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Crypto-Kenotic Controversy

(1619–27). B. Mentzer* the Elder, of Giessen, writing against the Reformed, said that omnipresence was not “simple presence(adessentia simplex), but always “operative presence” (omnipraesentia operativa) and that omnipresence was not to be predicated of the human nature of Christ in the state of humiliation. M. Hafenreffer,* of Tübingen, appealed to by Mentzer, disapproved of his position. Soon Tübingen and Giessen were engaged in pub. controversy. The question was on the use made by Christ in the state of humiliation, according to His human nature, of the divine majesty communicated to His human nature in the personal union (see Idiomata). The theologians of Giessen (Mentzer and J. Feuerborn*) denied the presence of Christ with creatures according to His human nature, or at least refused to call it omnipresence; they were inclined also to exclude Christ according to His human nature from the work of preserving and governing the universe (see also Decisio Saxonica). They were called kenoticists from a Gk. word meaning “to empty,” because they took the word in Ph 2:7 to mean that Christ emptied Himself according to His human nature of a measure of divine majesty. Their position is untenable (Jn 5:17), though they admitted some use of divine majesty and did not hold, as modern kenoticists do, that Christ according to His divine nature emptied Himself of His divine attributes, or absolutely renounced use of divine majesty. The Tübingen theologians (L. Osiander* the Younger, M. Nicolai,* T. Thumm*) ascribed to the human nature of Christ, in the state of humiliation, the sitting at the right hand of the Father, Christ having thus made full use, in this respect, of the divine majesty, though in a hidden way. This view was called crypto-kenoticism, from Gk. krypto, “hide.” The position is untenable in the light of Scripture passages that ascribe the sitting at the right hand of God to Christ, also according to His human nature, in the state of exaltation. Those who held it admitted that Christ, in His sacerdotal office, in His suffering and dying, renounced the full use of the divine majesty communicated to His human nature. Modern theories of kenoticism are traced to W. F. Gess,* C. Gore,* and G. Thomasius.*

W. Sanday, Christologies Ancient and Modern (New York, 1910), pp. 71–78; O. Bensow, Die Lehre von der Kenose (Leipzig, 1903); F. Loofs, “Kenosis,” Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche, eds. J. J. Herzog and A. Hauck, 3d ed., X (Leipzig, 1901), 246–263; F. Pieper, Christliche Dogmatik, II (St. Louis, 1917), 337–358, tr. T. Engelder, Christian Dogmatics, II (St. Louis, 1951), 296–301; J. T. Mueller, Christian Dogmatics (St. Louis, 1934), pp. 290–291.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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