What Is Kenotic Christology?

Kenotic Christology is the belief that the Son in the incarnation ceased to be God or gave up some or all of his divine attributes temporarily until his ascension to the right hand of God. Kenotic comes from the Greek verb kenoō in Philippians 2:7 which can be translated “to empty.” Therefore, proponents of kenotic Christology argue that Jesus emptied himself of his divine attributes until his exaltation to the right hand of God. This understanding of the incarnation is in contrast to the historic belief in the hypostatic union of the two natures of Christ. Chalcedonian Christology teaches that Jesus, from the moment of the incarnation, is fully God and fully man at the same time in one person and that he never emptied himself of any of his divine attributes.

Kenotic Christology errs in failing to understand the nature of the incarnation, the relationship between the human and divine natures of Christ with respect to his person, and it overlooks many passages in the Gospels which mention his divine attributes. Jesus before his ascension knew all things (Matt 26:34; John 2:24-25; 16:30; 21:17), was omnipresent (John 1:47-50), was good as God is good (Mark 10:18), forgave sin (Mark 2:7), was sinless and perfect as God is perfect (Matt 5:48; John 8:46), and received worship (Matt 2:11; 28:9, 17; Luke 24:52; John 9:38; 20:28). He has never changed with respect to his divine nature which by definition is immutable (Heb 13:8).

The Word became flesh by taking upon himself a human nature. This human nature which he received from Mary did not replace his divine nature, but was added to his person. The one who existed as God from all eternity became man while remaining fully God. To argue that Jesus ceased to possess the divine attributes is to say that he ceased to be God because God’s divine nature is his attributes. His attributes are essential properties, not accidental ones. God is his attributes. Kenotic Christology therefore must deny divine simplicity by dividing Christ’s divine attributes up into some that he leaves behind and others that he keeps. If Christ emptied himself of all his divine attributes, he would not be worthy of worship because he would no longer be God by nature since a nature is defined by the unique attributes that distinguish it from other natures.

The most popular verse that is cited in favor of kenotic Christology is Mark 13:32: “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” It is therefore argued that Jesus temporarily gave up his omniscience or knowledge of all things in the incarnation since he did not know when he would return. But the proper interpretation of this verse must take into account the distinction that exists between the humanity and deity of Christ. Because Jesus is fully God and fully man at the same time, as God he knows everything and as man he grew in knowledge as we do. Jesus both knew all things as God and did not know all things as man at the same time because he is both God and man. With respect to his human nature as man, Jesus did not know when his coming would be. But with respect to his divine nature as God, he knows all things which includes the day of his coming. Thus, Jesus here is speaking with respect to his human nature.

The second most favorite verse in favor of kenotic Christology is Philippians 2:7 which speaks of Christ emptying himself.  Since Jesus “emptied himself,” it is concluded that he emptied himself of his divine attributes when he became man. But to say that Jesus “emptied himself” is not to say that he emptied himself of something he had, but that he himself is the one who is emptied. The verb “emptied” communicates the idea of being humbled or making oneself nothing. That is why the ESV correctly translates the verb as “made himself nothing.” It is a description of the humiliation of Christ through taking upon himself human nature. It is humiliation through addition, not subtraction. See James R. White’s discussion of this verse in The Forgotten Trinity for a more detailed treatment.

Sunday Meditation – Heavenly Blessings

“Heaven is our home, though for a time we are on earth and in misery. We should not judge our heavenly Father’s benefits by corporal blessings alone, for often the wicked prosper more in the world than God’s children. Thus, we must lift our minds from earthly to heavenly things. We may see, however, God’s heavenly providence in his earthly provisions. He has blessed me here on earth from my childhood with earthly provisions, yet these do not compare to his care for my soul. Earthly blessings are but a taste of our heavenly blessings. The loss of earthly things teaches us to be more mindful of the permanent things of heaven. I lament that I am so earthly-minded and think so little of my heavenly home. I am so unthankful for God’s providence and fatherly corrections here on earth. Alas! I am altogether a wretch, earthly and unthankful for the corporal benefits of health, riches, friends, fame, and wisdom. I do not appreciate my Father’s heavenly benefits, or Christ Jesus, or the promises of the Spirit, or the gospel, yes, and even glory and heaven itself. I am proud in prosperity and forget God, growing secure and careless. I am impatient under the cross and too often worry about my disappointments. O dear Father, forgive me for my unthankfulness, the love of the world, and contempt of all of your heavenly benefits. Grant me your Holy Spirit to illuminate the eyes of my mind with the light and living knowledge of your presence, power, wisdom, and goodness. Inflame my affections, that I may desire nothing on earth but you, and to be present with you.”

John Bradford

The Theological Beliefs of Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was used providentially by God to help call the church in America to work for the end of racial discrimination. We have much to learn from his legacy and bold stand against the injustice of racism. The sin of racism denies of the dignity and value of every human being and is an assault on the image of God. King is often portrayed by theological conservatives like myself as a Bible-believing Christian who rejected the liberalism around him. But nothing could be further from the truth. To paint King as a theological conservative is a complete whitewashing of history and dishonest. This is a common mistake of amateur historians who read their own beliefs back into the heroes of the past. King’s theology was in essential agreement with the liberal preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick. King wrote a letter to Fosdick in which he said:

“If I were called upon to select the greatest preacher of this century, I would choose your name. If I were called upon to select the foremost prophets of our generation, I would choose you to head the list. If I were called upon to select the Christian saints of our day, again I would have to place you on the list.”

Anyone can read King’s writings from his time at Crozer Theological Seminary (filled with grammatical errors) and see that King denied almost all of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. To begin with, King rejected the deity of Christ, calling it “harmful” and “detrimental”:

“We may find the divinity of Christ not in his substantial unity with God, but in his filial consciousness and in his unique dependence upon God. It was his felling of absolute dependence on God, as Schleiermaker would say, that made him divine. . . . The orthodox attempt to explain the divinity of Jesus in terms of an inherent metaphysical substance within him seems to me quite inadaquate. To say that the Christ, whose example of living we are bid to follow, is divine in an ontological sense is actually harmful and detrimental. To invest this Christ with such supernatural qualities makes the rejoinder: ‘Oh, well, he had a better chance for that kind of life than we can possible have.’ In other words, one could easily use this as a means to hide behind his failures. So that the orthodox view of the divinity of Christ is in my mind quite readily denied.”

He rejected the virgin birth of Christ which is the first belief to go after inerrancy when liberals start cutting doctrines out of the Bible:

“The second doctrine in our discussion posits the virgin birth. This doctrine gives the modern scientific mind much more trouble than the first, for it seems downright improbable and even impossible for anyone to be born without a human father. First we must admit that the evidence for the tenability of this doctrine is to shallow to convince any objective thinker.”

But in the same document, he not only rejects the virgin birth, he rejects the bodily resurrection of Christ as well:

“The last doctrine in our discussion deals with the resurrection story. This doctrine, upon which the Easter Faith rests, symbolizes the ultimate Christian conviction: that Christ conquered death. From a literary, historical, and philosophical point of view this doctrine raises many questions. In fact the external evidence for the authenticity of this doctrine is found wanting.”

In other words, though he denies the literal and bodily resurrection of Christ, he can say that he still believes in it because he redefines it as a spiritual experience. This is known as “theological doublespeak” where you say that you believe in something but redefine its meaning so that the people in the pews still think that you believe in orthodox Christianity. He sets forth this approach in his paper on the spiritual meaning of Christian doctrine:

“Among the beliefs which many modern Christians find difficult to accept are those dealing with eschatological hopes, particularly the second coming of Christ, the day of judgment, and the resurrection of the body. In an attempt to solve this difficult problem many modern Christians have jettisoned these beliefs altogether, failing to see that there is a profundity of spiritual meaning in these beliefs which goes beyond the shackles of literalism. We must realize that these beliefs were formulated by an unscientific people who knew nothing about a Copernican universe or any of the laws of modern science. They were attempting to solve basic problems which were quite real to them, problems which to them dealt with ultimate destiny. So it was only natural for them to speak in the pre-scientific thought pattern of their day. They could do no other. Inspiration did not magically remove the limitations of the writers. It heightened their power, but did not remove their distortions. Therefore it is our job as Christians to seek the spiritual pertinence of these beliefs, which taken literally are quite absurd. We would probably all agree with the spiritual meaning of what these early Christians were trying to say, although we would disagree with how they said it.”

He explains his rejection of the bodily resurrection of Christ in more detail in his autobiography:

“The lessons which I was taught in Sunday School were quite in the fundamentalist line. None of my teachers ever doubted the infallibility of the Scriptures. Most of them were unlettered and had never heard of Biblical criticism. Naturally I accepted the teachings as they were being given to me. I never felt any need to doubt them, at least at that time I didn’t. I guess I accepted Biblical studies uncritically until I was about twelve years old. But this uncritical attitude could not last long, for it was contrary to the very nature of my being. I had always been the questioning and precocious type. At the age of 13 I shocked my Sunday School class by denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus. From the age of thirteen on doubts began to spring forth unrelentingly. At the age of fifteen I entered college and more and more could I see a gap between what I had learned in Sunday School and what I was learning in college. This conflict continued until I studied a course in Bible in which I came to see that behind the legends and myths of the Book were many profound truths which one could not escape. . . . As stated above, my college training, especially the first two years, brought many doubts into my mind. It was at this period that the shackles of fundamentalism were removed from my body. This is why, when I came to Crozer, I could accept the liberal interpretation with relative ease.”

King also rejected the bodily and visible second coming of Christ to judge the living and the dead:

“It is obvious that most twentieth century Christians must frankly and flatly reject any view of a physical return of Christ. To hold such a view would mean denying a Copernican universe, for there can be no physical return unless there is a physical place from which to return. In its literal form this belief belongs to a pre-scientific world view which we cannot accept.”

In the same paper, he rejected the belief in a literal hell:

“Those who failed to achieve this immortal life were subjected to a physical place called Hell in which they would suffer eternal misery by burning in a blazing fire. In modern times we have come to see that such eschatological thinking is by far incompatible with the modern scientific world view. A physical Heaven and a physical Hell are inconceivable in a Copernican universe.”

King denied that the cross of Christ was an atonement for sin:

“In the next place, if Christ by his life and death paid the full penalty of sin, there is no valid ground for repentance or moral obedience as a condition of forgiveness. The debt is paid; the penalty is exacted, and there is, consequently, nothing to forgive.”

He believed that the flood story of Genesis was just a myth borrowed from paganism:

“Looking at the flood story from an objective angle we obviously see that the Hebrews have done nothing but taken a polytheistic picture and placed it in a monotheistic frame, thereby producing from Babylonian mythology an almost verbatim story. . . . If we accept the Old Testament as being ‘true’ we will find it full of errors, contradictions, and obvious impossibilities–as that the Pentateuch was written by Moses.”

But it is not just the Old Testament that is full of errors, he believed that Christianity borrowed its beliefs from the pagan mystery religions of the Roman world in accordance with the history of religions school of thought. His paper comparing fundamentalism and liberalism summarizes his rejection of the historic beliefs of the Christian faith:

“Others doctrines such as a supernatural plan of salvation, the Trinity, the substitutionary theory of the atonement, and the second coming of Christ are all quite prominant in fundamentalist thinking. Such are the views of the fundamentalist and they reveal that he is oppose[d] to theological adaptation to social and cultural change. He sees a progressive scientific age as a retrogressive spiritual age. Amid change all around he was {is} willing to preserve certain ancient ideas even though they are contrary to science.”

There is no evidence that King ever repudiated his rejection of the deity of Christ, his bodily resurrection, the virgin birth, the second coming of Christ, a literal hell, the cross as an atonement for sin, and the Trinity. He was also, sadly, an unrepentant adulterer who lived a double life. We do not honor the heroes of the past by rewriting their history to make them more palatable to us. Good history presents the past just as it was, warts and all.

Sunday Meditation – The Happiness of Obedience

“How do the holy angels do the will of God in heaven? First, their obedience is absolutely perfect; they do all that God asks and do not fail in the least obedience. They are never remiss in their service or slack in their attendance. They are continually blessing and praising God, and stand ready to receive and execute his commands and commissions. Secondly, the angels’ obedience is cheerful and not constrained from fear or suffering. It is their eternal delight. We too, need to esteem the commands of God our glory and great reward, not being dragged to do it as a burdensome  task. Thirdly, God’s will in heaven is done with zeal. Do we obey coldly or indifferently? Do we bring sacrifices with no fire? Or do we offer them up with strange fire? Fourthly, they do the will of God quickly. But, alas, how dull and slow we are! Instead of obeying the will of our God and Sovereign, we dispute it. O how many delays and excuses and procrastinations we make! Yet we are so willing to stay at leisure with every vile lust. We think that there will be time enough to serve God when we have nothing else to do. Certainly, this is not doing the will of God as the angels. Upon the very first impression of God’s will we should take wings and execute it speedily. Fifthly, they do the will of God with constancy and perseverance, serving day and night (Rev. 7:15). They never weary of their work. His service is their happiness and their obedience is their glory. Let us not content ourselves with comparative obedience by looking at others we think are worse off, but let us compare ourselves with the angels. Do we obey God with the same joy, zeal, speed, and perseverance? Do we delight ourselves in God’s will as these holy spirits do?”

Ezekiel Hopkins

What Is Marcionism?

Marcionism is a form of gnosticism promoted during the second century by Marcion of Sinope. It is polytheistic and dualistic asserting that the God of the Old Testament is an evil demiurge while the God of the New Testament is good. Marcion rejected the Old Testament Scriptures and only accepted an edited version of Luke and the writings of Paul stripped of their references to the Old Testament. He was also a docetist who denied the full humanity of Christ.

Marcion’s beliefs concerning the Old and New Testaments are most clearly set forth in his Antithesis where he argues that the two testaments contain irreconcilable depictions of God and therefore they must be two distinct deities who are in conflict with each another. He argued on the basis of Isaiah 45:7 that the God of the Old Testament is evil: “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.” The word translated as “calamity” here is the Hebrew word ra which means that which is evil or bad. The Greek translation of the Old Testament, which Marcion read, translates it as kakos which also means evil. Marcion concluded:

“This god is the author of evil – there must be another God, after the analogy of the good tree producing its good fruit. In Christ is found a different disposition, one of a simple and pure benevolence – which differs from the Creator. In Christ a new God is revealed.”

But Marcion’s mistake here is misunderstanding how the term ra is being used by Isaiah. Isaiah defines it in contrast to shalom which means peace or well-being since they are set in antithesis to each other. The opposite of well-being is calamity or disaster and that is why modern translations translate ra as calamity rather than evil. The point is not that God is the author of evil, but that he is ultimately the author of the calamity in the world which is evil because it falls short of God’s original design for creation (Lam 3:37-39; Amos 3:6). God is sovereign over the evil in the world without being evil himself because he uses secondary causes to accomplish his will whose desire is for evil while his is always for good (Gen 50:20; Isa 10:5-7; Acts 4:27-28; Eph 1:11). In one sense, Marcion’s theology flows from a rejection of the sovereignty of God as displayed in the Old Testament.

Not only did he believe in two distinct gods, he also believed that there were two different Christs. He argues that the Christ revealed in the Old Testament is not the same as the one revealed in his edited version of Luke:

“It is the Christ of the Other, Supreme God Who was driven to the cross by the hostile powers and authorities of the Creator. The suffering of the cross was not predicted of the Creator’s Christ; moreover, it should not be believed that the Creator would expose his son to that kind of death on which he himself had pronounced a curse. ‘Cursed’ says he, ‘is everyone who hangeth on a tree’ (Deuteronomy 21:3, Galatians 3:13).”

While Marcionism is damnable heresy, we can be tempted to think in Marcionite categories and fail to see the interconnectedness of the Old and New Testaments. When we relegate the Old Testament Scriptures to a secondary status in our teaching and preaching, we are failing to treat all of Scripture as God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16). It is primarily in the Old Testament where the attributes of God are set forth. To neglect the Old Testament is to neglect the study of who God is. And the essence of eternal life is knowing God through Christ (John 17:3). When Christians speak poorly of the Old Testament and its laws from an antinomian perspective, they are unwittingly drifting toward Marcionism by creating a canon within the canon where the New Testament is seen as superior to the Old when it comes to ethics and morals. But the same God who gave us the laws of the Old Testament also gives us the commands of the New. Since the moral law is a reflection of God’s righteousness, it is not subject to change because God does not change.

Sunday Meditation – Know Your Enemy

“The devil is a very subtle enemy. The Christian is endangered most by his pol­icy and craft. He is called the old serpent—the serpent subtle above other creatures; an old serpent above other serpents. Satan was too crafty for man in his perfection, much more now in his maimed estate, having never recovered that first crack he got in his understanding, by the fall of Adam. And as man hath lost, so Satan hath gained more and more experience; he lost his wisdom, indeed, as soon as he became a devil, but, ever since, he hath increased his craft; though he hath not wisdom enough to do himself good, yet he hath subtlety enough to do others hurt. God shows us where his strength lies, when he prom­iseth he will bruise the head of the serpent; his head crushed, and he dies presently. Now in handling this point of Satan’s subtlety, we shall consider him in his two main designs, and therein show you his wiles and policies. His first main design is to draw into sin. The second main design is to accuse, vex, and trouble the saint for sin. Satan shows his subtlety in choosing the most proper and advantageous seasons for tempting. ‘To every thing there is a season,’ Solomon saith, Ecc. 3:1, that is, a nick of time, which taken, gives facility and speedy despatch to a business; and therefore the same wise man gives this reason why man miscarries so frequently, and is disappointed in his enterprises, ‘because he knows not his time,’ Ecc. 9:12. He comes when the bird is flown. A hundred soldiers at one time may turn a battle, save an army, when thousands will not do it at another. Satan knows when to make his approaches, when (if at any time) he is most likely to be entertained. As Christ hath the tongue of the learned to speak a word in season of counsel and comfort, to a doubting dropping soul, so Satan knows his black heart, and hellish skill, in speaking words of seduction and temptation in season.”

William Gurnall

Videos on Apologetics You Should Watch

I have been collecting my favorite videos on Christian apologetics for some time and would like to share them with you. Here is a link to my YouTube playlist on Christian apologetics. In addition, here are my favorite Christian channels on YouTube that consistently put out good content:

Acts 17 Apologetics

Reformed Apologetics Ministries

Alpha and Omega Ministries

Apologia Studios

Theology, Philosophy, and Science

The Gospel Coalition

Desiring God

Inspiring Philosophy

Ryan Reeves

WWUTT

LaneCh

Real Truth Real Quick

One Minute Apologist

Living Waters

Tony Miano

Answers in Genesis

HeartCry Missionary Society

Paul Tripp

I’ll Be Honest

Christian Praise and Worship