Friday, April 3, 2009

God's Empowering Presence by Gordon Fee

I just finished a monster book--God's Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul by Gordon D. Fee. I am not going to turn this blog back into a series of book reviews, but I have to mention this. It is 903 pages of goodness. New Testament theology is my "specialty," and this is a top 10 NT theology book in my opinion. The book is technical (it assumes a knowledge of Greek), so it's not for the casual reader.

Gordon Fee is Professor Emeritus of New Testament studies at Regent College. He comes from a Pentecostal background. He also wrote the industry standard on 1 Corinthians (New International Commentary on the New Testament).

After plowing through every mention or hint of the Holy Spirit in Paul, Fee concludes:
  1. The Holy Spirit is crucial to Paul's understanding of the Gospel and the Christian experience. Christ may be the center of Paul's theology, but the Spirit isn't far from center.

  2. The Spirit plays a leading role in Paul's eschatology. It is the "down payment" and evidence of what is to come.

  3. The Holy Spirit is dynamically experienced in the Christian life and in the life of the Christian community.

  4. The Holy Spirit is God's personal presence dwelling in His people.

  5. Paul is trinitarian (may sound trite, but a number of New Testament scholars doubt this).

  6. Salvation in Christ is trinitarian. (By this he means that the Holy Spirit plays a vital role in the salvation process. "The effectual realization and appropriation of the love of God as offered by the Son is singularly the work of the Spirit.")

  7. From beginning to end, the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential to the Christian life.

  8. The Holy Spirit is key to Christian spirituality.

I was introduce to Fee's work through James Dunn's The Theology of Paul the Apostle. When it comes to Paul's theology of the Spirit, Dunn more or less endorses Fee. Indeed, Fee's work fits nicely within the New Perspective on Paul (although I don't know if Fee would call himself New Perspective).

Reading Fee's work has opened my eyes to the role of the Spirit in the Christian life. It's not that I doubted it before, but I don't think I grasped the prominence that the Paul gave the Spirit in his theology. The work of the Holy Spirit in the church and in our lives is the primary way in which we "experience" God today. I don't think that it is inappropriate to say that our faith is in some ways grounded in our experience of the Spirit.

I just bought James Dunn's new book on early Christianity, volume 2 of his Christianity in the Making series. Volume 1 was about "the search for the historical Jesus," and volume 2 is about "the search for the historical early church." I am excited about it.

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