May 28, 2023

Gordon Fee


I was 25 when I entered Gordon Conwell Seminary. Three years of campus ministry in tandem with my wife Chris showed me how little I knew of the Bible, Christian theology and leading a church. My introductory New Testament class was taught by Dr. Gordon Fee (1934-2010). I was surprised to learn that he was a Pentecostal. I had formed negative impressions of Pentecostals as hand-waving, tongue-speaking, overbearing enthusiasts. I first met Dr. Fee on the basketball court. He was a credible power forward with a better than average jump shot. He can’t be all bad, I thought to myself. Someone told me he wrote his doctoral dissertation on Papyrus 66. “What’s that?” I had to ask. Any remnant of my defective stereotype was laid to rest in class. Dr. Fee was a first-rate scholar with a servant’s heart. We were reading his textbooks! What I remember most about Dr. Fee were his prayers to begin class. I felt as if I was in the presence of someone who genuinely walked with God. There was nothing rote or perfunctory about his praying. Over the past four months, nearly every believer featured in this prayer exercise has been someone I never knew. Most were long gone before I came along. Today’s focus centers on someone I knew well. He used to tell us that the proper aim of all good theology is doxology. I came recently across a quote from Dr. Fee’s class, “The key to life in the Spirit is to spend more quiet time in thanksgiving and praise for what God has done and is doing and promises to do–and less time in introspection focusing on your failure to match up to the law.”  I bet you can think of teachers who had a significant role in your growth and faith development.  Thomas Aquinas, who some have called the patron saint of scholars, leads us in praying to God as the source of all knowledge:

Creator of all things,true Source of light and wisdom,
lofty origin of all being,
graciously let a ray of Your brilliance
penetrate into the darkness of my understanding,
and take from me the double darkness
in which I have been born,
an obscurity of both sin and ignorance.
Give me a sharp sense of understanding,
a retentive memory,
and the ability to grasp things correctly and fundamentally.
Grant me the talent to express myself with thoroughness and charm.
Point out the beginning,
direct the progress,
and help in completion,
through Christ our Lord.


Rev. Dr. Peter James served 42 years as the senior of Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, VA — 21 years in the 20th century and 21 years in the 21st century. He retired in 2021 and now serves as Pastor-in-Residence at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Even as a pastor, prayer came slowly to Pete. Read Pete’s story.