Wood at Ambrose: ​Dying in the 21st Century

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FREE PUBLIC EVENT: Ambrose University and the CSCA present a lecture by John Wood (Professor Emeritus, The King’s University).


John Wood
"An Ecologist Looks at Dying in the 21st Century"

Wednesday | 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm | Airhart Theater, Ambrose University

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​An Ecologist Looks at Dying in the 21st Century

Ecology is a life science. But why do ecologists, who spend their time studying the mechanisms of death, rarely name it? I am a Christian. But my Christian friends emphasize hope and new life, seldom talking about death. Yes, there is Easter and the regular celebration of communion, but we Christians “are unable to deny death. A religion [with] a crucified Messiah as its fulcrum hardly permits that.” I am challenged – do we believers practically deny the death we claim by faith?

“My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?” These are some of the most fearful words ever spoken. Without God, in death we are utterly alone. We spiral into the oblivion of non-being – nothingness. Yes, talking about physical death is troubling for us. Yet here is Jesus facing his own death in a peculiar way – “for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). Physical death was not optional for him, nor is it for us. Without the witness of his resurrection, and the hope of eternal life, physical death would leave us empty of relationship.

Physical death is the necessary gateway. But when death is framed solely as the enemy our options appear limited. Today a convergence of economic and demographic pressures, together with ecological discovery and medical-technical developments present unprecedented challenges to traditional notions of death. Age extension therapies are growing, and the promise of immortality seems closer than ever. Surprisingly, caring for people in extremis and caring for the earth are more closely linked than we might imagine. We need new theological insights and fresh theological resources to meet the challenging questions of our day.

John Wood is Emeritus Professor at The King’s University in Edmonton. He is President of the American Scientific Affiliation, the oldest and largest professional group of Christians in the natural and social sciences. John completed his BA in Biology at North Park University, Chicago. MSc-Biology at Central Washington University and his PhD is from the University of California, Berkeley, in Stream Ecology and Insect Behaviour. Current research includes the North American response to edible insects, and the ecological and theological understanding of physical death. He and psychologist, Dr. Heather Looy, have explored our cultural blind spot toward accepting food insects – one aspect of Western exceptionalism. Before moving to Canada in 1989 John taught for 6 years at Simpson College, a Christian and Missionary Alliance institution in California. His professional work includes the development of undergraduate environmental science programs. He is a reviewer for ECO Canada, the national accreditation process for environmental science and environmental studies programs. John is also the past Academic Dean of the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies.

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