kenosis

Linked Glossary of Terms
(references to De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, unless indicated. See concordance for correlation with pages in the New Critique. The concordance is in pdf format.

kenosis A Biblical term used by Baader in reference to theory
self-surrender NC II, 149

‘Kenosis’ is a much discussed term in theology, particularly in regard Paul’s statements about Christ in Philippians 2:5-8. The Greek word ‘kenosis’ means “emptying oneself.” My special interest is in seeing this term in relation to our being the image of God, and our need to practice an analogous humbling and emptying of ourselves in relation to the temporal world. And this is to be an expression of love.

Dooyeweerd says that ‘love’ in its central sense implies complete self-surrender. This is shown in Christ’s self-surrender to His heavenly Father and to lost mankind. (NC II, 149).

Dooyeweerd also says,

“Only his [man’s] selfhood is able to enter into the temporal cosmos by means of his intuition of time and to set apart and combine the modal aspects in theoretical thought.” (NC II, 480, somewhat changed from WdW).

I believe that this “entering” cosmic time in intuition for the purpose of theory is the descent into cosmic time that Baader refers to as kenosis. This kenosis is always an act of love.

I would recommend the book by Ramon J. Betanzos: Franz von Baader’s Philosophy of Love (Vienna: Passagen Verlag, 1998). I think that it is still in print, but if not you should find it in a library through inter-library loans. It is sometimes available through used bookstores.

At p. 236, Betanzos writes of Baader’s views of kenosis in relation to the writer St. Martin:

In order to creature nature and man, God needed only to unleash his power and glory, to “let himself go.” But to redeem fallen man, God almost had to “do violence to himself.” The “violence” consists in the fact that God had to (or chose to) “empty himself of his glory,” in a manner of speaking, so that weak and fallen man could receive and bear his aid. “Only love understands and is able to make this sacrifice.” In this, as in so many other instance,s the distinctive mark and activity of God’s love serves as paradigm for all love. Divine kenosis finds an analogical counterpart in all love.

and

Kenosis is a constantly recurring element when Baader speaks of love, simply because “union in love demands complete mutual self-emptying of the lovers,” a feat which they cannot manage by themselves, for it is “Only when each of the lovers gives himself entirely to God in an immediate way that God gives the other completely to each of them” (9, 269-70). There is no love without self-giving.

Baader says that cosmic time is a suspension of eternity. This suspension of eternity is related to Christ’s suspension of His power and glory in his kenosis (Phil. 2: 6,7). The Center itself submitted to a humbling or a descent. The beginning of time is therefore related to sacrifice: it is a suspension of a higher being’s full and integral existence (Elementarbegriffe, 556). Time always involves the descent of a higher being into a lower and narrower region (Zeit 27, ft. 7). Christ was reduced to the humble state of the germ or root, in order to seed Himself into fallen beings. By this seed, the fallen being is given the possibility to ascend again [Wiederaufsteigung] or of growth [Wachstum]. In this way, the fallen beings are united again within the Center and are lifted up into ‘true time.’ The dispersed powers are united, and the suppressed powers of potential growth are led on high (Zeit, 30)

This image of a seed recalls Calvin’s idea of a semen religionis that is sown in our heart. (Institutes Vol. I, Book I, c. 4, s. 1). It is cited by Kuyper in his Lectures on Calvinism, 46. It is cited with approval by Dooyeweerd:

Maar gelijk heel de schepping culmineert in den mensch, kan ook de verheerlijking haar voleinding eerst vinden in den mensch, die naar Gods beeld geschapen is; niet omdat de mensch, die zoekt, maar omdat God zelf de eenig wezenlijke religieuse expressie door het semen religionis, alleen in het hart des menschen inschiep. God zelf maakt den mensch religieus door den sensus divinitatis, die Hij spelen laat op de snaren van zijn hart (“Kuyper’s Wetenschapsleer,” Philosophia Reformata (1939), 211, citing Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism).

[Just as the whole creation culminates in man, its glorification can only first find its fulfillment in man, who was created as God’s image; this is not because of man (who seeks), but because God Himself created in the human heart alone the only truly religious expression in the semen religionis [religious seed]. God himself makes man religious through the sensus divinitatis [the sense of the Divine], which He lets play on the strings of his heart].

See also divine sparks.

All nonhuman realms are what Baader refers to as nonintelligent being; these realms are bound with Man in his unstable condition since the Fall, and they share in Man’s corruptibility [Verderblichkeit]. Humans must win and confirm in God the stability of these nonhuman realms. This is done if humans freely choose to be mediators for these nonintelligent beings–that is, to act as their center (Elementarbegriffe, 541, 544). Becoming the center of such nonintelligent beings is a ‘mediation of the unmediated’ [Vermittlung des Unvermittelten]. The superior being descends to the inferior and forms its foundation or support. That which is the center is the superior being; that which is centered is inferior; by being center, I reduce the being to my will, power and domination (Werke 1, 42; Susini II, 31). My true knowledge makes me the support, the pivot of the object known.

Just as God is able to be immanent in temporal reality, so we are to penetrate cosmic time. This penetration does not involve a mixture of identities–Baader refers to Böhme’s saying that Spirit can penetrate nature just as light penetrates fire (Fermenta IV, 14). There are different ways of penetrating the animal, plant and mineral realms (Fermenta I, 13; note m). All understanding or knowledge is a penetration [durchdringung] of a perception (Werke 12, 84).

In the penetration of the temporal object, we understand its structure. But this penetration and domination is not to be done in an egotistical way. If I seek only my own pleasure, then I am subordinating the object to myself, and annihilating its objectivity. Love for the object is then only love for myself, the contrary of true love (Fermenta I, 18). The penetration is to be an ‘inhabitation,’ not a ‘perhabitation.’ Inhabitation is knowledge in an immanent manner; it is a kind of participation or coexistence. I become interior to the being, and become a center for it. The knowing subject becomes inherent in the known object, like an artist in his work; like a father in his child and like God in Man. Such inhabitation is contrasted to perhabitation, where there is no essential link, but only an accidental, exterior juxtaposition or meeting with the thing; one only ‘crosses’ the object without stopping (Susini II, 57). Our love for nature must also not be confounded with industrial or rational exploitation of nature. (Susini II, 562, citing Fermenta V).

Baader says that we are to be mediators for the nonintelligent world just as Christ was a mediator for us. In his kenosis, Christ suspended his own glory and self-sacrifice. Similarly, as helping beings we ourselves must enter into the other beings, and must ourselves become conceivable [Sichsatzlich-machen], to embody ourselves [einverleiben] or to seed ourselves [einsäen] into the beings that are still bound. Just as God descended into the temporal through Christ, so we descend into the temporal. To do this requires that we acknowledge our solidarity and sympathy with those beings that require our help (Elementarbegriffe 554-559). I know that which I love in a different way than that which I do not love (Philosophische Schriften II, 140). Theoretical knowledge demands a double subjection –a subjection [Subjicirung] to God above as His creature, and a subjection to that which stands below. This double subjection gives us the ability to go out of our Center as well as to sink into it–both a centrifugal as well as a centripetal direction. Only as I subject myself to a Higher, do I have the power to subject that which is under me. Only serving can I rule. And only ruling do I serve The Son of Man came into the world to give witness to the truth. That is the destined end for Man, too, as the image of God (Weltalter 221, 222, 361). Our love is an affirmation of the Gegenstand by a denial of our self.

The purpose of our theorizing is therefore to restore the fallen temporal world. In each stage of our own evolution (towards or away from God), we have the ability to fulfill the law for such a temporal being and through this fulfillment to obtain the power or to create the ‘moment of its existence’ that it needs in order to go into a higher law and so to ascend. If we do not fulfill this obligation, we begin to feel the law as a burden (Elementarbegriffe 553).

Dooyeweerd also speaks in terms of sacrifice, although he does not explicitly link sacrifice to theory. Veritable religion is absolute self-surrender (NC I, 58). Love is self-surrender. Like Baader, Dooyeweerd links this self-surrender to Christ’s complete self-surrender to the Father and to lost mankind. Only in Christ do we see the true meaning of image of God. And like Baader, Dooyeweerd says that we must not experience the command of love externally, but that it must penetrate our inner selves. (NC II, 149)

I believe that this idea of self-surrender is helpfully explained in an article in Opbouw written by the the theologian A.H. de Hartog, and of which Dooyeweerd must have been aware. Both Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven contributed articles to Opbouw. And Vollenhoven (under the pseudonym Th. Voorthuizen) was one of the editors of the journal. De Hartog replies to Ubbink’s criticism that his idea of self-surrender is the same as “self-destruction.” He writes,

Keer op keer schreven wij neer, dat de zelf-ontlediging in Gods gemeenschap doorgang is tot een verrijkt tot zich zelf wederkeeren, zooals het tarwegraan door versterving eerst recht herleeft, dertig-, zestig-, honderd-voud.

[Again and again we have written that the self-emptying in God’s fellowship is the entrance to an enriched return to one’s self, just as it is only in dying that the grain of wheat can live again, thirty-, sixty-, a hundred-fold.]

In a video interview of Dooyeweerd, he mentions the impact made on him when he first read Kuyper’s Pentecost Meditations (“Dagen van goede boodschap: op den Pinksterdag”).

In this Pentecost meditation, Kuyper speaks of Christ’s self-surrender. Christ became truly human, entering the lower creation of the earth. At p. 21, Kuyper says that Christ became more and more “veiled until He at the last sank into the deepest disdain and sank away into the depths of death” (“omsluierd, tot Hij ten letste inzonk in de diepste versmading en wegzonk in de diepten des doods”). He could not have been more humiliated [vernederd]. This descent was a demonstration of the overflowing of his love.

Revised Jan14/10