Before the Gospels were written, long before the creeds of the Church were hammered out, Christ followers in Philippi sang a hymn of the Christ who, “although he was in the form of God . . . emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born as are all humans.” But this emptied Christ never fit neatly into later theologies of the church, shaped by Greek thought, concerned with being and essence.
In Philippians, Paul struggles, stumbling over his own awkward words to express his hope, his eschatological faith, that he might “gain Christ and be found in him . . . and participate in his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if in some way I may reach to what goes beyond the resurrection from the dead.”
Might we better comprehend Paul's inchoate, even mystical, faith in Jesus Christ with aid from a less empirical world of thought than our western heritage offers? Might the thinking of Mahā[set macron over a]yā[set macron over a]na Buddhism guide us toward an awareness of a truth in the Christian faith that is more profound than anything reducible to historical “facts,” or even to human language?