Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Kenosis: And how it flies in the face of Classicism

One's concept of the Kenosis determines the rest of one's theology. The Kenosis seems to be the chief cornerstone where the wisest of classical theology stumble over.

To review, "kenosis" is the Greek word used in Philippians 2:5-11 for Christ "emptying" Himself to become incarnate, i.e., mortal and hence capable of dying or being killed or murdered.

It is important to determine what Christ, who exists as God, would empty Himself of. It will be apparent that although we doctrinally agree that Christ is fully God and fully man even when He was on earth, all the biblical evidence coupled with natural law has to surrender to the fact that in a very real sense, Christ incarnate 2000 years ago was "more man" than He was God.

I was brought up as a new Christian memorizing the attributes of God which are, among others, Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence. As I looked closely at the incarnation of Christ, however, it was quite obvious that when Christ was a baby in Bethlehem, he was not in China at the same time (so, Christ was not Omnipresent). It was also quite obvious that when Herod wanted to murder the Bethlehem infants from newborn to two years old, that the baby Jesus did not all of a sudden rise up from the manger and declare to His earthly mother, Mary, "Behold, Herod is coming with the intent to murder me, but don't you worry, I can stop him just simply by a word of my mouth similar to how I created the world."

Obviously, as the baby Jesus, there was no demonstration of Omnipotence by the baby Jesus!!! Furthermore, there was no indication in Scripture that the baby Jesus knew ahead of time of the murderous intent of King Herod, demonstrating conclusively that neither had the baby Jesus the attribute of Omniscience!!!

One has to note that the circumstances of the birth of Christ demonstrates almost beyond any doubt what the kenosis really means.
  1. The baby Jesus was obviously, not Omnipresent. He wasn't in China or Africa at the same time He was in the manger in the Bethlehem stable.
  2. The baby Jesus was not Omniscient. He did not seem to be aware of the developments in Jerusalem with Herod's ambitions and intentions. Everything else was being "orchestrated" by God the Father.
  3. The baby Jesus was totally helpless, that is the opposite of Omnipotence. He could not help hasten the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem just to make it a little easier, perhaps, for Mary and Joseph to cope up with this trial. Let's face it, the Bethlehem birth was pre-ordained. One would think that before the Incarnation, Christ would already have planned the easiest way to get there since before the Incarnation, Christ was truly, among other attributes, Sovereign, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Omnipotent! In fact, even Isaiah 9:6 confirms this. However, as The baby Jesus, He could not and did not help in the trip to Bethlehem, during Mary's labor and delivery, in the flight to Egypt, etc. He was dependent like any other baby on mother's milk for sustenance, etc. In fact, Paul himself wrote about Christ's absolute dependence on the Father, during the resurrection.
    • Romans 10:9

"that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."

    • Galatians 1:1

"[ Greeting ] Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead),"

    • Colossians 2:12

"buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead."

    • Ephesians 1: 19,20

"19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places"

Traditional concepts of the Kenosis are at best confused. We have issues like how could God co-exist as both man and God in a body? Which part of Christ was acting as God and which part was acting as man (almost like a split-personality question, with apology to the Lord.) Was Christ actually pretending to be man when He is in fact God, or vice versa? During the passion, did Christ really suffer pain? Couldn't He suspend pain, since He was God Himself?

My response to this questions which are entirely legitimate and honest due to confused theological perspectives, is.....look at the baby Jesus! Then derive the meaning of Kenosis. After that, develop your theology.

The theology MUST include the ability of God to limit His sovereignty or the use or even "possession" thereof as demonstrated by the baby Jesus. It MUST include the divine ability to seal off parts of the future from Himself, at least temporarily. It must show that predestination and foreknowledge are limited by God Himself ONLY to those events that have been explicitly declared are foreordained in Scripture and should not be extended to everything else.

It must include a Loving and Relational God who takes risks despite His sovereignty and is REALLY at RISK despite His sovereignty. It should primarily portray a God who LOVES and who is willing to limit that sovereignty in order to show genuine love, and not a God who is totally sovereign and who has to somehow "force" love or limit the demonstration of His love (like only to the elect?) in order to get His glory.

It should show a God who shows no control over His love to the point of being Jealous ("I AM a Jealous God visiting the iniquity of the fathers to their children and their children's children") but can control His sovereignty. It should not show a God who shows no control or limits to His sovereignty but controls or limits how He loves.

Finally, it should show that only God's character is immutable, but His behavior changes, His motives change, His non-absolute plans change, His attitude changes, the exercise of His power changes to prove that it is entirely under His control. The Bible demonstrates that even His thought or thinking changes. But all these by His own choice or made possible by some choices or decisions He is standing by like the creation of man in His image, etc.

Jeremiah 9:23,24 should be the goal of theology, nothing less, nothing more.

23 Thus says the LORD:

“ Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,

Let not the mighty man glory in his might,

Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;

24 But let him who glories glory in this,

That he understands and knows Me,

That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.

For in these I delight,” says the LORD.

Note that in the verses above, I do not think it a coincidence that the first thing God wants us to know about Him is His lovingkindness and the other two important things. Sovereignty was not in the list!

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