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The kenotic theology of Sergius Bulgakov

  • Paul L. Gavrilyuk (a1)
Abstract

Bulgakov's comprehensive kenotic theory is a largely neglected aspect of his theology. The article situates Bulgakov's kenoticism in the context of nineteenth–twentieth century European and Russian theology. For Bulgakov kenosis was a feature not only of the divine incarnation, but also of creation and of the inner life of the Trinity. Bulgakov distinguishes between different aspects of the divine kenosis: the suffering of compassionate and sacrificial love; the restraint of omnipotence, omniscience and other perfections; the descent into the world of temporality and becoming; the acceptance of human emotions and suffering; the identification with sinful humanity; and ultimately the experience of Godforsakenness in the incarnation. God freely limits his actions in the world by time and space. According to Bulgakov, God always acts by persuasion and never by compulsion. Incarnation for Bulgakov is a kenotic act par excellence. Critically appropriating the ideas of Thomasius and Hegel, Bulgakov argues that in the incarnation the Word retains his divine nature, but divests himself of his glory. This entails that the Son empties himself of his foreknowledge, and becomes temporarily subordinate to the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Son's kenosis is matched by that of the Holy Spirit, who restricts his power in communicating his gifts to the world.

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Scottish Journal of Theology
  • ISSN: 0036-9306
  • EISSN: 1475-3065
  • URL: /core/journals/scottish-journal-of-theology
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