Let’s con­tin­ue to explore the beau­ty of the Trin­i­ty togeth­er. Note the pri­or­i­ty that the doc­trine of the Trin­i­ty grants to the intense­ly per­son­al char­ac­ter of God. Accord­ing to his­toric Chris­tian­i­ty, the essence of God is not an imper­son­al genus, some kind of divine stuff” that the Father, Son, and Spir­it share. Rather, the Father and the essence of God are numer­i­cal­ly one and the same. There is no abstract nature called God” that the per­son of the Father hap­pens to have. No, the per­son of the Father is that God,” and every­thing that God” means, is ful­ly and per­son­al­ly exis­tent in the Father. There sim­ply is no divin­i­ty” except the Father’s own per­son­al real­i­ty. The Son and the Spir­it are like­wise numer­i­cal­ly one with the essence of God, eter­nal­ly receiv­ing from the Father (who begets the Son and who breathes forth the Spir­it) the full­ness of the divine being, so that they also are ful­ly and per­son­al­ly divine. The only God there is, is this per­son­al-times-per­son­al-times-per­son­al, this expo­nen­tial­ly per­son­al, Trinity. 

The intense­ly per­son­al char­ac­ter of God as Father, Son, and Spir­it entails an unqual­i­fied­ly mutu­al or rela­tion­al com­po­nent in the divine life. The three per­sons are dis­tinct, but they are not, by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion, inde­pen­dent of one anoth­er. On the con­trary, they are so depen­dent, so inter­de­pen­dent, that though each is the one God, they also togeth­er con­sti­tute the one God. Chris­t­ian tra­di­tion has some­times referred to this star­tling fea­ture of the divine life using the Greek word peri­chore­sis, a term whose root has to do with danc­ing (as in our Eng­lish word chore­og­ra­phy”). The idea is that the divine per­sons flow in and out of one anoth­er like par­tic­i­pants in an intri­cate dance, but more so: they ful­ly and total­ly inter­pen­e­trate or indwell one anoth­er – as Jesus him­self inti­mat­ed when he prayed to his Father and said, You are in me and I am in you” (John 17:21).

This pro­found inter­pen­e­tra­tion tells us a lot about God’s intense­ly per­son­al char­ac­ter. There is with­in God’s nature no tini­est poten­tial for lov­ing rela­tion­ship or mutu­al glo­ry or any such thing that has not been ful­ly, per­son­al­ly, and inter­per­son­al­ly actu­al­ized from all eter­ni­ty. Before the world was cre­at­ed, the love of the Father for the Son in the Spir­it (John 17:24) and the rec­i­p­ro­cal glo­ry of Father and Son and Spir­it (John 17:5; 16:14 – 15) were already per­ma­nent, liv­ing, joy­ous real­i­ties. At the core of all being, there was, and there is, and always will be ful­ly actu­al­ized mutu­al love, an inde­scrib­ably rich, dis­tinc­tive­ly rela­tion­al, intense­ly per­son­al plenitude. 

It is won­der­ful to con­tem­plate the impli­ca­tions of God as Trin­i­ty for our life as God’s image-bear­ers. Next week we’ll take a close look at how this Trini­tar­i­an way of think­ing about God helps us to under­stand and appre­ci­ate cre­ation more ful­ly. Blessings.

This series has been adapt­ed from Steven D. Boy­er and Chris Hall’s The Mys­tery of God: The­ol­o­gy for Know­ing the Unknow­able. Hun­gry for more? Please vis­it Bak­er Aca­d­e­m­ic for more information.

Text First Published September 2016 · Last Featured on Renovare.org October 2021

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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