Hello fellow fans of jeremydriley.com. My name is Jon and Jeremy asked me to write up two posts for him while he and Kristen acclimate to their new season of life. It is a huge privilege to write for him during this time. I’m sure he’s posted my bio somewhere so if you want to know more about me you can check that out.
On my blog I like to discuss topics of theology on a weekly basis. I cover different topics about Christian Theology that I feel help the average person better understand God and their relationship to him. I call it Theology Thursday (if you click on that you will see my original post and why it is important to study theology). With that in mind let’s get into today’s topic: Perichoresis.
Now if you’ve never heard that word before you might be thinking “what on earth does that mean?” I’m so glad you asked. Perichoresis is a combination of two distinct Greek words. The first word is peri which means around. The second word is chorein, which means to make room for another. According to Michael G. Lawler (some guy you’ve probably never heard of because without seminary I wouldn’t have) the combination of these two words gives the distinct picture of “the dynamic process of making room for another around oneself.” In essence this word picture is describing a constant dance (something Jeremy referenced in this post) that each member of the Trinity is constantly participating in, always moving and making room for the other members.
Dancers to the Core
To give a visual image to this while in seminary I took the picture on this post. By taking a picture with an extended exposure I was able to capture the idea of three individuals blending together as they constantly moved and made room for each other. At the same time you can still make out three distinct individuals. When you think of great ballroom dancing you can grasp this concept. Each partner must move in unison with the other; all the while exiting and entering space previously held by their partner. This dance, so to speak, is something God does and lives each and every day. It is at the core of his character. Three distinct persons intertwined in one being.
Another writer, Molly Marshall, puts it this way:
“Perichoresis depicts a relationship of mutuality in which persons draw their identity from being related to others. It is an ecstatic dance, in which the Trinitarian persons literally ‘stand outside themselves’ as they evoke the life of their divine counterparts. It is movement, an interplay of self-giving that calls forth reciprocal sharing of life. Perichoresis ‘grasps the circulatory character of the eternal divine life.’ This delightful divine choreography, which calls forth and deepens relationship.”
Relational to the Core
And now you must be thinking to yourself “so what? I really hope this Jon guy doesn’t want me to go around dancing all the time.” Well too bad for you because that is exactly what I want. Just kidding. That was sarcasm if the text didn’t translate that well. There are two basic implications of this idea. The first is that God is relational at his core and the second is that each member of the Trinity is constantly giving of himself within the Trinity. These two things are aspects of life that we can imitate. We can live in relationship for “It is not good that the man should be alone” and we can give of ourselves just as Christ did in his incarnation (see Philippians 2:5-11)
May you this week pursue relationship with others and give yourself away in the process. For this is who God is and who he created you to be.
Jon Varner is a graduate of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, the longest seminary name in the world. Like me (Jeremy) he is about to have his first child or has had it depending on when you read this. Unlike me he is going to have a boy. For him that is a good thing because the thought of a daughter scares the you know what out of him. He is passionate about people consistently pursuing God and this includes better understanding him. In the next few years he hopes to plant a church in California. He tweets @jcvarner and be sure to check out Jon’s blog!
I’m a fan of politics. I love reading political news, opinion pieces, and wrestling thoughtfully with the real issues of our day. But I’ve noticed something over the past few years, and that is a growing rise in hateful and inflammatory rhetoric. The comments on many of the political/current events articles I read end up turning into an endless array of president bashing posts and calls to revolution in order to restore the US to its supposed glory days. And to top it all off (not to mention the thing that irritates me to no end), most of the posts have some type of reference to God, and or Jesus, in them. I started to wonder then, because I had seen the same thing during the Bush administration (only the posts were coming from the other side of the aisle), why was there was so much fearful and hateful rhetoric, especially from Christians? Why were people so angry about all this stuff? So I began to think back into my own life, what happens when I get angry? What are the root causes of this anger and what do I do to quell those feelings?
Well, if I’m brazenly honest, when I get angry it’s usually because something deep down is causing me to be stressed out, and usually whatever is causing me to be stressed out is some type of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of dying, fear of not having enough finances, fear for my physical safety, so basically, fear. Something deep inside stresses me out so much that my mind becomes clouded with anger at whatever person, object, or thing I believe is causing my discomfort, or allowing it to happen . But, I will argue that this is not the way that us Christians, are supposed to live. So I began to look at many of the posts and many of the arguments that I saw online, and it seems that there’s one central theme to almost all of them, and that seems to be that people are afraid of losing their way of life. They’re afraid of losing the comfort that they have grown accustomed to. And honestly, that’s completely understandable! But, I think that as Christians we should maybe have a greater perspective on the world and our life than just our present comfort. In fact I think as an American church we’ve forgotten some of the great meanings behind passages of scripture found in books like Revelation, Hebrews, and Acts. For example, the Christians that Revelation was written to were suffering under the persecutions of Nero and other Roman leaders. It was written to say that while this life may have joys and pleasures, heartaches and depressions, there is one coming who will not only destroy and defeat all pain and sorrow, but who will restore, redeem, and resurrect our physical world and bodies and universe, into something new and so good that we are told one day there is better than a thousand elsewhere. So those under this persecution could look towards a hope that was bigger than the terrible circumstances they found themselves in.
We find in Hebrews chapter 11 stories of Biblical figures who were,
“Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Hebrews 11: 35-38, ESV)
And then in Acts (yeah, I’m a Pentecostal, I had to go there) we see so many stories of Paul and other early Christian leaders escaping death, prison, and just generally bad situations. Sometimes Christians were sent to prison, or accused of doing something wrong, or shipwrecked, or being sent to Prison, or surviving snake bites, etc… And I mean Paul wrote many of his letters from a prison cell in Rome, he did not live a “cushy nerf life.”
So what am I saying through all of this? Well first off, I am saying that I think churches need to preach a little more about perspective. Now, I am not advocating that we remove ourselves from public discourse or stop having a righteous anger over the great injustices in this world (take abortion for an example), but I think that through a proper kingdom based perspective, we can reframe our arguments in public discourse and use less fearful and hateful rhetoric, realizing that this world is not final, and in fact this country is not final. We are not called to defend a posh and comfortable American life. And that life sure is nice, don’t get me wrong. I love being able to wake up on a Saturday morning, play video games, go out and get coffee, and hang out with friends in the afternoon, grab some dinner at a trendy downtown restaurant, and end the night with a good movie from Redbox or on Netflix. But this is not what God has called us to defend. God has asked us in fact to lay all these things aside. So I think that if we remember some of these base principles next time we hear something about the government coming for us, or some conspiracy to take our rights away, let’s stop for just a moment and consider it reasonably. Let’s respond with peace and in a well thought out manner: because the Kingdom of God is not concerned with the success or failure of any one nation. God can continue to work whether Stalin is in charge or George Washington is in charge. We must keep our sights on this fact that God is in control in any and all situations. Christ has called us not to defend or to seek after a comfortable life but to seek after Him and His kingdom.
Our mindset should be eternally focused. Not so much that we lose sight of helping those in need in the present, but in fact so eternally minded that all we want to do is bring forth the real Kingdom of God into the here and now by loving the poor, helping the widows, and providing for the orphans and aliens. Again, I want to make sure that what I am saying is not misconstrued as me advocating an isolationist or non-politically active mindset. On the contrary I love politics (as I mentioned earlier) and I think that Christians should be involved in their community and world. But I just think that our perspective should be larger and greater than just focusing about our one lone country or even time period that we exist in. God is God throughout this time and throughout all time. No matter what happens on this planet, come hell or high-water, God will still always be God. And yes, we should stand up for truth and justice when at all possible, but it should be done in a way that always keeps the kingdom of God in mind and in perspective, not the nation of America, China, Japan, Australia, or any other country (however much we think that their political system or economy aligns with scripture).
Ultimately, if we profess Christ as King, we are citizens of heaven and under an economy of grace, and it is that country which we truly serve, and I believe with that in mind we can approach a national debate on health care, immigration reform, gay marriage, and whatever else we’re discussing at the time, in a much more reasonable light. We should absolutely stay away from conspiracy theories and vindictive and fearful language/rhetoric because we should be a people of peace and of confidence. Christ has won the victory, and we can discuss anything knowing full well that whatever happens, or whatever anyone says, God is still in control.
Jesse R. Segrist earned a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Vanguard University and an M.A. in Applied Anthropology from Macquarie University (Australia). He is currently pursuing an M.Div at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, MO. He also works full time as a Word Processor at the Assemblies of God World Missions and hopes to one day work in the fields of diplomacy and international Christian missions in Washington D.C. Follow him in the twittersphere @JRSegrist.