Dr. Douglas Sweeney is today's Friday Faculty Feature. He is the dean of Beeson Divinity School and teaches history and doctrine courses. Dr. Sweeney is married to Wilma, and they have a son and daughter-in-law.
Where are you from?
That’s a tough question to answer. I’m a native Californian who lived in Oregon as a little boy but spent most of his childhood in Wheaton, Illinois.
How do you understand your vocation as the dean of Beeson Divinity School?
I’m here to help us discern and pursue God’s leading of our community. I have a God-centered view of the nature of reality that fuels a missional, collaborative, and God-and-neighbor-oriented view of kingdom leadership. I believe that God’s presence and activity in the world and in our lives are the most real, basic, central dynamics in the cosmos. Christian leaders are called to help others come to know God, be reconciled to him through the blood of Jesus Christ, walk in step with his Spirit, advance in Christian discipleship, and serve God and neighbor in their everyday lives. We are not meant to upstage God with our own vision. We are not meant to chart our own course in the world. We are not meant to steer people toward worldly ends. We are meant to help others align themselves with God’s will and use their gifts in the service of his kingdom work in the world. And at schools like Beeson, we are meant to teach people to serve as laborers in God’s vineyard, primarily by equipping them to serve the church of Christ. I prefer to work with others to discern and get in step with God’s redemptive work in our midst, stewarding the resources God is providing, organizing our energies and institutional capital, in the service of the work God is asking us to do. As dean, I serve as the foremost initiator and administrator of plans that are conceived and carried out with the help of many others. I deploy all of our gifts, hard work, and perspectives, organizing them in the service of the work of the Lord among our people. I think that deans lead best not by commandeering the limelight or lording it over others, but by working tirelessly to shine a light on what the Lord is accomplishing through the labors of everyone they serve.
What do you enjoy about being in the classroom?
Our mission is to educate students for service to the Lord and his church. I don’t want to pursue that mission merely from the sidelines. I love Beeson students. I love learning in community. And I love helping people understand church history and theology.
What are some of the most important lessons you hope students will learn from you?
I hope students will learn the Christian faith from me in rich detail. I hope they’ll learn to love the best of the Christian tradition, and will also learn to use it in their ministries. Most of all, I hope they’ll learn to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and learn to love their neighbors as themselves—by growing in appreciation for the varied ways in which their neighbors have appropriated Scripture and tradition in their own faith and practice.
Beeson is superbly designed to offer rigorous academics in a godly community of servants of Jesus Christ and his church. I cannot think of a better place to grow in discipleship, Christ-like maturity, and fruitfulness in ministry. Our commitment to incarnational, life-on-life teaching, mentoring, and modeling is unparalleled among top-tier divinity schools (at least Protestant ones).
What project(s) are you currently working on?
I’m putting the finishing touches on The Oxford Handbook of Jonathan Edwards, which I’m co-editing with a colleague in Germany, and I’m writing a two-volume global history of doctrine. (By the way, Beeson students Samuel Hagos and Colby Brandt are helping me with these projects!)
What is a fun fact people may not know about you?
As I entered the world in Fresno, California in 1965, I broke the record for chest size for newborn infants at my hospital.