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Heresy of the Day #22: Kenoticism (Kenosis Theory)

by | Apr 23, 2024 | heresy, Heresy of the Day, Opinion, Religion, Theology

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Heresy: Kenoticism

Kenoticism, also known as Kenosis Theory, or simply as Kenosis, is a Christological heresy that stems from a misinterpretation of Philippians 2:7, where it is stated that Jesus “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” This view suggests that Jesus had to relinquish some or all of His divine attributes in order to truly become human. This error has been a point of contention within mainstream Christian orthodoxy, which consistently affirms that Jesus, while fully man, remained fully God, possessing all divine attributes.

However, from a biblical perspective, modern Kenoticism contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture, which asserts that Jesus maintained His divine nature while on earth. Key verses such as Colossians 2:9, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,” reveal the eternal truth of the coexistence of Jesus’ divine and human natures without any loss of divinity. This doctrine is known as the Hypostatic Union where the focus is on the complete and undiminished deity of Christ, not on an emptied or reduced divine nature.

The term “emptied” in Philippians 2:7, translated from the Greek “ekenosen” (from where the term “kenosis” is derived), is understood in the historic, orthodox Christian context not to imply that Christ relinquished His divine attributes, but rather that He chose not to always actively exercise His divine prerogatives. This self-emptying is interpreted as an addition of human nature, not a subtraction of divinity. In other words, Christ added to Himself the limitations and experiences of humanity without divesting Himself of His divinity.

The rejection of Kenoticism aligns with the historic orthodox Christian view of the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ (Hypostatic Union) and rejects interpretations that suggest a diminution of His divine essence.

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Interestingly, the issue of Jesus’ nature has seen a variety of viewpoints within some sects of Protestantism itself, ranging from traditional orthodox affirmations to more radical reinterpretations. However, the concept of Kenoticism, with its specific theological implications, remains outside mainstream Christian orthodoxy.

Key Tenets of the Doctrine of Kenoticism:

  • Jesus relinquished some or all of His divine attributes during His incarnation.
  • This self-emptying was necessary for Jesus to fully experience humanity.
  • This change suggests a temporary cessation or alteration of His divine form or attributes.
  • This change will be ultimately reversed in the eschaton

Modern-Day Proponents of Kenoticism:

While not traditionally mainstream, the doctrine of Kenoticism has been promoted by the charismatic New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement including people like Bill Johnson of Bethel Church and well-known charlatan, Todd White.

Bill Johnson, Bethel Church, and most of the charismatic movement hold to the heresy that Jesus did not perform miracles as God.

– Jeff

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Todd White says that Jesus didn’t defeat Satan as God, but as a man.

– Jeff

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Other notable figures and movements associated with charismatic practices continue to explore and teach variations of Kenotic theology, emphasizing its implications for understanding Jesus’ humanity and divine limitations during His earthly ministry:

  • Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church
  • Kenneth Copeland
  • Jesse Duplantis
  • William P. Young (The Shack)
  • Leonard Sweet
  • Todd White’s Lifestyle Christianity
  • Various leaders within the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement

And while these views are not universally accepted—they highlight the ongoing relevance of orthodox Christological debates in contemporary Christian thought. Kenoticism remains a significant theological divergence within broader Christian discussions.

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