The Kenotic theories as to the manner of the Incarnation will occupy us in this chapter. I have hinted that in a certain sense some of them logically belong to the class of theories that aim at a divine-human subject of the manhood. But in so much as the whole doctrine so advanced depends upon the abandonment by the eternal Son of some at least of His divine powers and prerogatives, I have thought it better to class them together. And perhaps, even logically, my action is defensible. For what is primary to the Kenotic position is not the divine-human personality, which the better Kenotists would deny to exist, but the deliberate act of self-sacrifice of the eternal Son with a view to His becoming the adequate subject of the manhood He willed to assume. This act lies behind everything; and the realization of it is the basis of the dogma of the Incarnation as conceived by these teachers, and the key to the mystery of the union of the divine and human natures in the one Christ.
The main thesis may be considered according to the degree in which an abandonment of divine attributes by the eternal Son is demanded.
I. The normal Kenotic theory asserts on the part of the eternal Son an abandonment of certain attributes of the Godhead that are evident to us only in the outward activities of God. Omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence are so apparent: and they have been termed the physical attributes of the Godhead. The moral attributes are those which are in eternal exercise apart from the activities of God towards creation. For the Logos, therefore, to abandon the physical attributes is not to withdraw from the Godhead as such, nor to surrender His place within the divine Being; but it does mean His withdrawal from the activities of God towards all creation, and it involves the cessation of His functions as the eternal Word during the period of His life on earth.
On the other hand, the abandonment of these physical attributes is said to enable Him to act adequately, and within the necessary limits, as subject of manhood; while the possession and duly restrained exercise of His moral attributes render Him, in fact, the true Light of the world.
As we have said, there is a tendency in some writers to overemphasize the personality of the manhood assumed, so that it is implied that the Logos associated with Himself a human personality, and as the result of the Incarnation there appeared a new, composite person, neither purely divine nor purely human, but divine-human. The Incarnate is conscious, not as man, but as a man.
This type of Kenosis is illustrated in the writings of Thomasius, [For authors referred to in this chapter see Appendix, note V.] who lived in the middle of the last century. And so far as the theory of self-abandonmnent is concerned it is found in the Christology of Dr. Fairbairn.
The critics of Thomasius saw that, in fact, he had postulated a dual consciousness of the Incarnate. For He must be self-conscious as a divine person, in spite of the abandonment of His powers; and He is also self-conscious as a man. Gess avoided this pitfall, but by a theory that is evidently contrary alike to the Scriptures and the Creeds. He held that the eternal Son laid aside, not only the physical attributes of the divine nature, but the moral attributes as well; that, in fact, He ceased for thirty-three years from His existence within the divine Being, thus laying aside all self-consciousness as the Son of God. The eternal Son during the period of His Incarnation upon earth did not receive the divine essence by the eternal act of divine generation, nor did He mediate the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father. So self-abandoned, the Logos became the human soul of the Christ. And thus the Christ is one person, of one single consciousness.
Godet has made us familiar with the name of Gess. He will not at all follow him in his Apollinarian views of the soul of Christ. But he does strongly teach the cessation of the Word from His existence within the divine Being during the period of the earthly life. The considerations that he urges are that the life of the Son in the bosom of the Father is a matter of love only, not of necessity; and that all which the Father does by the mediation of His Word He can effect immediately, while the Son is incarnate upon earth. The Father acts as and for the Word.
But this attempt to avoid the dual consciousness of the self-abandoned, Incarnate Word is too bold to succeed. Many who will accept the self-abandonment of physical attributes within the sphere of the Incarnation cannot at all see their way to acknowledge a cessation of the Logos from His cosmic functions.
Hence comes the theory that the eternal Word continued always in His activities in the universe; but that relatively, within the sphere of the Incarnation, He actually abandoned His physical attributes and constituted Himself the subject of His true humanity. But as Incarnate He has a new kind of consciousness, neither purely human nor purely divine; it is unique, partaking both of the divine and the human. Thus we arrive at a new, unique person, the result of the Incarnation, possessed of one consciousness and one will.
This theory has been clearly stated and strongly maintained by Professor Clarke, of New York, in his treatise on Systematic Theology. We notice that it is, in fact, a Monothelite Christ whom he preaches, and that the subject of the manhood is a new, unique, composite, divine-human person; but we may at least be glad that the Professor believes that the functions of the Logos are permanent and that the Saviour was miraculously born.
II. So far, then, we have been describing the more extreme forms of Kenotic theory. The next type that demands our attention is that represented by the system of the Danish professor, Martensen.
He has this in common with those we have mentioned, that he divides the divine attributes into the physical and moral. Like Professor Clarke he refuses to accept the idea that the Logos can cease from His cosmic functions. But his Kenotic theory does not require a complete abandonment of divine powers. The main points on which he insists are these. The Logos lives a double life: He continues in His full life of glory and divine activity as the Word of the Father, and within the sphere of the Incarnation He also lives a life of limitation and poverty, marked by the renunciation of all true exercise of the physical attributes of Godhead.
The Incarnate is a man, the self-revelation of the divine Logos; but His fullness from which we receive is not merely that of His human nature but of His divine nature. He emptied His fullness into the mean form of a servant, and so perfected Himself.
In fact, He possessed His Deity under the conditions imposed by a human individuality, in the limited form of a human consciousness. Thus in the Christ we see not the naked God, but the fullness of the deity framed in the ring of humanity, and the physical attributes of Godhead are in some sense perfected and vitalized by their expression in terms of humanity.
Thus the Christ is one, with one, single divine-human consciousness. This consciousness He had not in His mother's womb; He arrived at it by passing through a preliminary consciousness of Himself as a human person.
In all this we see an advance in the idea of Kenosis: the eternal Son remains master of His powers, however He may restrain them; and the emptying of them is not the putting of them away, but the pouring of them into a personal manhood, in the measure in which they could be assimilated.
But we are startled at the continual references to a human person, a human individuality, and consciousness as a man. It seems that Martensen did not quite avoid the danger of postulating a composite personality, and some of his language suggests that he regarded the Logos as the soul of the Christ's humanity.
The implication that divine attributes of the physical order are perfected by expression in manhood may be accounted for by his plea that the Logos has eternal relations with creation; relations which at first existed in essence only, but later were manifest in visible form. Thus the Incarnation of the Word is really the crown of His self-expression as the eternal Word. The completeness of the divine Being required, as it were, the manifestation of the divine world activities in terms of creation. There is, of course, the authority of St. John to be quoted for this idea, [John 1:3. See Westcott in loc. See R.V. margin.] but not, I fear, for the corollary of Martensen. To this we must return later.
It is, I think, possible to find in Martensen's view of the Kenosis something of the teaching of those Calvinistic divines who maintained what was called the Reformed Christology as against the Lutheran ubiquitarians. [See Dorner, Div, 2, Vol. II, pp. 338 ff. Bruce, Humiliation of Christ, pp. 114 ff.] The parallel does not extend very far, perhaps, but it exists on the side of insistence on the reality of the humanity of our Lord in its proper limitations, and in the possession by the Logos of the divine powers that He would not use except in a human measure. The real advantage of this view of the Kenosis is that it leaves to the Logos as Incarnate the ultimate power over Himself. Thomasius and the extreme Kenotists place the act of self-emptying outside the sphere of the Incarnation. He who is incarnate actually does not possess in any sense, as Incarnate, the divine powers that are proper to Him as eternal Logos. But Martensen will not admit this view, nor can it be reconciled with his thought that the divine world activities of the Logos are to be clothed in a human form.
III. Dr. Gore, Bishop of Oxford, has spoken with some favour of Martensen's view of the actual Kenosis, but he sees difficulties in the way of conceiving the double life. He appears to follow the line that leads to the conception of the Logos as remaining in supreme control over His divine powers, regarding Him as abandoning their use entirely within the limited sphere of the Incarnation: those divine powers, that is, which may be supposed to be incompatible with the proper development of His manhood. Thus with the extreme Kenotists he can practically differentiate the moral attributes from the physical; but with Martensen he refuses to postulate a cessation of the Logos from His cosmic functions; and he marks off a state within which he argues for a relative abandonment by the Logos of His physical attributes.
The Bishop is, of course, entirely clear in his assertion of the true divinity of the person of the Incarnate, His miraculous birth of the Virgin Mary, and the constitution of the manhood in the Logos Himself, but he speaks of a self-abandonment of powers incommensurate with humanity.
Briefly stated, the Bishop's theory is this: The eternal Son in His cosmic position as Logos continued in the full possession and exercise of His divine prerogatives and powers. But within a certain sphere, for a fixed period, for a definite purpose, He willed to abandon some of those prerogatives and powers, and to live, entirely and personally, under conditions of manhood identical with our own, except as to sin. Of this abandonment the purpose is our redemption and the motive His infinite love.
Thus we are to think of Him as being actually ignorant, and, in matters unconnected with His mission, accepting and holding the views of His contemporaries. But in all that concerns His work of redemption, He is to be acknowledged and obeyed as an infallible Teacher, the true, divine Light of the world.
It is to be inferred from the Bishop's theory that as Incarnate the eternal Son had so stripped Himself of omniscience and other attributes of the same class that He could adequately serve as ego to His assumed manhood. But there is no hint that the Son of God had assumed a human individuality. There is no talk of personal manhood. Dr. Gore seems to mean that the Incarnate knows Himself as Son of God in manhood, through the medium of His human soul.
The difficulty of this language to me lies in the dual conception of the Logos as unlimited and as self-abandoned. It seems possible to argue that the Word as self-abandoned has a different self-consciousness from the eternal Word as unlimited; and that the self-emptied Son as conditioned by manhood requires a form of self-consciousness that is different from both. In the first case, we have divine self-consciousness; in the second, one that is so far from being fully divine that we can only term it impoverished divine; and in the third case we have what the Bishop calls human consciousness, meaning in fact divine consciousness impoverished and then conditioned in manhood.
So that even if we shut out from the sphere of the Incarnation the conception of the unlimited Logos as fully conscious of His divine Self and position, we are still face to face with two centres of consciousness in the Incarnate: the one in which He knows Himself as self-impoverished divine--knows Himself, that is, as less than Himself; the other, in which He knows Himself as self-impoverished divine conditioned by manhood. It seems to me that we must make this logical distinction, and, once made, we have robbed the theory of its practical advantage and, therefore, of its only appeal.
What is needed, I think, is some such conception of the manner of the Incarnation as will unify the act of limitation and the act of accepting the conditions of manhood, so that the only knowledge that He shall have of Himself as less than Himself is that which comes to Him through His recognition of human conditions. But such a conception would rule out all theories of self-abandonment of attributes as opposed to self-limitation in the exercise of divine powers.
To postulate an initial act of self-abandonment is to postulate His self-consciousness as self-abandoned Logos: as it were a kind of midway halting place between the unlimited Logos and the Man Christ Jesus our Lord. This becomes plainer if we consider the unborn Babe. He is, practically, devoid of consciousness as conditioned in manhood: His human soul is, practically, inoperative. He may not, by hypothesis, be conscious as unlimited Logos, for He is in the sphere of the Incarnation. Hence we have a new self-consciousness as self-abandoned Logos which will ultimately be merged in His self-consciousness as Son of God conditioned by manhood.
Thus the theory [I think that Dr. Gore has made a mistake in using the word "abandonment"; for what he desires to teach is really to be stated equally well in far less dangerous language, as will appear below.] of Dr. Gore seems to suffer from the same weakness as that of Thomasius; and there will always be a danger of a Godet arising to deprive the Logos of all self-consciousness; or of a Clarke, who will postulate a single, composite, divine-human consciousness, in order to avoid this dual consciousness.
IV. It is now possible to offer some general remarks upon the theories to which I have drawn attention. And at the outset it should be noticed how much indebted the Church is in fact to the Kenotists for the thought that the subject of manhood must be sought for in the Logos conceived as self-limited. These writers have made it a commonplace of Christology that there is a permanent ego of the manhood whose self-consciousness is of different content from that of the divine Son in His freedom and glory; and yet He is one and the same in essence. That is to say, they have made us familiar with the thought that the self-limitation of the Son is real and permanent. It is easy to forget the debt that we owe to them; it is even easy to refuse to acknowledge it because of our dislike of some of their theories. But the fact is that their main doctrine is an axiom of our modern Christology, although there was a time when such a view would have been regarded as in the highest degree rash and presumptuous.
Of course it is quite another matter to accept their measure of the self-limitation of the Son. For here the choice is seen to lie between a continuous act of self-restraint at the one extreme, and at the other a single, final act of self-abandonment of divine prerogatives. And where the choice is so wide, the scope for a wrong choice is very large.
(1) My first criticism of the extreme Kenotic view is that it takes us outside the Gospel revelation and the Apostolic interpretation of it.
The general tendency of the New Testament is towards the doctrine of the permanence of the universal life and cosmic functions of the eternal Word. The Pauline doctrine of the Son is that He is the expression of God, the divine self-manifestation, from whom all things come, in whom all things are, and to whom all things move. Without Him the universe would not be. To this the Epistle to the Hebrews also witnesses. And all down the ages the Church has received and maintained that the Word never for a moment ceased from His activity in upholding the creation. If, then, we are suddenly bidden to revise this doctrine, have we not the right to demand weighty and indisputable evidence based on Scripture? But of such evidence there is not the least trace. Thus we feel justified in putting on one side all those Kenotic theories that carry over the self-emptying of the Logos into the eternal sphere. Of all such opinions we can only say that at the best they mark attempts to meet real difficulties, but the solution they offer is in itself more difficult than the original problem.
(2) But what shall we say of a relative self-abandonment? Of a self-abandonment, that is, by the eternal Son of some of His divine attributes within a certain fixed sphere. Is there Scriptural authority for that?
There is, and there is not. There are passages of St. Paul that can be explained in the light of a moderate, relative Kenosis; but there is no passage that cannot be equally well explained in some other way.
The crucial passage is that in the second chapter of the Epistle to the Philippians. [Phil. 2:58.] Kenotists interpret it to mean that the eternal Son "emptied Himself" of the prerogatives of equality with God; so emptied Himself as not to possess any divine characteristics which in their judgement are incompatible with the free exercise of the characteristic powers and weaknesses of the human or servile form. He laid aside, rather than conditioned, the divine form of existence, and assumed the human form of existence. Martensen seems to think that the Logos limited His divine powers completely; Dr. Gore is content with no term less than abandonment. God the Son was self-abandoned of His omniscience and omnipotence.
St. Paul, in the passage in question, is presenting our Lord to us as the exemplar of the race in humility. Of what exactly, then, did He empty Himself in order to be a true example of humility? The Apostle contrasts equality with God and a state of servitude; freedom and limitation. There is no evident hint that our Lord laid aside the omnipotence and omniscience of God in order to become man. The Apostle's point seems to be that the eternal Son deliberately chose to empty Himself of all the characteristics that mark the state of equality with God, and to make His own the characteristics that mark the state of human slavery. The Incarnation meant for Him not only taking our manhood, but assuming the characteristics of slavery.
Now slavery is a purely negative state. It is the state of a man who is by right possessed of all human qualities, but by the accident of his state is prevented from the exercise of them, either in part or altogether. He is at the mercy of his master, whose will may change from day to day, and who may at any moment free his slave from his limitations. Were he to do so, the slave would be found to possess all the proper attributes of manhood. Thus slavery is based, as a state, not on the absence of human rights and powers, but on the absence of the actual liberty to exercise them. Limitation, therefore, and not abandonment, is the keynote of slavery.
For St. Paul, the divine love of the eternal Son is the motive that has constrained Him to enslave Himself in order that men may come to give Him love for love. Under this law of loving self-limitation the Son lives, possessing all His rights as God, but hindered from the exercise of them. The limits of the self-emptying are fixed. A slave cannot part with the essential attributes of manhood: he is merely hindered from the exercise of them. And on this analogy Christ may not be said to have been self-emptied of any essential attribute of God or Godhead: He merely limited Himself in, or restrained Himself from, the free use of the divine powers that are His.
Not more than this can, I think, be certainly deduced from the passage. As quoted by advanced Kenotists it is not valid. It might be patient of the interpretation they put upon it, were they able to support their view by any other Scriptures. But taken alone, we do not feel that it will bear the weight put upon it. Rather, for my own part, I feel that their interpretation of it puts a meaning upon the term slavery that is quite illegitimate.
So again the "self-beggary" of our Lord to which St. Paul alludes in his second Epistle to the Corinthians [2 Cor. 8:9.] cannot be quoted as certainly decisive, unless it be proved that no other form of self-limitation, except that which they advocate, is real and true. The text may be taken to cover any act of self-limitation that really affects the eternal Son; any, in fact, that is not merely dramatic.
Therefore, on the whole I am inclined to say that Scripture does not justify the so-called Kenotic doctrine of self-abandonment; and that history goes to prove that this interpretation of the particular passages does not lie near the surface.
To say that we cannot explain our view of the Incarnation except by such a complete kenosis of divine attributes as we have examined, and that we can support such a kenosis by the Pauline writings is one thing; but to say that the Pauline passages justify such a view of the Kenosis of Christ is quite another thing. And it is the latter statement that requires proof before men as a whole will accept so startling a conception of the Incarnation as is advocated by the advanced Kenotists.
For it is not only our traditional view of the Incarnation that is at stake. With that we might be tempted to part in favour of a fuller, richer, and more living conception of the eternal Son of God in human flesh. But it is the dogma of the unchangeableness of God that must bear the stress of the change. And in the sphere of fundamental dogma no change can for a moment be contemplated that is not demanded by evidence of Scripture so weighty that refusal to accept the new light would become impossible to the seeker after truth. Of course we must remember our ignorance of things divine, our poverty of thought, and our inability to measure the divine love and the divine power. But since we owe these truths to the revelation of which Scripture is our only written witness, we may not desert what we have so authoritatively received at the bidding of men whose position as teachers in the Church has yet to be established.
(3) The thought of how the advanced Kenotic doctrine influences our views as to the Godhead, leads us to consider the distinction that is drawn between God's moral and physical attributes.
It is quite legitimate to distinguish in thought between God as transcendent and God as immanent; between God as He is in Himself and God as He manifests Himself in creation; or between God as He exists in threefold life and God as He expresses Himself in a threefold way. All this is necessary to clear thinking. There is no just cause of complaint against those writers who speak of God as He is in Himself as God the Triunity, or the Godhead; and of God as He is manifested to the universe as God the Trinity, or simply God. Triunity and Trinity: Godhead and God: it is a question of nomenclature, and such a choice of names at least serves to arrest our attention.
But it seems to me to be not a little dangerous to ascribe to God, that is, to God self-manifested, a set of attributes that are not to be ascribed to Him as He is in His eternal nature, that is, to Godhead. We must surely allow that the attributes of God as creator belong to Him essentially, however true it may be that certain qualities are manifested more plainly in the world activities than in the divine life apart from the world. It is true that we know these attributes because God has shewn them to us through His relations with creation. But it is not true that we may not, and must not, read them into His eternal Nature. He sheaved them to us in time, because they are His eternally, and essentially. Otherwise it would be necessary to predicate of God change at the moment of creation. If, then, the world activities of God are based essentially upon the eternal attributes of Godhead, how is it possible to separate them, except in thought? For the distinction to be made would be in the degree of their manifestation, and not in the nature of the qualities themselves.
Why, then, are we told that Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence belong only to God as self-manifest in the work of creation? Why are they physical as opposed to ethical? Why may the eternal Son lay them aside without violence to His divine nature ?
Mortensen and Dr. Fairbairn contrast omnipotence and love to the disadvantage of omnipotence. Yet in our experience the child ascribes omnipotence to the mother in the measure that he loves her. He sees no antithesis: perfect love requires omnipotence, that it may never fail the beloved. So thinks the child.
Surely God's omnipotence is His eternal love, manifested and directed to the fulfillment of the desires of His fatherly Heart; as His omnipresence is His eternal love seeking to unite Himself with all His children; and His omniscience is His love embracing each one of them, holding them to His Heart, knowing them and becoming known of them.
The love of God did not come into action first at the Incarnation: it came under men's observation.
To cut off these great attributes from the essential, eternal love of God is to inflict a grievous harm upon our dogma of the Godhead. It is to render possible a perversion of our view of God's Fatherhood as essential to His being. We must not regard the Incarnation as in any sense perfecting or tempering the divine attributes in themselves, unless we are prepared ultimately to distinguish the God of the New Testament from the God of the Jews. Surely the truest thought is that God has no accidental attributes that can be laid aside. Even were they accidental in the sense that the existence of creation is an accident, unnecessary to God's essential being, they could not be laid aside when once creation has become an actual fact. In short, God's attributes are in one sense aspects of God Himself. And God cannot abandon aspects of Himself. He may so order things that any particular aspect is lost sight of and hidden; but that is self-limitation and not self-abandonment.
The Omnipotence of God is a figure of speech for His all-governing, loving will; His Omniscience is a name we give to His personal consciousness of all that is; His Omnipresence is a word picture describing His necessary relations to His creatures. To my mind we materialize our conception of God and His love if we differentiate the moral from the physical attributes of our Father, except for the purpose of classifying our thoughts of Him and His activities. And any theory of Kenosis that is based upon this distinction is, I think, doomed to rejection. The movement of loving apprehension of God's Fatherhood which has marked the last two or three generations will not be stayed until it has adequately vindicated for God the essentially moral and fatherly character of His omnipotence and omniscience. This done, the advanced Kenotic theories will be as houses without foundations.
(4) A fourth criticism of the more extreme of these theories arises from the contemplation of the powerless Logos. For on this line of thought we conceive the Logos to have stripped Himself of certain divine attributes, including His omnipotence, and then to have conditioned Himself by the assumption of manhood. As man He exercises no powers that are ultimately incompatible with true humanity, for in fact He does not possess them. It thus becomes difficult to conceive how He resumed His powers. It is admitted that the state consequent upon His self-abandonment is coterminous with the state of His humiliation on earth; and within that state He has not full divine power. How, then, was He able to exercise His powers again? Surely the fact that He was actually able to do so goes to prove that He never really surrendered His proper attributes, but merely limited Himself in the exercise of His divine powers, the self-limitation remaining in His own power throughout the whole period of His life on earth.
Another reason for taking this view of the matter is that in fact we must still believe the Christ as Head of the Church to be the subject of His glorified humanity, and therefore to some extent limited in His self-expression through manhood. For we may not suppose even glorified humanity to be equal with the divine nature of the Son. If, then, self-limitation is the characteristic of the heavenly state of the Incarnate, is it not at least probable that it is also the true characteristic of His earthly state? If self-abandonment of divine powers be incompatible with the heavenly glory of the manhood, is it not a little rash to postulate it of the earthly state of humiliation? If possible it is better to conceive the manner of the Incarnate's life on earth to be of one kind with the manner of the same life in heaven. Thus the extreme Kenotic views increase in difficulty as we continue to examine them. It seems clear that if the Logos had once laid aside, completely and entirely, His divine powers in order to enter upon a certain new sphere, He could never have resumed them without going outside that limited sphere. The power necessary to the resumption of the divine attributes could only be His again after He had ceased to live in the limited sphere. In which case the Incarnation has no permanency, and the mediatorial work of Christ is riot everlasting. And it is also fairly clear that even if the abandonment is conceived as taking place within the sphere of the Incarnation, so that the power of resuming the divine attributes is always present to the Incarnate; yet at the time of the glorification of the manhood the process of self-abandonment has to be changed to a process of self-limitation.
It is surely a much richer thought that the self-limitation is continuous from the moment of the conception onwards; that at every moment He willed to live in conditions of manhood, and that in His acceptance of the law that governs this life lies the value of the Incarnation as an act of divine self-sacrifice. In time and through eternity the Christ is God the Son, self-limited in manhood.
(5) The difficulty of postulating a change from self-abandonment to self-limitation at the moment of glorification requires to be considered for another reason.
If the human mind of Christ cannot exist in Him side by side with divine omniscience, in any degree; if the Son must abandon His divine knowledge in order to come to human knowledge; we are at a loss to understand the process by which in the life of glory the Incarnate can resume divine knowledge without laying aside His human knowledge. If the two kinds of knowledge are incompatible, the glorified Christ must cease to exercise His human mind. But if it is only a question of degree, if the two kinds of knowledge are not mutually incompatible, what we ought to postulate of the Incarnate Son is not abandonment of powers, but a real limitation of them in use.
Again, the union of the human mind with the divine is real. It is constituted in the Person of the Son. The advanced Kenotists say that the union was only possible after the Son had ceased to possess divine knowledge as such. What, then, will the effect upon the human mind be of a sudden assumption of divine knowledge on the part of the Incarnate? If one of the terms of the union be raised, as it were without preparation, to the divine fullness of power, it seems probable that the relationship between it and the second term of the union will prove inadequate. For no measure of glorification given to the manhood will raise it to the level of the Godhead. It seems to me that the common theories of Kenosis make the relations of the Incarnate to His manhood on earth entirely different from those that are His today in Heaven. They do not sufficiently allow for the continuity of those relationships which are in fact endless, for beginning at the Saviour's conception in Mary's womb they will last for ever and ever.
Why are men so fond of isolating the thirty-three years of the Saviour's life on earth from the rest of His incarnate existence?
It is, I think, impossible to arrive at the truth of the manner of the Incarnation unless we view the life of the Christ as a whole. It begins in the womb of Mary: it does not end on Mount Olivet. It is the endless life into which the sons and daughters of God are taken by Christ and in which they live in Him and with Him--His mystical body, His Church. Whatever, then, we postulate of the manner of the incarnate life on earth must bear some relation to the manner of it in Heaven all down the ages. And if the divine glory is in itself, as such, entirely incompatible with the state of humiliation on earth, how does it become compatible with His life as man in Heaven? Is it not possible, at least, that He may have to remain self-abandoned for ever? This is a serious question, for it affects the union of Christ and His Church: it touches the matter of our own salvation. We can be saved only by the life of the Son of God made man; by the life of God made over to us through manhood; and it is from the divine Saviour in Heaven that we look for aid. But if the fullness of deity cannot exist with manhood, in spite of limitation; if nothing short of abandonment of the divine powers will make possible the union; then we must confess that we have no certainty that in Heaven the divine fullness can be brought to us in and through the glorified manhood.
Of course we are rightly mistrustful of arguments on points that are in a sense outside our ken; but it does seem sufficiently clear that the more advanced Kenotists have taken so partial and local a view of the life of the Incarnate Son as to render their theory inadequate to explain all the facts.
(6) Once more, I am inclined to urge that advanced Kenotists have not sufficiently weighed the meaning of the word human as applied to our Lord's consciousness, experience, and example.
The purpose of their work is to provide us with a conception of a really human Christ: a Christ who is to be a true human example to us, and share our experience. But the word human may carry one of two meanings. It may connote something belonging to a man; or it may connote something that is proper to manhood. In the former sense it can never be used of our Lord Jesus Christ. His consciousness, experience, and example do not and cannot belong to one who is a man. For He is Himself God, the eternal Son of God; and no measure of self-abandonment will ever make Him anything else but God. But in the second sense, as connoting something proper to manhood, the word human is most rightly applied to our Lord. His human consciousness is His consciousness of Himself as conditioned by manhood, and limited by it; His human experience is His experience of the universe as related to Himself through a human soul alone; and His human example is the example of what perfect manhood can be and can accomplish in divine power.
Which of the two senses is necessary to establish the true humanity of the Christ?
Extreme Kenotists lean to the former sense. They try to humanize the Christ, the divine Person. Thus Godet is content to explain the works that were to prove the divine Sonship of Jesus as "the works which the Father wrought through Him." He and those who think on similar lines have failed to realize that you cannot make God to be Not-God by any process of deprivation of powers. So long as the Ego of the Christ is in any sense divine, Christ is not personally human in any true meaning of the word; and further, a divine Ego conditioned in and working through manhood is still divine. Hence there is an atmosphere of divinity surrounding the normal life of Christ: something that entirely differentiates Him from all others.
This atmosphere of divinity may be explained as the perfection of manhood: only we must in that case make it clear that perfect manhood is manhood indwelt by God. It is this, I feel, that many Kenotists fail to understand. They do not observe that ideal manhood is not unaided manhood; they are led away by a passion for magnifying humanity.
The measure of the perfection and reality of Christ's manhood is its uttermost dependence upon the divine Ego in whom it was constituted. His manhood is real: real in weakness: real in growth: real in its proper limitations of knowledge and power: and as real in its inability to attain its perfection apart from the power of Deity. Perfect humanity is God-aided humanity.
(7) Another remark that suggests itself as having a bearing on the Kenotic position concerns the use of the word state in describing the Incarnation.
There is a tendency to divide off the state of the universal relations of the eternal Logos from the state of the Incarnation, as one field may be fenced off from another field. It is not that the distinction is made only in thought, for the better study of one state or the other; but in fact men appear to conceive of a gulf between the two states, which gulf the Logos could only cross at the cost of certain of His divine powers.
Such a view of the matter does not commend itself, and is, I think, to some extent a cause of the spread of extreme theories of the Kenosis. A better statement would be that the word state, in both connections, means "the sum of relationships." The universal state is merely the sum of the universal relationships proper to the eternal Son, Godward and manward, being based upon His essential existence as God. The Incarnate state is the sum of those particular relationships which He assumed Godward and manward, Himself basing them upon His existence as God-in-manhood. They are all alike relationships formed by the one eternal Logos, one and the same Person; and those that are assumed are at every moment dependent upon His divine good pleasure, and are only possible because of His divine self-restraint.
The Incarnate lives under the conditions of manhood, in the particular relationships that He assumed, thereby limiting His divine powers; but there is no wall of partition. Behind all the special relationships that make up the sphere of the Incarnation lies the divine Will, unlimited, powerful, and free, of the eternal Son, dwelling in the bosom of the Father.
Thus in fact there is a link between the two sets of relationships; and the link is the divine Person, the eternal Son, willing to manifest Himself only in the measure in which manhood can reveal Him.
(8) In conclusion, we notice that according to the Kenotists the Eternal Word may abandon attributes essential to the divine Nature, on the grounds of the divine pity and human need. Whereas in fact the Eternal Word is the divine Nature; nor can it be separated from Him. He is at every moment the Word, or Image, of Him who is the Father, the origin of Godhead; so that changes in the nature of the Word involve changes in the one, divine Nature; and if made God who is related to us through the Incarnation is not in any real sense the God who created us. In fact, He is not God at all.
Further discussion of the points raised in this chapter will of course be necessary when we come to the positive work of constructing a theory. But enough has been said to shew in what direction a refutation of the extreme Kenotic view is most possible.
In all matters of this kind arguments depend for their value chiefly upon the mental bias or theological predilections of the disputants. It will be better therefore at once to advance against so-called Kenoticism a rival theory; one which will attempt to provide for all that Kenotists have rightly established, and to meet the difficulties with which they have failed to deal. To do this is the purpose of this book.