In response to an excellent statement left on the last post, I thought I would see if eminent, Pentecostal New Testament scholar, Gordon Fee, had anything to say about the 'center' of Paul's theology.
As alluded to above, any discussion of Paul's theological center almost always ignores what Paul has to say concerning the Spirit. One scholar who cannot be charged with this is Gordon Fee. In his massive monumental work, God's Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, Fee reviews the proposals such as 'justification by faith,' and 'in Christ,' and finds them too limiting.
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 comprises 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 this another way:
- The foundation: A gracious and merciful God, who is full of love toward all.
- The framework: Eschatological existence 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 who is now the exalted Lord and coming King.
- The fruit: The church as an eschatological community, who, constituted by Christ's death and the gift of the Spirit, and thus restored into God's likeness, form God's new covenant people. (italics original; 12)
After reviewing the various recent proposals by Pauline scholars, is it possible to arrive at any consensus? Is it possible or even desirable to attempt to articulate the center of Paul's theology? Are the letters too ad-hoc to even make this a possibility? Just some thoughts to ponder...