Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Pair of Divine 3-D Glasses

The "trinity" is one of the most sacred and cornerstone beliefs of the Christian faith...but is it true?

If you're not familiar with the term "trinity" I'll try and give a brief run down (though to be honest I still don't understand very well, even after attending a church with "trinity" in the name for several years). As with anything, there are various view points and ways of describing it, but in a nutshell the "trinity" states that God is one deity, composed of three distinct persons...Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is argued however that these are not three separate gods, for each one represents God in totality. One is three, but each of the three is equal to the one all by itself...somehow. So in math it would be something like this I guess,


Now I may have only passed Algebra II by the skin of my teeth, but I'm pretty sure none of the above mathematical statements work. In other words, the "trinity" really makes no sense. And oddly those that advocate it usually admit that. The justification? "Well its just how God is, because He's higher than us. You're not supposed to get it". And if there is one thing I've learned about statements like that, is that they are nothing more than giant rainbow-colored tarps draped over the elephants in the room of religion. Nobody really gets it or understands exactly why it is true, so rather than actually test its validity, we just explain it away with theological gibberish. This is probably why every time I've asked someone to explain the "trinity", or read a scholars opinion on it, its always just a confusing garbled mess of words that really don't add up to anything at all(which looking at the math above, seems to show why). I was reading one theologian's definition last night, for example, and I honestly thought he was trying to weave such a confusing web of ideas, as to purposefully make the lay person go "yeah, well, he used a bunch of big words, so I guess he must know what hes talking about!". Please understand, I don't say this to poke fun at people that believe in the "trinity"(after all, I believed it myself), but rather to be honest about how I've come to see the idea.

Anyway, now that I've told you a bit about the "trinity", I want to begin talking about the view that I am coming into by quoting Colossians 1:15(a), which states,

[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God...

Simple enough, right? Yet it sparked a divine revelation in me in regards to what the Father, Son and Holy Spirit actually are. In regards to Jesus, it simply means that His purpose was to be a tangible, visible, and audible representation of God to mankind. In this respect, what Jesus actually was/is goes well beyond the apostle Paul's analogy of an "image", but since no one had any idea what a video or hologram was back then, I think it was the best term he could use (haha). I also have a curious feeling that Paul used that term to allude to the creation of man story in Genesis 1:26, which states,
And God saith, `Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness

I always thought this meant we were made to look like God the Father, but how are you made to look like something that is (according to Col 1:15) invisible? However, if Jesus is the image of God, it seems to make a bit more sense what we have been modeled after; Jesus is the archetype for humanity. And really this goes back to the second part of Colossians 1:15(b) which calls Jesus the "firstborn of all creation". Jesus was, in some sense, in existence before Adam and is what Adam was made "in". This is affirmed in verse 16 which says, "because in [Jesus] were the all things created...all things through him, and for him, have been created". I feel this is key to understanding not only what Jesus is, but also what we are and our relationship to Him.

So I suppose the million dollar question is "Is Jesus God"? To which I answer: in a sense, yes, in another sense, no. If Jesus is the "image" of God, then he can not logically be God simultaneously. If my mother shows a picture of me to someone and says "thats my son, Eric", the person seeing it perfectly understands that I am not literally that thin piece of paper with a colorized image on it. The picture is just a photographic capture of all my features. In a similar way, Jesus the man is not literally God, However, Jesus perfectly represents God(as perfectly as one could represent God in our physical realm, anyways).

This is why Jesus could rightly say "He who has seen me has seen the Father"(John 14:9). But Jesus himself is not God the Father, otherwise how could He say "the Father is greater than I"(John 14:28)? Or how could He say that "concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only"(Mat 24:36)? According to the "trinity", the Son, the Father and the Holy Spirit are "coequals", but to be equals one cannot logically be greater or wiser than another. To be equals one cannot be the "head" of another, as we are told God is the head of Christ in 1 Corinthians 11:3. And to be equals, one cannot be made subject to the other, as we are told Christ is made subject(or literally "put under") to God as we are told in 1 Corinthians 15:28. So while the man Jesus displays God by His words and actions, His unique nature causes Him to be limited in providing an all-encompassing display of God. It's still confusing to me, but I think its fair to say that Jesus is sort of like a divine pair of 3D glasses, if you will. Humanity previously had the words of the prophets and the Jewish religion that provided humanity with an intro to God. But God, being an invisible spirit, was still probably a hard to grasp concept for them(afterall sometimes He was a burning bush, other times a pillar of fire or cloud, it was all rather mysterious) making it hard to really have relationship with God or understand Him truly. So the Son of God comes upon our eyes and upon our hearts, and projects a previously hard-to-look-at, red, and blue reality, into an image we feel is right in front of our faces so that we can begin to grasp who God is and how personal He is. Christ is our way of seeing God in a new way, within our reality.

I've always liked Carl Sagan's simple illustration of the 4th dimension, and have heard it related to Jesus before. I'll post it here if you want to see it,

You could say that human existence is in "flat land" while the apple is God in Christ, displaying His image for us to know and follow. God in totality cannot be fully realized in our world, but Jesus is our glimpse at Him, His characteristics and plan.

This makes Jesus's existence really quite unlike anything else, and while I dont think the "trinity" paints it completely accurate or logical, I don't wish to diminish the complex miracle that He is. Jesus is the logos, or reasoning/expression of God (translated as the "Word" in scripture) combined with a human embryo, which gives the logos of God a physical vessel by which to display Himself to mankind and speak His will for us. Perhaps one could say Jesus's persona is literally the logos of God, which according to John 1:1, was with God in the beginning and yet was God. To be honest, I'm still figuring out what the Hades that even means exactly, but I think the idea of Jesus being a combination of a man and God's logos actually gives some weight to the mainstream idea of Jesus being "fully God, yet fully man". That never made sense to me previously, but now I think it simply means the logos (which is God) embodies Jesus(which is a man).

It is symbolic of the divine union that God has always had in mind for Him and humanity. Jesus was the original design from which Adam was created, but then God allowed sin to temporarily disrupt the union between God and man. God did this in order that man attempt to live a holy life according to God's law; a feat that was also meant to fail and to show us that we can never do enough good things to overcome our fallen condition and separation. So God sends His logos into our physical dimension to teach us, to show us a new and beautiful picture of Himself and to ultimately fulfill the law(because He was perfect), so that our salvation from sin and separation would not be based on our actions but on Christ's sacrifice on the cross. This has paved the way for Gods new covenant of humanity, in which those awakened to the truth become "one, as [the Father] and [Jesus] are one"(John 17:22) and ultimately will come to completion within all of humanity, at the time when God becomes "all in all"(1 Co 15:28)