The Natural Supernatural
Would Paul be a leader in the current signs-and-wonders movement? In some ways, yes, says Gordon Fee, professor of New Testament at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. In his recent book, God's Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Hendrickson, 1994), he argues that the Holy Spirit is the key to Paul's life and thought. Christian History talked with Fee about the role spiritual experience played in the church of Paul's day.
Christian History: Many Christians don't naturally think of Paul as someone who had a regular and active "Spirit-life." Why is that?
Gordon Fee: By and large, Protestants think theologically, and then almost completely in terms of soteriology—what does it mean to be saved? We've read Paul through the lens of his letters to Galatia and Rome, where the issue was justification by faith. We've read these texts so often we tend to understand Paul only as a theologian.
But Paul was a person of prayer before he was a theologian. His desire was not to be a precise theologian but to know Christ personally. That was the passion of his life. Any reading of Paul that doesn't take that seriously, doesn't understand Paul.
If you had asked Paul to define what a Christian is, he would not have said, "A Christian is a person who believes X and Y doctrines about Christ," but "A Christian is a person who walks in the Spirit, who knows Christ." He wouldn't have denied the importance of doctrine, but it would not have been the first thing he would have mentioned.
Christian History: What religious experiences were most important to Paul?
For Paul, everything began on the Damascus Road. About that experience, he said, "I saw the Lord." He considered that a resurrection appearance of the same ...