Star Wars’ Kenotic Model

Gottfried Thomasius, a nineteenth century German Lutheran theologian, at first glance, would seem to have nothing to do with Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker (2019). And to be honest, he really doesn’t, but that won’t stop me from making tenuous connections — so, here we go. 

Thomasius is best known for his “kenotic Christology.” Kenotic Christology attempts to demystify Christian theology via the Council of Chalcedon (451). The Council of Chalcedon declared that Christ had two natures (one divine and one human), but was one person; this is called the hypostatic union. To embarrassingly simplify Thomasius, he thought that this union could only be explained via a radical humanity: Jesus “emptied” himself of his divine attributes. Well, according to Thomasius’s kenotic model, he only empties himself of the realized divine attributes, not their potential — in other words, Jesus has the powers but completely refrains from using them. 

I believe this model can be partly displayed, eisegetically if not exegetically, in J.J. Abrams’s Rise of Skywalker

So, as with much of the discourse surrounding the entire new trilogy, this theory relates to Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) parent’s. The titlecard reveals that the original galactic baddie, Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), somehow survived being chopped in two and thrown into an oblivion (see: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi). After spending about an hour trying to figure out who is from where and the child of what character we already know, viewers discover that Rey is the granddaughter of Palatine. In The Last Jedi Kyle Ren, aka Ben Solo, the son of Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford), revealed to Rey that she is in fact a nobody, the daughter of no one of import — a fact that she was already aware of but hadn’t accepted. 

Abrams, in his second run at Star Wars (First: The Force Awakens), didn’t want her to be a true nobody; thus, she becomes a Palpatine. But, The Last Jedi’s “nobody heritage” creates a problem, so Abrams skips the parents and cuts straight for the grandparents. To accomplish this, Abrams has Kylo in consort with Palpatine, who wants to find Rey so that she can become the heir to his Sith throne. Kylo tells Rey of her “true heritage” by revealing that “her parents chose to be nobodies” in order to hide from Palpatine. In Thomasian terms, they suspended their Sith/Jedi powers. 

Rey even says something to Palpatine along the lines of, “They were not weak. They were strong.” Their power comes from their powerlessness — this is the kenotic model.

But this can only be carried so far, and it is by no means a perfect fit. Truth be told, this is probably just me tickling my own fancy, but isn’t that what blogs are for?

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