Gordon Fee on “the center” of Pauline theology

Though Gordon Fee wrote his massive work on Paul’s theology of the Holy Spirit way back in 1994 titled God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Hendrickson, 1994), he discusses why he thinks “the center” of Paul’s theology remains elusive.  If I understand correctly, this center is still under debate and still as elusive today as it always has been.  He writes on page 12:

It is my conviction that the reason the center is so “elusive” is that Paul’s theology covers too much ground for one to simplify it into a single phrase.  It would seem far better for us to isolate the essential elements of his theology that lie at the very heart of matters for Paul and around which all other concerns cluster.  In such a view, at least four items must be included:

  • The church as an eschatological community, which compirses the new covenant people of God;
  • The eschatological framework of God’s people’s existence and thinking;
  • Their being constituted by God’s eschatological salvation effected through the death and resurrection of Christ;
  • Their focus on Jesus as Messiah, Lord, and Son of God.

To put it another way:

  • The foundation: A gracious and merciful God, who is full of love toward all.
  • The framework: Eschatological exzistence as already but not yet.
  • The focus: Jesus, the Son of God, who as God’s suffering servant Messiah effected eschatological salvation for humanity through his death and resurrection, and is now the exalted Lord and coming King.
  • The fruit: The church as an eschatological community, who, consistituted byt Christ’s death and the gift of the Spirit, and this restored into God’s likeness, form God’s new coveant people.

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Note: unless I missed it, I didn’t see “justification by faith” anywhere on the list….  not that it isn’t important but is it possible we over play that card?