Kenosis, Christology, and Bill Johnson, Part I

This article will focus on what is known as the Kenosis theory (Kenosis doctrine), its history (part I), other Christological errors potentially influencing kenosis or derived from kenosis, how adherence to ecumenical creeds may assist in maintaining orthodox Christology, and how all these things pertain to the doctrine of Bill Johnson (part II).

Kenosis Defined

Kenosis comes from the Greek verb κενόω, transliterated kenoō, rendered “to make empty” [Phil 2:7]; “destroy;” “render void, of no effect” [I Cor 1:17, 9:15; Romans 4:14]; “deprive of (its) justification” [2 Cor 9:3].1  This word is used only five times in the NT.  The Kenosis theory is largely derived from a peculiar exposition of Philippians 2:7.  Here it is in the NIV with verse 6 added in order to complete the sentence [The NIV 1984 sets verses 6-11 apart from the rest of the chapter as in poetic form]:

            6 Who, being in very nature God,
                   did not consider equality with
                        God something to be
            7 but made himself nothing,
                  taking the very nature of a
                 being made in human likeness.

Quite a few modern versions render this word in its immediate context as either “emptied Himself” or “made Himself nothing” which is the literal meaning of the Greek construction although, unfortunately, this may add to the problem in understanding this verse.  Referring specifically to the American Revised Version, Dr. B. B. Warfield called it a “mistranslation.”2 Bauer (BAGD), regarding its use in Philippians 2:7, states, “Of Christ, who gave up the appearance of his divinity and took on the form of a slave”3 which is similar, if not the same, as the orthodox definition of kenosis in which Jesus’ divine attributes were “veiled” under flesh.

The other times kenoo is used in the NT it is understood and used figuratively.4  The KJV and NKJV seem to follow this convention rendering Phil 2:7 “of no reputation.”  This makes sense in view of the larger context of the Apostle Paul’s words as he is admonishing us to put others ahead of ourselves by using Jesus Christ’s humiliation as an example (the period of the Incarnation from the miraculous conception to His death on the Cross and subsequent burial):

3Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

5Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God 7but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. [Phil 2:3-7, NKJV]

Louis Berkhof, in his Systematic Theology agrees by stating what he believes the proper understanding of the word should be in this context: “…it simply means that Christ made Himself ‘of no account,’ ‘of no reputation’…”5  Jesus Christ became a servant of both man and God in God’s plan of redemption.6  However, Christ maintained His complete, unaltered divinity during the Incarnation.  The New Bible Dictionary describes it as the “limitation” of His glory:

“…His taking of the servant’s form involved the necessary limitation of the glory which he laid aside that he might be born ‘in the likeness of men’.  That glory of his pre-existent oneness with the Father (see Jn. 17:5, 24) was his because from all eternity he existed ‘in the form of God’ (Phil 2:6).  It was concealed in the ‘form of a servant’ which he took when he assumed our nature and appeared in our likeness…who humbled himself at Calvary.  The ‘kenosis’…led eventually to the final obedience of the cross [sic] when he did…pour out his soul unto death…” 7

Dan Musick, quoting John Calvin, affirms Jesus’ glory was cloaked under a “veil of flesh” [Heb 10:19-20]: “In order to exhort us to submission by His example, he shows, that when as God He might have displayed to the world the brightness of His glory, he gave up His right, and voluntarily emptied Himself; that He assumed the form of a servant, and, contented with that humble condition, suffered His divinity to be concealed under a veil of flesh.”8

The Kenotic, however, understands this ‘self-emptying’ as the Logos, the Word, divesting Himself of some or all divine attributes.  This usually includes all the ‘omni’ traits (omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence) and may also include such traits as impeccability (sinlessness or inability to sin) among others.  The trouble with accepting the latter is that Jesus Christ was not born in original corruption as a result of the virginal conception [Luke 1:35] and the resulting (simultaneous) hypostatic union to the Logos made sin impossible.  Moreover, the problem with accepting that any of the divine traits were “laid aside” is that this would necessarily render Jesus less than God which would cause the Trinity to collapse among other serious Scriptural consequences [see Col 1:17; Heb 1:3].

           Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. [Heb 13:8 NIV 1984]

     1 Bauer, W., W. F. Arndt, and F. W. Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 1958 (2nd edition 1979); Chicago, Chicago, IL; p 428.  Also known as “BAGD.”
2 Berkhof, L. Systematic Theology. 1941, 4th revised and enlarged ed, 1991, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI; p 328
3 Bauer, p 428
4 Berkhof, p 328
5 Berkhof, p 328
6 Martin, Ralph P., G. F. Hawthorne Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians (Revised). 2004, Nelson Reference & Electronic; pp 119-120
7 Marshall, I.H., A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, New Bible Dictionary. 1996 (3rd ed., reprinted 2001), InterVarsity, Downers Grove, IL; pp 643-44.  The convention of not capitalizing personal pronouns when referring to deity with the exception of “Father” seems to be consistent throughout the dictionary.
8 Musick, Dan, Kenosis: Christ ‘emptied Himself”. “Emptied of His Glory?”, <>; copyright 1997-2005 Dan Musick.  Calvin reference from: Institutes of the Christian Religion. Bk 2, Ch 13, pt 2

Brief History and Explanation of 19th Century Kenosis

The roots of the Kenosis theory began in the aftermath of the Reformation period among the Lutherans; 9,10,11 however, it formally took hold around the mid 19th century12 in various forms13 brought forth initially by Gottfried Thomasius and followed by Delitzsch, Crosby, Gess, Beecher, Godet, Newton Clarke and Ebrard14,15 and others.  Kenosis theories have evolved further and gained wider acceptance in the 20th and into the 21st century.16

Thomasius, Delitzsch, and Crosby, taught that the Logos maintained power, holiness, truth and love, while laying aside the ‘omni’ traits.  The Logos retained the divine self-consciousness in taking the human form.17  Thomasius’ explanation of the Incarnation was “the self-limitation of the Son of God.”18

Gess, Beecher, Godet, and Newton Clarke claimed that for God to be omnipotent He would necessarily have the power to cease to be God if He so desired.19  With His complete deity voided, His consciousness became as a human soul and He gradually regains divinity throughout the Incarnation.20  Berkhof quotes Everard Digges La Touche who refers to such a complete self-emptying of God as “incarnation by divine suicide.”21

Ebrard contends the Eternal Logos disguised His deity in such a way that “the divine properties, while retained, were possessed by the Theanthropos [ed: God-man] only in the time-form appropriate to a human mode of existence.  The Logos, in assuming flesh, exchanged the form of God, that is, the eternal manner of being, for the form of man, that is, the temporal manner of being.”22

Lewis Sperry Chafer notes one more theory of kenosis but does not mention the proponent(s) of the theory.  In it, the Logos still possesses His complete deity; however, He exercises it within the confines of human consciousness.  “True deity is never in existence outside of true humanity.”  His divine properties are no longer infinite but reduced into properties of human nature.23

Charles Hodge was a contemporary of some of the various proponents of 19th century kenosis.  Here’s a snippet from his Systematic Theology illustrating his candor on the matter:

“…Any theory…which assumes that God lays aside his omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, and becomes as feeble, ignorant, and circumscribed as an infant, contradicts the first principle of all religion, and, if it be pardonable to say so, shocks the common sense of men.” 24

Augustus H. Strong’s analysis of Thomasius, Delitzch and Crosby:

“This theory fails to secure its end, that of making comprehensible the human development of Jesus – for even though divested of the relative attributes of the Godhead [ed: the omni- traits], the Logos still retains the divine self-consciousness, together with his immanent attributes of holiness, love and truth.  This is as difficult to reconcile with a purely natural human development as the possession of any divine attributes, or of any divine consciousness at all, on the part of Christ, and merges itself in the view of Gess and Beecher, that the Godhead of the Logos is actually transformed into a human soul.” 25

These forms of kenosis which reduce or eliminate divine attributes are known as ontological kenosis.26  “Ontological” comes from the word ontology which means the nature of existence, or being; so, the term means the Logos, the Word Himself was emptied of some or all divine attributes.  This belief is clearly heretical.  The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE)states:

“…Kenoticism failed to see that the immutability of the living God does not prevent Him from exercising all His attributes in the form of humanity, nor force Him into the violent mutation of a self-deprivation of His attributes which can leave only partial deity, and therefore no true deity at all, in the incarnate Son.” 27

9 Lawton Church of God, Lawton, OK. The Gospel Trumpet. “Historical Manifestation of the Redeemer: Historical Theories on the Two Estates” <>; par 11 (point II); as accessed 06/13/11.  Article from William Burt Pope’s “Compendium of Christian Theology”.  This section does an excellent job of explaining the Lutheran perspective in brief including the early version of kenosis and krypsis.  While the rest of the site seems orthodox on quick inspection (even though I don’t agree with all the views put forth), I’ve not completely vetted this source.
10 Hodge, C., Systematic Theology. 2008 (4th printing), Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; Vol II, pp 415-16, 413, 407-18.  This was in the form of the communicatio idiomatum, and communio naturarum doctrines which initially allowed the interpenetration of attributes and essences respectively between the human and divine natures of Christ although this was modified to limit only the human from receiving some, not all, attributes from the divine.  Hodge notes this is tantamount to kenosis.  The communicatio idiomatum will be discussed in brief below.
11 Berkhof, pp 325-27.  Berkhof comments that some Lutherans claim “He practically emptied Himself, or laid aside the divine attributes.  Some spoke of a constant but secret [krypsis], and others of an intermittent use of them [kenosis].”
12 Grudem, W. Systematic Theology. 1994, Inter-Varsity, Grand Rapids, MI; p 550.  Confirmed in Berkhof p 327.
13 Berkhof, p 327
14 Berkhof, p 327
15 Chafer, L. S., Systematic Theology. 1948, 1976 Dallas Theological Seminary (1993), Kregel, Grand Rapids, MI; Vol I, p 380.  Chafer cites Godet and Newton Clarke which other references omit.
16 Crisp, Oliver D. Divinity and Humanity: The Incarnation Reconsidered. (Current Issues in Theology series) 2007, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK; pp 118-19.  Modern theories include Thomas V. Morris’ “two-minds view” [Morris, The Logic of God Incarnate. 1986, Cornell, Ithaca, NY; ch. 4] which Crisp repudiates on the grounds of its mutability [pp 146-47] and Peter Forrest’s 21st century version [Forrest, The Incarnation: a philosophical case for kenosis. Religious Studies 36 (2000), pp 127-40] which he himself deems as “quasi-kenotic” [pp 141, 143] which may be tantamount to Crisp’s divine krypsis [pp 147-53] which will be discussed below.
17 Berkhof, p 327
18 Allison, Gregg R. Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine. 2011, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; p 381
19 Hodge, Vol II, p 440
20 Chafer, Vol I, p 380
21 Berkhof p. 327
22 Chafer, Vol I, p 380.  Chafer quotes from A. B. Bruce’s The Humiliation of Christ. p 153.
23 Chafer, Vol I, p 380
24 Hodge, Vol II, p 439
25 Strong, A. H., Systematic Theology: Three Volumes in One. 1907 (1943 reprint), Judson, Philadelphia, PA; p 702
26 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. pp 119-25
27 Bromiley, G. W., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Volume One. 1979 (1988 reprint), Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI; p 665.  First published 1915.

Background on More Recent Kenotic Theories

Before moving on to other views on kenosis it is prudent to provide a bit of background which may seem rather technical and tedious (if the preceding hasn’t already proven so); however, this has a direct bearing on the following kenotic theories.  It is necessary to briefly explain the communicatio idiomatum, or “communication of attributes” which is a large part of Lutheran doctrinal history.28,29  Lutherans are divided on interpretation.  The ‘strong’ view was that not only the attributes were communicated between the divine and human natures of the incarnate Logos, but also via the communio naturarum, or “communion of natures,” the interpenetration of essences (properties), were also communicated resulting in the inherent contradiction, for example, that the human was/is omnipresent and the divine was/is limited in physical location.30,31  [This doctrine is in the genus majestaticum as part of the Form of Concord.]

A ‘weaker’ view was posited in which only the human nature would receive some (not all) attributes from the divine such as omnipresence.  Yet this is still unsatisfactory since, obviously, Jesus’ physical body was not and is not everywhere at once.32  Hodge asserts that it’s a “physical impossibility that attributes are separable from the substances of which they are the manifestation.”33  Hodge further explains by way of analogy:

“If the personal union between the soul and body in man does not imply that the attributes of the soul are communicated to the body, then the personal union of the two natures in Christ does not imply that the divine attributes are communicated to his humanity.” 34

Hodge proclaims that to go beyond the Biblical teaching that the Son of God took to Himself a human nature and a reasonable soul resulting in two entirely distinct natures in one person forever (as the ecumenical creeds pronounce) is “mere speculation” and“an attempt to explain the inscrutable.35

From an orthodox perspective we can say there is a “communication” of attributes; however, it’s a somewhat different interpretation than the view of some Lutherans.  This “communication” of attributes is a way of explaining how the contradictory attributes of the two different natures (e.g. omnipresence vs. limitation of physical presence) in the incarnate Christ are expressed as the one person of Christ.  Wayne Grudem affirms that “anything either nature does, the person of Christ does.”36   In this way, we can state that Jesus Christ is omnipresent since this is inherent in His divine nature and hence His person, even though omnipresence is not a trait of humanity.  Similarly, we can state that Jesus had the ability to suffer pain and even death since, in His human nature He did feel pain and experience death, even though, of course, as God He could not have done either of these.37  The divine and human natures, though, remain separate and distinct from one another.

However, at least one Lutheran view, according to Hodge, has been expressed such that “the human is made the organ of the divine,”38 and later he states:

“…If there be no such transfer or communication [via the Lutheran communicatio idiomatum], then the human nature of Christ is no more omniscient or almighty than the worker of a miracle is omnipotent.  If the divine nature only exercises its omnipotence in connection with the activity of the humanity, then the humanity is the mere organ or instrument of the divine nature.  This idea, however, the Lutherans repudiate.  They admit that for God to exercise his power, when Peter said to the lame man, ‘Rise up and walk,’ was something entirely different from rendering Peter omnipotent…” 39

Oliver Crisp, in his book Divinity and Humanity, supports a theological concept, different than the orthodox “communication” of attributes yet is somewhat related and incorporates it, which attempts to explain the interrelationship between the two natures of Christ.  This is termed nature-perichoresis, similar to person-perichoresis which attempts to describe the interrelationship between the persons of the Trinity.40  In nature-perichoresis41 the divine nature ‘penetrates’ the human in the incarnate Christ in an asymmetrical manner (one way only) without transferring properties or confusing natures thereby upholding and sustaining the human nature similar in fashion to the divine nature of God interpenetrating all of creation.   According to Crisp, per the theory, the divine attribute of omnipresence in the divine nature of Christ makes nature-perichoresis possible in the person of Christ.42  [This is explained further in the following section “Kenotic Theories of More Recent Vintage.”]

Crisp then applies the “communication” of attributes as per orthodoxy the way Grudem states above.  He proceeds to describe the relationship of the divine to the human as “Christ’s human nature is ‘indwelt’ by the divine nature in a way analogous to the indwelling of a human body by its soul…”43  It seems Hodge may have taken exception to the nature-perichoretic theory as put forth by Crisp based on some of his comments above.44  Anticipating a potential question, Crisp poses this:

“…In what sense is the perichoresis in the human nature of Christ by the divine nature of Christ anything more than the penetration of my human nature by the divine nature of God at each moment of my continued existence?” 45

Crisp’s answer: It’s a question of degree.  By virtue of both the hypostatic union and that Christ is more aware because of His relationship to the Father, the human nature is perichoretically ‘penetrated’ by the divine nature of Christ in a much stronger manner, compared to another human’s perichoretic relationship to God.46  Crisp goes on to cite John 10:30 as an example of the theory at work.  Note that this verse is speaking of personal-perichoresis (the interrelationship of the Trinity specifically the Father and Son), as well as, nature-perichoresis.47  Recognizing this theory counters a possible argument or false theory, Crisp states in a parenthetical comment:

“It could be argued that it is the Holy Spirit that enables the human nature of Christ to perform miracles, rather than Christ’s divine nature, if, say, the divine nature of Christ is not thought to act in and through the human nature of Christ in this way [via nature-perichoresis] during the Incarnation.  But this is not a conventional view of the means by which Christ was able to perform miracles.  A conventional view would claim that Christ was able to perform miracles in virtue of the action of his divine nature in and through his human nature in the hypostatic union.” 48

     28 Martin Luther’s Christology was apparently partially predicated upon his literal understanding of Jesus’ words “This is my body” which informed Luther’s doctrine on the Eucharist.  In view of this, Luther proclaimed Jesus was/is ubiquitous, everywhere at once, omnipresent, via the communicatio idiomatum [Hodge, Vol II, pp 414-15].
     29 Lawton Church of God, “Historical Manifestation of the Redeemer: Historical Theories on the Two Estates” <>; par 11 (point II); as accessed 06/13/11.  This section does an excellent job of explaining the Lutheran perspective in brief.
30 Hodge, Vol II, pp 407-08; with a more complete discussion on pp 407-18
31 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. pp 11, 12-15
32 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. pp 14-17
33 Hodge, Vol II, p 417
34 Hodge, Vol II, p 416
35 Hodge, Vol II, pp 413-14
36 Grudem, p 562
37 Grudem, p 563
38 Hodge, Vol II, p 411.  Hodge also references in a footnote J. A. Dorner [History of the Development of the Doctrine of the Person of Christ. 1862, T&T Clark, Edinburgh; Div II, Vol II, p 203 note] “In his highest Christological utterances, the Son of man is nothing more than a God-moved organ…”
39 Hodge, Vol II, p 417
40 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. pp 1-3.  This view as regards the two natures of Christ was historically put forth by Gregory Nazianzen, Maximus the Confessor [pp 3-4] and John of Damascus [pp 5, 20-21], but has not been pursued very much since.  This entire chapter was originally published in a Tyndale Bulletin (see next footnote below).
41 Crisp, Oliver D. Problems with Perichoresis. 2005, Tyndale Bulletin 56.1 <> pp 119-140; as accessed 06/13/11.  Since this document is available online, hereafter page references will be noted after the page citations for Divinity and Humanity.
42 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. pp 19-21, 23-24.  Crisp prefers “asymmetrical” to “unidirectional” as he believes “unidirectional” could lead to symmetry as a marriage proposal leading to becoming a spouse. [Tyndale; pp 130-32, 133-34].
43 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. p 22. [Tyndale; pp 130-31]
44 Specifically the reference at footnote 34, and, perhaps, 33.  Assuming Hodge would disagree with Crisp on this point, I may tentatively agree with Hodge.
45 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. p 24. [Tyndale; p 133]
46 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. pp 24-25. [Tyndale; pp 133-34] I submit the possibility that the relationship between the two natures in the hypostatic union is different in kind rather than merely degree in view of the miraculous conception as compared to the Holy Spirit indwelling of the believer.

       47 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. p 25. [Tyndale; p 134]
48 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. p 25.  Bracketed statement and emphasis added. [Tyndale; p 134. Note: this statement is not in parentheses in the Tyndale Bulletin.]  The underlined/bolded section hereby shows that to claim the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit only, performed Jesus’ miracles is unorthodox.

Kenotic Theories of More Recent Vintage

This brings us to a subtler form of kenosis known as functional or functionalist kenosis.49  Adherents claim the Logos retained all divine attributes; however, the ‘omni’ traits (omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence) were not utilized during the Incarnation as these were voluntarily ‘put aside.’  [Other views may claim even more attributes were voluntarily unutilized yet still present.]  Jesus Christ still had the ability to use all His divine traits yet consciously chose not to exercise these attributes while incarnate.50

There are other variations of functionalist kenosis;51 however, they all suffer from the same inherent problem as Oliver Crisp remarks in Divinity and Humanity:

“…The functionalist account…still requires too much of the traditional understanding of God and the Incarnation to be given up.  Withholding the exercise of certain divine attributes for the duration of the Incarnation implies a real change in the Word from his preincarnate to his incarnate state that is monumental…” 52

Crisp goes on to assert that the complete non-exercise of any divine trait amounts to a denial of immutability, traditionally an essential aspect of divinity,53 which would, of course, contradict Hebrews 13:8 [and Heb 1:12; Psa 102:27].  Also, for the second person of the Trinity to cease using His omnipotence would mean the cosmos would no longer be sustained [Col 1:17; Heb 1:3].54

An unanswered question in functionalist kenosis is how Jesus Christ’s miracles would be performed if He withheld the exercise of the ‘omni’ attributes.  As noted above in the previous section, to claim the Holy Spirit (or perhaps the Father) performed these instead is unorthodox.55  Dan Musick asserts:

“The belief that Christ performed His miracles only by the power of the Holy Spirit is growing in popularity, particularly among charismatics in the power evangelism movement…This narrow view stands in opposition to…the Biblical record.” 56

Musick continues stating that there were times when Jesus Christ did rely on the Holy Spirit; however, there’s no Scripture suggesting He solely relied on the Spirit.57  The OT is replete with references to the Messiah as full deity58 [Gen 3:15 (cf. Rom 16:20); Psa 2:7 (cf. Heb 1:5); Psa 45:6-7 (cf. Heb 1:9); Isa 7:14 (cf. Lu 1:32, 1:35, 2:11); Dan 7:13-14 (cf. Rev 1:7, 7:15, 11:15)]; and, with that, miracle-working would rightly be expected.  Musick notes that Mark 4:35-41 [Matt 18:23-27/Luke 8:22-25] (Jesus calming the storm) provides just such an example.

37A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped 38Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.  The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet!  Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?”

41They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” [NIV 1984]

Jesus’ actions here seem to illustrate that He Himself calmed the storm.  If He didn’t actually perform this miracle in and of Himself, certainly we’d think He’d correct the disciples’ rhetorical question/exclamation in verse 41.59  Otherwise, we may think Jesus Christ to be somewhat deceptive.  Robert Guelich notes it was “reverential awe” (v 41a) which prompted their final question/exclamation.  Guelich comments further, “in Jesus they have one in whom God was and is at work, one whom the ‘wind and the waves’ do obey”60 and “He accomplishes God’s work of stilling the storm and calming the sea”61 which indicated it was, in fact, Jesus Christ as God incarnate who performed this miracle.

John 2:19 is, perhaps, a more clear example of Jesus using His own miracle-working power as He claimed He would raise Himself from the dead.  There are other Biblical examples of Jesus acting in His own omnipotence which will be discussed in part II of this article.

Crisp proposes the divine krypsis theory, or “divine self-concealment,”62 which he claims adheres to the Chalcedonian Creed.63  He begins, quoting Richard Swinburne, from this premise: “Chalcedon…affirms that the humility involves a taking on.  The king humbles himself by becoming a servant as well as being a king.”64  Thus, when the Word became flesh [John 1:14] in the miraculous conception [Luke 1:35; 2:11], He was not thereby limited in the possession or use of His divine attributes per se; however, Jesus Christ was somewhat constrained in the exercise of some of these attributes as a consequence of the inherent limitations of the human nature.65

In virtue of nature-perichoresis, as discussed briefly in the previous section, the divine nature of the Theanthropos (God-man) ‘penetrated’ the human nature; however, this ‘penetration’ was not reciprocated from the human to the divine.  Thus, during the Incarnation, the divine nature retained all divine attributes, while the human retained all its applicable attributes though it was ‘penetrated’ via the omnipresence of the divine.  This ‘penetration’ did not result in any divine properties or attributes actually transferred to the human; this merely provided the means for which the two natures subsist in a hypostatic union, thereby allowing the Person of Christ to perform divine functions, such as rising from the dead, without compromising His humanity.66

As per Crisp’s theory, the divine attributes, including all the ‘omni’ traits, are exercised via the so-called extra calvinisticum [aka extra catholicum]thereby sustaining the cosmos67 [Col 1:17; Heb 1:3].  Extra calvinisticum literally means “Calvinistic outside,” a doctrine springing from Calvin’s Heidelberg Catechism such that the Logos could and did continue exercising all divine traits extra carnem, or, outside the flesh, of the Theanthropos.  This is explained in the following from the Catechism (in question/answer format):

Question 47:    Then, is not Christ with us unto the end of the world, as he has promised us?

Christ is true man and true God.  As a man he is no longer on earth, but in his divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit, he is never absent from us.

Question 48:    But are not the two natures in Christ separated from each other in this way, if the humanity is not wherever the divinity is?

Not at all; for since divinity is incomprehensible and everywhere present, it must follow that the divinity is indeed beyond the bounds of the humanity which it has assumed, and is none the less ever in that humanity as well, and remains personally united to it.68

Crisp’s divine krypsis theory upholds divine immutability since it’s only the human nature of Jesus Christ that was restricted.  This is in contradistinction to the functionalist kenosis theories in which some divine attributes were actually not in use at all during Christ’s incarnate state.   Crisp identifies divine krypsis as non-kenotic since it does not limit the exercise of the Logos’ divine attributes; however, he concedes that some may consider his theory a “weak” or “minimalist” functionalist kenosis.69  He defends his position regarding divine krypsis as non-kenotic by virtue of the fact that true functionalist kenotic Christologists will, at minimum, restrict the exercise of some divine attributes during the Incarnation whereas the kryptic retains full use of all divine attributes merely restricting the exercise of them from the human nature of Christ.70

The advantage of Crisp’s divine krypsis theory over all the other theories discussed above is that it does not preclude the person of Jesus Christ from working His own miracles via nature perichoresis.

To affirm the divine krypsis view necessarily entails pronouncing Jesus Christ’s full and unqualified deity during the Incarnation.  Phraseology such as “He laid His divinity aside,” “He set aside His divine nature,” or “He did not exercise His omnipotence” is in opposition to this doctrine.

With the exception of Crisp’s divine krypsis, all theories/doctrines of kenosis discussed in this article are at variance with the Chalcedonian Creed on at least one point and, consequently, at odds with historical orthodox Christianity.  The importance of adhering to ecumenical creeds such as Chalcedon to avoid Christological error will be discussed further in part II.

Part I here provides the foundation as we move forward in part II to see how all this applies to Bill Johnson’s doctrine.

     49 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. pp 119-20.   Crisp uses the term functionalist rather than functional; so, I continue with his convention.
50 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. pp 139-47
51 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. pp 144-47
52 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. pp 120-21
53 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. pp 121(footnote), 146
54 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. pp 142-43.  Crisp points out specifically that the functionalist kenotic denies the use of the so-called extra calvinisticum which (at least one version of) classic Christology affirms and requires for the Word to be able to exercise His divine attributes as incarnate.
55 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. p 25 [Tyndale p 134].  See quoted text referenced in footnote 48.
56 Musick, Dan, Kenosis: Christ “emptied Himself”. “Christ’s Miracles Performed Only by the Holy Spirit?” <> copyright 1997-2005; as accessed 06/13/11
57 Musick, “Christ’s Miracles Performed Only by the Holy Spirit”, par 5.  Luke 4:18 does not necessarily point to Jesus relying solely on the Holy Spirit as we have to look at the entire canon of Scripture.
58 Zasper, Fred G. Biblical Studies: Word of Life Baptist Church“The Person of Jesus Christ” <> copyright 1996 by Fred Zasper; Part One: His Deity, IV “Evidence from the Old Testament Writers.”  As accessed 06/13/11.  Excellent Scriptural outline on the deity of Christ.
59 Musick, “Christ’s Miracles Performed by the Holy Spirit Only?” , point 3, par 3
60 Guelich, Robert A. Word Biblical Commentary: Mark 1-8:26. 1989, Word Books, Dallas, TX; p 271
61 Guelich, p 269.  Guelich also references Psa 107:28-29 in which God had stilled the storms.
62 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. p 148.  Not to be confused with the Lutheran doctrine of krypsis though divine krypsis bears a resemblance.
63 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. p 153
64 Swinburne, Richard, The Christian God. 1994, Oxford University Press, Oxford; p 233 as quoted in Crisp Divinity and Humanity. p 148
65 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. p 148-50
66 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. p 149-53, 19-27.  Chapter 1 goes into the details of the perichoretic relationship between the divine and human natures in hypostatic union, including the thesis that it’s this unique relationship which enabled Christ to raise Himself from the dead [p 25].
67 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. p 150
68 “The Heidelberg Catechism,” as quoted in Noll, Mark A., ed., Confessions and Catechisms of the Reformation. 1991, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI; p 145, as quoted in Peters, David G. The “Extra Calvinisticum” and Calvin’s Eucharistic Theology. n. d. <>; p 7.  As accessed 06/13/11
69 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. pp 121, 151-52
70 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. p 152


72 Responses to Kenosis, Christology, and Bill Johnson, Part I

  1. peacebringer says:

    Scanned through and will need to re-read but many thanks for the use of gifts with the teaching and discerment you use with truth and love.


  2. Craig says:


    Thanks for your comment. There’s quite a bit of ‘technical’ information out of necessity in order to fully explain kenosis. I hope it is not so technical that it’s too difficult to understand. Admittedly, I had to really study some of this material in order to present it here.

    Quick questions: I’ve incorporated the footnotes into the article rather than as endnotes; so 1) do you (and other readers) like this; and, 2) is the font too small?


  3. peacebringer says:

    I think I prefer the endnotes, as the footnotes break things up. However, it does give a sense of place to what the notes are referencing and likely appropriate. I have no problem with the font myself, but there may well be folks that do.


  4. Martin says:

    If you havent got your kenosis theology and the correct christology revelation you could be refused entry into heaven.

    To semi quote Tony Campolo – When jesus asks us to give an account of ourselves, he will not have a checklist of theologies – did you believe in the immaculate conception, the trinity, hypostatic union – baptism of the holy spirit etc…

    What will he want to know?

    I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in.

    At the church where Bill Johnson is pastor – people get healed of cancer, broken bones get healed, people are set free from addictions.

    I’ve been a christian for 20 or so years – i’ve seen Jesus face to face in a dream when i was 18. I was set free from a serious addiction to drugs. I was not from a church background, not ‘churched’ as they say. When i am in the presence of God – i recognise the presence of the holy spirit. This is a spiritual, tangible presense of peace that comes over me in an almost physiological way, that cannot be from anyone other than God.

    Whenever i have listened to the worship from Bethel church i sense the presence of the Holy spirit. It is definately him. Peace is one of the fruits of the spirit. This is what i experience when i listen to it.

    Before you start trying to attack and damage someones ministry, probably because you don’t fully understand it, make sure that – you know, that you know, THAT YOU KNOW, you are not trying to stand in the way of something God is trying to do, because you disagree with someones definition of something. Does the bible say – by their theology you shall know them?

    You need to make sure you know absolutely that this is not from God. It’s fruit that your looking for.


  5. Craig says:

    WordPress has made some changes which are apparently causing problems in posting. If anyone cannot post but would like to, please contact me on my “About” tab and I will post for you under the name you prefer.

    Hopefully, the problems with posting will be rectified soon.


  6. Craig says:

    Here’s a comment from cherylu:


    I remember reading an article a few years ago by someone that had
    gone to see the Dali Lama when he was in Canada. I have hunted and
    hunted for it, but of course now that I need it, I can’t find it.

    But what struck me was that this lady stated that she would of liked
    to stay in the Dali Lama’s presence because of the sense of “peace
    and love” that came from him. It seemed from the way she wrote it,
    that she felt peace and love coming from him in the same way we would
    say we sense it coming from the Holy Spirit. But coming from this
    Buddhist, I wouldn’t expect that whatever she felt was from the Holy
    Spirit, would you? So it would seem that a person can sense “peace
    and love” from more sources then God.

    So, I’m just asking, are you 100% sure that what you feel at Bethel
    is truly from God? How do you know? Do you think it is possible to be fooled?


  7. Martin says:

    Look, when i saw Jesus face to face(in my dream) – i knew it was Jesus. There was no perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t – i knew who it was. He looked straight into my eyes, which seemed to look straight into my heart, nothing was hidden, i was exposed but did not feel ashamed. He then said to me “Martin” – and held out his hands towards me. This is a fact, not something i have made up.

    I was fairly new to the christian faith then and it was all just such a struggle. But i know that i have been called by name. That i have been born again by the spirit of God. That he resides in me, and he leads me into all truth.

    I know that when all this happened i went to an old methodist church, i could feel all around me the presence of the Lord – i had a peace that i had never ever known before, and this ‘feeling’ that my heart was going to burst because – i knew that i was loved by God. It seemed like that day that everything looked different. Nature seemed to look more beautiful than i had ever noticed before.

    So i recognise the attributes of the holy spirit, what he does, how he communicates. The feelings are a by product of truth, which should always lead to action. If i become obsessed just by the feelings then i’ve missed the point – God gives us peace and asks us to die to ourselves.

    Whatever you think – i can only say that Bill Johnsons teaching and the Jesus Culture worship has added to my daily struggle in walking with God. I understand that in church life people get hurt and not everyones experience is a positive one. Go to any church in the world and this is almost certainly true.

    One last thing – i challenge you to balance your website with people who have had a postive experience at Bethel. Then it doesnt just seem anti Bill Johnson, anti Bethel church.

    I can see that there are people misusing the gifts of the spirit, who are not interested in bringing Glory to God, but these people will be held to account by the Lord.


    • Craig says:

      I really believe you feel it was Jesus Christ you met in a dream; but, with all due respect, how do you KNOW for sure? No one has a verifiable photo or image of Jesus Christ; but, more importantly, He is now at the right hand of the Father. Many have claimed to have seen “Jesus” but many of these depict very different looking ones. Which one is He?

      Many other religions also claim “Jesus.” Yesterday, I was specifically looking for a personal testimony on Kim Olsen’s DiscernIt site (I couldn’t find it) in which the individual claimed to speak to Jesus often until one day this “Jesus” turned into a demon. Thank the Lord, she eventually found the REAL Jesus!

      Also, many other religions claim the “Holy Spirit.” Certainly, there are counterfeit spirits and counterfeit Christ’s out there as NT Scripture makes this clear. The true Holy Spirit leads into all Truth and does not point to Himself but rather to the real Jesus. This Truth is the Biblical Christological Truth. Bill Johnson does not adhere to Christological Truth as part II of this article will make very plain.

      This website is about exposing the false by countering it with the True. While there is certainly spiritual activity at Bethel, I have to question just which spirit it is. We worship in Spirit AND Truth — we must have both. A half-truth, or 98%-truth is still a falsehood. A positive spiritual experience at Bethel (or anywhere for that matter) does not mean it is necessarily from/of the Holy Spirit. “Familiar” or deceptive spirits are DECEIVING! Our enemy is on the prowl as a roaring lion looking for individuals to destroy.

      Bill Johnson teaches a very dangerous combination of truth with falsehood. While no teacher is perfect, of course, Johnson is quite far from the mark.

      I don’t write any of this from some past hurt or with any personal vendetta against Johnson or any of the subjects of these articles. This is about warning the sheep from what may well be wolves.

      My prayer is you will read part II with an open mind to the Truth.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Martin says:

    To be quite frank with you – I don’t actually care if you believe what I say or not. I can only say I am simply stunned by your arrogance.


  9. Martin says:

    I believe you have a personal problem with Bill Johnson. Therefore I do not believe that your views reflect objectivity. Therefore they have little validity.


    • Craig says:

      You are welcome to your opinion. However, I’ve never met Bill Johnson. I never gave him much thought even though I knew he supported Bentley and others with questionable doctrine. It wasn’t until Johnson claimed Jesus was ‘born again’ that I started this website. It was the first article I wrote for this site. Since then, I’ve read more of his books, listened to sermons, etc. and found out even more of his aberrant teachings.


  10. peacebringer says:

    It is hard when experience is one thing and others point to difficuties or great errors.

    1st things 1st. It to me sounds like you met Jesus. FYI to Craig, apparently as a kid I told mom of an instance of talking to Jesus face to face but I remember none of it now. So it is possible. God moves in the ways he moves.

    Why the issue with Kenosis? Is it simply orthodox nit picking over meaning of words or is it something more?
    I would argue something more. I was not aware of much of the underpinnings theolgoically that Craig brings into prespective with sound research. This is not just a “see how bad bill johnson is so stay away.” It is also not taking a small part and blowing into something bigger. It is an through examination to see what is true. The heart of this particular question is does Jesus teach that Jesus is the Son of God come in the flesh, or something else. Kenosis is something else.

    As to the experience at Bethel, Lakeland, and so on. Yes, people meet God. There is real things happening along side the stuff that is twisted. That is what makes it so deceptive. I have listened to and examine some Jesus Culture praise and I don’t have a problem with it. On the other hand I have a problem with what I have observed with Bill Johnson.

    Martin, you did an excellent job of defining the essence of true peace, surrender to God, a setting aside self.
    Submitting to God and God alone. Worship in Spirit and truth. Part of the issue with bill Johnson is that it couches “surrender” in order to engage in “supernatural” activity.

    Also as noted in the website of Benji there is way too much focus on “angelic” in ways that do not match with scripture. So Martin, let me suggest something to you, seek God in prayer and ask him to open your eyes to anything you have held that may be untrue.


  11. Pingback: Kenosis, Christology, and Bill Johnson, Part II « CrossWise

  12. Craig says:

    I’ve posted this as part of a comment in part II which may help readers of part I:

    The following may help in explaining the difference between the divine krypsis, the functionalist kenosis, and the ontological kenosis views. Using a 4-speed auto as (an admittedly limited, not perfect) analogy, with regard to the Samaritan woman at the well and how Jesus knew she had 5 husbands:

    divine krypsis: Jesus was using His divine attribute of omniscience. He used all 4 gears while ‘driving the auto.’

    functionalist: Even though Jesus could have accessed His own inherent divine trait of omniscience at any time during the Incarnation, He had chosen not to exercise this trait during the entirety of the Incarnation; so, He relied on the Father (or the Holy Spirit) to convey this information to Him. He stayed in 1st gear, even though He could have used all 4.

    ontological: Since Jesus did not have any of the “omni” attributes during the entire period of the Incarnation having laid them aside at the miraculous conception, He did not have the ability to know anything about the Samaritan woman; consequently, He relied on the Father (or the Holy Spirit) instead to convey this information to Him. His vehicle was stuck in 1st gear with no possibility of using 2nd, 3rd or 4th.

    The ontological view is clearly wrong and heretical no matter the case.

    However, the above Scripture re: Samaritan woman at the well does not state specify just how Jesus knew about the 5 husbands; so, since the view that Jesus exercised His own omniscience cannot be either proven or refuted absolutely, the kryptic would fall back on the claim that with Jesus being God incarnate and with other passages specifically affirming Jesus as doing His own miracle workings (John 2:19 as one example) we should assume, unless stated otherwise, that He performed His own miracles.

    The functionalistic could go either way; however, to claim it was Jesus who performed this miracle would be tantamount to a krypsis account instead since by definition, the functionalist accounts restrict the use (not eliminate totally, of course) of some divine traits in the divine nature of Christ [Crisp p 152-153 – usually all the ‘omni’ traits]. The divine krypsis view, on the other hand, affirms Jesus’ full exercise of divine attributes (Christ’s divine nature is fully functioning) although the restriction is by virtue of the human nature [see nature-perichoresis above] as, for example, Jesus’ body is not, obviously, omnipresent during the Incarnation. The divine krypsis view corresponds with Chalcedon and is not kenosis per se; whereas, the other views do not agree with Chalcedon as the functionalist, at minimum, denies immutability in its restriction of (some) divine attributes.


  13. Craig says:

    I am currently reading Craig A. Evans’ Fabricating Jesus, a refutation of various scholarly (and not so scholarly) attacks on the historical Jesus, and, I came across some info which adds creedence to this portion of the text:

    The OT is replete with references to the Messiah as full deity58 [Gen 3:15 (cf. Rom 16:20); Psa 2:7 (cf. Heb 1:5); Psa 45:6-7 (cf. Heb 1:9); Isa 7:14 (cf. Lu 1:32, 1:35, 2:11); Dan 7:13-14 (cf. Rev 1:7, 7:15, 11:15)]; and, with that, miracle-working would rightly be expected.

    Evans spent time researching the Dead Sea scrolls of the Qumran community and makes these comments:

    …the Dead Sea Scrolls have helped us understand more accurately the messianic ideas of Jesus’ time and even specific messianic ideas expressed in the New Testament…At one time some critics argued that the idea that the Messiah would be called “Son of God” reflected Greco-Roman influence on early Christianity (in that the Roman emperor was called “son of God” and the like). But the expected saving figure of 4Q246 [Qumran text], an Aramaic text that dates to the first century B.C., is called “Son of the Most High” and “Son of God.” This idea was right at home in Palestine after all

    After his baptism, Jesus is told by the heavenly voice: “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). The allusion to Psalm 2:7 is apparent: “You are my son, today I have begotten you.” Although earlier in Psalm 2 it is clear that this remarkable utterance is made in reference to the Lord’s Messiah (see v. 2), some scholars were not sure if this psalm was understood in a messianic sense in the time of Jesus. One of the Rule scrolls from Qumran suggests that it was. According to 1QSa, the Messiah will come, “when God will have begotten him” (2:11-12).

    As an aside, I’m thankful that Evans still uses “B.C.” to denote the time “Before Christ” rather than the current convention of “BCE” which means “before common era.” 🙂


  14. Lee Anne says:

    I’ve read over all these comments and I’m stunned by the typical responses from “Martin.” Have you noticed how he keeps going in circles, while planting sublte seeds of doubt concerning the authority of Gods word? That can be exhausting, which I believe is one of their common tactics. He is all over the place with his questions, ideas, etc. which (maybe unknowingly) aids him in evading any reasonable dialogue. He changes the subject often and even tries to turn the tables on you. I will continue to pray for you that you will not become weary by these elusive tactics. You’ve planted seeds of truth that he seems to refuse to even consider. He seems to be filtering everything thru the lens of his hero’s Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotten. You have been so patient with him, humble, gentle and able to teach. Just want to remind you that the devil loves wearing Gods servants out and the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. God’s word (in context) is sufficient. I’m reminded of the bible vs. Titus 3:10 “Reject a heretic after one or two admonitions, for he is warped and sinning, being self-condemned” God Bless You


  15. Craig says:

    After reading a comment on Puritan Bob’s blog a while back I decided to pick up a book referenced there – namely Exploring Kenotic Christology edited by C. Stephen Evans. In it are 13 individual essays on kenoticism with most seemingly in the pro camp (I’ve not read them all). Specifically cited was Stephen T. Davis’ “Is Kenosis Orthodox” in which he explicates his own theory of “omniscient-unless-incarnate.” While I believe this amounts to a denial of immutability and hence reject his theory (as I recall Crisp rejects on same which is perhaps why I quickly deduced this), he raises an interesting point with respect to functional(ist) kenosis:

    “Other’s who resist kenoticism argue that the ’emptying’ spoken of in Philippians had nothing to do with the Incarnate Logos temporarily no longer possessing certain attributes (like, say, omnipotence or omniscience). It had to do instead with the Incarnate Logos voluntarily not exercising those attributes [functional(ist) kenosis] for the duration of Jesus’ earthly life. Again, maybe so. Here the crucial issue is not exegetical but philosophical: is a person who at any time has the ability to be omnipotent but voluntarily and temporarily decides not to call on that ability ‘truly human’ (as the creed insists)? [emphasis in original]

    I disagree with his assertion that the exegetical is not the crucial issue as I see functional(ist) kenosis as implicitly denying immutability, as per Crisp and noted in the article, and thus at odds with Hebrews 13:8; however, I do see this philosophical issue as pertinent secondarily.


  16. matt says:

    So do you hold to the krypsis account of the incarnation?

    1.) If so how does this not leave the question that the loss of Jesus’ divine attributes were not just an illusion?

    2.) It seems to me almost a repackage of the gnostic accounts of Christ. Where it was merely a phantom. Except in this case it is just a Spirit using all the divine traits at will to make the flesh appear to go through the motions. Almost illusionary. This removes the temptation. This veiw seems to diminish the Cross and contradict at least Hebrews 2:17 and Hebrews 4:15.

    This appears to state that there was no weakness present in Jesus’ humanity and that His humanity wasn’t confined to the laws of this realm. Jesus was born of a woman under law. (Galatians 4:4) If we say Jesus could raise the dead in His humanity then we say it is possible for us to do this outside the Holy Spirit. My reasoning is Jesus was made like HIs brethren in all ways. If He was just like us, to do this shows we can without the Holy Spirit. We cannot however. Jesus shows us our example to live by in following the Spirit. That only through the guidance of God or being given authority can we do the works of God.

    Jesus is Truth. If Jesus says something He has to do it. If He says He will not do it He will not and can not. If Jesus says He will come down and live like His brethren in all ways, then He can only live as us. That does not remove His fullness, it is self limiting. Let’s say for instance this is a completely true statement, “I do not have the ability to lie.”. If I state I will not eat for one week then I could also logically and truthfully say I can not eat for one week. I did not lose the anatomy to eat with I still have my mandible, teeth, etc. Everytime God speaks something He is commited to doing it being Truth. That then limits Him to other options but never takes away from who He is. Numbers 23:19 God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
    So then the statement, ” I can do nothing by myself” seen in this light does not diminish His divinity it enforces that He is Truth if one were to veiw the incarnation through this light. Still don’t see this as heresy. Just another opinion.


    • Craig says:


      No, I do not hold to krypsis; however, I do agree with Oliver Crisp’s divine krypsis as it’s a very different thing altogether. You are thinking of the 17th century Lutheran idea of krypsis – see footnotes 9, 10 and 11 and specifically the url at ftnt 9 point II(3.). Or, you may be confusing it or conflating it with docetism.

      I concede that this information is not something that is easily grasped as it requires a bit of study (just as I had to do while preparing the article). I ask you to read carefully what is written so that you don’t get ahead of yourself and jump to conclusions. The information in the footnotes is crucial to fully understand this material.

      As to your continued insistance on your interpretation of John 5:19a: My suggestion is that you read a few different translations beginning at 5:16 and through to v 30. In essence, Jesus is stating that He is equal to God (and the Jews understood this in v 18) in every way yet He will only do what the Father instructs Him in obedience and in a subordinate role as the divine/human Person of Jesus Christ, though the divine nature is ontologically equivalent with the Father (they’re co-equal in the Trinity). Verse 5:21c is very plain – Jesus has the authority and inherent ability to give life to whom HE chooses. I don’t know how this can be any more clear. If you want to take the position that Jesus ‘gives life to whom He chooses’ by the Holy Spirit, then it would necessarily follow that any Holy Spirit-indwelt individual could ‘give life’ to whom he/she chooses which is obviously not correct. Bottom line: Jesus acts here, as He does in some other Scripture, of His own divine attributes – just like this article’s example of Jesus calming the storm.


  17. matt says:

    Didn’t know there were two types of krypsis. That’s why I was looking for clarification. I’m trying to study up on all this stuff. I thought about this morning doing a study over the 4 gospels and to look deeper into the words of Jesus. That could take me awhile so I may not comment for a time. If I got some questions and need some outside council I’ll get back on here if that is alright with ya. I have to admit the church history is turning out to be terribly interesting.


    • Craig says:

      I’m by no means an expert; but, I’ll do my best to answer questions – or at least point you to credible sources. Since I don’t know what you are using as source material, I could make a few suggestions:

      Justo Gonzalez The Story of Christianity – comes in one single hardcover but was previously available as two individual volumes (softcover only?). I found used copies of the two separate volumes (one locally for $1 on clearance in decent shape). These are used in seminaries and provide good though not especially deep history in places.

      Gregg Allison Historical Theology – designed as a companion to Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, this stands well on its own.

      Phillip Schaff History of the Christian Church, 8 Volumes – some of the material is dated as it was originally completed in the late 1800s; but, it’s predominately still current with more detail than the others (usually). Some of the language is a bit antiquated (but, it’s not too difficult), it includes some Greek, Hebrew, and Latin; but, overall, it’s probably the best out there.

      Henry Bettenson Documents of the Christian Church – Just like the title implies, this contains important documents of the Church including Creeds and works of the early church fathers. I have the 2nd edition, but the 3rd has additional info.

      On the Gospels, you may already know this, but if not… Matthew, Mark and Luke are known as the Synoptic Gospels and are thought to draw from each other and/or even another source. They predate John by about 20 to 30 years according to most scholars.


  18. matt says:

    Commenting on your above statement, “that any Holy-Spirit -indwelt individual could ‘give life’ to whom he/she chooses”.

    I think that may be reading too much into to it. It seems like this interpretation makes the Holy Spirit like a power that is mindless. More like the Jehovah Witness perspective. If Jesus could do nothing outside the unction or given authority of the Father then we could do nothing outside the unction or authority of God. We have to live in subordination to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus was given authority and only did what He saw the Father do. I thought they were saying that Jesus is our example of how to live in the flesh. It would follow that if this is the example then it is the same for us. We can do nothing outside of the leadership of Holy Spirit. We are His instrument, He is not ours.

    I think given Hebrews, “He was made like His brethren in all ways” would imply that He could only live as we did during the incarnation. Not that the potential was gone as I above stated. But that He choose to live that way to be in alignment with Scripture. So if He was like us in all ways and raised someone from the dead then couldn’t we also? However if He was like us in all ways and depended on the Father then I can do the works of God under the guidance of the Holy Spirit only. He is my head not me being His head.

    As far as calming the storm etc. The sum of Scripture is truth. There are plenty of other verses that point to Jesus being given authority in the flesh to raise the dead etc. Those verses outside the context of the other verses in John could build a case, but within context of the other verses seems to lack something.

    I look at it like this Christ choose not to use His power during the divinity as far as His flesh is concerned. To be made like His brethren. Christ was given authority in the flesh by the Father. When He was given authority then He could do what He pleased with it but still by nature stayed submissive to the will of the Father. Like if I was given a car. Now I can say I can drive my car where I please. I have been given it so I don’t have to say I can’t go where I want.

    Look at it in light of:
    (John 17:2) as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.
    (Matthew 28:18) And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
    (John 5:27) and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.

    Now if all authority has been given to Him on earth then wouldn’t it follow Him calming a storm comes because He was given authority by the Father? If He says I can give life to whom I please in light of John 17:2 couldn’t we reasonably argue that He could do that now because that authority was given to Him?

    To me it is not as clear as you try to make it unless I ignore other verses. Maybe I’m seeing this wrong.


    • Craig says:


      I do believe you’ve made my point. How could Jesus give life to whom HE wills if this was only done by the power of the Holy Spirit? Obviously, by Jesus’s statement, He is the one Who makes the choice. If we claim Jesus could make the choice and then the Holy Spirit would, in effect, obey His command, then it follows that we should be able to do the same thing if we are empowered just like Jesus. This, of course, cannot be.

      I agree, the Holy Spirit is not to be commanded but rather to be submitted to.

      I recommend F.F. Bruce’s The Gospel & Epistles of John as it’s scholarly but without the heavy theological terms. And, it’s very inexpensive through

      They are also offering free shipping through December 8 – with promo code 352495


      • Craig says:

        The following comment was marked as spam (and I believe quite correctly given the website it referenced); however, it is really quite on point for the topic and provides a GREAT object-lesson:

        We should not even say of Christ that as a man He was tempted, ate, slept, and felt emotion; and as God He had power over life and death, performed miracles, and forgave sin. Instead we should say that the fact that Jesus was tempted, ate, slept, and felt emotion indicates that He was a genuine human being. It could also be said that Jesus was tempted because of His authentic humanity. Likewise the fact that Jesus forgave sin demonstrates His genuine existence as God, or it could be said that His power over life and death was due to His complete deity. However it is explained, it must not be understood that when Jesus did something that demonstrates His humanity, that it was done strictly in His human nature, but not in His divine nature. Such an explanation is clearly Nestorian, making Christ two persons in one body. If some things Jesus says and does are only in His human nature, and other things He says and does are in His divine nature, then we have two parts of Jesus that are only unified in geographical area, not essence or even necessarily function. God was not in Christ peering through human eyes like a child who peers through the mask of the costume at Halloween, but God became a man in the person of Christ. The Nestorian portrayal of the incarnation is little more than the Spirit possession of a created human being, whereas the Biblical portrayal of the incarnation is that of God becoming the man, Jesus Christ.

        This is one of the rationales used to promote the kenosis theory. Toward this end, many have set out to redefine God in the process.

        This writer also wrongly equates Nestorianism with Adoptionism (in the last sentence).

        Many liberal ‘Christians’ DO accuse that the Chalcedonian definition of two natures, one divine and one human, in the person of Jesus Christ necessarily devolves into Nestorianism – two persons in one rather than one complete person – because, they argue, it cannot be explained coherently. The author’s complaint that to state Jesus did something “in His humanity” necessitates the understanding that two persons are in one misses the point. It’s merely a convention to state that Jesus grew hungry, grew tired, etc. “in His humanity” since quite obviously God does not do either. However, the Biblical record is clear. Wayne Grudem makes this point in his Systematic Theology with Jesus calming the storm [Mark 4:35-41 and parallels]:

        …Particularly striking is the scene on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat, presumably because he was weary (Matt. 8:24). But he was able to arise from his sleep and calm the wind and sea with a word (Matt 8:26-27)! Tired yet omnipotent! Here Jesus’ weak human nature completely hid his omnipotence until that omnipotence broke forth in a sovereign word from the Lord of heaven and earth. [p 559]

        The author of the above quote may be alluding to the suggestion of metamorphosis rather than kenosis (or, it can be said, an extreme view of kenosis), i.e., the >Logos, the 2nd person of the Trinity, was quite literally changed into a man. This is the theory of W.F. Gess as pointed out in the beginning of this article which La Touche termed, “incarnation by divine suicide” early last century. In the Gessian theory, the now depotentiated Logos gradually regains His divine attributes during His earthly life. In the rationale of Gess, how can a mere baby in a manger function as God? Gess’s God is too small.


        • Craig says:

          The other problem with the author’s understanding is that he specifically stated, “If some things Jesus says and does are only in His human nature, and other things He says and does are in His divine nature, then we have two parts of Jesus that are only unified in geographical area, not essence or even necessarily function.

          The Chalcedonian definition is VERY explicit that the two natures are unconfused/unmixed yet that the divine is of one essense with the Godhead and the human is of one essence with humanity. Here’s a modern day translation (used in part II) with applicable portions highlighted:

          “Following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in divinity and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a rational soul and body; of one substance [homoousios] with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the virgin, the God-bearer [theotokos]; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence [hypostasis], not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ.”


  19. Martin says:

    and thus we solve the mysteries of God incarnate 😀

    Since having this debate, i’ve had some very interesting conversations. One was with my father in law, who said that at calvary, Jesus became just a man, because he was seperated from his father. Thus he was not God at that point. This is from a very orthodox chrisitian, he became quite angry when i said that his theology seemed dubious!
    The second person i had this debate with actually phrased it like this…that you cannot seperate God the father and Jesus the son; their actions are entwined. I liked that idea a lot.

    I suppose the conclusions i draw from some of this stuff is that even some of the seemingly orthodox christians don’t always know what they believe in great detail. Most people just have a general sense of the faith.

    I always believed that in order to get a fuller grasp of theology you have to become familiar with jewish customs and beliefs, simply because we dont really have these concepts in modern culture.


  20. Martin says:

    Okay, so finally the penny has dropped. I finally get what is being said – it has taken me a very long time, lots of fights ands brawls with theological truths and untruths, differing ideas and even some of the people on here. But yes i am going to say it – I have a major problem with Bill Johnsons theology.

    Jesus cannot have had No Supernatural abilities whatsoever – that would violate one member of the trinity;the fact that he is always fully God and many many other biblical truths! So Craig well done on your perserverance! It has finally paid off for me.

    Just for your information – i ceased listening to Bethel Worship(even though i really liked it) and Bill Johnsons podcasts 12 months ago – when i came across your website…but i wanted to find out a little more before making a definate decision in public.

    I’m not comfortable with his endorsement of Todd Bentley because something about him makes me incredibly uncomfortable.
    I don’t for a second doubt that genuine bona fide miracles are taking place…but i need to check out a lot more things about these kinds of things before i partake. At the same time i don’t want to become a skeptic!!


    • Craig says:


      Praise God! Thanks for being humble enough to state your change of mind/heart on here. That says a lot about your character.

      Yes, I’m with you – I don’t doubt some miracles are taking place. But, equally as important, as you state, you don’t want to be a flat out skeptic on everything. God is still in the miracle performing business. He even saved someone like me.


  21. Martin says:

    I think i have learned recently that; knowing what something says, and knowing what something means are two very different things.

    I think i have really learned to approach theology differently now. I really do appreciate your persistence Craig. you must have been pulling your hair out in frustration(if you have any ;))


    • Craig says:


      Well, yes I do have mostly a full head of hair. But, you are right there were times when my patience was stretched. LOL

      But, the good thing is that these sorts of exchanges gives me a chance to see other points of view which can help me with my writing. So, it’s all good!

      I hope you’re feeling well.


  22. TimBain says:

    Martin, I can’t tell you what an encouragement it was to read your last post, some times it feels like the deception out there is just sooo… strong one gets “weary in well doing” seeing your old friends and whole churches falling for things that seem at times so obviously unbiblical.We have THE “more sure word of prophecy” …no miracle, angel, vision,apostle,pope, etc..that contradicts it dare be honored above it. May the Lord send you many opportunities to share the ” true Christ” with bro.


  23. IWTT says:


    Very cool! God is good. He never fails and as long as we seek His truth, He will be faithful to show us. Congratulations.


  24. Craig says:

    In reading more of Oliver Crisp’s God Incarnate: Explorations in Christology [2009, T&T Clark, London/New York] I was brought back here to check on my specific phrasing of a part of the beginning section of this article. As a result, I made a change near the end of the first section regarding Jesus Christ’s impeccability (inability to sin) and how those who claim he could have sinned are incorrect:

    “…The trouble with accepting the latter is that Jesus Christ was not born in original corruption as a result of the virginal conception [Luke 1:35] and the resulting (simultaneous) hypostatic union to the Logos made sin impossible…”

    Previously, I stopped at the Luke reference, but I now see how this was not sufficient as it was the union of the human to the divine which works against Christ having the ability to sin and not ‘merely’ the virginal conception.


  25. IWTT says:

    Philippians 2:5-11 (New International Version)

    5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

    6 Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
    7 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
    8 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
    even death on a cross!

    9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
    10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
    11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

    .”Who, being in very nature God…”
    Being God, by nature. That’s his normal status.

    “…did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;”
    He had that equality, but he did not take advantage of it.

    “…being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man….”
    He was not human, by nature, but he was made into a human form. This goes against the idea that he was just a very good prophet. It also shows that he existed even before his own birth.

    “…every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord….”
    God has well established the fact that he hates competition (“I am the Lord, your God… You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:2,3) He would not have set up Jesus to be called “Lord” unless he really was the Lord.

    I really like the 3rd explanation of the verse quoted. Certainly shows that BJ interpretation of who Jesus is is not the same. I found this on another site as they were discussing scripture regarding the atonement.


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  27. mywordlikefire says:

    Hi Craig,
    Thjere is quite a discussion of Johnson’s kenosis going on over at the Apostasy Watch Facebook page. Could you visit and comment?

    Also, does not Colossians 1:17 invalidate Johnson’s claim, because would not everything fall apart if Christ came to earth without divine capacity as Johnson claims?


    • Craig says:


      Sorry, but I’m not on Facebook, and don’t think I ever will be.

      But, yes, Col 1:17 and Heb 1:3 invalidate any claims that the Word did not retain His divine attributes in full [ADDED:] during the Incarnation.

      Feel free to ask any questions here and I’ll answer them.


  28. mywordlikefire says:

    Thank you.


    • Craig says:

      At root is a misunderstanding (or complete unawareness) of the hypostatic union. Jesus Christ has two natures, one divine and one human. When the eternal Word “became flesh,” the second ‘Person’ of the Trinity added a human nature/body to Himself. This does not have to entail any sort of loss in divine attributes. As a sort of analogy, the Holy Spirit is not constrained to the body of the Holy Spirit indwelt Christian – otherwise we’d have as many ‘Holy Spirits’ as there are Christians! – and, similarly, the Word/second ‘Person’ of the Trinity was not constrained to/inside the body of Jesus Christ.


      • mywordlikefire says:

        Thank you brother. Is there a study of Colossians 1:17 in relation to the false doctrine of kenosis that you can refer me to?


        • Craig says:

          Everything I have and have seen is in books. has some good references; start here:

          As one example, here’s Barnes’ Notes:

          Scroll down (way down) to verse 17:

          Verse 17. And he is before all things. As he must be, if he created all things. Those who regard this as referring to a moral creation, interpret it as meaning that he has the pre-eminence over all things; not as referring to his pre-existence. But the fair and proper meaning of the word before \~pro\~ is, that he was before all things in the order of existence. Comp. Matthew 8:29; John 11:55; 13:1; Acts 5:36; 21:38;; 2 Corinthians 12:2. It is equivalent to saying that he was eternal–for he that had an existence before anything was created must be eternal. Thus it is equivalent to the phrase, “In the beginning,” Genesis 1:1; comp. See Barnes “John 1:1”.

          And by him all things consist. Or are sustained. See Barnes “Hebrews 1:3”. The meaning is, that they are kept in the present state; their existence, order, and arrangement are continued by his power. If unsupported by him, they would fall into disorder, or sink back to nothing. If this be the proper interpretation, then it is the ascription to Christ of infinite power–for nothing less could be sufficient to uphold the universe; and of infinite wisdom–for this is needed to preserve the harmonious action of the suns and systems of which it is composed. None could do this but one who is Divine; and hence we see the reason why he is represented as the image of the invisible God. He is the great and glorious and ever-active Agent by whom the perfections of God are made known.

          Try Adam Clarke, Matthew Henry, etc.


        • Craig says:

          Also, the Greek word for consist/sustained is in the Greek perfect tense (not exactly comparable to any English verb tense), which most understand as requiring a continuous sustaining, meaning the Word must have sustained the cosmos while incarnate.


        • mywordlikefire says:

          Wowza! Thank you Craig.


        • Craig says:

          The late Dr. Rodney J. Decker wrote a piece on Philippians 2:5-11 on his blog:

          In moving from one platform to WordPress, some of the formatting became corrupted, so he remade it into pdf form:

          Click to access kenosis.pdf

          …however, the 2nd version does not contain the summary (emphasis added):

          Summary: The incarnation of Jesus Christ is often described in terms of the “kenosis” (usually translated “to empty”)–a term that comes from the Greek word κενόω in Philippians 2:5-11. This article summarizes the semantics and theology of the text from the perspective of evangelical theology, concluding that Jesus did not “empty” himself of anything. Rather Paul’s statement refers to Jesus–who was and is fully equal with God in nature–veiling his preincarnate glory and voluntarily humbling himself by accepting existence in the form of humanity for the purposes of providing salvation.

          You may continue reading the body of the article, which covers some of the same material here in this CrossWise article, though Decker goes more heavily both into the Greek itself (he was a Greek prof.) and some of the technical aspects.

          Since Decker’s conclusion contains a bit of analysis of the Greek text, I’ll provide the full text of 5-8 below. I’ve italicized those Greek words Decker cites in his summary:

          5 Τοῦτο φρονεῖτε ἐν ὑμῖν ὃ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ,
          This attitude/position in you which also in Christ Jesus
          Your attitude should be like that of Christ Jesus

          6 ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ,
          Who in form of God exists, not to advantage consider the be equal with God,
          Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider being equal with God something to use for His own advantage

          7 ἀλλ᾿ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος• καὶ σχήματι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος
          But of Himself made nothing form slave/servant take/acquire, in likeness of men became, and bodily appearance finding as a man
          Rather, He made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant in becoming like man; and finding Himself in bodily appearance as a man,

          8 ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν γενόμενος ὑπήκοος μέχρι θανάτου, θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ
          humble Himself become obedient unto death, death on a cross!
          He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death – death on a cross!

          5 Your attitude should be like that of Christ Jesus:
          6 Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider being equal with God something to use for His own advantage.
          7 Rather, He made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant in becoming like man; and finding Himself in bodily appearance as a man,
          8 He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death – death on a cross! [my translation]

          Decker’s conclusion [bracketed comments and bolding mine]:

          Jesus did not empty himself of anything. During the incarnation he still possessed the μορφῇ θεοῦ [form of God] and he was still ἴσα θεῷ [equal to God]. The text says absolutely nothing about his attributes. How did he make himself nothing? Note the following participles (that are probably used instrumentally): μορφὴν δούλου λαβών, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος, “by taking the form of a servant [and] by becoming in the likeness of humanity.” In that condition he did not manifest the μορφῇ θεοῦ [form of God] outwardly. That he still possessed it, however, may be seen in the transfiguration. The μορφὴν δούλου [form of a slave] served as a temporary veil cloaking the μορφῇ θεοῦ [form of God].

          So, though the Word was equal to and still in the form of God, the second ‘Person’ of the Trinity was concealed/veiled under the form of a slave – a man. He was 100% God under this veil of flesh. All divine attributes were present in the Person of Jesus Christ.


        • mywordlikefire says:

          Thank you Craig for your research. This subject is not over in terms of Bill Johnson, not by a long shot, as his influence continues unabated.


        • Craig says:

          I’ve found an interesting quote critiquing the view of Gess, a view not too dissimilar from Johnson:

          …[In] [t]he kenosis doctrine of Gess…to speak of “fundamentally subverting” is in fact correct, though certainly in another sense than Thomasius intended. With this version of the kenosis doctrine, of the logically completed sharpening of the church’s doctrine, there is completed the kenosis of reason, its divesting in the service of dogma to the point of absolute absurdity. Gess’s Logos, which divests itself to the point of being a human soul, is the perfect contradiction in terms. Reason finds itself translated into the land of absolute fairy tale. (A. E. Biederman in Claude Welch, Ed. and transl., God and Incarnation in Mid-Nineteenth Century German Theology 1965 New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, p 306)

          The “kenosis of reason,” or the ’emptying of reason’ – that’s almost as good as La Touche’s “incarnation by divine suicide.”


  29. C Mosher says:

    Very interesting and helpful discussion. The Lord led me away from Bill Johnson’s teachings about 10 years ago…while in it, it sounded so right…he is a very personable guy and made the teachings/meetings fun, and it is easy to get caught up in the atmosphere and throw sound doctrine out the window. I also realized that I had heard some teachings about 20 years ago that set me up to accept BJ’s (and others’) teachings without much scrutiny. I am so thankful to be out of the crazy stuff and into the solid teaching of God’s Word. There is no substitute for being in the Word personally. Thanks for all the info above…keep up the good work! God bless you.


    • Craig says:

      C Mosher,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you’re out of the false teachings of those of Johnson’s ilk.

      I have to admit that under different circumstances, I may quite like Bill Johnson. However, the fact that he is a personable, likeable guy, makes him all the more dangerous.


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  31. mywordlikefire says:

    Hi Craig,
    We will be in Phil 2 this morning in Sunday School and kenosis is probably going to come up. I was wondering if you had seen this study by Dan Musick and what you thought of it.


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  33. Mike says:

    NAR people pride themselves on not being concerned with theological and doctrinal isssues yet they are being taught the doctrinal and theological beliefs of Bethel Redding and many churches of their kind. In these churches experience is given priority over the Word.


    • Craig says:

      That’s very true. But the thing is, every time we start talking about God or Christ, we are engaging in theological discussions. So this whole elitism–which is truly what this amounts to–in itself is, as you state, its own doctrine and theology. And with feelings as their rudder, they are sure to go off course, away from the written Word, which should instead be the anchor.


  34. Norrin Radd says:

    Always a provocative topic.

    Perhaps you’ve run across some of these quotes:

    “The New Testament irrefutably teaches that Christ did not exercise at least three prime attributes of deity while on the earth prior to His resurrection. These were omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Had He done so while a man, He could not have been perfect humanity. …

    The miracles of our Lord offer further proof of His limitations as a man, for He did not hesitate to teach that He personally worked none of them, and that it was the Father who performed the works (John 5:19, 30; John 8:28; 10:37, 38; 10:32; 14:10). …

    It can be said on good biblical ground that all of Christ’s miracles, powers, and supernatural information were the result of the Father’s action through Him, thus safeguarding our Lord’s identity as a true man (John 14:10; John 5:30).”

    “[I]t will become clear also that the Spirit so fully motivated Jesus’ speech and actions that the miracles he performed and the words he spoke he spoke and performed not by virtue of his own power, the power of his own divine personality, but by virtue of the power of the Holy Spirit at work within him and through him.

    That Jesus did his mighty works and preached his message with authority because he was enabled to do so by the Holy Spirit is the conclusion to which the Gospel writers came after reflecting on the extraordinary nature of his words and deeds. They expressed this conclusion both explicitly and implicitly.”



  35. Norrin Radd says:

    The first set was Walter Martin. The second was Gerald Hawthorne (who was a source you cited in one of your notes). They are from The Presence and the Power (The significance of the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of Jesus). He explicitly identified as “kenotic” in the tradition of Farrar, Mackintosh, and Hebbelthwaite, among a few others. (I don’t know who any of them are or were.)

    The reason I got the book was that after I left the Word-Faith church I attended ca. ’84-’94, I was looking for better-informed material on the Holy Spirit. I got books by Fee, including Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God. (Of course, I soon had to get the earlier and more academic and voluminous God’s Empowering Presence, since the former regularly referred the reader to the latter for exegetical details.) The preface to the former includes this bit:

    “[O]ne of the shortcomings of this book is that I have not tried to compare Paul with the other writes of the New Testament. My aim has been to hear Paul on his own terms. Hopefully it will stand alongside other books of its kind: by Gary Burge (for John); James Shelton (for Luke-Acts); and Gerald Hawthorne (for Jesus).”

    I set about tracking down those books, and managed to locate and obtain Burge’s The Anointed Community (The Holy Spirit in the Johannine Tradition) (a dry and stiff work, with uncomfortably fine print), Shelton’s Mighty in Word and Deed (The Role of the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts), and the aforementioned book by Hawthorne.

    The Hawthorne book was eye-catching and thought-provoking. The “kenosis” aspect was clearly not some minor add-on to the main theme of the book, since one full chapter out of eight total was devoted to it, and the concept was woven throughout the rest (as in the quotes I cited), so it’s virtually impossible that Fee intended anything like, “I endorse this book except for the ‘kenosis’ parts.” At the same time, I was well aware that people like Hanegraaff were hammering away at that theology.


    • Craig says:

      I’m right in the middle of something, but I wanted to briefly comment, only to direct you to a lengthy book review I did on a volume on Kenosis:


    • Craig says:

      Oh, and I have a copy of Hawthorne’s The Presence and the Power, and fully intended on writing a detailed review, but that task got buried years ago. I’ve marked a number of pages, making note of where he cites a source, only to find that the source does not support contradicts his assertion. One day, perhaps…


    • Craig says:

      The Hawthorne reference you see of mine is more accurately that of Ralph P. Martin (footnote 6). That particular commentary series had some revisions, and Martin revised Hawthorne’s Philippians, leaving Hawthorne’s text, but adding his own thoughts where he disagreed.


    • Craig says:

      It’s been a while since I’d read Hawthorne’s book, but as I recall–correct me if I’m wrong–his basic thesis is that when the Son of God was on the earth He did not exercise His divine attributes, having functionally emptied Himself, with all miracles performed by the Spirit working through Him. This is functional[ist] kenosis. Yet Colossians 1:17 states that He has sustained the cosmos since the advent of creation (“in[/by] Him all things hold together”). On page 43 of Hawthorne, footnote reference 88, which is found on page 52, the author references Peter O’Brien’s commentary Colossians, Philemon, calling it “an excellent up-to-date exegesis of this hymn”, yet O’Brien states of Col. 1:17:

      He is the sustainer of the universe and the unifying principle of its life. Apart from his continuous sustaining activity (note the perfect tense συνεστηκεν) all would disintegrate [p 47; emphasis in original].

      Thus, O’Brien does not support Hawthorne’s stance. Clearly Christ had His divine powers while incarnate so as to sustain the cosmos, per Colossians 1:17. If Hawthorne were to claim that the Son had literally ’emptied Himself’ at the Incarnation, yet retained full use of his divine attributes ‘outside’ the body, he would create all kinds of theological and Scriptural problems, one of which is a bifurcation of the Divine.


  36. Lazar Kolpos says:

    In some of the comments dismiss certain ideas as “dominionist,” which is a term that seems to have become a catch-all for many not-so-clearly-related ideas. Bandying that label about is to expansive a topic. Phil 2:5-9 parallels Heb 2:5-15 and both passages connect the humbling and exaltation of Jesus to the brotherhood we have with Him due to His humanity. The Hebrews passage itself is based on Psalm 8 which is very clearly connected to the dominion given to mankind at creation.

    But the kenotic matter is more generally about the human life. It sounds like the anti-kenosis arguments are aimed at arguing that Jesus’ righteous life as a spotless lamb was not lived as a human being living in utter dependence on and trust in God. Jesus, in this view, was not required to be faithful in the presence of mystery or in the absence of answers.

    How was Jesus tempted fully as we are (Heb 4:15), if He was not subjected to similar conditions of relying on His God in faith and dependency? What should we make of John 5:30? Why would the Father anoint Jesus with power (Acts 10:38), when by these arguments Jesus had no need of any power that He did not have just before the Incarnation? This scripture does not say He did His great works because He was God, but because God was with Him. In Matt 26:53 Jesus speaks of asking the Father for angels. Why would the Firstborn of Creation need to ask the Father for a legion of angel troops when He needs neither the Father’s help nor angels’ help? Outside of Lazarus tomb, why did Jesus acknowledge that the Father had heard Him? Heard Him concerning what? I think any use of the Walking on Water passage as a prooftext for Jesus not relying on the Father through the Holy Spirit needs to grapple with the larger body of “little faith” admonishments by Jesus. The Fig Tree incident in Mark 11 should be in the same category as walking on water, but Jesus passes up a perfectly good opportunity to explain why He is uniquely able to do so via His deity, and in fact says that any believer can do more incredible things. It’s a similar discussion to that concerning the demonized boy in Matt 17. In Luke there are at least 4 incidents where Jesus tells people that their own faith has saved them, when these seem like perfect moments to attribute it entirely to Himself or the Father. By these standards Jesus should have been more careful as to not encourage wrong thinking. I often see teachers holding other teachers to standards that they don’t apply to Jesus. In Acts 3, was healing something Peter had to offer anyone of his choosing? If not, should he have chosen his words more carefully?


    • Craig says:


      No one knowledgeable about this issue denies kenosis. Something was emptied. The question is: what was emptied?

      You wrote: This scripture does not say He did His great works because He was God, but because God was with Him. See John 2:11, in which the miracle at Cana “revealed His [Jesus’] glory.”

      You wrote: What should we make of John 5:30? And, say, John 5:19, as well? That Jesus can do nothing of Himself–but only what He SEES His Father do, doing likewise. Can anyone SEE the Father (cf. John 1:18)? Recall that Jesus said those words (John 5:19) just after the Pharisees said He ‘called God His own Father, thus making Himself equal with God’. He sure did…and IS.

      But, this does not diminish His humanity, any more than it diminished His Deity.


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