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Speaker Bios

  •  Philip Yancey  Renowned Author and Speaker 
  • Kristen Deede Johnson  Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Western Theological Seminary
  • Trygve “Tryg” Johnson    Hinga Boersma Dean of the Chapel at Hope College 

Philip Yancey 

Growing up in a strict, fundamentalist church in the South, a young Philip Yancey tended to view God as “a scowling Supercop, searching for anyone who might be having a good time—in order to squash them.”  In a move that offset his negative church experiences, Yancey turned to reading, where he found a window to another world.  He devoured books that opened his mind, challenged his upbringing, and went against what he had been taught.  A sense of betrayal engulfed him.  “I felt I had been lied to.  For instance, what I learned from books like To Kill a Mockingbird and Black Like Me contradicted the racism I encountered in church.  I went through a period of reacting against everything I was taught and even discarding my faith.  I began my journey back mainly by encountering a world very different than I had been taught, and along the way I realized that God had been misrepresented to me.  Cautiously, warily, I returned to see what might be true.” 

After surviving his church background, which he now calls “toxic faith,” Yancey ultimately came to know a God of grace and beauty.  A memoir titled Where the Light Fell, to be published in 2021, tells that complete story for the first time.

For Philip, writing became a way to continue investigating questions of faith, like ‘Where is God when it hurts?’ or ‘Does prayer make any difference?’.  He explains: “As a freelance writer, I feel privileged to explore such questions full time.”  True to his calling, Yancey wrestles in print with God, with the Church, and with fellow believers. 

Philip Yancey earned graduate degrees in Communications and English from Wheaton College and the University of Chicago.  After joining the staff of Campus Life Magazine in 1971 and working there for ten years as Editor and then Publisher, Philip became a full-time writer.  He writes with an eye for detail, irony, and honest skepticism. 

Yancey has authored some two dozen books, including the bestsellers What’s So Amazing About Grace and The Jesus I Never Knew.  Yancey lists among his favorite books Soul Survivor and Reaching for the Invisible God because they forced him to dig deep and get personal.  In all, his books have sold more than 15 million copies in English, and have been translated into some 40 languages worldwide.

Philip Yancey and his wife lived in downtown Chicago for many years before moving to a very different environment in Colorado, where they enjoy mountain climbing, skiing, wildlife, and many other delights of the Rocky Mountains.  Please follow his blogs and publication announcements here:  www.philipyancey.com


Kristen Deede Johnson

We live in a complex and divided cultural moment. Many of us are personally experiencing the impact of these complexities and divisions, while many writers and thinkers are asking questions about how we can navigate the deep differences of our age. In a memorable lecture delivered in 1944, C.S. Lewis probed what he believed to be a permanent aspect of human existence, namely our desire to be on the inside of the “inner ring” and our terror at the prospect of being left on the outside. By drawing on the insights found in Lewis’ “The Inner Ring,” and placing it in conversation with contemporary voices, we will explore how Lewis’ wisdom from long ago might help us today as we seek to cultivate friendships and community in the midst of our deep differences. 

Trygve “Tryg” Johnson

The Rev. Dr. Trygve Johnson has served as the Hinga Boersma Dean of the Chapel since 2005. He leads and oversees the Hope Campus Ministries office, whose team of chaplains facilitates programs related to Christian formation. These include a voluntary chapel program as well as discipleship and mission opportunities.

Trygve preaches regularly in Chapel services and a Sunday evening service called The GatheringHe also preaches nationally in churches, at Christian conferences and at other college campuses. Trygve works closely as vice president with the President’s Administrative Council and Hope’s Board of Trustees on behalf of the Christian formation and mission of Hope College.

He is ordained in the Reformed Church of America, is an adjunct professor of Preaching at Western Theological Seminary, and is the author of The Preacher as Liturgical Artist (Cascade Press, 2014).


  • Ph.D., University of St. Andrews
  • M.Div., Western Theological Seminary
  • B.A., Northwestern College