Lipscomb University’s Hazelip School of Theology welcomes its newest faculty member to the Bison family, associate professor of theology Lauren White.
Leonard Allen, dean of the College of Bible & Ministry, is delighted at the newest addition to his team. “Her breadth in bible and theology is just remarkable, especially at her age. She’s had world-class training, and she’s been a star in it. She’s been at the very top of the Vanderbilt student body there,” said Allen.
White, a graduate of Vanderbilt University, officially receives her Ph.D. in theological studies, with a minor in religion, philosophy and literature, this coming May. She successfully defended her dissertation, “Word Made Flesh, Flesh Made Word: Beyond the Protestant Interpretation Problem,” in November of 2017. She also received a Master’s of Theological Studies from Vanderbilt Divinity School, graduating with highest honors in 2010.
“I’ve heard her do several lectures and presentations. She has a heart and warmth for students. Although she can teach, discuss and study at a high level, it’s not just abstraction and theory. She really is concerned about the mission of God, the church and its ministry, and equipping young people who feel called to that vocation to prepare for it,” Allen explained.
Discussing her path, White highlighted the importance of trusting God. “It’s still surprising to me at times that this has been my journey. I wonder, ‘How did I get here?’” White reflected.
“But then I have to remind myself, God gives each of us certain gifts tied to desires to do certain things. The Holy Spirit works in tandem with those desires to lead us to unlikely places where we can flourish. Ultimately, we have to trust that guidance,” said White.
Discovering her passion for theology stemmed from another vocational endeavor. “While I was working toward my M.A. in English, I developed an interest in theological interpretation, sort of ‘literary theory plus theology.’ I ended up doing my master’s thesis on that,” said White.
While teaching English courses at Harding University, White’s desire to pursue a doctorate was always focused on American Literature. “But, when I started writing my application essays for doctoral programs, I realized I was saying things that really made me sound more like a theologian than a literary scholar,” laughed White.
Surprised by her new ambition, White consulted a friend who made the same shift from literature to theology. Though hesitant to pursue a second master’s degree, White decided to apply anyway.
“Once the door opened, it felt right,” said White. “But I still presumed my interest would remain literature based, with perhaps a focus on theological ethics or religion and literature. But, when I took courses in constructive and systematic theology, I loved it. I felt alive,” White reflected.
Which led her to today. Although White’s original path headed another direction, it is clear to her now that her love of theological study began when she was a child. “I grew up loving Scripture and the big questions that Christians have always asked about its implications,” she said.
White recalls her curiosity as theological while recognizing her youthful limitations for identifying those interests. “When I encountered theological reasoning as an academic discipline, I couldn’t get enough,” she explained.
These same interests are evident to her as existing in Christian youth who have not encountered formal theological discourses. “I think young people in the church are hungry for theological reasoning and for connecting the dots while considering how scripture-based confessions spin out systematically.”
During her master’s work in theological studies, White identified a desire to turn her passion into something for the good of others. “Although the conversations in my studies were fascinating, they could too easily remain confined to ivory towers. I didn’t want to surround myself with books and speculate over the nature of God unless it connected with the everyday lives of people of faith. I wanted to apply theology in a way that others could find useful.”
“That’s what we’re about here, and that’s one reason she fits in so well,” Allen said.
“She’s not just a scholar that wants to hole up in her office or library and do her thing. She wants to engage and believes that the theological vocation is enriching to Christian life, ministry and church. She spans those; that’s very important to us,” said Allen.
“We view ourselves not so much as theological experts in some area, but theological educators who strive to equip young people for the challenging vocation of ministry,” Allen explained.
The newest member of the team remains grounded by her focus on the students and aligns with school goals. “We began a new cohort based Master’s of Divinity degree program that has quintupled our number of full-time ‘M-Div’ students,” Allen continued.
“Each of these students, during the program, is embedded in a church and learns how to mentor within the church. Their schoolwork is always engaging that ministry. We’re really trying to serve the church more creatively, more intentionally, more aggressively,” said Allen.
“I believe Lauren will help us with that intention. With the students and what we’re trying to accomplish, she’s fully on board and has a heart for it; that’s one way she fits into our goals,” explained Allen.
The College of Bible & Ministry’s leadership is excited by what White can contribute in the future. “We’ve re-written our mission statement for the Hazelip School of Theology in the last two years, and we just had our re-accreditation this past November with the Association of Theological Schools,” said Allen.
“We got the accreditation, but also did a big self-study which really affirmed our innovation and some of the new things we’re doing.” Allen concluded, “I believe Lauren will have a role in these new opportunities over the coming years.”
For more information on the College of Bible & Ministry, visit bible.lipscomb.edu. For more information about graduate programs in theology offered by the College of Bible & Ministry’s Hazelip School of Theology, visit the website.