Book Review: Fee’s Pauline Christology Part 5
For the series outline, click here.
Part 2: Fee's Synthesis
The second part of the book attempts a christological synthesis of the matter analysed in the first part, with a view to understanding Paul's Christology also as it relates to his theology. He wants to synthesise the many disparate parts of Paul's Christology detailed in Part 1, and to do this he thematically gathers the relevant material in the following chapters.
Chapter 11: 'Christ, the divine Savior'. Fee is persuaded that 'to keep faith with the apostle himself, the beginning point will have to be Christ as Savior' (481). This chapter includes examination of Christ's role in salvation plus a short look at the place of 'Christ devotion' in Paul. The former is tied to Christ's pre-existence to emphasise christological significance. The latter is interesting enough to detail in more depth - even though it only fills a few pages in Fee's book. He argues: 'This "Christ devotion" in Paul's theology takes two forms: personal devotion to Christ himself and devotion in the sense of the community's offering worship to Christ as Lord – both are full of christological presuppositions' (488).
First, Christ as object of personal devotion. For Paul, having grown up in a devout Diaspora home, Paul would have known by rote the first commandment. Despite the fact that the language of the first commandment is lacking, at least so Fee claims, Paul gives this devotion now to Christ, especially 'whenever he speaks longingly of his and his church's eschatological future' (488). Fee's concrete arguments to support this 'personal devotion' are as follows: i) Paul's letters are thoroughly christocentric. This claim is developed such that Fee claims:
'In Paul's radically changed worldview, everything is done in relation to Christ. The church exists "in Christ", and everything that believers do is "for Christ", "by Christ", "through Christ", and "for Christ's sake"' (489)
These more generalised formulations find explicit expression in the following: in Paul's language concerning the benefit of single life (cf. 1 Cor 7:32-35) and in the boasting in and knowing Christ language (Phil 3). Importantly, Fee notes:
'The christological significance of this can scarcely be gainsaid, since these words are written by one whose religious heritage includes the Psalter, where this kind of devotion is offered exclusively to Yahweh' (489).
It is also finds expression in Paul's longing to be with Christ in God's final eschatological future (489-90). Finally, Fee notes the significance of the christological grace benedictions in this context.
Second, Christ as object of worship. Fee notes three expressions of such 'worship' of Christ in the Pauline corpus. i) the Lord's Table which is 'the Christian version of a meal in honor of a deity' (491). This is then tied to the association of this meal with the Passover meal, and the divine judgments against those who dishonour the deity at this meal. Fee concludes that everything about the Lord's Supper material especially in 1 Cor 11 'assumes and asserts the highest kind of Christology; and all of this in direct relationship with Christ as divine Savior' (492). ii) Singing hymns to and about Christ. Fee supports this claim with reference to material in Eph and Col, concluding that 'Christ often assumes the dual role of being sung to and sung about – precisely as in the Psalter, whose hymns are both addressed to and inform about God' (493). iii) Prayer addressed to Christ. Drawing upon material in 1 and 2 Thess, 1 Cor 16:22 and 2 Cor 12:8-10 Fee notes: 'such devotion to Christ is in many ways more telling theologically than actual "theological statements" themselves' (494 – here he approving notes Hurtado that theology surely arises out devotion to Christ, in n. 29). What has this to do with Christology as Fee defines it? '[T]he worship is both because of what he [Christ] did for us and especially because of who he is as divine Savior.