Published on November 1, 2012 by Betsy Childs  
Karen Peterson Finch

John Calvin has sometimes been characterized as "the theologian of No," said Dr. Karen Petersen Finch in lectures at Samford University's Beeson Divinity School. The Whitworth University theology professor sought to reclaim Calvin from that negative stereotype.

"Calvin is the most caricatured of all theologians," said Dr. Finch, delivering Beeson's 24th annual Reformation Heritage Lectures.  Speaking on the topic "John Calvin, 'Postmodernism' and Power," she argued that, as a Christocentric thinker, Calvin was a theologian of abundance.

Humility is a central theme in Calvin's writing, according to Finch. She argued that Calvin's emphasis on the death of pride and the necessity of humility is, paradoxically, empowering.

Finch summarized Paul's message to the Corinthians on the same theme: "Stop making claims for yourself so that you can reach out and claim what you have in Christ, riches that you did not create and you do not deserve. Empty your hands that God in Christ might fill them."

Finch spoke pastorally, drawing on Calvin and the Apostle Paul to warn divinity students of the hidden perils of pride. "In causing us to claim too much, pride causes us to claim too little," she said. "...Because we believe that our hands are full, we walk away from Christ's bounty empty-handed."

On a personal note, Finch also brought greetings to Samford from Dr. Beck Taylor, the former dean of the University's Brock School of Business who serves now as president of Whitworth.  Finch is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 37th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 97th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,758 students from 48 states and 22 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.