries and other degree paths, just as much as it is needed in Global Studies in today’s world.

 

Works Cited

Borthwick, Paul. Western Christians in Global Mission. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2012.

Mandryk, Jason. Operation World. Colorado Springs, CO: Biblica, 2010.

Nazir-Ali, Michael. From Everywhere to Everywhere: A World View of Christian Mission. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock. 2009.

Payne, J.D. Pressure Points: Twelve Global Issues Shaping the Face of the Church. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson 2013.

MU professor co-leads pastoral conference in Malawi, Africa

Comments Off on MU professor co-leads pastoral conference in Malawi, Africa Written on May 20th, 2016 by
Categories: Events, Faculty, Missions, Pray For MU, Theology

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MU professor Roger Trautmann will be conducting the Pastors’ Enrichment Conference in Malawi, East Africa May 24-25. Trautmann, along with  Carl Palmer from Global Training Network, was chosen by the Luis Palau Association to lead the event, which will draw nearly 800 pastors.

Many African church leaders face a startling deficit of biblical and pastoral training, which is exactly what promoted the Luis Palau Association to launch a leadership conference for local pastors. “In East Africa, pastors have little access to good training,” says Trautmann, who will be teaching on topics such as Bible study methods and the Pastoral Epistles. But lack of preparation doesn’t mean lack of motivation. “I’ve met pastors who’ve started 20 churches, and they’ve never had any official training,” he adds.

Although Trautmann has taught at this conference once before, he’s been conducting workshops for pastors in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda and Burkina Faso for many years. “They’re hungry for good training,” he says. “That’s why I’ve been participating since 1994.”

During the conference, please pray that God would give both Trautmann and Palmer Christ’s wisdom as they teach and His power as they work to strengthen the Church in Africa. Pray also that the pastors and leaders in attendance would be encouraged and challenged during this powerful outreach.

 

Spring graduates reflect on time well spent

Comments Off on Spring graduates reflect on time well spent Written on May 9th, 2016 by
Categories: Events, Faculty, Students

Last Friday, 115 Multnomah students walked across the stage of Rolling Hills Community Church to receive their diplomas. Among them were Abigail Buckley, Brian Hall, Mandee Campos, Dae Kim, Nancy Anderson and Santino Cantalupo, six students who picked up much more than a quality education at MU. They took some time to reflect on what they’ve learned, how they’ve changed and where they plan to go next.

Abigail Buckley

Abigail BuckleyHometown
Vancouver, Wash.

Program
Bachelor of Arts in Bible and Theology with a minor in History

Favorite MU experience
Probably being a student worker. It made me feel more informed about the school. I started in Financial Aid, then worked as Dr. Scalberg’s teacher’s assistant, and then I worked in Advancement. They all took care of me and understood that my homework came first. It was really fun – I loved my time as a student worker.

Favorite class
Oh, but there are so many! Prophets with Dr. Josberger and History and Poetry with Dr. Koivisto were both great, and so was History and Christianity with Dr. Scalberg. In History and Christianity, we saw how different movements and authors affected the shape of evangelicalism. We traced back our own influences. It shows you where you come from, and you learn how denominations and people groups brought you together.

Favorite thing about MU
The relationships the professors build with their students. I feel pretty confident saying every student has one teacher they can look back on – someone who cared for them personally. I’m not going to necessarily remember the classes, but I’m going to remember who taught the classes.

Favorite thing about Portland
It’s central to so many places. If you want to go to the beach or the mountains for the day, you can do that. Whatever you like to do, you can find it.

Plans after graduation
I’m going to keep on teaching. (She currently teaches Spanish 1-3 to high school students at Cedar Tree Classical Christian School in Ridgefield, Wash.) I’m so grateful for the opportunity.

How MU impacted your spiritual journey
I took Senior Theology this semester with Dr. Gurney. You have to write eight doctrinal statements. It was daunting at first and rather intimidating. Not only do you have to write on what you believe, but you also have to find the scripture to back it up. For that reason alone, MU taught me not to shy away from issues. The professors are willing to bring up issues and foster an environment where it’s safe to talk about them.

Advice to your first-year self
I didn’t do as many on-campus and off-campus activities because I was a commuter and worked in the evening. Your experience here is what you make it. I wish I had taken advantage of getting to know more of the people here. You have a short amount of time, and it goes fast.

Brian Hall

Brian HallHometown
Yucca Valley, Calif.

Program
Bachelor of Arts in Bible and Theology with a second major in Youth Ministry

Favorite MU experience
Learning how to do ministry with my wife. We met during our freshman year and got married that first summer. The education that I received from MU was great, but the experience of being able to do ministry as newlyweds with the Hildebrands as role models has been invaluable.

Favorite class
Out of all the classes I’ve taken at MU, there are two that have stood out: Spiritual Formation of Youth with Dr. Rob Hildebrand and Mission with Children at Risk with Dr. Greg Burch.

Favorite thing about Portland
I love living in the city! I come from a town where the fanciest restaurant is Applebee’s and the only things to do are walk around Walmart or go to the four-screen movie theater. I love having the city at my fingertips! The food is great here, and there are always things to do!

Favorite thing about MU
The youth ministry program. In-class education is really only a small part of the degree. The opportunities that Rob provides to go to Germany or Japan, or to work on Spring Thaw, is what really makes this education so unique and practical.

Plans after graduation
I am planning on pursuing my Master of Arts in Christian Leadership with an emphasis in Counseling and Care at Multnomah Biblical Seminary.

How MU impacted your spiritual journey
Before coming to MU, my knowledge of the Bible was limited to the classic Bible stories like Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, Jesus, etc. It seemed like a series of random stories were just thrown into one bigger book. The Bible classes here have taught me that the Bible is one whole story. This has impacted my spiritual journey by opening my eyes to the plan that God does have for my life. I may feel like I’m wandering in the desert, but I know that there’s a promise for me up ahead.

Advice to your first-year self
Take advantage of your time at Multnomah. Don’t just be here for the degree. Your teachers have so much to offer you outside of the classroom setting, but they’ll only be able to offer it to you if you start the conversation. Hone your strengths while you’re here too. Again, don’t just be here for the degree. A piece of paper isn’t going to teach you to study the Bible, prepare a sermon or build a life-sized Mario Kart track.

Mandee Campos

Mandee CamposHometown
Beaverton, Ore. (I’ve lived in a lot of places, but Beaverton is probably my favorite.)

Program
Master of Arts in Global Development and Justice

Best MU experience
I liked being in a cohort and sharing experiences with them. It’s neat to share in the journey. I enjoyed the Bible prerequisites – there were many mind-blowing moments.

Favorite class
I struggle to pick a favorite class, so I’ll go with most impactful: Theology of Cultural Engagement with Dr. Metzger. It was a good foundation to begin working from a Trinitarian perspective.

Favorite thing about MU
With all the seminary professors and theology professors you have, I really like that everyone isn’t saying the same thing – they each say things that put tension on what the others have said. I think that’s a good thing because you get to see different perspectives.

Favorite thing about Portland
The food. You can get almost any type of food. I love Chinese and Indian and Thai. Food is the best way to understand and relate to one another.

Plans after graduation
I’m working with a nonprofit called Lahash International that partners with grassroots initiatives in East Africa. I’ll be working as the Servant Teams Coordinator.

How MU impacted your spiritual journey
This program especially has taught me to listen well to people, to affirm their dignity. When you’re in fellowship with people, you’ll learn a lot about faith and about God that you wouldn’t otherwise. If you want to see Jesus, be in relation with people outside of your context. That’s how he did it in scripture.

Advice to your first-year self
Always seek to learn from a given situation. Some people take for granted a privilege they’ve been given. Much of the world wasn’t given the opportunities we’ve been given. Believers are called to seek excellence, so be willing to learn and learn well.

Dae Kim

Dae KimHometown
Northern Virginia (I moved around a lot)

Program
Master of Arts in Global Development and Justice

Favorite MU experience
We had an event last semester every Thursday where we’d take turns sharing our testimony. Sharing my testimony and listening to others throughout the semester was a great experience. We’d pray for one another.

Favorite class
Hmmm. Last year, I took Conflict, Refugees and Complex Disasters with Dr. Karen Fancher. My heart is for the Middle East. She talked a lot about Syrian and Sudanese refugees. I’m not necessarily critical of what I hear, but after this class, I learned to become more critical, and I researched more on certain topics. What the media shares doesn’t give us the whole picture. Whatever they say is pretty biased, so I want to hear different angles. This was a big takeaway.

Favorite thing about MU
I was impressed that professors connect issues with Jesus Christ. Sometimes people think Christians just praise God on Sundays. But here, professors connect the Bible with every subject, and they ask what it means to follow Jesus in this messy world. It’s a unique thing MU has to offer.

Plans after graduation
First of all, I’m going to China on May 31 for one month– I’ve already bought the ticket. I really have a heart for the Middle East, so I’ll also be connecting with organizations in Lebanon. Right now I’m talking to an organization in Egypt about an internship in August. I’m also working on joining the Peace Corps; if that works out, I’ll be in Albania for two years too.

How has MU impacted your spiritual journey
I’ve met many spiritual mentors here. People I’ve gotten to know through my professors, my friends, my cohort. They’re always praying for me. Nothing in my future is for sure, but I trust God. There were times I was struggling with theological issues. But since my time at MU, I’ve learned fellowship is really important.

Nancy Anderson

Nancy AndersonHometown
Portland, Ore.

Program
Master of Divinity, Chaplaincy Track

Favorite MU experience
Interacting with fellow students in an academic and spiritual journey. Most students were an average of 30 years younger than me, but they welcomed me into their lives and were so encouraging and friendly.

Favorite class
Are you kidding? I loved every single one, although some were more challenging than others. The Spiritual Warfare class with Dr. Calvin Blom was a standout for the excellent combination of theology and practical application. But honestly, each class was unique and special. Dr. Stephen Kim’s Bible Survey classes were awesome, and Dr. Baylis and Dr. Metzger are brilliant instructors.

Favorite thing about MU
I love the way that professors allowed us to tailor the learning experience to our personal ministry situations. I was often allowed to adapt assignments to my world of working with the elderly in assisted living, which made the learning experience more meaningful.

Favorite thing about Portland
I love that we have both the ocean experience and mountains available for vacations and exploration. God has blessed my husband and me with 45 years living here as a married couple.

Plans after graduation
Focus on better message preparation for Sunday worship as I continue my ministry as a chaplain in an assisted living community – Hearthstone of Beaverton. I came to Multnomah to become a better-equipped chaplain.

How MU impacted your spiritual journey
This was the time of learning that I needed to launch myself into a deeper walk with the Lord. I have always loved the Lord, but my faith has been strengthened and deepened by being at Multnomah. I have a far better understanding of the Word of God too.

Advice to your first-year self
Relax and trust God to give you all you need. Yes, do your part and pay attention in class, take good notes, do homework on time, work ahead on the big projects, and then trust God to make your brain work!

Santino Cantalupo

Santino CantalupoHometown
Reno, Nev.

Program
Master of Divinity

Favorite MU experience
Coming up for a summer intensive and getting out of a class early and climbing to the top of Multnomah Falls at the suggestion of my professor. It was a beautiful hike and allowed me to connect with God’s creation.

Favorite class
Preaching Narrative Literature

Favorite thing about MU
I love the opportunity that MU has given to distance students, especially to the growing student base in Reno, Nev.

Plans after graduation
I feel called to lead a church as a senior pastor, and I’m pursuing my Doctor of Ministry degree at Duke.

How MU impacted your spiritual journey
I have grown more spiritually during my time in seminary than any other time in my life. This journey has been strenuous and at times filled with suffering and loss, but often it was a conversation with a professor or a student that allowed me to refocus my eyes on Christ.

Advice to your first-year self
Never take a theology class and a Bible class at the same time. Ever.

Conference teaches church leaders how to respect, engage with science

Comments Off on Conference teaches church leaders how to respect, engage with science Written on April 28th, 2016 by
Categories: Events, Programs, Seminary, Students

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Many see faith and science like oil and water — they’re impossible to integrate. But New Wine, New Wineskins thinks differently. On April 16 and 23, the institute hosted a conference aimed at dispelling the segregation of these communities through thoughtful dialogue. The conference, Church and Science: Partners for the Common Good, was made possible by a grant Multnomah Biblical Seminary received from the American Association for the Advancement of Science in an effort to integrate science into the seminary curriculum (view the 10 seminary courses that have adopted this integration here).

“It’s bound up with our ongoing, strategic effort at Multnomah to prepare seminary graduates in their pastoral calling to constructively engage our scientific age,” says Paul Louis Metzger, director of New Wine, New Wineskins. “It’s for the sake of their parishioners who have scientific questions and scientific vocational interests, and for the church’s own missional engagement with the surrounding culture.”

The event brought in speakers from Portland and across the country to explore several themes, including the history of faith and science, hermeneutical humility, and faith and scientific methods. Attendants delved into the themes through a variety of formats, such as plenary sessions, panels, workshops and thoughtful discussion times.

“Many young Christians are leaving churches because of what they perceive to be antagonism by the church toward science,” says Metzger. “It’s vitally important that pastors in training are equipped to develop an informed respect for science and discernment on how to articulate biblical faith in our scientific age.”

Many attendees walked away feeling more prepared and aware. “As a pastor, this conference opened my eyes to the tremendous need we have to address the role of science in our faith communities,” says Gaby Viesca, pastor to women at Cedar Mill Bible Church. “It also equipped me with practical tools to help people navigate their own questions and doubts, and how to engage in meaningful conversations around this topic.”

Jared Bennett, associate pastor at Grace Community Church called the conference “phenomenal” and found Dr. John Walton’s session especially insightful. “He stressed that the debate over young earth creationism/evolution is not what we should be focused on; the mechanics of ‘how’ are secondary to the agency of ‘who.’” Bennett claims to have walked away with a lot to think about. “I will continue to read, think and pray on what I learned at the conference in the hope that I can use that personal growth to better pastor my students,” he says.

Join the ongoing discussion. New Wine is hosting forums at local churches, and you can check out their website for information and updates. You can also read endorsements for the Church and Science conference here. Lastly, if you’re a youth pastor, New Wine wants to collaborate with you in order to care for teens wrestling with their faith in the midst of scientific questions. Stay tuned.

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President, COO of Horizon Air Dave Campbell to deliver commencement address

Comments Off on President, COO of Horizon Air Dave Campbell to deliver commencement address Written on April 26th, 2016 by
Categories: Events

President and Chief Operations Officer of Horizon Air Dave Campbell will be speaking at Multnomah University’s 2016 commencement on May 6.

DaveCampbell_vertical_blogCampbell’s career in commercial aviation began in 1988 as a mechanic at American Airlines, where he quickly took advantage of development opportunities. He transitioned into leadership positions in quality assurance and aircraft maintenance at American Airlines before being appointed senior vice president of technical operations and COO at American Eagle (a network of 10 regional carriers operating under a code share and service agreement with American Airlines) in 2007.

In 2009, Campbell returned to American Airlines as vice president of safety, security and environmental, and in 2013 he was named vice president of safety and operations performance. He moved to JetBlue in 2014 as vice president of technical operations, a position he held until joining Horizon Air as president and COO in August 2014. Campbell is focused on making Horizon a great place to work and a great partner for Alaska Airlines.

University President Craig Williford says he chose Campbell to deliver the commencement speech because he’s a dedicated follower of Christ, a faithful husband and father, and a successful business leader who has skillfully led large organizations.
“His life journey models what it means to connect faith and life through a chosen vocation,” Williford says. “I hope that our graduates will see how important it is for Christians to be highly skilled leaders and employees, and that all vocations are sacred opportunities to do so.”

Campbell holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Louisiana Tech University and an MBA from the University of Texas at Arlington. He resides in Portland, Ore., with his family. The Multnomah University Commencement will be hosted at Rolling Hills Community Church in Tualatin, Ore., at 7:30 p.m. on May 6. Contact the Registrar at (503)251-5370 for more information.

 

A tale of two forests: MU prof reflects on forest regeneration in honor of Earth Day

Comments Off on A tale of two forests: MU prof reflects on forest regeneration in honor of Earth Day Written on April 18th, 2016 by
Categories: Events, Faculty

Dr. Keith Swenson, professor of natural sciences, shares some fascinating thoughts on forest regeneration in honor of Earth Day, celebrated nationally on April 22.

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There still seems to be a common understanding within some circles that Earth Day and Christians don’t mix. Is this perception flawed? Let’s consider two of our great western forests.

I remember when Mount St. Helens blew. That was 36 years ago. Our family was on the Oregon coast that beautiful Sunday morning, so we didn’t witness the initial blast. But as we drove home to Portland later in the day, we saw an eruption plume rising 60,000 feet over the volcano. Later we began to learn the full extent of that day’s eruptive activity and its effects on people, landscapes and the region as a whole.

Certainly the great forest surrounding Mount St. Helens did not escape the volcanic maelstrom. Instead of producing an upward column of ash, St. Helens’ first salvo surprisingly was sideways, directly over the forest to the north. This oven-hot “stonewind,” as it was called, spread outward, producing a fan-shaped area of destruction, later named the “blast zone.” In the space of only three minutes, 230 square miles of old-growth and plantation forest was “disturbed” (to use the language of ecology) to an extreme degree. Days later, scientists observing the monotonous gray desolation, exuded dire predictions concerning the forest’s return to life. Many called it a “sterile landscape,” predicting it would be at least decades before significant recovery occurred.

But a surprise awaited! The forest began recovering from its destruction much more rapidly than prophesied. Within three years, 90% of the forest’s plant species were back and much of the animal life as well. It appeared that the forest ecosystem was equipped with mechanisms enabling it to rapidly react to cataclysmic disturbance. In ecology, an ecosystem’s ability to respond to a disturbance is termed “resilience,” and the blast zone forest at Mount St. Helens proved itself to be highly resilient.

But is an ecosystem’s resilience bounded by limits? Can humans, for example, do whatever they wish — or think best — to a forest, assured that it will bounce back? Could a forest be highly resilient and yet somewhat fragile at the same time? Let’s consider a second forest.

In 1910, a seminal event catapulted the U.S. Forest Service into national prominence. That event was a great wildfire in the northern Rockies of Montana and Idaho, usually referred to simply as the “fire of 1910,” or the “big burn.” In the span of 48 hours, three million acres of prime western white pine forest was incinerated, along with human lives and property, including the mining town of Wallace, Idaho. The fire was so monstrous that it got the attention of the nation. Something had to be done to protect our forests from fire. That job fell to the fledgling Forest Service, which over the better part of the twentieth century attempted to prevent forest fires – with some measure of success. Fires on the public lands of the West were markedly contained, but at what cost?

Through careful scientific study, much more has been learned about forest fire in more recent years. For many forests, fire is as essential for their health as good soil and adequate rain. Periodic fires control the buildup of brush and other forest fuels, provide a needed pulse of nutrients into the soil and enables certain tree species, including Douglas-fir, to regenerate. Oregon State University forest ecologist David Perry puts it this way: “We now know that fire played a crucial ecological role in these systems, and its removal set in motion a chain of events that wrecked the health of forests throughout the region, increasing their susceptibility to insects and pathogens, and making them vulnerable to fires that are much more destructive (and difficult to control) than we fought to exclude.”

So, on this Earth Day, how should we view our relationship to our forests that are sufficiently resilient to rebound, but fragile enough to degrade from decades of fire suppression? The Bible provides some guidance.  First, it tells us that the “earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1). He created it, and He owns it. But to our first parents (and to all mankind) God gave dominion over His creation – a mandate to “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air . . .  and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Genesis 1:26). It’s clear now that Christians and Earth Day do mix. But how are we supposed to successfully rule over the fish of the sea (like Pacific Salmon), the birds of the air (Osprey) and creatures that move along the ground (Red-legged Frogs) today when all these creatures are dependent on healthy Northwest forests?

Dave Perry suggests the following: “Avoiding similar disasters in the future will take more than good intentions (those early foresters had the best of intentions); it will require knowledge” (emphasis mine). I see an implicit requirement in God’s dominion mandate to scientifically study the creation He’s given us (such as forest ecosystems) in order to understand it and thereby successfully manage it for His glory – and the benefit of mankind. We will never do that perfectly, but we can do it better.

EDITOR NOTE:

  • “Mount St. Helens” is always written with an abbreviation for “saint.” The Baron of St. Helens, for whom the mountain is named, is said to have been so humble he never wanted “saint” in his title spelled out.
  • Reference on the Dave Perry quotes:  David A. Perry, Forest Ecosystems (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), p.9