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Friday, 12 October 2012

The Dance: Trinity and Authority

In the understanding of authority I used to have, I was pointed to the triune Godhead as our model - for here we have equality of persons with hierarchy of roles. The Son is subordinate to the Father and the Spirit is subordinate to the Father and the Son. This was based on who sent who and who did the will of who. I see it differently now. But I still believe the Trinity is our primary model and source of revelation about the counter-cultural nature of authority in God's different kingdom.

I was reminded of it again today while meditating on John 8. I noticed again how the Son wants to honour the Father (v.49) and the Father wants to glorify the Son (v.54). There are many other references of the person of the Godhead seeking to honour and glorify the other (e.g. John 16:14, 14:4, 5). What we actually see in the Godhead is the movement of each person in mutual self-giving love and submission to the others, with an emphasis not on role and authority but on willing submission and service that comes out of relationship and love. The key to the government of God was not role and hierarchy but honour and submission from love, not from the fulfillment of a role in a divine pecking order.

This movement around each other in the Godhead was called by the early church fathers, 'perichoresis' which means 'to dance or flow around' (we get our word choreography from it). Many writers are rediscovering this now. Here is a taster from Tim Keller:

'...self-centredness is to be stationary, static. In self-centredness we demand that others orbit around us...The inner life of the triune God is utterly different. The life of the Trinity is characterised not by self-centredness but by mutually self-giving love. When we  delight and serve someone else, we enter into a dynamic orbit around him or her, we centre on the interests and desires of the other. That creates a dance, particularly if there are three persons, each of whom moves around the other two...Each of the divine persons centres upon the others. None demand that the others revolve around him. (Keller, The Reason for God, pp.214-215)

Our patterns of leadership and authority - and indeed of all of church community - must begin here.


  1. From a choreography point of view, you can choreograph a routine where there is a sepcified space for improvisation of the individual but I think these are best used when they make use of and compliment the group as a whole. I think each new season is a new dance that will have a different style and feel. Sometimes emphases will be on the individual and at other times it will be on the group and their movement as whole. Some of my favourite routines involve one person starting and then being joined and copied by several others. I think good leadership involves knowing when the music has changed and how the dance should compliment it.

  2. Thanks, Tony. These are excellent insights.