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Kenosis is a Greek word for emptiness, which is used as a theological term. The ancient Greek word κένωσις kénōsis means an "emptying", from κενός kenós "empty". The word is mainly used, however, in a Christian theological context, for example Philippians 2:7, "Jesus made himself nothing (ἐκένωσε ekénōse) ..." (NIV) or "...he emptied himself..." (NRSV), using the verb form κενόω kenóō "to empty". See also Strong's G2758.


[edit] Kenosis in Christology

In Christian theology, Kenosis is the concept of the 'self-emptying' of one's own will and becoming entirely receptive to God and his perfect will. It is used both as an explanation of the Incarnation, and an indication of the nature of God's activity and condescension. Mystical theologian John of the Cross' work "Dark Night of the Soul" is a particularly lucid explanation of God's process of transforming the believer into the icon or "likeness of Christ".

An apparent dilemma arises when Christian theology posits a God outside of time and space, who enters into time and space to become human (Incarnate). The doctrine of Kenosis attempts to explain what the Son of God chose to give up in terms of his divine attributes, in order to assume human nature. Since the incarnate Jesus is simultaneously fully human and fully divine, Kenosis holds that these changes were temporarily assumed by God in his incarnation, and that when Jesus ascended back into heaven following the resurrection, he fully reassumed all of his original attributes and divinity.

Specifically it refers to attributes of God that are thought to be incompatible with becoming fully human. For example, God's omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience as well as his aseity, eternity, infinity, impassibility and immutability. Theologians who support this doctrine often appeal to a reading of Philippians 2:5-8. Critics of Kenosis theology argue that the context of Philippians 2:5-8 is referring to Jesus voluntarily taking the form of a servant to conceal his divine glory (revealed temporarily in the Transfiguration), or to forsaking his place and position in heaven to dwell among men, as opposed to forsaking his divine attributes or nature (see syncatabasis).

Kenotic Christology focuses on certain passages in the Gospels where Jesus questions his being called good (Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19, Matthew 19:17), and evidence that he was not omniscient concerning the date of the Second Advent (Mark 13:32, Matthew 24:36). It became a central issue in the Protestant debates of the sixteenth century, and was revived in the nineteenth century to reinterpret classical doctrines of the incarnation.

[edit] Eastern Orthodox Mysticism

The Orthodox Mystical Theology of the East emphasises following the example of Christ. Kenosis is only possible through humility and presupposes that one seeks union with God. The Poustinia tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church is one major expression of this search.

Kenosis is not only a Christological issue in Orthodox theology, it has moreover to do with Pneumatology, namely to do with the Holy Spirit. Kenosis, relative to the human nature, denotes the continual epiklesis and self-denial of one's own human will and desire. With regards to Christ, there is a kenosis of the Son of God, a condescension and self sacrifice for the redemption and salvation of all humanity. Humanity can also participate in God's saving work through theosis; becoming holy by grace.[1]

Therefore, in Eastern Orthodoxy, theosis never concerns becoming like God in nature or essence, which is pantheism; instead, it concerns becoming united to God by grace, through his Energies. Since God in the Eastern traditions is somewhat panenthestic, Orthodox theology distinguishes between divine Essence and Energies. Kenosis therefore is a paradox and a mystery since "emptying oneself" in fact fills the person with divine grace and results in union with God. Kenosis in Orthodox theology is the transcending or detaching of oneself from the world or the passions, it is a component of dispassionation. Much of the earliest debates between the Arian and Orthodox Christians were over kenosis. The need for clarification about the human and divine nature of the Christ (see the hypostatic union) where fought over the meaning and example that Christ set the example of kenosis or ekkenosis. [2]

[edit] Protestantism

Another perspective is the idea that God is self-emptying. He poured out himself to create the cosmos and the universe, and everything within it. Therefore, it is our duty to pour out ourselves. (This is similar to C.S. Lewis's statement in Mere Christianity that a painter pours his ideas out in his work, and yet remains quite a distinct being from his painting.) In so doing, we become deified like God. Another term for this process is theosis.

[edit] Catholicism

Pope Pius XII in 1951 wrote Sempiternus Rex Christus, in which he condemns a particular interpretation of Philippians in regards to the kenosis:

There is another enemy of the faith of Chalcedon, widely diffused outside the fold of the Catholic religion. This is an opinion for which a rashly and falsely understood sentence of St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians (ii, 7), supplies a basis and a shape. This is called the kenotic doctrine, and according to it, they imagine that the divinity was taken away from the Word in Christ. It is a wicked invention, equally to be condemned with the Docetism opposed to it. It reduces the whole mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption to empty the bloodless imaginations. 'With the entire and perfect nature of man'--thus grandly St. Leo the Great--'He Who was true God was born, complete in his own nature, complete in ours' (Ep. xxviii, 3. PL. Liv, 763. Cf. Serm. xxiii, 2. PL. lvi, 201). [3]

[edit] The kenotic ethic

The kenotic ethic is the ethic of Jesus, considered as the ethic of sacrifice. The Phillipians passage urges believers to imitate Christ's self-emptying. In this interpretation, Paul was not primarily putting forth a theory about God in this passage, rather he was using God's humility exhibited in the incarnation event as a call for Christians to be similarly subservient to others.

[edit] In popular culture

[edit] References

  1. ^ "The oneness of Essence, the Equality of Divinity, and the Equality of Honor of God the Son with the God the Father." Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: A Concise Exposition Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky pages 92-95
  2. ^ "The oneness of Essence, the Equality of Divinity, and the Equality of Honor of God the Son with the God the Father." Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: A Concise Exposition Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky pages 92-95
  3. ^ Sempiternus Rex Christus

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