Monday, October 17, 2011

A Few Thoughts on the Kenosis of Christ

The Kenosis of Christ is a theological term referring to His emptying of Himself to assume humanity. It is based on Philippians 2:5-9 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name…” Sometimes people wonder how this emptying affected the divine attributes, especially omnipresence and omniscience. I at one time had a misconception myself, or at least had never fully realized Christ’s continual omnipresence as to His Godhead, until I was reading and saw John 3:13 quoted and saw that my understanding had been somewhat vague before (this is the difference between error and heresy, anyone can have an honest error, it is the holding to that error when the truth is straightforwardly shown that makes heresy). John 3:13 "No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” Having read this it became apparent to me that Christ was saying to Nicodemus that while He was talking to him, He was also in heaven! Clearly this emptying of Himself had nothing to do with His omnipresence, though of course He was present in a special sense in His physical body. The attribute that people wonder about the most though is the omniscience of Christ. Christ clearly showed superhuman knowledge in much of His life, with His conversation with the woman at the well (John 4:17-18) and His knowledge of Nathanael (John 1:47-51). This is consistent and easy to understand. The question arises when we encounter some other Scriptures, most especially in Matthew 24:36, where Christ says concerning His second coming, "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” If Christ does not know this was He therefore not omniscient when He was in the flesh? At first glance it might appear so, but that may rest on a faulty understanding of omniscience. God is omniscient and yet the fact that He does not remember our sins is not said to prejudice His omniscience. This is because His forgetting of sins is an act of His will based on our repentance and not a diminution of His faculty (in the same shutting my eyes may cause not to see, but it does not make me blind). In the same way could it not be said that there were some things which Christ chose not to know without prejudice to His omniscience, just as He only did what He saw the Father doing, though He remained all-powerful. This act of the will makes sense in that we all know that there are times that we are aware of things and yet choose to not focus on them and even remove them from our mind. That this was the state of Christ in the flesh is hinted at in Isaiah 42:19-20, which refers to Isaiah first as the servant, but beyond him looking to Christ, “Who is blind but my servant, or deaf as my messenger whom I send? Who is blind as my dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the LORD? He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear.” Christ apparently willed to only know what the Father revealed to Him. This particular attribute of the kenosis has practical value, because in placing His understanding and knowledge entirely under what the Father desired to give Him, Christ overcame the natural human temptation which lead to the fall – the seeking of forbidden knowledge apart from God and in competition with Him. It is this perverse curiosity that causes people to dabble in the occult, and become involved in all sorts of evil. It also leads many Christians astray as they desire to know what God has not revealed and become open to anything that seems to be a revelation. We as humans desire to know, whether it is worthwhile knowledge or not, this is why tabloids sell. Yet there are many things in life we do not really need to know. Christ showed Himself to be the consummate man if for no other reason than that He was able to rely totally on the knowledge of His Father, and in this as in all things He is our pattern. May we cultivate the attitude seen in Psalm 131 “ A Song of Ascents. Of David. O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.” O Lord You know and that is enough! There are many questions I have in my own life right now, and while I believe God will supply some of the answers in His time, for now I can only say, “Lord You know and that is enough.” May God grant us all contentment in what we do not understand and a solid trust in Him in all things. Amen.