Nuts and Bolts 012: Kenosis

Categories: nuts and bolts Theology / Biblical Studies

In the “Nuts and Bolts” series, I lay out some of the fundamental ideas and terms used in philosophy and theology for the lay person.

This time I’m looking at kenosis (also referred to less elegantly as kenoticism). Unfortunately, this is one of those terms which in some contexts generates more heat than light. If you search the internet for the term it’s likely that some of the first results you’ll find are extreme statements about the “heresy of kenosis.” Today I found one gem, for example, which claims that “The doctrinal heresy known as Kenoticism originated in the nineteenth century by the German theologians.”

Kenosis, however, is neither heretical nor German, and certainly did not arise in the nineteenth century, even though some nineteenth century German theologians may have formulated the idea in ways that others had not. Far from being an invention of modern Europe, kenosis has a long history in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, a significant branch of the church that many moderns are frankly ignorant of (moderns often including myself).

Even some websites that appear more respectable describe kenosis in terms that are not entirely fair, such as: “Kenotics take the word “kenoo” to indicate that Jesus Christ literally emptied himself. Therefore, they conclude he was not God while he was here on earth for 33 years.” But this is not what they conclude. Kenosis need not involve the belief that Jesus ceased to be divine in the incarnation. Certainly, you could maintain that Jesus did set aside his divinity and call it kenosis, because that is an emptying of sorts, it is an extreme kind of kenosis. Instead, the (in my view biblical) doctrine of Christ’s emptying himself is that in becoming human, Christ gave up much of what he, as fully divine, had a right to. He did not simply have his omnipotence and omniscience at his disposal throughout his earthy life, choosing never to make use of it. He actually set those things aside and genuinely took the form of a servant. It was not an act or a ruse. The incarnation, in short, was genuinely as it appeared to be.

In the incarnation, kenosis says, Christ made himself powerless compared to what he was entitled to be. Paul wrote that although Christ had the true form (morphe) of God, he emptied (Greek: ekenosen) himself and took the form of a servant. Contrasting himself with his Father, he claimed that of his future coming (setting aside for now the question of exactly what that referred to), nobody knows the day or the hour, “not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). This was not false modesty on Jesus’ part. Nor does it make sense to say that really Jesus was all knowing here, but he was simply setting aside his ability to know everything, or limiting his knowledge. For whatever reason, to have limited knowledge is to not be all knowing. There is no meaningful distinction between temporarily limiting one’s knowledge of all things and temporarily giving up one’s knowledge of all things. Either Jesus knew all things, or he did not, and the New Testament tells us that he did not. Simply denying kenosis altogether has what I take to be bizarre and counterintuitive consequences. Consider Jesus in the womb of Mary for nine months. Denying kenosis altogether would have us think that an omnipotent, omniscient Jesus was throughout that nine months fully conscious aware, sitting back inside the developing body, waiting. His sleeping every night was a mere illusion, he didn’t really have to eat (since he never gave up immortality), he didn’t actually have to learn to read (since he knew all things, but simply chose not to exploit that knowledge), and when he asked questions in everyday conversation, it was not because he wanted to know the answer but was simply being polite – since he really knew the answers but chose not to make use of that fact. Kenosis takes seriously Jesus’ claim that “I can do nothing on my own” (John 5:30). Throughout his earthly life, Jesus, although truly divine, gave up the power that was rightly his and lived a life of dependence on his Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what made the cross so devastating for him. As one who was truly dependent on God the Father, his cry that his Father had abandoned him was all the more harrowing.

In kenosis, Jesus is presented to us as the God who truly, not just in appearances, was “made like his brothers in every way” (Heb. 2:17), who truly stood in our place and tasted death for us, and who actually knows what it is like to be one of us. Kenosis provides us with a powerful antidote to some of the gnostic tendencies that developed in the second century. Gnostic theology wanted to deny that Jesus was truly God in the flesh, because it was beneath God to actually suffer and die. One such Gnostic tactic was to make Jesus a mere man upon whom the spirit of Christ descended at his baptism, that spirit departing at the cross. Kenosis stands at the opposite end of the theological spectrum: God could not only die in Christ, but God was willing to give up the privileges that come with being God, not clinging to the dignity and glory that he deserved, becoming a limited and at times helpless servant.

Similar Posts:

If you liked this post, feel free to help support this project.

{ 24 comments… add one }

  • Martin August 30, 2011, 10:40 AM

    This is pretty timely seeing as I recently got into a heated debate about this with a friend who supports the kenosis theory.

    Like with my friend I’m not entirely sure I understand your position. Are you really saying that in the incarnation the second person of the trinity lost the omni-attributes?

    How can this be if the persons of the trinity share the same divine being? One person of the trinity could not lose the omni-attributes without all of them losing it. It would also mean that the omni-attributes are not essential to God’s nature, that is, they are only contingent. But that means the Biblical God would not be the greatest conceivable being for the greatest conceivable being has the omni-attributes necessarily.

  • Glenn August 30, 2011, 10:46 AM

    Martin, first off – I don’t say that there are not answers to those questions. But what I do say first off is that Christianity is a revealed religion. It is up to us – if we believe this – to fit our systematic theology to what is revealed. Either God has revealed that Jesus emptied himself, became man and gave up (e.g.) omniscience, or God has not revealed this. I think the evidence (if we take the New Testament as evidence) shows that God has revealed this. What’s more, this creates, in my view better parsimony with the purpose of the incarnation and the atonement, wherein God fully relates to us, where the one who is God truly tastes death for us, etc.

    So it’s not up to those of us who believe this to satisfy your challenges. First, I think you need to come to the table to ask whether kenosis is true, and then we can together – after we’ve seen (as I think we should) that it is true – ask how we should fit those issues in systematic theology with the biblical notion of kenosis.

    I think we have to at least agree that this is the correct way to approach the issue before we can even begin to meaningfully discuss it. If we approach the evidence constantly looking over our shoulder to make sure that we don’t find anything to clash with what we already think we know, we may as well not approach the evidence at all.

  • Martin August 30, 2011, 11:31 AM

    Glenn, I respect your methodology and agree that we must start with Scripture and then figure out how to make sense of Scripture’s teachings. So yes I didn’t provide any evidence that kenosis is in fact false. If it is true though, it seems to me that it would have pretty big philosophical consequences. But if kenosis is true, so be it.

    As it happens I think, at the very least, the Biblical data is nowhere near as one sided as your post suggests. You seem to suggest that if Jesus really did have the omni-attributes, then the struggles of his human life would be fake. That, say, his eating and sleeping would have been illusory. But I don’t see how this follows.

    Say that I decide to start training for a marathon. As part of my training I go jogging every day with a backpack full of bricks. The backpack, obviously, is weighty and causes me much struggle and toil as I train. But the choice to wear the backpack is entirely voluntary. I could remove it whenever I want. I choose not to in order to fulfill the goal of being prepared for the marathon. Does this make my struggling insincere or illusory? I think surely not. It is all real even though it is voluntarily taken.

    We can deny kenosis and still affirm that Jesus was like us in every way. We can affirm that Jesus was truly man, and say that he was not MERELY man.

    You mention Paul’s comment about Christ emptying himself in Philippians 2:5-8. But the context here is of setting aside due honour in order to serve. That is what Paul is instructing the philippians to do: to have the same mind as Christ. He is not telling them to empty themselves of any attributes they have. Christ emptying himself seems to be better understood in context as the sacrifice of honour rather than attributes.

    Now I agree that the passages about Jesus’ not knowing the hour of his return are difficult to understand from a non-kenosis perspective. But there are problem passages for kenosis too. In John 21:17 Peter affirms that Jesus knows all things. In John 2:11 it says that Jesus revealed his glory through the miracle at the wedding in cana. Not that the Holy Spirit’s glory was revealed, but Jesus’. When Jesus stopped the wind and the waves the disciples marvelled at his authority, not how God had blessed him with marvelous miracles done through him. And Paul affirms in Colossians 1:19 that in Christ the fullness of deity was pleased to dwell.

  • Glenn August 30, 2011, 11:54 AM

    I don’t think the backback analogy works. Recall that you’re talking about “omni” attributes. Now let’s say you’re a runner with literally unlimited strength and speed. You can put on a backpack that weighs a trillion tons. What difference does that make? Clearly none. In order for a backback to make a difference at all regardless of its weight, you have to strip away at least some strength. That’s kenosis.

    What’s more, consider the issue of omniscience for one. Can you identify a meaningful difference between actually not knowing something because your scope of knowledge is limited (i.e. kenosis), and not knowing something because you’re choosing to enjoy only a limited scope of knowledge?

    And yes, Paul’s context is a moral one. However, that doesn’t gut Paul’s comments of doctrinal significance. On the contrary, he uses Jesus example as one who supremely humbled himself by not grasping equality with God, and even though he had the very nature of God he took the form of humanity and died. So yes, it was about him humbling himself as you say, but there’s something significant about how he humbled himself.

    Kenosis is quite compatible with Colossians 1:19, since kenosis – and this is crucial to understand – does not deny the full deity of Christ. Those who insist that kenosis means that Jesus ceased to be divine are really being unfair. As for Peter’s affirmation in John 21:17, it’s doubtful that we can take Peter’s words in the narrative – his words as he expresses exasperation – as God’s words in any formative sense for doctrine. They are Peter’s words, and by themselves I don’t think it’s wise to allow them to overturn the biblical witness that Jesus was limited in knowledge. Put crudely – who are you going to believe – Peter in a moment of anxiety or Jesus?

  • Martin August 30, 2011, 1:49 PM

    Okay I agree that John 21:17 is not a particularly persuasive verse to cite as evidence for Jesus’ continuing omniscience. Also, while I did not take Colossians 15 to be contradicting your position that Christ was God – I had in mind the emphasis on fullness as indicating complete divine attributes – I remember that, contextually, the term deity did not have the omni-attributes ‘loaded in’. So I agree, that passage causes no trouble for your position either.

    Now your question about whether I think that there is a meaningful distinction between not knowing something because your scope of knowledge is limited and not knowing something because you’re choosing to enjoy a limited scope of knowledge. No I don’t – I think that if one doesn’t know something, then one doesn’t know something, and one isn’t omniscient. But I disagree that Jesus (the second person of the trinity) actually didn’t know something. I’m not sure we are Scripturally committed to asserting that.

    First of all, I think it is possible to know something and yet not have access to the belief you know. Let’s say I know the date of my mother’s birthday (or to avoid begging the question – have known), but in trying to recall it my mind goes blank. I’m just not able to bring the belief to mind, for whatever reason. It’s frustrating but that’s how it is. I give up trying to remember it for the time being and move on. Later I am going about some unrelated task, and the belief pops back into my consciousness. Now did I not know my mother’s date of birth during my moment of failed recollection? Surely I did, if I didn’t, the belief wouldn’t have come back to me later. So it seems clear to me that one can know that p yet be unable to consciously access p, or generally fail to access p.

    Of course, on appearance, Jesus claims that he did not in fact know certain things. But say a situation analogous to that of me and my mother’s birth date is how the incarnation works in regards to divine omniscience. Jesus does in fact know all things but he has voluntarily restricted his access to his beliefs. As long as he voluntary restricts himself in this way, he knows everything but, like with lapses of memory, is unable to access his beliefs. From a purely pragmatic perspective, Jesus wouldn’t behave any differently from a person who genuinely didn’t know everything. He certainly wouldn’t look like he knew everything. So why wouldn’t he say things like “I don’t know x?” … it isn’t like he’d be out to please systematic theologians. If the above account is true, why would we expect him to make such qualifications as “even thought it seems like I don’t know everything, and my experience is currently of not knowing everything, I actually do, ya see I actually have a divine nature too, it’s just that I’m not using it because… etc” Jesus doesn’t always just language with philosophical precision.

    I think that is a plausible understanding of those difficult passages, and given the philosophical consequences of kenosis, an attractive one.

    Now, you object to my backpack analogy. Let me try another analogy.

    Imagine an experienced weightlifter – a pretty beefy guy. To conjure up some arbitrary unit of strength, let’s say he has 100 power points of strength. And that’s pretty good, most people only have around 30 power points. Now let’s say he has access to a certain machine that he can plug himself into. And when he does, it only lets him use his strength up to the equivalent of 30 of his power points. The machine doesn’t zap away his muscles or anything like that, it just temporally blocks out access to their full potential. From time to time, perhaps out of the boredom of not feeling challenged, our strong man plugs himself into the machine and lifts weights. His muscles are in tact and, were their potential used, the weights would be easy, but he only has 30/100 power points to play with. So he really genuinely struggles even though his attributes have not themselves changed. He still have 100 power points of muscle even though he’s voluntarily chosen to only use 30 of them. This all seems reasonable to me. If it doesn’t seem like a reasonable analogy to you, could you formulate an argument as to why self-restriction of omnipotence is logically or metaphysically impossible?

    As for the Philippians passage I don’t think you’ve done anything to show that Christ lost the omni-attributes. My point was that the context, both of the explicit Christology, and the moral exhortation surrounding it, point to an emphasis on humility. That is, the point being made is that Christ humbled himself, and the how is explained in the passage – by taking on flesh and dying on the cross. No-one denies that. That in itself does not support kenosis. The significant part of the passage in terms of whether it teaches kenosis is what “emptied himself” or “made himself nothing (ESV)” means. And given the context it likely means just that Christ humbled himself, not that he gave up any attributes. The burden of proof is on the kenosis advocate to show that there is more packed into “emptied himself/made himself nothing” than mere humility.

  • Glenn August 30, 2011, 2:48 PM

    Martin, if I understand you, you’re saying that Jesus did something analogous to forgetting the time of the event he was referring to. If it’s – in practice – possible to be omniscient and still be able to call nothing to mind, then I call that omniscience in name only, and really the idea of kenosis is no more of a worry than that of an omniscient but forgetful God.

    As for the elaborate machine / weight lifter analogy, what’s the external force working on Jesus to restrain his (let’s say) omniscience? What is it that’s analogous to the machine? It’s not free choice, because the weightlifter is freely choosing to plug into the machine. So what is it? I’ll be able to say more about the analogy once I know this.

    And again, I agree that the point of the Philippians passage is humility. My concern was as to how Jesus showed humility. I agree that nobody denies this, whether they accept kenosis or not. But my question remains: How does he humble himself? He humbled himself by not grasping equality with God and emptying himself, taking on the form of a human. So we are not disagreeing that this text is about Jesus showing humility and thereby setting an example. That’s agreed, and neither of us needs to convince the other of that. The how question is the one that it seems one must push aside in order to avoid kenosis. I think when you have a passage stating that Jesus emptied himself, and when you have narrative passages that actually depict Jesus without omniscience, the case is very strong indeed.

  • Glenn August 30, 2011, 4:11 PM

    Martin – Let me add just a few words more about why the factor restricting Jesus (analogous to the machine for the weightlifter) can’t be Jesus’ simple choice not to use the power that he still has. If it’s simply Jesus’ choice, then he wouldn’t be struggling like the weight lifter. he would simply be choosing not to try as hard as he might.

    In the end, if you end up with a scenario where Jesus has literally made it impossible for himself, while the machine is on, to use omniscience (for example), then may I be the first to welcome you to kenosis? ;)

  • Prayson Daniel August 30, 2011, 7:57 PM

    My brother in Christ, I am deeply grateful for your knowledge, kindness and steady fast love toward God and his people.

    This post largely challenged me to go back and review my knowledge of Kenosis theory, before my morning breakfast! :D (A beautiful danger in reading your articles :) ) I would like to add onto the table(where Martin and you are already comfortable sitting in a wonderful dialogue)

    Subtraction By Addition

    Philippians 2:7 explains how Christ emptied himself by taking the form of a servant. Paul argues Philippians to humble themselves by giving up of their status and privilege/position, imitating Christ.

    Giving up the nature would be, I believe, a long short from Paul teaching in this passage, since it would lead the Philippians to give up or lay aside one of their nature(in light of Matthew 24:36, their intelligence).

    Verse 2:4 increases the plausibility of giving up of status and position than that of giving up of nature.

    Bruce A. Ware Mercedes-Benz illustration I believe come close to explain Paul’s teaching:

    Let me give you an illustration of this that I hope will help and then I will come back to what I believe Paul is saying here. It is an imprecise illustration, as most are I suppose, but at least it helps to get one main point across. Suppose you were to go to the showroom floor of a car dealership and request to test-drive a brand new Mercedes-Benz sports car. What fun this would be to take this for a drive. The car dealer there is foolish enough to allow us to do this. So we take the keys to this car and we take this hot Mercedes- Benz sports car outside and beginning driving it. In the previous several days it has been raining quite a bit and we decide to take this sports car out onto the muddy roads of the countryside and spin those tires and we have a great time getting this car absolutely covered with mud and bring it back a half hour later to the dealership and pull it into the car lot, drive it onto the showroom floor and here it is caked with mud. The car dealer would come up to us and say, “What have you done to my car?!” And your response could be this, “Oh, we haven’t taken anything away from it, we’ve only added to it.” You understand the point? We’ve only added to it. Now notice what the adding has done, however. By adding a coat of mud to the car we have concealed or veiled or covered over its luster, its glory, its shine, and its brilliance. It can’t show what is there because of the mud that covers it. I think this is what happens in the kenosis is we find in Christ taking on our human flesh he is God, just as that Mercedes-Benz is the same car that it was before, all of its qualities are still there, but some of those qualities of that Mercedes-Benz cannot be manifest, they can’t be shown because of what now has been added to it. So as Christ takes on human form, he takes on the limitations of human life and lives as one of us in order to live life as we do so that when we read in Philippians 2 as we read a little bit further, “That he being found in appearances of man,” verse 8, “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”(Systematic Theology class)

    What Do I Then Make of Matthew 24:36?

    I believe this one of the paradox that would be clear in close examination(Godhood and Manhood of Christ). I once in awhile tease myself with my sunday-school question “if Jesus could walk on water, then why did he take a boat?” :) Perhaps this would be my first question to our great teacher and Lord, when we finally go home :D

    Your blog follower in Christ Jesus

  • Glenn August 30, 2011, 8:30 PM

    Thanks Prayson

    I don’t know about the Mercedes analogy. In that example, the car didn’t lose any of its abilities, AND nobody chose to not use those abilities. It was just a car that looked like something it wasn’t, and that’s definitely no way to think about the incarnation. That would be docetism.

    As for the questions we will one day ask – I agree! There is no reason we should expect that God would explain everything about the incarnation to us in the here and now. I’m not sure how it would help us to know the answer. And it may well be that when the time comes when we meet Christ face to face, we simply will not care anymore.

  • Prayson Daniel August 31, 2011, 1:53 AM

    Thanks Glenn,

    Bruce A. Ware’s imprecise illustration tries to capture the emptying by addition and would indeed lead to docetism if stretched.(Thank you so much for pointing that out :) )

    I would like to add a question on the table(that troubles me); Would not the doctrine of God’s immutability be compromised by kenotic theory?

    Your blog follower in Christ Jesus

  • Chris August 31, 2011, 2:42 PM

    Hi, Prayson.

    I am not yet a physicalist, nor a kenoticist, but I just interviewed Glenn on my podcast on the question of whether or not physicalism’s Christological implications make it heretical, one of those implications involving immutability. (The topic of kenosis was an integral part of Glenn’s argument.)

    You asked, “Would not the doctrine of God’s immutability be comprised by kenotic theory?” I suspect Glenn’s answer would be something like this: Yes, a certain human conception of immutability would be compromised, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the biblical teaching of immutability would be compromised.

    Glenn proposed in the interview that perhaps what the Bible means when it says God doesn’t change is that His character doesn’t change, not that every single aspect of what it means to be God doesn’t change. And he agreed that it also means God can’t be made to change in any way He chooses not to. Nevertheless, He is capable of changing His own nature in certain ways–such as Glenn asserts the Son did in the incarnation.

  • Glenn August 31, 2011, 7:25 PM

    Prayson, firstly – What Chris said :)

    Second, there are good and bad ways of thinking about God’s immutability. For example, we agree that God’s character never ever changes. But in and through Christ, God enters a relationship with time that does involve change. Was God the Son incarnate from all eternity? Clearly not. When the Bible says that God made Christ who knew no sin to become sin for us, was this true of the Father and Son from all eternity? No. To say otherwise, I think, is to abuse the idea of immutability.

    So we have to accept that immutability doesn’t mean that every statement that was true of God the Son in the life of Jesus has always been true of God the Son. In fact the incarnation is so shocking to some people – indeed it was laughable to the ancient Greek pagan philosophers – in part because it involved a god undergoing processes and changes. But theirs is not the God revealed to us in Christ!

  • Nathan September 1, 2011, 12:09 AM

    So it seems to me that generally speaking, either we must declare the person of Christ to be divisible so as to say that he was able to die in one sense but not another, or, we must declare that he really did die, i.e. take death to mean death, and then deal with the consequences if that doesn’t meet with how one might have always understood it.

    His nature being divisible isn’t supported in Scripture. Even if it were, we would have to say that he didn’t really die, just part of him did, so as to avoid a situation where God died. This seems entirely unsatisfactory.

    To say that he really did die is fundamental to the Christian message. What hope do we have if he didn’t fully die? To say that he didn’t undermines the significance of his death and resurrection completely.

    On a side note, Glenn (and Chris if you are reading this) I thought the interview on theopologetics was outstanding. Absolutely first class – not that I’m surprised of course ;) It became so obvious during the latter part of the interview why Glenn’s initial emphasis on following the Biblical data is so important. The way it all came together in the end to emphasise how important this is for a more complete and frankly more meaningful understanding of the gospel message was really quite moving.

    What intrigues me though is how Glenn’s view relates to Joel Green’s view in the previous podcast Chris did on this topic. Green seemed to suggest that during the period of Christ’s death, God as a being was still in tact due to the timelessness of his existence vs the temporalness of Jesus’ death? Not sure if I understood him correctly because surely God needs to be involved in time in order for the death and resurrection to take place…

  • Chris Date September 1, 2011, 8:03 AM

    Nathan, you’re far too kind. I suspect Glenn’s class–and his accent–made my contribution to the interview seem better than it actually was :) But thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. I did as well, and although I’m not yet on board the physicalism bus (though I think I’m headed to the terminal), I am convinced it’s not heretical. But before I do board the bus, I’m trying to arrange for a dualist or two to appear on my show. I’m in contact with Scott Smith from Biola, who has written on physicalism, targeting Joel Green specifically. We’ll see if I can manage to get him on the show.

    Speaking of Joel Green, looking back I’m really not entirely sure what Joel Green was attempting to communicate. In fact, after listening I was under the imrpession that he had not affirmed the death of the Son as deity, and it wasn’t until my friend showed me some emails between them that I realized that Joel Green does affirm the death of the Son as deity. So it was kind of lost on me. Perhaps Glenn can comment?

  • Glenn September 1, 2011, 5:21 PM

    What Joel was saying is that God is inherently outside of time, so the Son exists outside of time too. However, the Son entered time and fully died as well. So the Son still existed atemporally then (but not really “then” since it was and is outside of time) but was also fully dead within time.

    It’s kind like “time” is a biosphere that the eternal God can look at, and he saw himself enter the biosphere and fully, 100%, die – but still able to watch from outside of the sphere. So there was no real point in time where there were two Sons, since his eternal existence isn’t in time. That’s what Joel was getting at.

  • Glenn September 1, 2011, 5:24 PM

    One thing I was going to add in that interview was along the lines that if Jesus didn’t fully die, then he’s not the self giving God we thought he was. But when Paul instructed the elders from Ephesus, he affirmed both the deity of Christ and the very death of God, when he told them to keep watch over the church of God, which he has purchased “with his own blood.” This wasn’t just a body used by God, this was God’s very blood.

    I was reminded when preparing that comment of a blog post I wrote about Jesus in Gethsemane when I reflected with a sense of true horror at just how much Jesus was prepared to give up – his very being.

  • Jenny September 2, 2011, 4:09 PM

    I’m not familiar with this Eastern Orthodox doctrine of kenosis, so maybe my question will seem too far off: If we’re supposed to “empty” ourselves like Jesus did, does that imply anything particular about how Christ emptied himself?

  • Prayson Daniel September 2, 2011, 11:57 PM

    Thanks Glenn and Chris,

    I am humbled by the love of God that can be tasted in the tune of your replies.

    The bar of my concern has though rose up, as I try to grasp the idea of Logos setting omnipotence and omniscience aside and genuinely taking the form of a servant.

    A God That Changed His Nature!

    I do believe that Logos emptied himself(kenosis) in humbling himself by taking the form of a servant. I find hard to taking a step forward, which I believe misses the spirit of Philippians 2(cornerstone of kenotic doctrine), to undress omniscient and/or omnipotent would compromised the assertion “ equality with God”.

    Moreover Jenny’s question highlights the exegetical hardship that arises by taking that step farther. Should we understand Apostle Paul encouraging the Philippians to give up one/or more of their nature by imitating Christ?(As I argue above, give up of privilege/status is more true to the passage than that of giving up of ones nature)

    Taking up of form does not entail change in nature because nature is a necessary condition of the form, but the form is not essential to the nature. If this is true, then Philippians 2 should be understood as Logos in form of God took up human nature(form of servant), without confusion, without change, without division, and without separation. Thus Logos who is fully God, became also fully man.

    If its possible that Logos nature changes, his deity would also change, and he would no longer be God because its his nature that determines his deity.

    The Undressed God! Is God Still God If He Is Not Omniscient Nor Omnipotent?

    I am trying to grasp how Christ Jesus could be considered fully God if indeed he was not omniscient and omnipotent. If omniscient and omnipotent are not essential to deity, then were do we draw a line to which natures are essential and which are not?

    Your blog follower in Christ Jesus

  • Chris Date September 3, 2011, 3:11 AM

    Prayson, I appreciate your concern, and I largely shared it, but most of my concerns have been alleviated (I am still on the fence, however). Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m right, I’m just explaining that I can relate to where you’re coming from. I’ll comment on your concerns briefly, but I’ll look forward to Glenn’s response, which will, no doubt, be more competent than mine.

    If, as kenosis posits, the Son willingly subjected Himself to the frailties of humanity, and gave up some of the qualities of divinity, I don’t think that is in conflict with His equality with God. In fact, the text explicitly says that He did not consider that equality something to be clung to, which, a kenoticist might argue, tells us that He gave up that equality. More importantly, however, I don’t think Jesus’ equality with God depends on His abilities, I think it depends on His identity.

    You see, I’m not sure I agree with you, that “its his nature that determines his deity.” No, I think “its his [identity] that determines his deity.” And I say that as someone who has not yet boarded the kenosis bus. I simply don’t see why, if God the Son chose to give up certain of His qualities, that would mean He ceased being God. If I were somehow able to change into a 2-dimensional creature on a page, I think it would be fair to say that I am still me, even though my nature has changed.

    As to Jenny’s question, I would like to offer the possibility that the traditional understanding of this text fares no better. You see, it seems that what you and Jenny are proposing is that Paul is trying to tell us to imitate Jesus by doing what He did. Does that mean I’m to imitate Christ in humility toward my fellow man by taking upon myself a second nature? Of course not. And yet, that would seem to be the inescapable logical conclusion of what you’re proposing. Rather, I think it’s evident that Paul is giving us a model attitude, not a model action. In other words, Jesus demonstrated the attitude of humility by his actions, and our actions should reflect the same attitude. Whether Jesus’ actions were limited to taking upon Himself a second nature without any change whatsoever to the first, or whether He took the additional step of allowing certain changes in His divine nature, either way I don’t think we’re being encouraged to emulate His actions, I think we’re beling called to emulate His attitude.

    Finally, as to how Christ could be considered fully God if indeed He was not omniscient and omnipotent, I suspect the kenoticist’s answer (or at least one like Glenn who, unlike more extreme kenoticists, affirms that Jesus remained fully God) would be that the divine nature was not mixed with the human nature. The divine nature may have been changed in certain ways, but it did not in any way become human. That is to say, what makes Him fully God is not that His divine qualities remain available to Him, but that He is not some sort of hybrid mix. But that’s just my guess.

    Prayson, you might consider listening to the episodes I’ve done with Glenn on my show, which you can find here: I’m not saying they will convince you, but I’d be interested to know what you think.

  • Jenny September 3, 2011, 3:29 AM

    “Paul is giving us a model attitude, not a model action. In other words, Jesus demonstrated the attitude of humility by his actions, and our actions should reflect the same attitude.”

    Thanks for the reply, Chris Date. That makes a lot of sense. We can imitate Christ (by being sacrificial, dying for someone else, etc.), but we can’t do exactly what Christ did (be a sacrifice to give someone else salvation). There are obviously limits as to how far we can actually go.

  • Chris Date September 3, 2011, 3:32 AM

    Yeah, I definitely agree, Jenny, irrespective of whether or not Glenn’s interpretation of the text (kenosis) is correct.

  • Prayson Daniel September 13, 2011, 5:44 PM

    Thanks Chris,

    I have listen to the episodes to which I 98% do agree greatly. The 2% is to do with Glenn’s interpretation of the text (kenosis).

    Would you be kind to explain your reasons to why you are not sure you agree with me, that “its his nature that determines his deity.”? And how is “… his [identity] that determines his deity.”?

    N.B: Remember we are using the term nature as that which is a sine qua none – that without which something isn’t what it is.(and not the loosely usage. Example sinful nature)

    Your blog follower in Christ Jesus

  • Glenn September 13, 2011, 7:53 PM

    The 98% is enough to get you condemned along with me, Grayson. :)

  • Prayson Daniel September 14, 2011, 12:10 AM

    Then condemned we stand :D

Leave a Comment

Current day month ye@r *

 Characters remaining

%d bloggers like this: