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Karen Petersen Finch (2008-present), Assistant Professor of Theology

As I near the four-year mark of my time in the theology department, I feel a sense of amazement at how quickly the time has gone. It is also remarkable to me how much energy and persistence it has taken to adapt to this difficult and highly rewarding profession. 

As for teaching, I taught in our M.A. in Theology Program this fall on the encounter between classical Christian thinking and postmodern conceptions of truth and value (THG570 Christianity and Culture). We used novels and films as part of our arsenal for clarifying those conceptions, thereby allowing the professor (to her great delight) to put her ancient English literature degree to use. One might call the class "intellectual training for evangelism," as we considered how Christian leaders can empower believers to witness to Jesus Christ effectively in our contemporary, North American society. This was a new course, in a program and format that were new to me, yet I have never enjoyed a teaching experience so greatly. The students in our master's program are intellectually curious and sensitive to theological nuance both in theory and in practice.

To make room for the master's experience, I had to schedule three back-to-back theology courses in Whitworth's Continuing Studies program between January and May: two on the doctrine of God and one on New Testament interpretation. These are six-week accelerated evening/weekend courses for working adults. Frankly, I will not schedule three in a row again; yet the teaching was, on the whole, rewarding, and allowed me to continue to shape and revise these courses to make them more effective for that unique population. It is a privilege to present the gospel to these adults, many of whom are encountering it in full for the first time, and to create a safe place for them to ask hard questions, to be respected, to be academically challenged, and to be loved.   One could argue that, in these evening courses, our department's unique way of approaching the task of theological education comes most clearly into its own.

I am honored to continue serving on the Core 150 lecture team and leading two discussion groups per semester, exploring the impact of Christian worldview concepts on Western civilization (and, not incidentally, teaching incoming students how to write an academic essay). I also taught Introduction to the Bible this fall, which I have adapted in the direction of apologetics: showcasing difficult questions of faith and how the biblical interpretation plays a role in working with those questions. All this detail should have persuaded you by now of the immense variety and richness of my teaching life. I also had the opportunity to preach four times in chapel this year and to serve on a number of campus committees.

During my four-year review process, which culminated this spring, I received the strong suggestion that I say "no" to service opportunities in order to make room for scholarly endeavor. I know that this is wise counsel, and I have applied it in two ways. First, I immediately turned around and informed Jerry Sittser that I could not do that certain thing he had asked me to do. No doubt he had mixed feelings about my obedience to the committee's wisdom. Second, I cleared my summer calendar to write and research on Calvin's theology in preparation for Beeson Divinity School's Reformation Heritage Lectures (Oct. 30-Nov. 1), which I have been invited to deliver. I am therefore looking forward to a summer of scholarship. I pray God's blessing on each of you, whatever your summer may hold.

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