The collocation of Philippians 1:2

I am reposting this since I think it got overlooked:

Gordon Fee in his IVP commentary on the Philippians writes regarding Philippians 1:2:

philippiansIn a profound sense this greeting nicely represents Paul’s larger theological perspective.  The sum total of God’s activity towards his human creatures is found in the word grace; God has given himself to his people bountifully and mercifully in Christ.   Nothing is deserved, nothing can be achieved.  The sum total of those benefits as they are expereinced by the recipients of God’s grace is peace, God’s shalom, both now and to come.  The latter flows out of the former, and both together flow from God our Father and were made effective in our human history through the Lord Jesus Christ

The collocation of the Father and Son in such texts as these must not be overlooked.  In the theology of Paul, whose central concern is salvation in Christ, God the Father is understood to initiate such salvation and his glory is its ultimate reason for being.  Christ is the One through whom God’s salvation has been effected in history.  But texts such as this one, where Father and Son are simply joined by the conjunction and as equally the source of grace and peace, and many others as well, make it clear that in Paul’s mind the Son is truly god and works in cooperation with the Father and the Spirit for the redemption of the people of God (43-44). 

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I remember noticing this possibility when I was learning NT Greek at my home church back in Washington.   I think in my case I was noticing the preposition απο in Galatians 1:3 that grace and peace come “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  I was warned not to make too much of it, but when I see this comment by a premier NT Scholar, who happens to also be a Pentecostal, I take encouragement to know I was thinking in the right way. 

I preached this very thing this Sunday I and I think it went well – I just talked about grace and peace in as simple of terms as I could and then showed how they come only from God and that our ability to show grace to others is only because we have ourselves received grace from God and understand that.   I also shared about how when we step out of the grace of God we tend to not be at peace because peace is the benefit of walking in the grace of God.  When we step out of that we start to worry, fret, have trouble, and all sorts of other things.  When we walk in the grace and the mercy of God, however, those kinds of things tend to be minimized since we are at peace, which comes when we walk in grace and so on. 

This kind of greeting is important to because in Philippians Paul exhorts the believers to be unified and to be humble and concerned for each others needs and to be joyful in the midst of suffering or persecution.  These kinds of things are not possible if we are not walking in the grace of God and have peace in our hearts as a result – when we are not in grace we grumble, complain, argue, become selfish, not care for others and so on.  So I think knowing the benefits of grace and peace are important to understand if we are to understand the book of Philippians or if we are to understand what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ and to live accordingly. 

Be Blessed!

New Book: Listening to the Spirit in the Text

listening-to-the-spiritAt the AZ District Council this last week, I was browsing the bookstore at the church building where we met and saw that it was the typical church book store – a few Bibles (believe it or not, both TNIV’s and ESV’s were sold here so that was a plus in showing balance) and then mostly books geared to the average reader (popular level).  As usual they had the “Left Behind” shelf, I suppose, to sell stuff more than anything, but really they need to be more careful about what they sell – we want to educate people in the church not denigrate them.  Of course too, there was next to nothing on the scholarly side except….  Gordon Fee’s Listening to the Spirit in the Text (Eerdman’s, 2000)!  Perhaps they had Fee’s How to Read the Bible for All it’s Worth and maybe the How to Choose a Translation book, but I can’t remember for sure.   So, what did I do?  Of course, I bought Listening to the Spirit When you find a book like this, and it’s the only copy they have, if you snooze, you lose

To me it seems like this would be a great text use in an exegetical methods class at the graduate level because it is the model of nearly supreme exegetical method and application by none other than one of the leading NT scholars in the world today, Gordon D. Fee.  Also, solid exegetical method requires that we listen to the Holy Spirit and what he is saying in and through the Biblical text.  I look forward to sitting and drinking in the wealth of exposition found in these pages.   One will have to be careful – he’s a Pentecostal!  What?   A Pentecostal who is among the leading New Testament Scholars in the world today??!! How can that be?  Well, there’s another one people hardly realize, (probably), Craig Keener, of whom I imagine many a pastor has his IVP Bible Background Commentary on their shelves.  There are others out there too you know, they just don’t necessarily go about waving their “I’m a Pentecostal” flag in everyone’s face as some Pentecostals tend to do. 

So what kind of book is it?  It is a complation of essays that are both written to be read in a book or a common journal (Regent College’s journal Crux) and written to be read for a lecture – he notes he intentionally resisted editing his manuscripts for the book – he wanted to keep the feel of the lectures and not smooth them out for the book.  These essays reflect on things, that at the time, Fee had been reflecting on in his own thinking – primarily, they reflect Fee’s “interests in Pauline studies and especially in the role of the Spirit in Paul’s own spiritual life and in that of his churches” (vii).  His first chapter gets a the very heart of things for him: “that the Spiritituality of the biblical text should be part of our historical investigation – and obedeince – as New Testament exegetes” (vii).

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?

Is Evangelical theology, Pauline theology?

Robert Menzies in his book Spirit and Power, co-authored with his father William Menzies, discusses an issue in hermeneutics – the role of narrative in forming theology. Typically, in the past narrative has been mostly viewed as historical and not theological – that instead narrative provides the historical basis for theological formulations. However, in time biblical scholars have come to see what most of the rest of us probably already knew, that narrative is often both historical and theological, history but with a purpose. Interestingly, many have been okay with this in regards to the Old Testament narratives, but when it comes to the book of Acts they break the rules and insist that it is only a historical account of the early church. They contradict themselves.

Anyways all that to highlight an interesting point he makes when interacting with a claim Gordon Fee makes in his book, How to Read the Bible for all its Worth where he states: “unless the Scriptures explicitly tell us we must do something, what is narrated or described can never function in a normative way.” (this is footnoted from pg 97 of the 1981 edition – I have no idea if this was changed in response to Menzies or not). So Menzies goes on to respond with a barrage of questions,

“Today, for many, it is difficult to imagine how such a restrictive approach came to be axiomatic for Evangelical interpretation. After all, doesn’t this principle sound very much like a canon within a canon? Doesn’t much of the theology of the Old Testament come to us in the form of narrative? Didn’t Jesus himself often teach by relating stories or parables? Doesn’t such a theory tend to reduce the Gospels and Acts (as well as other narrative portions of Scripture) to a mere appendage to didactic portions of Scripture, particularly Paul’s letters? (Perhaps this explains the overwhelmingly Pauline character of much of Evangelical theology. When all is said and done, has not Evangelical theology tended to be Pauline theology?) In any event, even the most casual reader cannot help feeling the tension with 2 Timothy 3:16. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (pg. 38-39).

So the question becomes, is Evangelical theology indeed, Pauline theology? What do you make of this quote?

If Gordon Fee was a Pastor

In his book, Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God, Fee recalls a time when during a coffee hour at Regent College, one of his students asked, “If you were to return to the pastoral ministry, what would you do [meaning, How would you go about it? What would you emphasize?]?” Gordon Fee’s answer was without hesitation:

No matter how long it might take, I would set about with a single passion to help a local body of believers recapture the New Testament church’s understanding of itself as an eschatological community pg49.

If we could do that here, that would be completely amazing!

by the way, Nick will probably want to move this to the top of his list when he realizes there is a chapter called ‘The Spirit and the Trinity’ – a topic not often explored in Trinitarian discussions.