Listening To The Spirit In The Text by Gordon Fee

Kindle Version; Published: 6/26/2000

ISBN: 978-0-8028-4757-7
190 Pages
     This book is a collection of previously published essays in theological journals and other places, of which only chapter eight is new. The essays are engaging and warm at times filled with personal passion. The central thesis after which the title of the book is named is the marrying of exegesis to spirituality.
     The book opens with this idea in chapter one, which in my opinion is the best in the book, if exegesis and spirituality aren’t forged together then the “ultimate aim of exegesis is lost.” The goal of exegesis is to “fashion people into genuine spirituality” says Fee, meaning that true spirituality must precede and flow from exegesis. “True spirituality” (Gk. Pneumatikos) according to Fee is “nothing more nor less than life by the Spirit.” What does this “life by the Spirit” look like? It is a life full of prayer and obedience. Fee’s discussion here of “spirituality” from the Greek word pneumatikos is a summary of his discussion in his book God’s Empowering Presence wherein an excellent exposition of this concept in the Pauline letters. He argues therefore that spirituality and exegesis must not be separated, as many are wont to do. Because true exegesis inspires spirituality, it demands that exegesis be academic and of a high standard for it inspires a Spirit-filled life.
     In chapter two Fee shares valuable comments on the writing of Biblical commentaries, something Fee knows something about since he’s written several volumes for different series. In this chapter he shares some warm moments wherein the majesty of the text spoke too powerful to comment on without being “both profane and pedestrian.” He also shares of the struggle he had in writing either to the scholar or saint. There is also great insight and implicit spiritual advice about teaching lay-Christians God’s powerful Word.

     Chapter three is “On being a Trinitarian Christian” and reads more like convocation or even a graduation address rather than an essay. Here he elaborates on the benediction in 2 Cor. 13:14 and says, “It’s the most profound theological moment in the Pauline corpus” and cites two reasons for why. “First, it serves to encapsulate what lies at the very heart of all of Paul’s urgencies” which is the gospel as the salvation to both Jew and Gentile. Second, it is the center of Paul’s doctrine of God, which has been radicalized by Christ’s resurrection and the Spirit’s coming. Although Fee is considered perhaps the greatest Pentecostal scholar alive, he clearly distinguishes himself from mainline Pentecostalism in several ways. Here he speaks of personifying the Holy Spirit, that is, of living in a way that we honor the Spirit as a person and not a force or something similar. The fact that a large portion of Pentecostals speak of being empowered by the experience and focus mainly on experience, depersonalizes the person of the Holy Spirit.
     In chapter four we have more of Fee’s reflections but on Pauline spirituality this time. Those who disagree with Fee’s assertions and exegesis must do so by wrestling with his exegetical work, his exegesis of the pertinent passages is formidable. Fee’s spiritual warmth comes to the fore again as he claims that “[T]he Spirit is the key element, the sine qua non, of all Christian life and experience.” Fee’s writings are filled with pneumatology, spirituality, passion, yet academically responsible. In commenting on 1 Cor. 14:14-17 Fee asserts, “Paul most certainly means that the Holy Spirit prays through his own spirit.” Yet other commentators such as Thiselton and Garland disagree with Fee, although in certain respects his “S/spirit” paradigm is certainly beneficial.
     In chapter five he elaborates on a topic he’s written about, wealth and possessions, containing a gold mine of exegesis.
     In chapter six we have a portion of Fee’s contribution to the gender debate in ministry. Fee identifies eisegesis as being the culprit to blame for, which isolated the gender issue from “the bigger picture of biblical theology.” Fee’s argument in a nutshell is that in the New Covenant or New Creation beginning with the resurrection of Christ and the Spirit’s coming, obliterated the Jew/Gentile, slave/free, and male/female distinctions. His views have been addressed by Complimentarians and serve for fascinating dialog!
     In chapter seven is his response in a periodical to the views of apostate Bishop John Shelby Spong in the previous issue of the same periodical. Fee’s scholarship is present in this chapter and is an example of respectful apologetics, Fee is certainly a gentleman and a scholar!
     In chapter eight Fee discusses the Holy Spirit in the Pauline churches, his main interest is in “gatherings and the role of the Holy Spirit in their gatherings.” Again we will have dissenters of Fee’s interpretations of the Spirit’s activity but his high view of the Spirit’s work is undeniable.
     If chapter eight was not Pentecostal enough then chapter nine will be! Here he will deal with the Pauline theology of glossolalia, of tongue speaking. There are certainly may things here to disagree with and dispute, but one thing all will agree with is that the “Spirit is seen as the source for empowering in the midst of affliction or weakness” and “God’s power finds perfection in human weakness.” I do find one point interesting and intriguing, and that is that Fee finds it “irrelevant” whether or not the tongues spoken in modern churches is the same as those spoken in the Pauline churches. Why would those tongues be different?
     In chapter ten Fee enters a new realm, which will be similar to the one in the following chapter. And that is regarding leadership under the New Covenant. Mainly, he will argue that the New Testament people of God aren’t distinguished (in what sense”) from their leaders, that those supposed leaders are “viewed as part of the people of God and never as a distinct group. Fee will firstly describe the New Testament terms for God’s people and conclude that the New Testament church of Christ are made up of Jews and Gentiles and constitute those same people despite not submitting to the standards Jewish Old Testament observations, laws, and ceremonies. Three realities will form the “basis for the church’s discontinuity with the old”, namely Christ’s work in both life and death as fulfillment of the Old Testament expectations; the Spirit’s appropriation of Christ’s work and using eschatological metaphors separates God’s people from the world and serves as the key to the church’s existence as a people including her view of ministry; the eschatological framework within a already/not yet scheme which inaugurated the church’s existence as the future people of God which has begun whose differences are only those in gifts. Fee will then outline how the structure and ministry in the New Testament.
     In chapter eleven Fee will offer an alternative interpretation to the traditional one, viewing its occasion and purpose and reexamine church order in light of this. With concentration on false teachers and teaching 1 Timothy is written and so Paul addresses Timothy’s responsibilities to teach sound doctrine. Fee will dogmatically claim that neither Timothy nor Titus are to be seen as models of pastors. How did this “pluralism of papacies” come to be asks Fee? Fee has had several respondents precisely because his exegesis is taken seriously in the scholarly community. Fee will conclude the chapter on some important hermeneutical issues.
     Chapter twelve deals with issues surrounding the kingdom of God and argues consistently that the “roots of our conviction about the global mission of the church are to be found in Jesus’ proclamation.” He will also argue that this kingdom is not a physical term or place but an eschatological term referring to the future. The already/not yet paradigm helps clarify the New Testament language and the church’s global mission. Fee rounds off the chapter by speaking of the Spirit’s role in the kingdom and how He empowers Christians for life and ministry. Fee will no doubt cause some to feel uncomfortable with his exegetical conclusions, as if Fee hasn’t already done that by previously rejecting and refuting Pentecostalism’s most cherished doctrines of subsequence and initial evidence. One thing is for sure: Fee’s ideas cause and demand academic rigor in order to respond to. This is not Christians bickering, dividing, and dishonoring God’s truth, contrarily, it is the honoring of truth, God’s truth, and that in and of itself is proof of the Spirit’s work and activity in our struggle to understand God.
                                                                        Francisco Quijada                                                                 `

4 thoughts on “Listening To The Spirit In The Text by Gordon Fee

  1. Thank you for the review, I actually got to reading a few of his essays present in te book, you have been fair to the author and his message!

    Liked by 2 people

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