When she was a Christian undergraduate biology student attending the University of California, San Diego, PLNU professor Dr. April Cordero was told that faith in God and evolution were mutually exclusive.
Today, she teaches evolution to Christian undergraduates majoring in biology and equips them with the tools needed to answer the question they’ll inevitably be asked after graduation: How can you be a Christian biologist when Christians reject evolution?
Cordero understands how taboo the subject of evolution can be for many Christians, and initially refers to it as “the E word.” She follows up by acknowledging the normalcy of the anxiety her students may be feeling.
She informs her students on the different evolutionary mechanisms and the evidence for evolution, as well as what the Bible teaches. She then opens the floor to student discussion, allowing them to wrestle with the information themselves to form their own beliefs.
“Her class is discussion-based, and she actually cares what we think,” current student Julia Kelly discloses. “I feel like it’s [evolution in a Christian context] a good thing to talk about.”
Cordero adopts a “mom-like presence” in the way that she holds her students’ hands in their faith-and-evolution journeys. This includes lots of question answering and casual chatting with students, some even refer to her as Dr. Mom.
“She’s an awesome professor,” says Cece Lambie, a previous student and current teacher’s assistant to Cordero. “I really love that she spends time with the students.”
But dissimilar to popular belief, Cordero never wanted to teach evolution, after spending years trying to understand her own faith in God as it related to evolution. So when Cordero, initially hired at PLNU as an ecology professor, was asked to teach evolution, she answered with a superlative, hesitated “yes.”
“I think I basically said, ‘I don’t want to be around evolution, and I don’t want to talk to people about evolution,’” Cordero revealed. “And God got the last laugh and said, ‘Oh, that’s where you’re weak. That’s what I’m going to stick in front of you.’”
Over the past nine years of teaching evolution to Christian students, Cordero was asked to share this experience. As a writer for BioLogos Voices and a visiting scholar for the Oxford Interdisciplinary Seminars in Science and Religion, she speaks all across the nation, including a talk for TEDxPLNU. Recently, she, along with four other PLNU professors (Dr. Mann, Dr. Wiese, Dr. Raser, and Dr. Mayer), received a grant from Fuller Seminary to promote conversations to PLNU students under the topic of “Unity in Science, Faith, & Practice” with various different activities for the 2018-19 school year.
“I think we do a disservice to our youth if we don’t inform them about mainstream science. It’s like burning books,” Cordero says. “Read the books and engage in conversation about them, don’t burn them.”
This article was written by Jaime Pedersen.