Creation as kenosis

Continuing the discussion from Divine causality:

The book arrived today from North Carolina. Looks right up my alley, which is not surprising since Polkinghorne was involved. The book is a collection of essays from a group of theologians and scientists who discussed this kenotic view of creation under the John Templeton Foundation.

Of course, I love the idea, which is that creation was an act of self-limitation and this is what makes it an expression of love. It is very much in line with my own assertion that God chose love and freedom over power and control. But that raises the question of how kenotic was it. Was creation just a little bit based on love and God limited Himself just a small amount? Did God give and yet keep his hands firmly grasping what He gave so He could use it to manipulate and control?

I don’t think so.

If a kenotic creation is essential to it being an expression of love then I think God limited Himself in a maximal way – and the only opposing factor was that God was seeking a relationship. So the question is what furthers a relationship and what does not. It is not a real relationship unless one is truly other and independent. But to suggest that God is so much other that He is completely alien then that is going too far – that doesn’t promote relationship but obstructs it.

But then to the degree which God is limiting Himself in a kenotic creation, that is the degree to which His creation exists independently of Him. And thus I naturally think it is maximally so – God naturally being quite capable of creating something which exists on its own. A relationship only requires a means of interaction – that God can play a role in events.

Many of the essays observe how well this idea of creation as kenosis fits with evolution. And I have claimed that it likewise fits very well with all of scientific discovery of a universe which operates not by divine whim but by laws of nature with a mathematical precision.


As far as I can tell, only the essay by Polkinghorne “Kenotic Creation and Divine Action” even mentions this idea of maintaining the world in being. Though, I cannot say I read any of the other essays quite as thoroughly. I only skimmed them briefly to get an idea of what they were about.

In his essay, Polkinghorne begins by explaining the need for a balance between the extremes of God as impotent spectator and as cosmic tyrant – a balance between divine kenotic love and divine providential power. He discusses three areas which has motivated a re-examination of the classic emphasis on divine power: incarnation theology, theodicy, and continuous creation.

There is mention of Whitehead and process theology whom I have rejected rather emphatically, though perhaps I should look at his quote of Whitehead describing God as a “fellow sufferer who understands and acts only through the power of persuasion.” And… I cannot agree with either part of this, but especially the latter. The God of the Bible is very clearly punitive and corrective in his interactions with both Israel and mankind – NOT only by persuasion. And neither is God a fellow sufferer in the fullest sense. To be sure God shares in dealing with the consequences of sin as He must watch all the torment, despair, and broken dreams which result from these self-destructive habits. There is no way in which God Himself is engaging in self-destructive behavior. But responsibility is a more complicated thing, for even someone who is in no way to blame for things can share in the responsibility for making things better and this is indeed the ultimate act of kenosis in the incarnation of the Son and suffering the consequences of our self-destructive behavior as we murder the very one who came to save us.

He ends with a discussion of four ways in which kenosis may be involved in God’s loving relationship with creation: omnipotence, eternity, omniscience, and causality. The first is that God’s providence allows the created world to make its own decisions and play a role in how it comes into being as well as how events play out. The second is how God has given reality and significance to time, and how this must in some way be a reality for the Creator in order for Him to be in relationship with us. The third is the basic idea of open theology that the future is not written until God writes it together with us and thus rejecting absolute foreknowledge. And fourth and finally to assure us that God remains as a cause of events among other causes allowing for divine special providence.

In conclusion, while the idea of God maintaining the world in being is mentioned in the second paragraph, it is not actually discussed at all. Most of the essay is about the shift from the classic understanding of God to that of open theology.

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Thanks for posting your abstract and comments. That was interesting.

I’m seeing your view as using the Greek aorist sense, where an act is done and is over. If God is kenotic with respect to Creation, it would be a continual relationship, a present-tense relationship. A one-off creation where Creation thereafter stands on its own would be minimally kenotic; maximally kenotic would be continually, moment by moment, putting Himself “under” as Servant by sustaining what He has created in every particle through every moment.

This relates to how some of the church Fathers thought about Christ’s kenosis, not as something that was done at the moment of conception but was done every moment, continually setting aside His status, continually not grasping (clinging to) equality with God, continually choosing to be a servant – thus He could have called on a legion of angels at any point, but He continually set aside that divine prerogative; He could have come down from the Cross, but He continually chose to be constrained by His humanity and stay there.

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I’m seeing you as inserting this when it has nothing whatsoever to do with anything. You mix the two separate issues of creation and relationship in order to avoid the essential questions.

There is no sense at all of this being “one-off” only an acceptance that God really can limit Himself and not just pretend He is limited. Nor do I accept this nonsense about “putting Himself under” as servant. According to Jesus, to be a servant is not under anything but greater – greatest of all. It comes from the act of serving and it is only fallen human beings who have to let go of their pride in order to serve others. I don’t think God has to do anything of the kind, because His values were never distorted in such a manner.

That sounds to me like the guy who says he is giving something but doesn’t let go, so he is really giving nothing at all – just using it to control and manipulate. And a Jesus who has to constantly make himself human is a Jesus who is not human at all. These are not even a tiny bit kenotic for nothing is ever given up. I suspect this derives from a conviction that God really cannot give up anything or become human for real and that is why He has to constantly pretend in order to simply make it look superficially like He has done such a thing.

I have no interest whatsoever in these pretend sham sorts of “kenosis” which is really nothing but empty rhetoric – trying to have your cake and eat it too. Real kenosis is an actual sacrifice of power by imposing an actual limitation. This sham kenosis is clinging to the contradictory thinking that defines God in terms of power which is irrational because it deprives God of the ability to take real risks or make real sacrifices. It is basically catering to a human inclination to cling to power no matter what, unable to imagine that anyone would willingly let go of power for any reason whatsoever. Frankly I think this is more in line with atheist thinking which cannot see any truth value in something which they cannot use manipulate and control.

And I have never felt a need to confine myself to he understanding of the church fathers (or the apostles for that matter) like they necessarily had a better understanding. It is like replacing Jesus as God with Peter who is obviously flawed and very limited in his understanding. It frankly comes from making God into a mythical being who gave us truth once upon a time, and that truth has been degrading ever since. It’s not that I cannot understand the protective measures which motivate this – but it can go too far. God is alive and always giving us more, so while we certainly need to be cautious, it doesn’t mean we have to confine our understanding to that of the earliest Christians.

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Why does love limit itself? Love is an expression of selfleness…not a web of control and deceit. what so many other denominations fail to grasp about the God of the bible is this word Justice. They seem to think that God is the one forcing justice on us…that is not how this works. Evolution talks extensively about a natural order of things…action > reaction…and yet the minute a Christian group jumps on the bandwagon, they somehow manage to screw up the entire model including the fundamental of the very world view they follow.

God warned Adam and Eve about action > reaction. The reason why we die is because we have cut ourselves off from the source of eternal life. Its exactly like a marriage where one partner decides to become unfaithful…they are the ones who stuffed the marriage up, not the partner who maintains the sanctity of the covenant!

The idea of love with an inherent web of deceit to me seems contradictory and i for the life of me do not understand why this line of thinking. God is not limiting Himself by creating or allowing free will, He used his own freewill to create humanity in the first place. It is our unfaithfulness that causes us to turn away from God…not the other way around. So the action > reaction is rather binary.

Nobody said that. The point is that we limit ourselves when we make room for someone else as part of our life. We give of ourselves to the other person. We make sacrifices. Surely you are not going to tell me that God’s love for us did not involve any sacrifices.

So the idea of creation as kenosis is that this began long before Jesus became a human being (Phillipians 2) or gave His life for our salvation, and that God was already making sacrifices and accepting limitations when He created the universe, created life, and gave us free will – creation was itself already an act of love and kenosis.


Yes and no. It is the reason we die spiritually. It is not the reason we die physically. God said, on the day you eat of the fruit you will die, and Lucifer said they would not die. So was Lucifer telling the truth while God was lying? No, because the death of Adam and Eve on that day was a spiritual death from cutting themselves off from the source of eternal life. And the simple fact of the matter is people who embrace God do not live any longer than people who reject God. That connection with the source of eternal life has NOTHING to do with the continuation of our physical life.

To me also. Thus the constant deceit employed by creationists has nothing whatsoever to do with God.

We shall have to agree to disagree on that one.

Sure. But that is just free will and has nothing to do with kenosis.

we limit ourself…eh??? Have you had a bad relationship experience or something? The bible tells us that marriage is a completion of oneself. Now i am biased on this, however, i have a bit of a story to tell…

In the last few months i have had to spend quite a deal of time away from my wife and family renovating our rental property 900kms away from home. Years ago i would never have experienced this, however, these days whenever I’m away i get really emotional…i suffer a sense of loss that i cannot really explain other than to say I’m lonely for my family. So i see the marriage thing (and family) as the opposite of limiting…I’m absolutely wretched without them. That is i think, in a very insignificant sinful human way, a small example of how God must feel.

I think part of the problem here is that we (humanity) have not experienced true relationships in a sin free world.

To illustrate my point, Christ never once saw his relationship with the Father as limiting…it was clearly a fulfilling completion of self.Look at what happened when the weight of sin cut him off from the Father on the cross.

Your illustration fails spectacularly.

John 5:19 19 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing

Luke 22:42 “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”

  1. you are confusing Kenosis of incarnation with Creation. Christ did not incarnate himself in order to Create.

  2. Those verses actually support my point.

I think we need to be careful in understanding that The Son of Man “the human” spoke those words.

Sometimes its good to go back and re study the trinity doctrine to understand the dual nature of Christ in order to avoid confusing Kenosis in the Incarnation with Gods Creation. It seems to me that you are making the claim that a designer limits himself by creating…that’s rather absrud given we usually create according to our maximum potential. Given God is without limits, your statement simply doesnt add up.

I understand why you take this line of thinking…its because of the TEist belief that God is bound by science and therefore the laws of the universe (such as gravity for example) are restrictions that God must work within. I do not believe that…nor do i think any YEC believes such a thing. We do not believe that God is learning, we do not believe that God makes mistakes, we do not believe that God created an imperfect world and is striving to make it better.

YEC believe that God created a perfect world, a perfect universe, Sin corrupted that perfection and ruined it, God is striving to restore His creation back to its former glory.

I believe that limits are a result of sinful corruption, not a perfect Creation.

Might i also add…there is a fine line between predestination and what you are describing. Because God is all-knowing and without limits, He can foresee the future. As sinful humans we see that as a limiting factor, however, in a perfect Creation…its not an issue. Just because God knows, doesnt mean he is limiting Himself. As i said, God is love and that is without limits.

1 Corinthians 13:7-10

7-8a Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.

There is no confusion. We who believe in kenotic creation simply think God is consistent and the kenosis of the incarnation is a demonstration of how God has always done things from the very beginning.

No they do not. Your claim was that Jesus never limited Himself in any way in His relationship with God, and these passages show that this is not the case.

That is not the Trinitarian doctrine at all but completely contrary to it and quite heretical (known as Nestorianism). There is no “Son of Man the human.” Orthodox Trinitarian doctrine is that Jesus is a hypostatic union: fully God and fully man as ONE person.

I understand why you take this line of thinking. It is because creationists believe God is enslaved to their theology as a part of their own grasp for power over others as the spokesmen of God. So of course they cannot accept that God would choose to limit Himself to the laws of nature because that would imply that they would have to accept such limits themselves as well.

I do not believe God makes mistakes. He created the laws of nature for a reason – necessary for the very process of life itself. And unlike these people using religion for power, God will not be so inconsistent as to violate the laws he created - particularly not just impress ignorant people who cannot possibly understand the difference anyway, let alone just to show off His power so these religionists can puff themselves up as His representatives.

I believe God chose love and freedom over power and control in the creation of the world. This is the essence of the kenotic creation. But this is not convenient for those using religion for power over others because unlike God they will certainly choose power and control over love and freedom every time.

What are you talking about???

No, it comes from the scriptural theme that God upholds Creation in existence continually and that a one-moment kenosis is a shallow thing.

Dude, you have issues; you’re constantly projecting what I can only call deep insecurities onto other people.
What you state here is the exact opposite of what I stated, that God continually gives up power, which follows logically from the biblical theme that He upholds all of Creation. The view you present makes God distant, impersonal, and detached from His Creation and is contrary to His Name: He alone is the One Who can say “I AM”, the only one Who is not contingent.

Of course they had a better understanding, they were closer to the source – and they had the promise that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth. They were what Paul says were gifts from the Holy Spirit to the church: teachers who had that as a gift.

That’s exactly what you do when you make God so distant and unconnected.

It does mean that we must not contradict them. The Apostles were granted “all truth” by the Holy Spirit, and those who learned from them had the advantage of learning directly from those guaranteed sources.

You can’t chop Jesus into pieces like that; that’s what Nestorius and it was rightly judged a heresy because it makes the Savior into two persons rather than one – which does impact the Trinity because it makes four persons, not three.

The two natures in Christ is not part of the Trinity doctrine! The single Personhood is indirectly, but not the two natures.


Where do you get that from???

Yep – once again we see that YEC requires disrespecting the text by making stuff up that isn’t there.

Uh… NO! Yes we do need to contradict them, when we find out they were WRONG! Like their understanding of earth as a flat table.

Dude you have issues, you are living in a fantasy world which doesn’t face up to the reality of the world which is very much about exerting power over others.

No it is kenosis which is the way a God of love does things, and is a human obsession with power makes people unable to see this as well as distorting their understanding of scripture.

No they were not. God is not just IN THE PAST. God is in the PRESENT!

That’s exactly what YOU do when you make God so distant in the past and unconnected to the present.

That is not a teaching of scripture.

I have to wonder what makes you see everything in that warped fashion.

Your obsessive idea that everything is about power distorts your ability to grasp reality. How is one moment of kenosis greater than a continual kenosis?

Of course they were – they sat at the feet of the Apostles; we do not.

That’s the continual cry of those who want to put their preferences above the scriptures. The New Testament’s highest compliment was to those who searched the scriptures to check what they were being told.

God is connected to the present in the scriptures.

That is the cry of those who effectively believe God is dead and want to put the way they prefer to use scriptures above everything else.

God is omnipresent right now, connected to the present in EVERYTHING!

I agree that believing in a God who is alive in the present is difficult and full of danger. Religion is dangerous. But I don’t see any evidence that your approach of limiting God to the Bible really takes away the danger of religion.

There you go replacing Jesus with Peter. Big mistake!

How is real kenosis greater than pretend kenosis? How is actually giving something to someone greater than simply having someone forever take pictures of you constantly “giving” it to them? If you don’t let go, so that what you give passes from you to them then you are not actually giving anyone anything. Kenosis is limiting yourself so there is actually something you don’t have anymore, and if you don’t have it then you don’t have to keep giving it. You can of course keep giving them more things but don’t have to keep giving them the same thing. But when you are giving them more things that means you have already given them something and they have what you have given them. And that which God has already given us is the measure by which we already exist independently of God and yes I think the maximally kenotic view is the correct one, where God has given us our own existence in its entirety and does not keep holding on to it so that He has to constantly keep giving it to us.

That would be open eyes and ears while looking at the world. You know its even in the Bible. It is why the Bible tells us that true religion includes keeping ourselves unstained from the world. Because the way of doing things in the world… the measures of success… are all very distorted.

And this has absolutely nothing to do with any bitterness you want to imagine because I have never valued any of that stuff. I don’t care about such measures of success and the world. I don’t want them – never have. But I have always wanted understanding and so I do look at the world with open eyes and ears to see it as it is.

But everything is not about power. You left out an important clause, “in the world”. Because in the world, everything is indeed about power. This is not to say that everyone is all about power, but enough certainly are and this is the honest history of mankind.

It is the how the earth and all things are described in the Bible. You declaring that this is not “a teaching” of scripture doesn’t change this. The point is that some of the things described by the writers of things in the Bible are wrong and we very much should say so when this is the case.

Firstly, that is falsified by the absolute fact that you also believe that the writings of Moses are not literal history despite what the apostle Luke and Peter write below… according to TEism, God is not consistent OR God is incapable of adequately inspiring his writers to record His words!

*Luke 17 *
26Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man: 27People were eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

28It was the same in the days of Lot: People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29But on the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.

2Peter 2
4For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them deep into hell,a placing them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; 5if He did not spare the ancient world when He brought the flood on its ungodly people, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, among the eight; 6if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction,b reducing them to ashes as an example of what is coming on the ungodly;c 7and if He rescued Lot, a righteous man distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless

Secondly, biblically Kenosis refers to the incarnation. Creation, an act of love by God is not limiting…that is only an evolutionary claim because God had to only produce the ingredients for life…he had no further control over what happened after that when it comes to the development of sound moral reasoning from whatever came out of that “fruit soup”. This is a major flaw in TEism and its what drives this ridiculous unbiblical idea of Kenosis in Creation.

Incorrect. You seem to be confused about who you are talking to. I do believe they are history. My problem with your claims was your alterations of the text to change the meanings of words, adding things which are not there and ignoring things which are there.

…not that I agree with your preposterous claims that this has anything to do with a belief in the consistency of God. It just makes your dialogue incoherent when you base it on things which are plainly false in a mindless campaign against a fictitious TEism.

It refers to an aspect of the incarnation which some believe is also applicable to creation.

Yes we disagree on this. You prefer to make God’s creation all about power because that supports the use of Christianity for power over other people. I will oppose this abuse of Christianity as well as this agreement with atheists that Christianity is incompatible with the findings of science.

ok then so we must assume that you believe all of the following texts are literal history. That means you do not agree with Biologos on any of its doctrines that are in direct conflict with the following bible passages?

Genesis 1
31And God looked upon all that He had made, and indeed, it was very good.

And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Genesis 2
1Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2And by the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on that day He rested from all His work.a

3Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because on that day He rested from all the work of creation that He had accomplished.

Exodus 20
11For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, but on the seventh day He rested. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.

Deuteronomy 5
26For who of all flesh has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the fire, as we have, and survived? 27Go near and listen to all that the LORD our God says. Then you can tell us everything the LORD our God tells you; we will listen and obey.”

28And the LORD heard the words you spoke to me, and He said to me, “I have heard the words that these people have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken. 29If only they had such a heart to fear Me and keep all My commandments always, so that it might be well with them and with their children forever.

Mark 10

5But Jesus told them, “Moses wrote this commandment for you because of your hardness of heart. 6However, from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.

Romans 1:20
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Romans 8:21
that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

Mark 3:19
because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.

Hebrews 9
16In the case of a will,h it is necessary to establish the death of the one who made it, 17because a will does not take effect until the one who made it has died; it cannot be executed while he is still alive.

18That is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19For when Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats,i along with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people, 20saying, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.”j

Noahs Flood

Genesis 9:28
After the flood Noah lived 350 years.

Genesis 7:6
Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth.

Genesis 10:32
These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.

Isaiah 54.9
“To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.

2 Peter 2
and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he saved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood on a world of the ungodly;

Mattherw 24:38
For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;

Luke 17:27
People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

Sodom and Gomorah

Genesis 19:28
23And by the time the sun had risen over the land, Lot had reached Zoar.

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
(Luke 17:20–37)

24Then the LORD rained down sulfur and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens. 25Thus He destroyed these cities and the entire plain, including all the inhabitants of the cities and everything that grew on the ground.

Jeremiah 49:18
As Sodom and Gomorrah were overthrown, along with their neighboring towns,” says the LORD, “so no one will live there; no people will dwell in it.

Jeremiah 50:40
As I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah along with their neighboring towns,” declares the LORD, “so no one will live there; no people will dwell in it.

Amos 4:11
“I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD.

Jude 1:7
In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

Luke 17:29
But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all

2 Peter 2:6
if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

So we can learn of your God by observing murders, epidemics, corruption, assault, war, rape, lies, etc. If God is as present in “everything” as in the scriptures then God is not worthy of trust or worship because He is a moral monster.

According to Jesus, it is the cry of those who recognize that God is alive.

That’s not my approach. I think you’re so fixated on people wanting power that you fail to be able to see any nuance.

Like I said just above . . .

Not where I live.

I don’t “declare” it, I observe it. The other option is taking every parable and declaration of unbelievers found in the scriptures to be something that is taught.