on Pentecostal Hermeneutics

For those who may be wondering how Pentecostals go about interpreting the Bible – the Assemblies of God’s Enrichment Journal, which goes out quarterly to all licensed and ordained ministers in the Assemblies, but that can also be viewed online, has an article (written about 10 years ago) by Roger Stronstad summarizing different elements or currents trends of Pentecostal Hermeneutics.  I hadn’t seen it so it was interesting even for me to read – I was familiar with some of it but not all of it.  lol.

In the article you’ll see one call the “pragmatic” hermeneutic.  This portion gives you a little bit of history as to how the whole thing got started, well, at least a key even that seemed to really catapult the movement forward in a significant way.  There were workings of the Holy Spirit going on all over the world at the time, but this and other events leading to the Azusa Revival seem to be the most well known.   It is interesting too that this is listed first in the summary because really, the heart of Pentecostal theology, which can be really diverse with no one single simple definition, is pragmatics (used here in the sense of relating to practical considerations).  In too many ways, its both a good and a bad thing.

Here is an excerpt:

As Martin Luther is the fountainhead of Lutheranism, John Calvin of Reformed Theology, and John Wesley of Methodism, so Charles F. Parham stands as the fountainhead of Pentecostalism. Parham was not the first to speak in tongues. In one sense that honor goes to Miss Agnes N. Ozman.  In another sense, the birth of the Pentecostal movement is the climax to the growing swell of charismatic experiences among various revival and Apostolic Faith movements. What makes Charles F. Parham the father of Pentecostalism, Topeka, Kansas, the locus of Pentecostalism, and Agnes Ozman, the first Pentecostal, is not the uniqueness of this experience, but the new hermeneutical/biblical understanding of this experience.

Charles F. Parham bequeathed to the Pentecostal movement its definitive hermeneutics, and consequently, its definitive theology and apologetics. His contribution arose out of the problem of the interpretation of the second chapter of Acts and his conviction that Christian experience in the 20th century “should tally exactly with the Bible, [but] neither sanctification nor the anointing that abideth … tallied with the 2nd chapter of Acts.” Consequently he reports, “I set the students at work studying out diligently what was the Bible evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost that we might go before the world with something that was indisputable because it tallied absolutely with the Word.” He tells the results of their investigation in the following words: “Leaving the school for three days at this task, I went to Kansas City for three days services. I returned to the school on the morning preceding Watch Night service in the year 1900.

“At about 10:00 o’clock in the morning I rang the bell calling all the students into the Chapel to get their report on the matter in hand. To my astonishment they all had the same story, that while there were different things occurring when the Pentecostal blessing fell, the indisputable proof on each occasion was, that they spoke with other tongues.”5

In Parham’s report we find the essential distinctives of the Pentecostal movement, namely, (1) the conviction that contemporary experience should be identical to apostolic Christianity, (2) the separation of the baptism in the Holy Spirit from sanctification (as Holiness movements had earlier separated it from conversion/incorporation), and (3) that tongues speaking is the indisputable evidence or proof of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Well, be that as it may, I find it all very interesting and really, given the context, I don’t think you can really blame Parham for wanting to know what was the source of the Apostles zeal.  I think too his quest for “Bible evidence” is evident of the times he lived in – people were big then on wanting empirical evidence for things and in this case it morphed a bit in to wanting “physical” evidence for knowing without a doubt one is in fact baptized in the Holy Spirit.  Agree or disagree with this approach, I don’t think we can fault them for that.  He was a man of his time really.  And this is really the root of much Pentecostal theology and understanding of Spirit Baptism – that there is going to be “evidence” for it.

Well, feel free to give it a read and or let me know what you think.

Blessings,

Some new books

Thank you to the anonymous donor of a few new books that showed up in my mailbox yesterday!!  (Well, I hope they were for me and not sent to my address on accident!  lol!)  It was very gracious of you, kind person!   Thanks so much I really appreciate it!

Here is what they are:

Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (IVP).

Gordon Fee’s New Testament Exegesis (WJK).

Gordon Fee’s Paul, the Spirit and the People of God (Baker).

Jurgen Moltman’s The Trinity and the Kingdom (Fortress).

So… pretty much , nothing less than the BEST!!  🙂

Gordon Fee on the Task of Exegesis

I was trying to figure out how long I have been blogging in one form or another (for a certain reason) and saw this post I put up on an old blog on July 15th, 2009.  I thought I would repost it, and put it out there for you all (might seem kind of ridiculous now, but it was what I thought then (ps my very first ever blog post was on May 2, 2005):

A friend put up a post I want to copy here from Gordon Fee that he titles “a word of advice to bibliobloggers”:

I want to say with great vigour that even though the first task of the exegete is the historical one (to determine the biblical author’s intended meaning), this first task is not the ultimate one.  The ultimate task, and now I repeat myself, is the Spiritual one, to hear the text in such a way that it leads its reader/hearer into the worship of God and into conformity to God and his ways.

-Gordon Fee, Listening to the Spirit in the Text, (Eerdmanns, Grand Rapids, MI, 2000, p.11)

—————————–

Here is a question I have:

If exegesis does not lead us to the worship of, and a deeper more intimate knoweldge of, God, is it then an idol, something that sets itself against the knowledge of God?

Now, I know this is not always the case but I wonder if it could be the case for some people in some instances?   Could some be more interested in knowledge of the Bible and it’s teachings than necessarily the One to whom the Bible points?

I would assert that, yessome are more interested in knoweldge of the Bible for it’s own sake and that for them the task of exegesis is not a spiritual one by any means but a strictly historical or literary one and so therefore it does not lead them to a deeper worship and or a more intimate knoweldge of the Holy One.

So for these, yes, exegesis is a kind of idolatry

Gordon Fee on 2 Corinthians 13:14

He writes in his book To What End Exegesis?: Essays Textual, Exegetical, and Theological (Eerdmans 2001), 333, 334:

At the heart of Paul’s theology is his gospel, and his gospel is essentially about salvation – God’s saving a people for his name through the redeeming work of Christ and the appropriating work of the Spirit.  Paul’s encounter with God in salvation, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, alone accounts for the expansion and transformation of his theological language of God and of God’s saving work.  In light of this reality and the great number of texts that support it – with trinitarian language – these passages rightly serve as the starting point for any study of the Trinity in Paul.

The remarkable grace-benediction of 2 Cor. 13:14 offers us all kinds of theological keys to Paul’s understanding of salvation, and of God himself.  The fact that the benediction is composed and intended for the occasion, rather than as a broadly applicable formula, only increases its importance in hearing Paul.  This what he says here in prayer appears in a thoroughly presuppositional way – no at something Paul argues for, but as the assumed, experienced reality of Christian life.

First, it summarizes the core elements of Paul’s unique passion: the gospel, with its focus on salvation in Christ, equally available by faith to Gentile and hew.  That the love of God is the foundation of Paul’s view of salvation is stated with passion and clarity in passages such as Rom. 5:1-11; 831-39; and Eph 1:3-14.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is what gave concrete expression to that love; through Christ’s suffering and death on behalf of his loved ones, God accomplished salvation for them at one moment in human history.

The participation in the Holy Spirit continually actualizes that love and grace in the life of the believer and the believing community.  The koinonia, (“fellowship/participation in”) of the Holy Spirit is how the living God not only brings people into an intimate an abiding relationship with himself, as the God of all grace but also causes them to participate in all the benefits of that grace and salvation – that is, by indwelling them in the present with his own presence, and guaranteeing their final eschatological glory.

Second, this text also serves as our entrée into Paul’s understanding of God himself, which had been so radically affected by the twin realities of the death and resurrection of Christ and the gift of the Spirit.  Granted, Paul does not here assert the deity of Christ and the Spirit.  What he does is to equate the activity of the three divine persons (to use the language of a later time) in concert and in prayer, with the clause about God the Father standing in second place(!).  This suggests that Paul was in fact trinitarian in any meaningful sense of that term – that the believer knows and experiences the one God as Father, Son, and Spirit, and that when dealing with Christ and the Spirit one is dealing with God every bit as much as when one is dealing with the Father.

Thus, this benediction, while making a fundamental distinction between God, Christ, and Spirit, also expresses in shorthand form what is found everywhere throughout his letters, namely, that “salvation in Christ” is the co-operative work of God, Christ, and the Spirit.

Get it?  Got it?  Good!  🙂

 

on the intertextuality of Philippians 2:14-18

if you are into this kind of stuff, which can be pretty interesting to see how it works, Gordon Fee says its “quite unlike anything else in the Pauline corpus” (241-242).  Here goes from Fee’s Philippians commentary in the NICNT set (a must have commentary):

The abrupt way is ministry is brought into the sentence, with it eschatological focus – also a recurring theme in the letter – is perhaps best explained on the basis of its most striking feature: the sudden and profuse influx of echos from the OT, which is quite unlike anything else in the Pauline corpus.   So unique is this that one scarcely knows what to make of it.  A maximal  view would see it as intentional intertextuality, with distinct language from a series of LXX text that recall the story of Israel from its origins, through the desert, to its eschatological hope.  A minimal view would see it as the outflow of a mind steeped in Scripture and Israel’s story as it has been regularly applied to the new people of God.

The data: It begins with v. 14 with Israel’s “murmuring” (Exod 16:12 et al.): the Philippians are urged not to do so.  The reason for the prohibition is first expressed in the words God spoke to Abraham at the renewal of the covenant in Gen 17:1; as with the father of the covenant, the Philippians are to “become blameless” before God.  This concern is then repeated in the language of Deut 32:5, where in the Song of Moses Israel is judged on account of its rebellion as “blameworthy children, a crooked and perverse generation” (LXX); but for the new covenant people of Philippi all of this is now reversed: by heeding to prohibition against “murmuring,” they become “God’s blameless children,” and the opposition in Philippi the “crooked and perverse generation.”

Finally, in Dan 12:3 Israel’s eschatological hope takes the form: “the wise shall shine as luminaries (phosteres),” with the parallel clause in the Hebrew (MT) adding, “and those who lead many to righteousness as the stars” (for which the LXX has, “those who hold strong to my words“); from the perspective of Paul’s “already/not yet” eschatological framework, the Philippians, as they live out their calling as God’s blameless children, already “shine as stars” as they “hold firm to the word of life.”

The eschatological context of Daniel in turn accounts for Paul’s concluding with a word about the “not yet” side of eschatological realities: the Philippians must persevere (now) in this kind of obedience or Paul will have no “boast” at the end; indeed, he will have “labored in vain” (yet another clause echoing OT language [esp Isa 65:23, “my chosen ones will not labor in vain“]).   Finally, in contrast to that, and now with no specific text in view, he images his ministry and suffering, and their faith and suffering, in terms of the levitical sacrifices (242). 

It’s breathtaking really.  I take the minimalist view on this: Paul was a person who lived and breathed the Old Testament story of God’s people and that this narrative merely reflects that reality.  Fee goes on to share:

But what to do with this phenomenon?  On the one hand,  both its uniqueness in the corpus and the sudden profusion of language not found elsewhere in Paul suggests something more intentional than otherwise; moreover, it seems to “work” too well to be mere chance or coincidence.  On the other hand, this might be just our discovery, with nothing intentional on Paul’s part at all; afterall, he is a man steeped in the story of Israel and is quick to see its application to the people of God newly constituted by Christ at the Spirit.

Perhaps there is a middle way, that this reflects something sermonic or some former teaching (and is thus intentional in that sense), of a kind that Paul can draw on at will, and weave into a single, meaningful sentence that specifies the kind of obedience his is calling them to, while at the same time placing the imparative within the larger biblical framework that assures the Philippians of their place in God’s story (242-243).

Perhaps it’s just me, but I read this some time ago and it has been amazing to me to think about and it comes back to me now and again.

Pentecostalism and Scholarship Can Coexist!

Charisma Magazine interviewed Gordon Fee noting him as the first person with a Pentecostal background to earn a PhD in Biblical Studies.   You should read it!

If I manage to go further into biblical studies academically Fee would certainly be an inspiration along with Craig Keener, Ben Aker, the late Gary B. McGee, Keith Warrington, Gerald Hawthorne and a host of others out there who are Pentecostal biblical scholars or theologians.  I want to share a few quotes:

For the most part, though, Pentecostals remain resistant to—or indifferent toward—theology and scholarship. After all, modern Pentecostalism was birthed in spiritual experience, not intellectualism. As the movement spread, Pentecostals simply didn’t see a need for theological pursuits. “We don’t need scholars; we just need the Holy Spirit!” has been the mainstream Pentecostal cry for the last 100 years.
And this is a crying shame!  It gets so frustrating to see this – the anti-intellectualism going on in Pentecostalism with regard to biblical studies – to me it reveals quite a bit of insecurity.   Fee goes on to note:

The question is not do we need Bible scholars, but are we willing to embrace them?” Fee responds. “If we are willing to embrace someone with a Ph.D. in history, why not embrace someone with a Ph.D. in New Testament studies, which, after all, is a branch of history?”

Fee adds: “Having a Ph.D. has not stopped me from being Spirit-filled.”

And why should it?  Are we not a people of the Spirit?  Pentecostals need to realize we are all believers empowered by the Holy Spirit to engage the biblical text.  Yes, we Pentecostals need to embrace biblical scholarship not keep it at arms length.

On the issue of women in ministry (which we all know means women as lead pastors/elders) the article states:

Yet the arena of biblical interpretation, or “textual criticism” as it’s known in scholarly circles, can be a minefield of controversy. Fee has found himself repeatedly and unwittingly in the center of the debate over the role of women in ministry. After years of battling the issue, Fee is weary of confronting it. But he is adamant: God does gift women for ministry.

“It’s a given,” he says. “The real question is, Which comes first, gender or gifting? What [opponents of women in ministry] are trying to tell me is that gender comes above gifting. How can that be? The Spirit gives the gifting. If a woman stands and prophesies by the Spirit, and men are present, does the Spirit not speak to them? Come on! How dumb can you get?

His advocacy, Fee says, is on behalf of the Holy Spirit rather than women. “The Spirit is gifting women,” he says, “but many evangelicals are not prepared to adjust because of the ‘box’ they’re in.

“I’ve been blacklisted over this issue,” he adds. “People have said, We can’t have Fee speak because he’s pro-women.’ I am pro-Holy Spirit! I just can’t get over that some people think gender comes before gifting.”

And Fee just helped me with something here!  Yes, Yes, Yes!  Pentecostals aren’t necessarily pro women in ministry as they are pro living the Holy Spirit empowered and gifted life! This is the issue.  The Holy Spirit of God empowers all people irregardless of race, class or gender to do and to speak and live out the Word of God both in the church universal and in the world.   Thank you Dr. Fee for standing up for all people, especially the Pentecostals.

Great. Great article!

HT: Nick

Gordon Fee interview on Galatians

Nijay Gupta interviewed Gordon Fee in his recent commentary on Galatians in the Pentecostal Commentary series (not sure exactly how Pentecostal it is – it would hve been interesting to see a question about this).   As he notes, when one is 75 years old, and has been teaching on the book of Galatians in various settings over the last 40 years, it doesn’t take much to put something together, no?   And oooh, he’s finished up a work on the Revelation!  Won’t that be something?  I look forward too, to his updated work on 1 Corinthians, (no exegetical changes, just the notes and interacting with 25 years of comments on his work).   Looks like a good combo would be Fee and F.F. Bruce on Galatians!

Gordon Fee on Humility

In his commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, in explaining the phrases within verse 3, he writes regarding humility:

In further application of vv. 6-11, especially v.8, Paul here contrasts “selfish ambition and rivalry” with, “in humility consider others better than yourselves.”  “Humility” is a uniquely Christian virtue, which, as with the message of a crucified Messiah, stands in utter contradiction to the values of the Greco-Roman world, who generally considered not a virtue, but a shortcoming.  Here Paul’s roots are in the OT – and in Christ.  In the OT the term indicates “lowliness” in the sense of “creatureliness,” and the truly humble show so by resting their case with God rather than trusting their own strength and machinations. 

Here is where the application comes, where we need to understand how humility works:

Humility is thus not to be confused with false modesty, or with that kind of abject servility that only repulses, wherein the “humble one” by obsequiosness gains more self-serving attention than he or she could do otherwise.  Rather, it has to do with a proper estimation of oneself, the stance of the creature before the Creator, utterly dependant and trusting.  Here one is well aware both of one’s weaknesses and of one’s glory (we are in his image, after all), but makes neither too much nor too little of either.  True humility is therefore not self-focused at all, but rather, as further defined by Paul in v. 4, “looks not to one’s own concerns but to those of others”  (187-188).   

So, real humility is simply realizing that there is a God of the Universe who is in control of all things, and you are not him.  He alone is the Creator, you are the creature, so live accordingly.   Pride, the opposite of humility, tries to convince the fool that he or she is the creator who can tell the Creator what to do and how to do it or that he or she doesn’t need the Creator and that he can handle things on his or her own.  Humility in contrast then submits to the Creator and lets him guide his or her life.  He or she seeks only to serve the Creator and his creation, thereby serves not one’s own concerns but to those of others. 

Follow?