The Christological Debate

One of the widely disputed theological arguments is found in the Christological debate. In this debate there are two main viewpoints. The classical view begs to say that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. He had some of the divine attributes of His Godliness, while at the same time He also had some of the attributes that a human has. In Classical thought, this is what made Jesus fully God and man. The kenotic view on the other hand, says that in order to become fully human, Jesus had to relinquish His divinity. This view still believes that He was fully God, but the difference is that He removed Himself from the areas that made Him God. Personally, I have come to find the kenotic view to be a much truer reading of the text as I see Jesus’ humanity overwhelm His story.

This view of Jesus relinquishing His God-side comes from Philippians 2:7 when it is stated that Jesus “emptied Himself.” Many classical believers argue that there is no proof as to what it is that Jesus is emptying Himself of. One author from The Handbook of Bible Study presents this argument: “It was a lowering, an emptying, to go from living as God lives to living as a slave lives.” It seems that we can’t accept the idea of Jesus becoming fully human because too often we think that focusing on Jesus being more human than divine is a bad thing. But in actuality, it gives more praise to God. A God who is willing to give up His own being in order to get the job done, shows a much stronger view of God than many views do. The Bible Knowledge Commentary points this out quite well in reference to the Gospel of John. “John presented the Incarnation—God manifest in the flesh—as the foundation of the gospel. This is the “glory,” not the “problem,” of the Fourth Gospel.”

I believe that one of the reasons people have a hard time adopting the idea of kenosis is because they do not understand the power of the Holy Spirit. After all, if we say that Jesus was fully man and gave up His divinity, then how exactly did He perform healings among many other things? The answer to this question is that He did these things through the power of the Holy Spirit, which He received in Matthew 3:16 through baptism. It was the divinity of the Spirit that He operated out of instead of His own Godliness as He had set that aside. And yes, I would go so far to say that it was out of His relationship with God and the Holy Spirit that He was able to walk on water and command the weather.

Jesus lived His life in step with God and through the power of the Spirit, as we see throughout the gospels, which goes to prove the kenotic view all the much more. For if Jesus ever exercised His divinity, He would have no reason to even try to connect with God through different forms of spiritual formation. What would be the point in fasting for 40 days (Mt. 4)? Why would Jesus find time to be in solitude with God or pray to God if He could hear His Godly side (Mt. 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; Luke 22:41)?

One of the obvious replies from a classical believer would be that Jesus did so to show us how to live our lives as Christians. However, when I read these passages I do not see a man praying to simply demonstrate something, but praying with a passion that can only be found in true search of God. When He found Himself in the garden of Gethsemane, He did not sweat drops of blood on command (Luke 22:44). No, He was obviously under a lot of pressure and undergoing some intense prayer. And the fact that this intensity lead Him to even ask God to take His cup from Him (Luke 22:43) demonstrates that this prayer was genuine and not simply prayed for the sake of an example. It was a prayer made out of true anguish, demonstrated by the blood He sweat.

However, that is not to say that Jesus’ life was not lived out as an example to believers. Actually “Being both God and man, Jesus simultaneously revealed God’s will for human life and reconciled sinful people to God through his own perfect life and death,” as the Tyndale Bible Dictionary points out. I believe that this is a view that kenotic and classical believers can both agree on, as we all agree that Jesus was both God and man. But it is in my opinion and the kenotic’s that He lived this example out with humanity overwhelming Him rather than out of the divinity He relinquished, making His example all the much more real.

But if this statement is true, then that means we have to deal with one of the biggest objections to the kenotic theory: how did Jesus do so many divine and miraculous things if He was just a human? If we dive deeper, we find our answers. John 14:12 states Jesus as saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works that these he will do…” (NASB). With this verse in mind, we come to see not only that Jesus did supernatural things as an example to believers, but that He did so outside of His own divinity. I say this because the rest of us are obviously not fully God or even partially God, yet we are expected to do greater things. Therefore, we will operate out of the same Spirit in order to do the same things. And if you want to go deeper than that, we could also mention that in the Old Testament, Joshua prayed that the sun would stop moving (Josh. 10:12-14), Elisha brought a dead boy back to life, (2 Kings 4:32-35), and prophets all over the place predicted the future. These can all be related to some of the things Jesus did and these men were completely human.

 

Bibliography

Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). Tyndale Bible dictionary. Tyndale reference

library (632). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.

Karleen, P. S. (1987). The handbook to Bible study : With a guide to the Scofield study

system. New York: Oxford University Press.

Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible

knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:268). Wheaton, IL:

Victor Books.

 

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