To say that Kevin Lawson enjoys school would be an understatement. Having earned nine degrees in fields ranging from mathematics, to engineering, education, statistics, counseling, and theology, Dr. Lawson approaches the world with a contagious curiosity and passion for truth. Three of those degrees were earned at Ashland Theological Seminary, a community that has been instrumental in shaping him into an influential defender of the faith (M.Div in Counseling, 2007; MA in Spiritual Formation, 2007; MA in Theology, 2014).
“I moved from learning to knowing, knowledge to change, principles to presence, prayer to communion, from working to waiting.”
When Dr. Lawson found himself “involuntarily separated” from his job about fifteen years ago, he returned to graduate school. “My initial goals for seeking theological education weren’t that honorable,” he laughs. “I wanted to earn some additional letters behind my name to position myself to re-enter the job market.”
Dr. Lawson describes his initial approach to seminary as one based on an “informational paradigm.” That is, he chose to master a body of material through a rational, empirical lens, including God: “I think I viewed [Him] as an object to be investigated and manipulated as opposed to a person to be adored and worshipped.” But as Dr. Lawson progressed through his spiritual formation and group dynamics courses, his mindset began to shift to a “transformational paradigm,” in which he experienced God more powerfully. His life started to reflect this transition as reflected in the words of Dr. Terry Wardle, one of his professors: “I moved from learning to knowing, knowledge to change, principles to presence, prayer to communion, from working to waiting.”
This period of transformation, though effective in cultivating a sense of presence and waiting, was not without work and activity. Dr. Lawson’s diverse interests and academic training have served the community well. His STEM background allowed him to lecture in research methods and statistics while he was still a student. He also served as a pastoral counselor and spiritual director for his peers, doing the work of ministry well before graduation. When he moved into a low-residency D.Min program at Biola University, Dr. Lawson continued to teach at the Ashland seminary, including the courses “Introduction to Research Methods and Design” and “Spiritual Themes in Counseling.” While teaching the latter, Dr. Lawson applied his research interests to emphasize the integrative models of psychology and Christianity.
Dr. Lawson taught his last class at Ashland in the summer of 2017; since then, he’s been a full-time instructor of mathematics at a community college in Detroit. But his time with the seminary is far from over. This summer, he will host an urban apologetics conference at the Detroit campus.
The questions to which urban apologists must respond tend to be different from the ones that classical apologists, who focus strictly on philosophical and scientific arguments, have to answer. A sampling of those questions includes, "Is Christianity efficacious for African Americans given its role in the transatlantic slave trade? Is Christianity unique, or is it a plagiarized version of ancient Egyptian mythologies? Is Christianity an oppressive religion given the fact that many of its Western adherents ignore the problem and legacy of slavery; overlook the contributions of the African Diaspora; and establishes whiteness as the normative interpretive lens through which the world is framed?" Dr. Lawson laments, "Unfortunately, questions of this type are not being engaged by the broader apologetics community."
The June 1 urban apologetics conference, which will feature plenary sessions, breakout sessions, and panels with some of the most recognized names in urban apologetics, will address questions like these along with the existential concerns of suffering, identity, significance, and dignity that lie at the root of the questions. As conference coordinator, Dr. Lawson’s prayer is that the event will give attendees the “confidence to defend their faith in an increasingly pluralistic society” and better equip them to “give reasons for the hope within.”
Ashland Theological Seminary is blessed to continue its partnership with Kevin Lawson, and not just because of the many letters behind his name. He is committed to integrating his varied interests and gifts into a life of service that draws hearts to Christ.