June 13, 2008

Kenosis

For a long time now, amazingly enough more than ten years, the theme of kenosis and God's self-limitation has been one that has held my rapt attention. It all started with a paper on God's hiddenness and Luther's On the Bondage of the Will, was further encouraged by Professor Ernest Simmons at Concordia College (Moorhead, MN), fully flowered in a senior paper and religion honors presentation in college, and was further developed with some investigation into Creation and Kenosis for a Masters' Paper. Much of my past work is reflected on my Web site, which contains both some more comprehensive statements and some fragments of further research and thought. But I think what has continued to hold my interest is how this theme, though much neglected in a lot of theological thinking, keeps popping up as a fruitful and important element in our doctrine of God and has important implications for theological thinking about a vast array of topics.

Most recently, I have been reading John Stackhouse's Finally Feminist, where God's self-limitation comes up as an important element in his reflections. He discusses the idea of progressive revelation, similar to William Webb's redemptive-movement hermeneutic. He recognizes that Scripture points us to an important understanding of God's providence that points to some measure of restraint or limitation in revelation: that is, that God often reveals his truth progressively, strategically, giving us only what we can handle or doing only so much to accomplish what he intends at that time. He concludes, "We trust that God's self-limitation is somehow for the greater good of his ultimate purpose" (40). In Jesus, God's kingdom decisively and revolutionarily breaks in to the world, but it doesn't do so completely and all at once.

I'd never explicitly connected self-limitation with a redemptive-movement hermeneutic, but it seems an essential move to making sense of the Scripture that God has given us. There is so much more to reflect on here, and I welcome your thoughts and reflections.

2 comments:

matthew r malcolm said...

Hi... this is really interesting. I'm actually kinda surprised at how we have similar interests: You've said in your website:

"Kenosis can help us begin to formulate an answer to the question of how a supremely powerful creator, who we claim to be intimately involved in this realm which He has created, can be invisible to so many. In relating to the world in a kenotic manner, God has chosen to work within the world in a manner that is accessible to faith, but is not undeniably accessible to science or reason. In short, God can and will be found, but only in faith. There will come a day when “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” (Phil. 2:10-11), but that day has not yet come. Instead, we now know in part, and see only a dim reflection of God (1 Cor. 13:12), but then, when God has refilled creation, we shall see face to face."

My own project is a similar exploration, but particularly as it relates to 1 Corinthians. There we find that God is "hidden" behind the cross of Christ: an eyesore to human sight, but "to us who believe, the power of God." Paul summons the Corinthians to look forward to the day when their hidden Lord will "appear", bringing with him final vindication and validation of those who belong to him.

Interesting stuff!

James K. said...

Matthew, thanks for the comment, and greetings to a kindred spirit. Seeking a christocentric theology that takes the cross seriously seems to lead in this direction. I've been most influenced by Luther, I think, in taking me this far, but I think a continual rereading of Paul especially is reaffirming God's power made known through weakness. What has driven my reflection thus far has been to try account for what that truth says about how we understand God and how God acts in the world. Interesting stuff indeed!