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"Emptied himself of all but love"? Exploring kenosis within the Wesleyan theological tradition

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posted on 2023-08-30, 20:28 authored by Daniel Haylett
The concept of kenosis informs incarnational theologies of all kinds, and every expression of Christology must give attention to kenotic language and theology. Wesleyan theology makes broad use of kenotic themes and language, evidenced in liturgical and pedagogical sources. No systematic attempt at exploring and defining these kenotic theological resources has been made. My research traces Wesleyan engagement with the concept of kenosis and broader kenotic theology in John Wesley’s Sermons and Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament (chapter 1); in the hymns of Charles Wesley and later writers (chapter 2). Kenotic language and themes outlined within these chapters reveal the prevalence of kenosis as a key theological concept. John and Charles’ kenotic language represents the broad and varied strands of kenotic theology. Having established the significance of kenosis for Wesleyan theology, I analyse how this has been worked out through historical development. In chapter 3, I explore how kenosis fits with the key theological priority of the prevenience of God’s grace, explaining how God enables human agency in justification-sanctification. Further, in chapter 4, I show how kenotic theology offers appropriate direction to theories of atonement in defining the nature of God’s self-emptying love and intention towards creation expressed in trinitarian terms. This leads to the exploration in chapter 5 of kenosis enabling full participation in God based on self-emptying equating to Christian Perfection. The key finding of this research (chapter 6) is that kenosis within Wesleyan theology is best understood as an essential kenosis of God; a necessary perspective for any authentically Wesleyan theology of incarnation and justification-sanctification. Kenotic theology best describes how Christians are enabled to relate to God and to one another. This is, to my knowledge, the first attempt to offer a systematic survey of the important place of kenosis within Wesleyan theology.



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