Moltmann Monday: The Trinity and Perichoresis

Happy Moltmann Monday! Since I talked about perichoresis last week, I thought I’d share with you some of Moltmann’s thoughts on the perichoretic dance of the trinity. It comes from The Trinity and the Kingdom, naturally.

An eternal life process takes place in the triune God through the exchange of energies. The Father exists in the Son, the Son in the Father, and both of them in the Spirit, just as the Spirit exists in both the Father and the Son. By virtue of their eternal love they live in one another to such an extent, and dwell in one another to such an extent, that they are one. It is a process of most perfect and intense empathy. Precisely through the personal characteristics that distinguish them from one another, the Father, the Son and the Spirit dwell in one another and communicate eternal life to one another. In the perichoresis, the very thing that divides them becomes that which binds them together.

Okay, let me stop here first. I am going to let you in on a big secret, a revealed secret that nevertheless will just release so much tension from the way you see theology. God is not an entity or a substance but is primarily by God’s own design an energy. The whole world is energy, you guys. The crazy thing is that, even before we knew this scientifically, theologians have been trying to explain God this way. The Spirit of God that hovered over the formless void and called forth life, the great I Am, the Shekinah, the pillar of cloud and fire that led the Israelites by day and night…all of these biblical descriptions of God are a way of explaining God as divine energy. The more we learn about the world, the more we understand it through the concept of energy. So it only makes sense to talk about the indwelling of God in the Trinity as an exchange of energies between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They give energies to one another. They receive energies from one another. This is not New Age woo-woo talk. This is the reality of God at work.

The impressive thing Moltmann does here is that he sidesteps all the problematic nonsense that burdened theologians who were asking questions about God as if God were substance or entity. They created these intellectual quagmires because they were grounding their ideas on a faulty assumption about the nature of God. If this sounds confusing or complicating to you, I am thrilled to recommend my friend Doug Pagitt’s new book, Flipped, which talks about this very thing. He quotes our uber smart friend Leron Shults who explains that “God is not a separate single subject.” And once we begin to live into what that means, it revolutionizes our understanding of our life with and IN God. Go get the book. Think about perichoresis as you read it.

Okay back to Moltmann. Here’s what’s great about shifting the trinitarian conversation to energy: you can start to see how the different energies aren’t complications but are blessed, divine catalysts that create new potentials. Think of it maybe like energy being, in a positive sense, combustible, or generative. Momentum begets momentum, that sort of thing. It’s a creative energy. And then, since it’s creative, sustaining energy, the differences aren’t a PROBLEM to be fixed, but a way in which Father, Son and Holy Spirit can bind together. It’s not a problem, but a gift.

Here’s Moltmann again, a few paragraphs after the above section:

The trinitarian Persons do not merely exist and live in one another; they also bring one another mutually to manifestation in the divine glory. The eternal divine glory is for its part displayed through the trinitarian manifestation of the Persons…The Persons of the Trinity make one another shine through that glory, mutually and together. They glow into perfect form through one another and awake to perfected beauty in one another.

WOW. This energy exchange, this gift, evidences itself as divine glory. God’s glory is revealed to us when we see this energy exchange in creation. It also exists within God, unto Godself, but remember, God chooses to open up that divine glory and share it with us. (Zimsum!)

You see what this means, right? God is not glorified by being a separate entity. God is glorified by the sharing of the divine life, by exchanging energy between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then, because God lets us, we can extend that to the idea that God is glorified also by not being separated from us, or by remaining untainted by us or by creation. God is glorified in his son Jesus, who indwells humanity. God is glorified in the Spirit, who brings creation to life and rebirth and resurrection. God is glorified when the energy of God is exchanged.

THIS IS THE GOSPEL STORY YOU GUYS. THIS IS PENTECOST. It is not theory, or some imagined mumbo jumbo. There is a very real way in which God has revealed Godself to be One who gives us energy, shares with us divine energy, so that we may be energized by life in and through and with God.

God exists as Father, Son and Holy Spirit by virtue of God’s love. The Trinity is a mutual indwelling where energy is shared. And God opens up this perichoretic dance to include us and all of creation, so that we may become energized by the life-giving force of God. In other words, salvation, restoration, healing, wholeness. And then, it becomes our response to glorify God by sharing this energy back with the world around us. This is worship.


  1. This is very helpful Danielle, thank you. I am doing some research on a retreat day I will be running soon, on Boundaries as a place of connection and participation, of giving and receiving, and so am reading around perichoresis and energy exchange. This is very clearly written and illuminating, thank you!

  2. So glad, Sarah! Thanks for letting me know!

Your email address will not be published.

Facebook IconTwitter Icon