About the project

The project, that will start in September 2023, focuses on views on and dealing with agricultural land of farmers and of church congregations that lease land. In addition, views on earth, ground and soil as embodied in sermons and prayers in church communities come into focus. Together with the people involved (e.g. farmers, pastors, church members), the project wants to develop a responsible, context-sensitive theological vision of soil in the Netherlands that serves Christians and Christian communities in their faithful relationship with the earth.

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Project summary

Climate and ecological changes confront human beings with urgent and complex questions regarding their view on and dealing with the earth. These questions touch the heart of human existence, and for Christians also touch their faith: how to account for a theologically responsible relationship of human beings with the earth? Theology has various good reasons to fundamentally rethink the relation of humans and the earth through a focus on ground, soil and land. That 60-70% of the European soils are currently unhealthy, gives theological reflection its urgency.

This five-year project employs such focus in exploring the question “What are qualities of a responsible, context-sensitive embodied theological view on ground in the Netherlands, in light of 21st-century climate and ecological problems?” Considering the relatively large agricultural area in the Netherlands, the focus on ground firstly brings up on the agenda actual views on and dealings with agricultural land by farmers and by Christian congregations owning farmland. Secondly, the embodied views on earth, ground, soil and land in practices of prayer and preaching by professional theologians and church members in Christian congregations will be studied, in connection with updated understandings of relevant theological and philosophical notions, such as creation, nature, earth, salvation, and eschaton. In several work packages, the project thus addresses the transforming potential of Christian identity and how the good life is mediated in this 21st-century context.

This intra- and interdisciplinary project brings theological and philosophical, rural-sociological and agricultural disciplines together, following a methodology based on a paradigm that accounts for different metatheoretical decisions, and combines literature research, quantitative and collaborative qualitative research. By increasing awareness of the theological problem and developing context-sensitive theological models and practices, the project guide Christians and the church in its diversity towards a responsible theological view on ground that (re)connects Christian faith to the earth in all its materiality and critically-constructively relates to behavioural alternatives currently offered in sustainable and green discourses.

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Project team

As practical theologian, Dr. Habil. Mirella Klomp is fascinated by the question of how faith is embodied and how materiality and physicality participate in it. She grew up among the meadows in a village full of Reformed faith communities with a focus on the spiritual. Therefore, she is excited about the research topic of soil, which feels 'close' to her. She is fond of interdisciplinary theology on pressing issues and takes shape in collaboration.

Prof. dr. Thijs Tromp is member of the research team Soil from a diaconal perspective. Diaconate is about care, traditionally for people in need, but in the light of current ecological developments, also about caring for animals, plants, soil and water. His focus is on churches and diaconal organisations considering sustainable management of the land they own.  

Prof. Dr. Arnold Huijgen is engaged in the project as systematic theologian. He participates in methodical and substantial discussion, and supervises one of the PhD-candidates, who connects philosphical and theological traditions, and ecotheology to contribute to a theological vision on soil. 

Dr. Gert van Klinken acts as advisor for Church History. He investigates the ideas of the Republican theologian Jacobus Uilkens (1772-1825) and his circle, where the focus is on Biblical ethics, public education, farming and later also on abolitionism. 

Dr. Eward Postma, theologian and supervisor, participates in team Soil with a view to the professional and spiritual formation of pastors. He focuses on the integration of relationships with the soil in theology that pastors develop and use in their local context. 

Dr. Ciska Stark is involved in the Ground project from the disciplines of Homiletics and Supervision / Coaching. She focuses on how faith communities communicate language of ritual, sermons and mutual conversation as it comes to faith and soil. 

Prof. dr. Maroesjka Versantvoort is extraordinary professor of Work and Meaning. Her research focuses on people’s motives and incentives. The Soil project aims to identify which behavioral effects can be expected from possible climate policies, and which (religious) considerations play a role in this. Maroesjka is affiliated with both the PThU and the Netherlands Institute for Social Research. 

As project manager, practical theologian Nelleke Plomp keeps track of the processes within the project. She supports the project leader and makes sure internal and external stakeholders are connected. She is motivated to make the valuable results of this project sustainable for society and church.  

  • Marielle van Es
    PhD candidate

Within the Soil project, Mariëlle van Es MA conducts research into Christian farmers, their relationship with land and how this relates to their faith. She has a background in international land and water management and is interested in issues surrounding agriculture, sustainability and faith. 

  • Erik Oevermans
    PhD candidate

Erik Oevermans MA is involved as a PhD candidate in the Soil project. As a philosopher, carpenter and theologian, he investigates the question of which theological and philosophical notions and perspectives help determine Christian theologies with regard to land. Together with a PhD candidate in Practical Theology, he also investigates how theology from the past and present can guide the future when it comes to our handling of land. 


  • Jan Overeem
    Chairman Christen Contact Agrarisch

Soil beneath my feet, soil to cherish, to utilise, to walk on, to sow, to cultivate, to harvest. Soil that teems with life, where worms, mice, or other creatures work the soil. Soil where stewardship and responsibility are the foundation beneath your feet. This soil provides a fascinating research perspective for the PThU.

  • Henk Massink
    Philosopher and theologian, expert in sustainability and agriculture

There is a lot of discussion today about soil and land use, especially in our densely populated country. What does it mean that God is the Creator and Owner of this earth? And what are the implications for humanity as stewards of it? It is valuable that the PThU examines this from a theological perspective.

  • Trees van Montfoort
    Eco-theologian and ordained minister

When I published "Groene theologie" (Green Theology), my intention was to broaden theology from a focus on God and humans to encompass the entire creation. It's great that the PThU is now taking 'soil' as its starting point. This project will demonstrate that theologians contribute something essential to finding a way out of the ecological crisis.


Photos: CCA Nederland (Jan Overeem), SGP (Henk Massink)

Logo of our partner the Maatschappij van Welstand

Logo of co-financier, Fonds Kerk en Wereld.