Systematic theology professor carries on the quarter’s Philippians theme
Chapelgoers had the opportunity to hear from Oliver D. Crisp
, the new professor of systematic theology who joined Fuller’s faculty last fall, at All-Seminary Chapel on Wednesday, February 1, in Travis Auditorium. The service also served as part of Mission Week 2012, an annual event sponsored by the All Seminary Council and focusing on “enlarging our understanding about the mission of God.”
Keeping with the Winter Quarter theme of “Rejoicing with Philippians,” Crisp gave a brief reflection on Philippians 2:1-11. Joking about how he wished he could preach on Matthew 28 and the Great Commission for Mission Week, he said that the selected passage was also appropriate for, he observed, it describes “a Christ-formed community that must be the fundamental basis from which to launch out to mission.”
Crisp pointed out that one of two things is often said about the passage: that it is a fragment of a “Christ hymn” about the son becoming human by emptying himself of his divinity, or that it is all about imitating the model of Christ’s servanthood. But these are not mutually exclusive, stated Crisp, for both are true.
“However,” he said, “focusing too much on these two aspects fails to take with sufficient seriousness the larger whole.” Using the classic fairy tale of Cinderella as an example, Crisp explained that if one focused on the fact that her glass slipper fit, albeit a turning point in the tale, one would miss what the story is about—the transformed life of a servant girl. Similarly, he said, Philippians 2:1-11 is not only about Christ, or about the individual striving to imitate him.
Crisp finds the key to the passage’s meaning in Paul’s words preceding the chapter, which are about suffering together for Christ. “It is about community,” stated Crisp, “and about loving one another through times of great trial, and becoming like Christ through suffering.” Before the Christ hymn, Paul speaks of the consolation found in Christ, and exhorts the Philippians to have the mind of Christ. “What is this consolation, this mind of Christ?” asked Crisp. “It is the self-emptying service of one another.”
However, Crisp shared that while we are to have the mind of Christ, it is “not a matter of slavish imitation.” There is a massive difference between a musician who plays all the right notes with “the deadening sound of an automaton,” he explained, and the performer who soulfully plays the same right notes so that the music “sears the hearts of the listeners.” Paul is encouraging not mere imitation but transformation, said Crisp, “so that the music of the glory of Christ courses through our very being—so we cannot help but fall down and worship.”