Published on October 16, 2020 by Stefana Dan Laing  
Stefana and friends in desert
Stefana Dan Laing (pictured front row second from left) with fellow scholars on a trip to Israel in Dec. 2019.

Dr. Stefana Dan Laing is today's Friday Faculty Feature. She is assistant professor of divinity at Beeson, teaching courses in spiritual formation, and the school's theological librarian. Dr. Laing also oversees Beeson's Women's Theological Colloquium. She is married to John, and they have three children.

Where are you from?

This is a dreaded question for a former missionary kid (MK)! I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and lived there until I was 13, after which I spent the majority of my high school and college years in Sydney, Australia. I moved to Birmingham in 2018 from Houston, Texas, where we lived for 15 years. Between missionary and military moves, I have lived in eight cities and two other countries. Although I don't love moving, I do love to travel.

What do you enjoy about being in the classroom?

What I enjoy the most about being in the classroom are the students! Each semester I am amazed to hear our students' stories (in the form of their spiritual autobiography assignment) as they share what God has done in and through them and how God has grown and continues to shape them into the kinds of ministers of the gospel that he can use. As I listen to them and hear the interactions of encouragement among the students, I strongly sense that I am witnessing the bonds of spiritual friendship, compassion and hospitality forming right in front of me, as if my classroom is the Holy Spirit's laboratory where the chemistry of community is created. All the things I love about Beeson's communal atmosphere are built and forged by the communal Trinity one class period at a time—and I have a front row seat. 

What are some of the most important lessons you hope students will learn from you? 

I hope my students will become integrated persons—intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically. ​I tell my students that when God called them to seminary, he didn't just call their brains but rather their entire selves; and in ministry, we do not just minister to one or another aspect of a person but to the whole person. I frequently encourage my students to do the following:
  • Integrate the knowledge they are acquiring among their academic courses as their semester progresses. Students usually find that about three to four weeks into the semester, the materials in several or all of their courses overlap, and insights from one class bolster and even facilitate insights into another course. This is a magical and exciting point in the semester because it spurs students to want to study more deeply, when in fact they may find themselves at a point of fatigue. 
  • Integrate their inner and outer life; that is, let their spiritual life with its joys and struggles be in touch with their life in the world, as they work, study and minister. I tell them to allow—invite, even—their studies into their devotional life, and allow devotion into their studies. There is no reason one cannot be impelled into worship while studying theological truths, biblical texts, or ancient languages.
This kind of integration gradually shapes the whole person, and forms believers into holistic students, worshippers and ministers of the gospel.

What project(s) are you currently working on?

I have been busy writing articles for a Theological Handbook for the Church (B&H), a chapter on Historiography in the Early Church (Lexham Press), and some additional projects that are in early stages of writing. I'm very excited about a new project with LifeWay/Holman Reference, a new study Bible for women. I am co-editing this work with a remarkable colleague, Hannah S. Anderson, a sought-after women's conference speaker and author. This project is creating a rich resource for women who want to study their Bibles, ​by teach​ing the Bible through gifted academic study-note writers, and answer​ing women's perennial questions, as well as questions occasioned by our current cultural and spiritual moment. It is a Bible for women by women​, and ​I was blessed to learn from several of our amazing contributors on a recent trip to Israel (Dec. 2019, see picture).

Why Beeson?

My heart has been at Beeson ever since I first taught here adjunctively as a PhD student in 1999. It’s such an academically vibrant cadre of scholars and students, set within a warm, loving, worshipping community. The challenge and interdisciplinary potential of the wider university setting also attracts me, as does the welcoming atmosphere offered to both women and men to study and train for ministry. Beeson’s hospitality toward international students is amazing, and the school’s emphasis on praying for and connecting with the global church has always been a dominant theme. I love the interdenominational and ecumenical spirit at Beeson, and I find the conversations generated by these elements to be both challenging and invigorating.