Friday, August 21, 2015

I (Still) Believe: Gordon Fee

Here is the fifth post on John Byron and Joel Lohr's, I (Still) BelievePrevious posts include:

Richard Bauckham
Walter Brueggemann
Ellen Davis
James Dunn

1. Today's scholar of faith is Gordon Fee. I really enjoyed reading his story for a number of reasons. First, his background is most similar to mine of anyone so far, even more than Dunn. Fee grew up Assemblies of God in the forties and fifties. I grew up in old fashioned Wesleyan circles with parents only about ten years older than him.

A second point of interest is the fact that I have used his How to Use the Bible for All Its Worth now in the seminary for six years. I have long suspected that I have been reading somewhat of a reaction to the free-wheeling "spiritual" interpretation of his youth. He doesn't present it exactly that way (he attributes his interest in context more to his father), but you can see it was definitely a factor in his development.

Finally, I am sad to see that even as conservative and evangelically solid a person as Fee has faced the hounding of the ignorant. First he was forced to leave Vanguard University in the early 60s because he wasn't teaching the "right" interpretation of Revelation (the university later made it up to him by letting him stay there to write his commentary on 1 Corinthians).

Then he watched a number of Bible professors get in trouble at Gordon Conwell in the seventies. He himself was examined by the Assemblies of God church three times and was exonerated each time. This is such a problem with confessional institutions. The Assemblies of God church was robbed of a world class scholar, as mainstream evangelical institutions like Wheaton and Gordon-Conwell grabbed him up.

2. I don't think anyone questions Fee's faith. You can tell that during some of his life he fell into the bane of the scholar--putting too big an emphasis on "getting it right." Many a scholar has fought unnecessary battles over what is correct as a scholar rather than what is edifying or beneficial. Fee states clearly that people ultimately matter more than getting it right on the details.

Read the chapter to hear of his father's influence on him and his attempt to overcome an environment where the choice was said to be between being a "scholar on ice" or a "fool on fire." He determined to be a "scholar on fire."

3. In class, the kind of student that comes to Wesley Seminary usually likes Fee and Stuart's book. Fee reads all the biblical texts in context, takes genre into account, and provides hermeneutical principles that make sense to someone broadening from a fundamentalist into an evangelical. On the other hand, he drives some of my colleagues nuts.

I think, though, that he is a great starting point. I think we must move beyond him, to a second naivete. But you cannot see the "beyond" meaning of the biblical texts safely until you have first passed through the fires of context. And as those fires go, he is pretty tame.

A delightful testimony from a scholar who is also "on fire" for God.

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