Essentials & Non-Essentials: Confidence in the Spirit as Governing Ethos of the Pauline Mission
Don Howell's "Pauline Thought in the History of Interpretation" in terms of Dogmas, Doctrines, Distinctives, and Details.*
Dogmas. Howell indirectly affirms the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Trinity and directly asserts the necessary role of the Holy Spirit in a person's salvation through conviction, conversion, sanctification, and wise exercise of Spiritual gifts (214).
Doctrines. Howell affirms Roland Allen's assessment that missionaries and church planters often lack “confidence in the Holy Spirit to build the church” (203), but Paul called his converts to rely on the Holy Spirit to live out their faith rather than on his direction (204). Similarly, “he trusted the Spirit to guide the leaders in their oversight of the church” (204), for any church not led by the Holy Spirit is a cult, being led either by man or an alien spirit.
Howell affirms that it is the Holy Spirit that initiates salvation in a person. Thus “the Spirit, rather than the manner of proclamation, was responsible for the effectiveness of the preaching as it penetrated the hearts of the listeners.” Even after conversion, the Holy Spirit continues to work in believers to affect their sanctification by producing personal and experiential holiness (213) including “moral purity, joy, prayer and thanksgiving” (208). In other words, a Christian's battle with sin does not cease upon conversion, but is drastically altered with the Spirit's enabling in four areas: communicating God's holiness, indwelling the believer for transformation, continuously providing presence and power, and to “be an energizing force that makes victory over sexual temptation and control over one's sex drive a possibility” (209). Simultaneous with the individual impact is the missional drawing of non-believers by the Holy Spirit as it transforms the Christian community (209).
Distinctives. Paul's Ecclesiology was to let the Spirit oversee his converts spiritual growth. He avoided micromanaging his congregations by “standing alongside the believers as a helper” (204). Many churches today have pastors, presbyters, or bishops that must receive a personal stamp of approval before continuing, and although this does not invalidate the church, it does hinder its health and growth. In church planting the biblical model appears to be more “willing retirement and withdrawal accompanied by gradual and real handover of responsibility to the local leadership” (205). This lack of assurance that the Spirit will work in Church plants persists today (even during the “age of missions” (206)). Paul also put tremendous faith in his team mates to continue church work (215).
Though believers are at liberty to disagree over whether charismatic gifts have ceased, Howell argues in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 that the gifts continue, though Paul exerted caution. This caution was to trust in the Holy Spirit to not only provide these charismatic manifestations but also “to test the genuineness of the utterance as to its conformity to apostolic tradition.” Thus, any “exercising” of a charismatic gift should be considered not of the Spirit and avoided if it: is incongruous with apostolic teaching (the Word), or is divisive (not edifying) (210). Yet, despite this danger, “Paul will not discourage the church's freedom to exercise the full array of spiritual gifts” for he knows that “freedom with responsibility...is just the mix that will produce a healthy and mature church” (213).
Howell notes that Paul commends a “remarkable number of women”“with the same designations as his male associates in ministry” of teaching and preaching (217). A challenge to some.
Details. Howell seems to support a trichotomist stance (vs. the more common dichotomist view) of human anthropology by identifying the pneu=ma as “the first of a three-part description of the personality, which also includes the body” (211).
Howell also states that e(n duna/mei can be used “for the power of God's Spirit,” but caution should be expressed lest readers misinterpret the shorthand as diminishing the Spirit to nothing more than an ethereal force or power belonging to God as the Jehovah's Witnesses have erred (212).
*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.
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