Perichoresis of Trinitarian Confusion


Perichoresis is a term used in Trinitarian theology to describe the mutual indwelling relationship between Father, Son and Spirit. It derives from language related to dance (hence, choreography). This dance also occurs in the mind when trying to pin ideas down.


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12 responses to “Perichoresis of Trinitarian Confusion

  1. Paul

    solution…think ahead…book that Sunday off…if you are lucky York Diocese will be doing ordination of priests that day…and you might know one of them well enough to get an invite…

  2. Ben

    Its just like a good martini, three in one!
    Good luck – you’ll be briliant!

  3. Which begs the question, that if relationships are what makes us truly human, how can we be made in God’s image if God is alone ?

  4. apx42

    Trinity Sunday-> The Sunday you remember you’re not actually required to give a sermon/homily on the readings and can preach about all anything orthodox.

  5. Fr Kevin

    Sadly, perichoresis doesn’t derive from language related to dance, although it’s a common mistake. Some authors mistakenly render perichorein (which is the actual etymological root) as perichoreuin, which would mean “to dance around”. See: It does, however, have the sense of stepping aside for another, or to make room, and that is the sense which Gregory intended for the hypostatic union of Christ’s nature when he originally coined the word.

    • Thanks – I bow to your explanation, and indeed it does ring bells from what I’ve read in the past. Having said that, I’d be interested to know whether the analogy still has some relevance given that there may be an etymological link between both words. Good dancing would involve making space for the other etc?

      • Fr Kevin

        Don’t get me wrong, I think that dance is an excellent metaphor for the Trinity, at least, as far as any metaphor could be. I certainly think that “stepping aside” is an essential part of many dances. (In fact, I’ve written a paper on it, which is currently being looked at for publication.) I suggest that English Country Dance gets us closest to the sense of continual movement and participation that I see in the divine perichoresis. That’s because the dance partners aren’t fixed, as they would be in a waltz, and they take it in turns to dance with each other, but that they are all one in the dance. It is the dance that gives coherence to the dancers and the dancers who give coherence to the dance. Neither exists without the other.

      • Even though I don’t believe in Christianity or this illustration, I still love this image of a dance in terms of how various attributes of goodness interact with each other within God’s creation. Kindness, justice, strength, glory, humility… the list goes on, and they are truly one, through wisdom, in their honour of God’s holiness 🙂

  6. I think the problem is that Jesus acted towards God just like a human, a creation and servant of His, would, communicating with Him in a way that others could see… and then some people believed the moshiach would be the revelation of the glory of God, took it to the point of worship, and then because they genuinely wanted to make sure they were only worshiping the Creator they considered ‘both persons’ to be ‘one’.

    Mysteriously one. But instead of appealing too much to mystery, I think they appeal too little! We can’t see into the essence of God; what He reveals to us is His actions. If we could compare His very self to anything in creation, to any form or relationship between entities, we’d be looking at created forms rather than at Him. That doesn’t mean He’s distant; no, He is very close as our hearts can know Him intimately and undivided while our minds perceive His actions, His blessings, including the blessing of existence on which our whole being relies on Him. But to say ‘we can never fully understand the relationship within God’ is wrong, because that implies that we can partly see into His very being. Believe me, if you see a conversation between a man and God you are not seeing ‘into God’s mysterious reality’; you’re seeing the worship and devotion that are owed by servant to Master, creation to Creator.

    What the early worshipers of Jesus should’ve done is not only try to emphasise the oneness of God as a concept, but also try to emphasise the caution to worship God alone that we find in the Torah, especially Deuteronomy, and in the heart of mainstream Judaism. They should have realized that you would have to be 100% sure that you weren’t worshiping someone/something created. They should have looked to see if the Torah even gives any test for this (as it does for true versus false prophets), if it gives any clear commands about not missing the incarnation of God, any suggestion that such a surprise would happen. If Jesus claimed it people should have been cautious beyond any doubt, not because of skepticism but because of their faithfulness to God alone. (And I would say that nothing in Christian claims about him satisfies the kind of rigorous test that would let a seeming created being into the place in your heart that is only our Creator’s.) And if he didn’t, to slowly start assuming so is a slippery thing to do.

    On top of that, ‘incarnation’ is not really possible because creation is on one side of the relationship, and Creator is on the other; it is a precious relationship. Would the incarnate one be on the side of the relationship that is Creator? Then how would he truly experience what it is to be human, since all that we are is caught in this identity and experience of receiving blessing and owing worship? Or would he be on the created side, like us? Then he owed worship and didn’t deserve it.

    The default understanding is that every being who exists in the heavens and earth is a servant of the one who made us, who isn’t ‘in here’ as one of us but is deeply near to those who call on Him in sincerity, and who sustains not only the start of creation but every moment. This applies not only to the flesh and blood of a man or woman, but also to their soul and personality, through which people are attached in relationship to another individual. Even that is finite; each person you meet contains only part of the beauty of God. Everything in Creation is an expression of Him in some way or another, and some things or people are more humbly transparent, more expressive of Him. To His glory we can be His messengers. But ‘who He is’ will always be outside the eye and the imagination. We’re humbled before the mystery of Him and before reliance on revelation. And thank God that there are many who have a close relationship with Him that doesn’t make them accept Jesus ‘as God’ and have to grapple with the instability and falsehood of the trinity message; in fact, does not allow them.

    Good graph though. I think it shows the problem of irreverence in trying to pin God down, mixed with the virtue of trying to address mistaken ideas about Him.

  7. Pingback: Perichoresis of Trinitarian Confusion « Blogging theology

  8. Toppleton Geardom

    “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, July 30, 1816

    • Definitely you can’t really respond to nonsense in any straight forward way. A rabbi told me though that he feels that instead of telling everyone what to do, we should just change ourselves for the better and people might catch on like wild fire… people don’t want to be criticised, they want to be inspired.

      That said, it’s good to have clear responses out there… we just can’t be offended if people don’t agree, because it is up to them and our source to work out their path.

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