Friday, January 30, 2015

Fridays with Fee: Part I

Gordon Fee (image created by Matthew D. Montonini)
Last week, I introduced a series, "Fridays with Fee," in which I will be working through Gordon Fee's classic commentary, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, now in revised form (Eerdmans).

One of the sparkling features of this commentary is the sense in which the reader is captured by the drama unfolding in the letter known to us as First Corinthians. Fee is adept at walking the reader through step-by-step through each section, each verse, each significant Greek word (as well as the more technical footnotes on variants and the like), enabling a reading that sees the forest through the trees.

It is truly remarkable and fitting that Fee's wisdom is on full display in these 900 plus pages, due to the theme of wisdom that is the hallmark of this Pauline letter. Without further ado, I'd like to share some of Fee's quotables on various verses I was able to read up on this week.

1Cor 1:20d: "Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?"

...The cross is foolishness to the perishing(v.18), but by means of it God has himself thereby rendered as foolish the world's wisdom, wisdom that belongs merely to the sphere of human self-sufficiency. God has not simply made such wisdom appear foolish; by means of the cross God has actually turned the tables on such wisdom altogether, so that it has been made into its very opposite--foolishness (75).
1 Cor 1:21: "For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe."

Paul asserts that is was within the province of God's own wisdom that things have been so arranged. He does not explain how so here, but the reason seems clear. A God discovered by human wisdom will be both a projection of human falleness and a source of human pride, and this constitutes the worship of the creature, not the Creator. The gods of the 'wise' are seldom gracious to the undeserving, and they tend to make considerable demands in the ability of people to understand them; hence they become gods only for the elite and 'deserving' (76).
1 Cor 1:25: "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."

In the cross God 'outsmarted' his human creatures and thereby nullified their wisdom. In the same cross God also 'overpowered' his enemies, with lavish grace and forgiveness, and thereby divested them of their strength.
Thus played out before human eyes is the scandalous and contradictory wisdom of God. Had God consulted us for wisdom we could have given him a more workable plan, something that would attract the sign-seeker and the lover of wisdom. As it is, in God's own wisdom we were left out of the consultation. We are thus also left with the awful risk: trust God and be saved by his wise folly, or keep up our pretensions and perish. Better the former, because this 'weakness of God is stronger than [human] strength'; it accomplishes that which all human pretensions cannot do. It brings one into 'fellowship with God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (v.9; 81).
1Cor 1:26: "Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth."

...sociology is not Paul's concern; his is theological, and he is capitalizing on the less-than-pretentious social standing of the majority--which at the same time may have had philosophical overtones--to make his point, What Celsus saw as the shame of Christianity, Paul saw as its greater glory. By bringing 'good news to the poor' through his Son, God has forever aligned himself with the disenfranchised; at the same time we have played out before our eyes God's own overthrow of the world's standards. Every middle-class or upper-class domestication of the gospel is therefore a betrayal of that gospel (86).
1 Cor 2:4: "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power."
 ...the purpose of the Spirit's coming was not to transport one above the present age, but to empower one to live within it (101).

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