Wednesday, May 28, 2014

How Can Christ Be Omniscient & Not Know the Timing of His Return?: Paul Enns Weighs In

A few days ago I lamented the strange absence in most of my systematic theologies in addressing the Christological challenged raised in Matthew 24:36 where Jesus confesses his ignorance regarding the timing of his return. If Jesus is fully God, as the orthodox creeds confess, then how can he not be fully omniscient. For that post, click here.

Since then I have invested in another systematic theology textbook and discovered that the difficulty is addressed directly. In his book The Moody Handbook of Theology, Paul Enns writes:
The kenosis problem involves the interpretation of Philippians 2:7, "(He) emptied . . . Himself." The critical question is: Of what did Christ empty Himself? Liberal theologians suggest Christ emptied Himself of His deity, but it is evident from His life and ministry that He did not, for His deity was displayed on numerous occasions. Two main points may be made. (1) Christ merely surrendered the independent exercise of some of his relative or transitive attributes. He did not surrender the absolute or immanent attributes in any sense; He was always perfectly holy, just, merciful, truthful, and faithful. The statement has merit and provides a solution to the problem passages such as Matthew 24:36. the key word in this definition would be "independent" because Jesus did on many occasions reveal His relative attributes. (2) Christ took to Himself an additional nature. The context of Philippians 2:7 provides the best solution to the kenosis problem. The emptying was not a subtraction, but an addition. The four following phrases explain the emptying: “(a) taking the form of a bond-servant, and (b) being made in the likeness of men, and (c) being found in appearance as a man, (d) He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.” The “emptying” of Christ was taking on an additional nature, a human nature with its limitations. His deity was never surrendered. (242)
 I am more in line with number 2 obviously since I reject both liberal theology and kenosis theology. When discussing Matthew 24:36 and its parallel, it is important to emphasize (1) the incarnation is not a subtraction of Christ's nature, but an addition to and (2) there is a mystery regarding some of the specifics. The incarnation is a type of humiliation whereby, though completely God, Christ submits to the will of the Father and the direction of the Spirit.

For more:
How Can Christ Be Omniscient & Not Know the Timing of His Return?
David's Lord: Jesus on the Hyopstatic Union
12 Proofs of Jesus' Deity From the Synoptic Gospels
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 2
The God Who Became Man: Millard Erickson on the Implications of the Humanity of Christ 
Martin Luther on how John 1:1 Contradicts Modalism & Arianism
From Lewis' Pen: Either the Son of God or a Madman
We've All Heard This Before: "Zealot" and the Same Search For the Missing Jesus 
"For Us and Our Salvation" by Stephen Nichols: A Review
And yet this Jesus of Nazareth . . .
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