Don Howell's "God-Christ Interchange in Paul: Impressive Testimony to the Deity of Christ" in terms of Dogmas, Doctrines, Distinctives, and Details.*
Dogmas. Howell addresses the Biblical support within Pauline literature for the affirmation of Christ's deity, and subsequently his role within the Trinity. This is a Dogma level issue because it is crucial to the Gospel message God emplaced as part of his plan for the salvation of mankind. Since the paper largely provides scriptural evidence for orthodox Christology, the entire review could be considered under this category. However, since not all the evidence of Christ's divinity is necessary to proclaim it, the line between Dogma and Doctrine becomes blurred as some (and not always the same), but not all biblical evidence is necessary for God to save (for the sake of this review they will be treated below).
Howell presupposes a high view of scripture since it is used almost exclusively to support each of the language-interchange categories presented into Pauline literature.
Doctrines. The theory of God-Christ interchange-language presents a much stronger and uniform case for reconstructing Paul's theological assertion for Christ's divinity. As Howell mentions, the only two verses “that clearly designate Christ as theos” (467) can feel insufficient for such an important claim, and two passages can easily be debated or explained away by scholars who wish to refute orthodox Christology. To dispute Paul's interchangeable usage of Christ with roles, activities, and characteristics solely applicable to God for a Palestinian Jew is a far more challenging endeavor which would require the complete dismantling or re-imagining of Paul's works.
The language supportive of the God-Christ interchange, whether “appellations, attributes, the goal of creation, execution of eschatological judgment, salvation..., the object of faith and hope, source of spiritual benefits...including the Holy Spirit, ...believer's accountability, possessor Church and Kingdom, recipient of prayer, blessing, glory and thanks, and the source of the apostolic commission...” (478) is here treated as Doctrine. It is placed here since it essential to the support of orthodoxy, but it need not affect orthopraxy of believers in the sense that they need not confess or necessarily understand all of the evidence in order to understand its conclusion.
Distinctives. Howell employs a vast number of verse lists to support his claim that Paul interchanges the language of God and Christ throughout his works. Scholars have the freedom to disagree with a verse given in any particular supportive set. However, if any one, or a handful of, verse(s) are found to be exegetically invalid, then that one verse shall be deemed to be severable from the balance of the paper and the severed verse(s) will not affect the validity and theological significance of the remaining verses. While an ambitious scholar may set out to question the exegesis of every supportive verse listed in an attempt to refute Howell's position, any such attempt would have to operate under different presuppositions in order to do so, and thus elevate it to a Dogma level issue.
The same concept applies if disagreement arises over one of the categories of interchange-language (i.e. Eastern Orthodox might disagree with the full import of God-Christ “as the executor of eschatological judgment” (471)).
Howell recognizes the provisional effectiveness of proof-texting, though rightly does not disregard the method out-of-hand (467) since a plenary verbal inspiration view of scripture must account for claims made be even a single text.
Details. The reasoning behind why Paul used language-interchange in lieu of direct assertions of Christ's divine status (due to his formerly polytheistic pagan audience) would have been a positive addition to strengthen the article.
*Dogmas are theories directly impacting God's mission to reconcile all people to Himself (orthodoxy & orthopraxy required).
Doctrines indirectly impact God's mission (and are thus vitally important), but people can fail to interact with or understand them accurately (essential to orthodoxy, not orthopraxy).
Distinctives don't affect the orthopraxy of salvation, but will impact the orthopraxy of a church.
Details have little to no effect on orthodoxy or orthopraxy.
Leave a Reply.