“The verb here rendered ‘emptied’ is in constant use in a metaphorical sense (so only in the New Testament: Romans. iv.14; I Corinthians i.17; ix.15; II Corinthians ix.3) and cannot here be taken literally. This is already apparent from the definition of the manner in which the ‘emptying’ is said to have been accomplished, supplied by the modal clause which is at once attached: by ‘taking the form of a servant.’ You cannot ‘empty’ by ‘taking’ — adding. It is equally apparent, however, from the strength of the emphasis which, by its position, is thrown upon the ‘himself’. We may speak of Our Lord as ‘emptying Himself’ of something else, but scarcely, with this strength of emphasis, of His ‘emptying Himself’ of something else. This emphatic ‘Himself’, interposed between the preceding clause and the verb rendered ‘emptied’, builds a barrier over which we cannot climb backward in search of that of which Our Lord emptiedHimself… ‘He made no account of Himself’, we may fairly paraphrase the clause; and thus all question of what He emptiedHimself of falls away. What Our Lord actually did, according to Paul, is expressed in the following clauses; those not before us express more the moral character of His act. He took ‘the form of a servant’, and so was ‘made in the likeness of men’.
At a theological level kenosis appears to move in the wrong direction. Its basic equation is: incarnation = God minus. The biblical equation is rather: incarnation = God plus. In becoming incarnate the divine Word did not relinquish his deity; he added to it, if one may so speak, by taking a full human nature into hypostatic union
with the Word. Further. if the incarnate Son lacked any essential divine attribute, he immediately fails us at three quite fundamental points: revelation (being less than God he cannot truly reveal God), redemption (being less than God he can no longer reconcile us to God) and intercession (if union with human nature necessarily diminishes the divine nature, the ascended Lord could not ‘take to heaven a human brow’; his high-priestly intercession is immediately invalidated). Finally, Archbishop William Temple asked: ‘What was happening to the rest of the universe during the period of our Lord’searthly life?’ If the second person of the Trinity was wholly enclosed in the babe of Bethlehem, who was performing the role of the upholding Word in the universe? Appeal to the notion of the co-inherence of the persons of the Trinity does not help, since it is precisely a separation of the persons which the kenotic theory requires.
The biblical evidence leads us to two fundamental statements con-
cerning the person of the Lord Jesus Christ: he is true man; he is
true God. How these two realities combine in one authentic person,
Jesus Christ, will always remain mysterious; that in itself, however,
ought not to foreclose the attempt to examine the incarnation at
greater depth. If we neglect this task, others will attempt it in ways
which lead to error and confusion.