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Exploring Kenotic Christology: The Self-Emptying of God

3.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199283224
ISBN-10: 0199283222
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About the Author


C. Stephen Evans is University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Baylor University.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (July 13, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199283222
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199283224
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 1.1 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,534,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
C. Stephen Evans' compilation of modern essays on kenotic Christology brings together a number of current proponents of the kenosis theory with a few adherents of the historically orthodox view. The essays are written by philosophers, theologians and Biblical scholars all professing Christian faith. Certainly, some strides have been made in attempting to articulate a more coherent (and varied) kenosis doctrine since Gottfried Thomasius first proposed his theory in the mid-nineteenth century. Yet, there are still problems inherent in any literal `self-emptying' and/or `self-limiting' doctrine with respect to the Word (Logos) when compared to Chalcedon and, by extension, Scripture.

Confusingly, some use the term kenosis as a way to define the Word's (Logos') necessary limitations qua human while neither divesting divine attributes nor limiting the usage thereof during the Incarnation, which is in actuality merely defining Chalcedonian orthodoxy. For example, to claim that Jesus is limited in power yet God the Son is omnipotent is consistent with historical, orthodox Christianity. Yet others in modern times use the term in ways far removed from the starting point of orthodoxy, even going so far as denying pre-existence. Thankfully, the essayists in this volume all affirm the Logos' pre-existence, though some depart from orthodoxy in other areas. On the more orthodox end, we have scholar Gordon Fee in his working definition as "some form of self-limitation of divine prerogatives on the part of the earthly Jesus" [p 29]. However, others use the term in the sense of either ontological kenosis (the Word no longer retains certain, or perhaps any, divine attributes) or functionalist kenosis (the Word retains all divine attributes yet restricts the usage of some or all).
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Format: Paperback
Full disclosure: This book was provided by Regent College Publising for review.

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself and became obedient to death--
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."
- Philippians 2:5-11

Have you ever wondered what this poem/hymn means? What does it mean that God made himself nothing? What is this emptying, this demotion? Is it merely poetic language, or does it reflect something much more important? And how, within all of this, do you understand the incarnation? How can God, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, become man who is, seemingly by definition, none of these things? Did God give something up to become man? If so, how? And is God still God if he gives up some of His attributes, or do we find ourselves face-to-face with that oh so nasty of theological positions: a paradox?

These questions, and many more, are at the heart of Kenotic Christology and, thus, at the heart of this book. Exploring Kenotic Christology is a theological volume which does exactly what it declares in the title. Through a collection of thirteen essays by various authors this book takes on almost the full raft of issues surrounding Kenotic Christology.
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Format: Hardcover
Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Understanding Jesus the Christ as Human and Divine, C. Stephen Evans
2. The New Testament and Kenosis Christology, Gordon D. Fee
3. The Odyssey of Christ: A Novel Context for Philippians 2:6-11, Bruce N. Fisk
4. Nineteenth-Century Kenotic Christology: The Waxing, Waning, and Weighing of a Quest for a Coherent Orthodoxy, Thomas R. Thompson
5. Is Kenosis Orthodox?, Stephen T. Davis
6. A Kenotic Christological Method for Understanding the Divine Attributes, Ronald J. Feenstra
7. Trinity and Kenosis, Thomas R. Thompson and Cornelius Plantinga, Jr
8. Kenotic Christology and the Nature of God, C. Stephen Evans
9. 'He descended into hell': The Depths of God's Self-Emptying Love on Holy Saturday in the Thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar, Edward T. Oakes, SJ
10. Does Kenosis Rest on a Mistake? Three Kenotic Models in Patristic Exegesis, Sarah Coakley
11. The Logic of Assumption, Edwin Chr. van Driel
12. Kenosis and Feminist Theory, Ruth Groenhout
13. Conclusion: The Promise of Kenosis, Stephen T. Davis and C. Stephen Evans
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The task that Evans and others took upon writing these essays was to make a defense of chacedonian christology while maintaining a position that was not even popular until the 19th century. While there are some differences between kenoticism of the 19th century and the majority position taken on this collection of essays, it is noticeable that orthodoxy is at their best interest. The book came out as a result of a series of conversations and debates at Calvin college and can be arranged as follows:
Gordon Fee starts the series of essays by trying to defend the kenotic theory from biblical exegesis. While this is somewhat true, I can say that Fee's major motivation may even be his students' naïve docetic approach to christology. Which can be somewhat frustrating, because Fee does not make sense of the acting subject of the incarnation. He fails to read history properly and does not recognize the acting subject of the incarnation as the Word. He may even sometimes seem to indicate that the human nature is acting (which does not make sense, since it has been usually connected active subject with person and not natures).
On Thompson's survey of kenoctic christology he showed competency of recognizing aspects of classical christology such as divine Krypsis and even the extra-calvinisticum (75, 94). Thompson starts with the rise of kenotic christology through Thomasius who was an extreme ontology kenotic theologian and finishes with a proposal to make Gess the kenotic model. He appeal to a lack of contradiction on Gess' approach. By appealing to a total kenosis, then Christ would have taken a full humanity. The issue is that, as Thompson himself raises (but does not address) is that how than was Jesus fully God?
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