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

Dear friends,

As I finish my fifth year in the theology department, I am grateful for a clearer picture of my calling and of what it means to aim for excellence in teaching and scholarship. A large measure of this increased clarity comes from working with colleagues whom I love and admire, both within the theology department and across campus. With respect to teaching, five years of experience --and reflection on that experience --have also brought me to a different level of precision in the classroom and a greater freedom to discover my own voice. I find myself more and more interested in theological retrieval, in which we thoughtfully access the theology of the past and put it in dialogue with contemporary culture and worldview. I also am increasingly drawn to the practice of apologetics, interacting with both Christian and non-Christian students around the difficult questions of faith.

The highlight of this year, and of my academic journey so far, was my travel in October to Beeson Divinity School, in Birmingham, Ala., to serve as preacher and lecturer for Beeson's annual Reformation Heritage Week. Under the umbrella theme "John Calvin, Postmodernism and Power," I presented Calvin as a theologian of humility and explored how his focus on humility (in message and in method) is paradoxically empowering to the Church, especially in its outreach to unbelieving Western culture. The Beeson community graciously paid all expenses for two theology majors --senior Evan Underbrink and junior Lauren Roberts --to accompany me, and by the end of the week all three of us felt celebrated, enriched and utterly spoiled.

Within a few days of our return, as Jonathan Moo put it, I moved "from the heights to the depths" and found myself in the hospital with heart-attack symptoms. We all praised God for the less frightening diagnosis of myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart due to viral attack. Due to heavy symptoms, I missed the end of the fall term and all of Jan Term, returning in February to a very light teaching load and no grading. The first week of May has marked six months of illness and a lessening of my symptoms, for which I am very grateful.

Recuperation has given me time to look forward to an exciting teaching year in 2013-14, including new courses in Calvin and in apologetics; a slot on Whitworth's South Africa Study Program, in January; and a full return to the Core 150 lecture team. (For those of you who did not attend Whitworth, Core 150 is the introductory class in our worldview studies program, and is both a joy and a challenge to teach). This summer I will join Jerry Sittser and Jim Edwards in speaking on Luke's gospel at the Whitworth Institute of Ministry. Health permitting, I hope to craft the transcriptions of my Beeson presentations into publishable material. Finally, I join my colleagues in looking forward to the arrival of Will Kynes, our newest scholar in biblical studies, when he comes in August.

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