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Gordon Fee: Listening to the Spirit in the Text

Gordon D. Fee, Listening to the Spirit in the Text (Eerdmans, 2000), 180 pages, ISBN 9780802847577.

The Pentecostal/charismatic (P/C) pastor and teacher comes to the proclamation of Scripture with two critical issues in mind: the need to speak in such a way that he or she becomes transparent and God is seen in transforming power; and the opposite need to speak in such a way that the preacher’s own passion does not subtly misshape the message of Scripture. In other words, the need is to let the Spirit and only the Spirit speak to God’s own people.

Gordon Fee, longtime Pentecostal scholar and educator, sets out to aid the pastor/teacher in this crucial job by offering a collection of essays titled, Listening to the Spirit in the Text (LTST). Written over a period of 15 years, they demonstrate Fee’s passionate belief that “the ultimate aim of all true exegesis is spirituality, in one form or another” (p.5). This is balm to the weary P/C pastor’s heart. Fee defines what it means to be spiritual by saying that “True spirituality, therefore, is nothing more nor less than life by the Spirit.” (p.6) Therefore the aim of unpacking Scripture is,

to produce in our lives and the lives of others true Spirituality, in which God’s people live in fellowship with the eternal and living God, and thus in keeping with God’s own purposes. (p.6)

Fee asserts that proper exegesis cannot be done unless we understand and experience who God is in Christ Jesus just as the inspired penmen did. Having this understanding and experience is made possible only by the grace of God, mediated through the person of the Holy Spirit. Fee urges that for true exegesis, we must do more than merely recognize the spirituality of the Biblical authors. Participating in that spirituality, through study of the text, is what Fee longs for his readers to be doing.

Some of the essays deal with how one goes about properly interpreting the text, while the others demonstrate it in Fee’s own words. This is especially true in regards to the issues of women in ministry, spiritual gifts in the church, and the need for the laity to reclaim their role as the usual ministry within and without Christ’s body. Because LTST is a collection of essays demonstrating a consistent hermeneutic style, Fee can speak to the broad range of issues that plague the P/C movement from a firm biblical basis. The chapter on the Christian and wealth is particularly helpful for those grappling with the health and prosperity currents in the movement. Fee’s essay on the ministry of the laity constitutes a powerful antidote to the authoritarian streak of pastoral leadership that occasionally cripples local churches.

Throughout the collection, Fee’s leitmotif remains steady. True spirituality produces true exegesis resulting in true disciples. As Fee observes in the opening chapter, “true exegesis attempts to engage in the author’s Spirituality, not just in his or her words.” The Biblical authors invited us not to merely hear nice words about Christ, but to believe in and experience the reality of who God is in Christ. Those who would break the bread of life for others must invite others to do this as well if they “are to hear the text on Paul’s terms and not simply our own” (p.11).

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2002

About the Author: Steven J. Brooks, MA, MDiv (Bethel Seminary, St. Paul, MN), is the Director of Spiritual Formation at Veritas Academy. He has worked cross-culturally and cross-generationally as a pastor, chaplain and adjunct instructor at several Twin Cities colleges and leads the creation of Veritas Chapel, committed to the belief that a robust faith challenges the soul, the intellect and the emotions through study of the Word to produce fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.

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