Bruce McCormack’s TFT Lectures (5): Evaluation

How to evaluate McCormack’s novel account of kenosis? I want to make two comments. The first is that I think it is at least potentially defensible when judged according to the canons of classical (Reformed) orthodoxy. I do not think there is any major doctrinal decision that it offends against, although on one point I was left with the feeling that more work was needed to establish the defence. The second comment is that I was not convinced by Bruce’s account of the pressure towards a revision of doctrine in this area. Very simply, I think his account of kenosis can be held, but it need not be: it remains open, in my view, to hold to the classical formulations of Christology without the need to revise them, and, personally, this would be my preferred position....

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Bruce McCormack’s TFT Lectures (4)

A note on the nature of these posts: I am not typing up notes of the lectures (I tend to take none, other than a few scribbled phrases intended to aid in the formulation of a question or comment at the end of the presentation). Instead, I am working from my memory of them, and my reflections following them. My intention has not been to give an exhaustive account of the arguments deployed, so much as to make clear what I took to be the main thread of argument running through the presentations, and my evaluation of it. In turning to Bruce’s final lecture, I am going to depart completely from the structure of the lecture as it was given, which was split into three (unequal) sections: reflections on the proper exegesis of Phil. 2:5-11; an outline of the constructive...

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Bruce McCormack’s TFT lectures (3)

The third lecture, ‘Immutable in Passibility: The Contribution of Karl Barth,’ traced the origins of Barth’s Christology in Dorner and Herrmann. Jason has suggested in a comment on the second of this series that this was the best of the lectures; I would not disagree. It happens it was also the one I chaired. There is a danger with any great theologian that s/he becomes detached from historical context. St Thomas is studied as if Peter Lombard had never written, and Albert the Great had never responded; works on Calvin represent him as springing from nowhere, ignoring half a generation of Reformation debate that is crucial to understanding what he was about; all of us who teach, I fear, have painted the caricature of Barth that has him repudiating all he learnt...

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Bruce McCormack’s TFT lectures (2)

Bruce McCormack’s second lecture, ‘Passibility in Mutability: The Failure of the Older Kenoticism,’ focused on the nineteenth-century kenotic Christologies of Thomasius and Gess, and on Dorner’s critique. The British kenoticists (Forsyth and Mackintosh), and Baillie’s objections, were there, but the treatment was slightly more cursory, I think because Bruce thinks that Herrmann’s critique of metaphysics should have been found decisive, and so no-one should have developed a kenotic Christology after it. ‘Kenotic Christology,’ for those who don’t know, takes its cue from the Christ-hymn in Philippians 2, which affirms that Christ ‘emptied himself’ (heauton ekenosen, hence ‘kenosis’ and ‘kenotic’). A kenotic...

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Bruce McCormack’s TFT lectures (1)

Bruce McCormack’s TF Torrance lectures went under the title ‘The Humility of the Eternal Son: A Reformed Version of Kenotic Christology’. They represent the maturity of a project Bruce announced in an IJST article (‘Karl Barth’s Christology as a Resource for a Reformed Version of Kenoticism’ IJST 8 (2006), pp. 243-51), and has developed in my hearing in papers given in a conference on Hebrews in St Andrews (to be published next year in McDonald, Driver, Bauckham, & Hart (eds), The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology (Eerdmans)), and at the 2007 Rutherford House Dogmatics Conference. No doubt the theme has also been worked on in public elsewhere. I published the IJST article, and questioned Bruce after the two earlier presentations. It was clear from...

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