The holy trinity has always been a somewhat startling concept for me. Does that mean that God is divided into three equal parts? If Jesus is God, then is God talking with himself whenever Jesus is in prayer? If Jesus is the Son of God does that mean that the Virgin Mary is not only his mother, but also God's spouse? Or is it all meant figuratively? If so, what's the point behind it all?
In fact, the German philosopher Hegel, considered a genius by some and a schizophrenic maniac by others, has come up with an answer that is both astounding and fascinating, whether you agree with him or not.
There is a common view that Jesus has died for our sufferings and with his death has given us forgiveness, acceptance, and eternal life. The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson draws out this point in excruciating detail and gets the message across. But how can the suffering and horrible death of the so-called Son of God be any kind of alleviation of sins? The ideology behind it seems to imply that we, all of humanity, are responsible for his death, that we actually killed Jesus, in equal measure as we are guilty before God because of Adam's transgression eons ago.
But Hegel gives a different account and does not harbor on the suffering part. He claims that Jesus is the “bringer of love” who comes at a crucial point of time. Before Jesus, there was Moses “the lawgiver,” and people were subject to rigorous rules and obligations and if they disobeyed they were confronted with the wrath of a jealous God.
Yet suddenly, Jesus of Nazareth appears on the earthly circus and tells us to forget about all the commandments and to follow only two rules: Love God and love each other. It seems a kind of truce or a deal for us humans. It replaces the harsh language of the stern father with the loving and kind father. It is an uplifting message and a life philosophy worth pursuing.
But who is this Jesus and with what authority does he speak? Hegel states that God of the Old Testament was always distant. He felt more and more alienated with humanity and did not understand those creatures of skin and blood. So He ventured to enter into the human realm Himself. In a similar vein “Death” in Meet Joe Black or the angel Damiel in Wings of Desire, God decided to become flesh.
This decision is of paramount importance. It is the Leader Himself appearing on the scene; He is not merely sending messengers or ambassadors or receiving indirect knowledge about how things are down there. He wanted to experience firsthand what it was like to be human. It was a way of fully incorporating and understanding humanity from the inside.
Apart from that, it had unspeakable symbolic and religious significance. It was the ushering of a new era, an era of love and reconciliation. God was ready to forgive all of humanity; He was even ready to give His own human life for the cause.
Why did He have to die? It was a necessity. Partly because people were still in law-obeying Moses mode, a kind of automatic and mindless rendering of rites and rituals in order to please the Almighty. The other reason is that by “dying,” God did actually open the way to the heavens and to the afterlife. It was an interaction between the divine and the human realm. He experienced humanity in full cycle: birth, suffering, and death. He was the perfect example of a human, the prototype if you will, hence rightfully the Son of Man.
Whether you agree with it or not, it is still a fascinating and refreshing concept proposed by the German philosopher. And in some ways it makes intuitive sense. It gives an explanation of the how and why and is not simply built on mere acceptance of rules and dogmas.