Kenosis (kin-'oh-sis) and Christmas
12/09/2008 | Author: RCW
It's hard to describe all the different things that changed about me while I was away at college. As a high school student, I had enjoyed math and excelled at it, but loathed literature and reading. After sensing a call to ministry during my junior year of high school, I went to my youth minister at the time and he said that one of the first things that I should need to do if I was indeed experiencing God's call to ministry was that I should become a reader. I took his advice and have been one since. Yet the transition was one that would continue.

Evidently someone in higher education knew the sensibility and soundness of my youth minister's advice. For I went off to Dallas Baptist University and wanting to study for ministry, I chose to major in Biblical Studies. It wasn't until I began to map out which courses I would take when that I began to realize that studying for ministry must have included a healthy dose of reading for sure...I was required to take 4 English / Literature courses and 4 philosophy courses.

After beginning such courses, I found that I enjoyed them so immensely that I would use my electives to take 3 more of each and thereby earn minors in each as well! Part of the blame surely falls on some great teachers. A philosophy professor named Dr. Naugle kindled within me a love for learning and desire to love the Lord my God with all my think critically and prayerfully about things which most people take for granted. A semester or two later, I had a remarkable English professor, Dr. Mitchell who showed me that Christ was the holder and giver of all wisdom and that I could see Him and find Him in the world of literature, poetry, and books! He further kindled my love for learning and reinforced that I should love the Lord my God with all my mind as well.

The point of this blog, however, is not biographical in nature. Instead, it is spiritual. The season of Christmas reminds me that our God is so very different than others. He is True and Real surely, but what I am speaking of is that He chose to draw near to us and dwell among us.

John 1 speaks of Jesus, the "word" and "wisdom" of God, in this way:

"the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."

Other religions focus on how men might ascend to God. Christianity tells how God came and made His way to us.

Philippians 2:6-8 is known by theologians as "the kenosis passage" (kin-'oh-sis). Kenosis simply means "emptying". Jesus Christ, being equal to God, "emptied" Himself, made Himself nothing, took on human flesh, and came to earth to suffer and die as a man.

It is this "Kenosis" passage that my English professor whom I just spoke of wrote about when He composed the following:


Psalm 46:10: "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
Philippians 2:6-8:

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!

What happens when our words cannot express the complete truth? What do we do when our attempts to formulate an answer end in contradictions? What do we say when our every attempt to put the experience on paper fails? What are we then left with?

How can we understand the kenosis of Christ, the self-emptying of God, for our sakes? What nouns and verbs can do justice to this most profound of mysteries, that God made himself nothing?

Is there any way to sum up the deep wisdom of God in suffering? Why does his creativity seem to overflow through us when we are at our weakest and most wordless? Where may we go to better know that Christ suffered on our behalf? How can we adequately express our thanks for such a complete outpouring of himself?

How do we endure the silence of our literature when it falters in its attempts to name what is there, when it loses its moorings and contradicts itself, when it seems so full of holes and spaces? How can we explain what needs to be said once the words end? Is there any clear way to suggest that God was broken because we in word and deed are broken?

Why has God chosen to leave some things silent and unsaid?

* * * * *

Central Insight: Christ's kenosis reminds us that God was willing to be with us in our doubts and limits, including the limits of language and literature.

Suggestions for Application: Examine a particular passage that shows the limits, contradictions, or unanswered questions of a text. Draw an analogy between this and Christ's kenosis.


This "kenosis" entry from Dr. Mitchell was copied over from his own website: Browse it freely if you like!

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