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August 17, 2005

Ch. XVIII. Q. 108. The Humiliation of Christ

THE DOCTRINE of our Lord's humiliation is that, although He existed in the form of God, Jesus Christ did not reckon His equality with God to consist in grasping; but effaced Himself, and took the form of a servant. Moreover, obediently submitting to human limitations and to all the consequences of being found in fashion as a man, He persevered in such submission even unto the death of the Cross.1

2. Speaking of Christ, St. Paul says, ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσε.2 Apart from its context, this phrase might be taken in either of three ways: (a) Supporters of the Kenotic theory take it literally, with an implied objective genitive, "He emptied Himself" of something that He had; (b) A literal construction, but without an objective genitive, would be, He gave up (or sacrificed) Himself—a meaning quite consistent with St. Paul's general Christology, and non-kenotic; (c) A metaphorical, or rhetorical, construction, He effaced Himself, most obviously fits in with the context, which is concerned with an avoidance of vain-glory. Self-effacement is also the most obvious antithesis, introduced by ἀλλά, to grasping at honour with men. Furthermore, St. Paul's use of the verb κενόω in all other known instances is non-literal.3

3. The self-effacement of the eternal Son was actualized by what He experienced in His Manhood. It was not less truly His effacement on this account, for what He experienced in our nature was experienced by the eternal Son.4 Prior to the Incarnation there was nothing in His Person which was not essential to His being divine. Not even His glory can be said to have been "abandoned," for His divine glory had not as yet been manifest to men, and in His Father's sight He was never more glorious than when effacing Himself for our sake. His glorification in the Manhood, on the other hand, and the exaltation of His human name, Jesus, was indeed postponed until He had completed His self-effacement, but postponement is not abandonment.

4. The modem technical use of the term kenosis is not justified by St. Paul's thought, and has had confusing effect upon recent Christological enquiry. Until German theologians face the novelty of the Lutheran postulate which has made the logic of kenoticism seem valid, they cannot develop a Christology that will be either sound or permanently satisfying.5

5. Rightly defined, the doctrine of Christ's humiliation has priceless value: (a) It assures us of the greatness of God's love and mercy, which expressed itself in such a stupendous self-effacement in our behalf; (b) It reveals the true nature of sacrifice to God—complete will surrender; (c) It justifies our conviction that the fulness of divine resources has been applied to our sorrows and made available for our service; (d) It uplifts self-effacing humility as the determinative and glorifying mark of perfect human character.

1 Incarnation, ch. vii; K. Theory; H.C. Powell, Principle of the Incarn.; W. Bright, Waymarks in Christ. Hist., app. G. Historical and descriptive: A.B. Bruce, Humiliation of Christ; Hastings, Encyc. of Relig., s. v. "Kenosis"; W. Sanday, Christology and Personality, pp. 71-78; E.D. la Touche, Person of Christ, pp. 351-356; H.C. Powell, pp. 329-336. Kenotic writers, Bp. Gore, The Incarnation; and Dissertations; W.P. Dubose, Soteriology of the New Test.; A.J. Mason, Conditions of our Lord's Life on Earth; R.L. Ottley, Incarnation; etc.

2 Phil. ii. 6-7.

3 K. Theory, pp. 57-70; Incarnation, ch. vii. 10-11; Warren, in Journ. of Theol. Stud., Apr. 1911. pp. 461-463; N. Rostron, Christology of St. Paul, pp. 113-114, note; A.E.J. Rawlinson, in Foundations, p. 174, note 1; H.C. Powell, pp. 238-255; E.D. la Touche, pp. 359-361. Cf. C.J. Ellicott, J.B. Lightfoot and H.A.A. Kennedy, in loc.; E.H. Gifford, Incarnation; H.C.G. Moule, Philippian Studies, pp. 92-96.

4 Cf. Q. 107.1-2, above. W. Bright, Sermons of St. Leo, n. 115; St. Augustine, de Trin., i, 7.

5 Cf. Q. 107.4-5, above.

Posted by AKMA at August 17, 2005 04:06 AM