The Incarnation: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Incarnation of the Son of God

By Stephen T. Davis; Daniel Kendall et al. | Go to book overview

11 The Self-Emptying of Love: Some Thoughts on Kenotic Christology

C. Stephen Evans

Kenotic Christology is an attempt to understand how Jesus can be both human and divine by taking seriously the idea that the incarnation involved some kind of self-limitation or 'self-emptying' on the part of the Son of God. Such theories, inspired by Philippians 2: 6-11 as well as other New Testament passages, are regularly attacked, though the reasons given by different critics are often incompatible. Some reject kenotic Christology because they believe it is unorthodox, incompatible with the classical Chalcedonian statement about the status of Jesus as a single person with both a human and a divine nature. 1 Others reject kenotic Christology because it is too orthodox, since it clearly presupposes the pre-existence of Christ as the second person of the Trinity, the One who emptied himself of divine prerogatives to suffer and die as a human for the human race. 2 One suspects that some of this second class of critics worry that a viable kenotic Christology would perhaps make orthodox beliefs about Jesus more intellectually credible by doing full justice to the humanness of Jesus, which contemporary New Testament scholarship has emphasized, without being forced thereby to compromise Jesus' divinity.

In this chapter I shall try to make some progress toward the development of a kenotic account of the incarnation, building on recent work of others. Let me first delimit my task, then highlight some assumptions. First, I need to make it clear that I shall defend a

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