a1 Asia Graduate School of Theology, 54 Scout Madriñan, Quezon City, Philippines email@example.com
After many years of dormancy, the concept of kenosis has recently received widespread and lively attention from contemporary theologians. Yet, in the midst of this revival, there has emerged a steady stream of critique of the concept because of its apparently adverse doctrinal and ethical implications. Less remarked upon, but equally important, is an analogous and long-standing debate about the nature and pervasiveness that we should assign to humility in Christian teaching. Indeed, the interweaving of humility and kenosis in Philippians 2 arguably requires that the two rise or fall together; even if the concepts are not semantically equal, their meanings and their theological implications overlap in manifold and important ways. This article surveys the current state of the question, and argues that the works of Augustine yield valuable insights regarding the most knotty problems emerging from contemporary disputes about kenosis and humility. In the first part, I outline several recent perspectives on kenosis, aiming to bring clarity to the discussion. Along the way, I note the similarities between kenosis and humility as they function theologically, and I offer a summary of the qualities that a theologically sound account of those concepts would need to exhibit in order to address the valid concerns which have so far been raised. In the second part, I propose that closer attention to the theme of humility (both human and divine) may shed new and important light on kenosis debates, suggesting that Augustine is the ideal theologian on whom to test this theory. To this end, I explore Augustine's explanations of christology and language, suggesting that these are the loci through which Augustine's perspective on humility – both divine and human – is best expressed. In both cases, Augustinian humility strikes a noteworthy balance between restraint and empowerment and offers an instructive vantage point from which to address the complex and lively discussions about kenosis. While the African bishop may not offer a decisive resolution of these matters, his approach to them does hold significant promise for a depiction of humility and kenosis which incorporates the valid concerns of critics while simultaneously preserving an unavoidable and central aspect of Christian doctrine.