In my reading on the Trinity (Two Views on the Doctrine of the Trinity; Advancing Trinitarian Theology; The Holy Trinity), one question has repeatedly been raised with regard to the meaning of “perichoresis”. The authors of the above books use the term (and its cognates) but do not carefully or adequately explain it. Other than offering the idea of “mutual indwelling,” this definition is fuzzy and does little to unpack the idea. While the term “mutual” presumes some kind of relationship, the definition of perichoresis is rather thin and leaves me unsatisfied.
Enter Charles C. Twombly’s Perichoresis and Personhood: God, Christ, Salvation in John of Damascus. It’s been especially enlightening and very helpful for understanding how the doctrine of the Trinity has taken shape. Through the careful eyes of a historical theologian and the craft of clear writing, this work sheds considerable light on the shadows of Trinitarian studies by highlighting the immense and valuable contribution of John Damascene (c. 675 – c. 749). I’m half way through and will likely provide a full length review here when I’m finished. Meanwhile, here’s the description from the publisher:
Perichoresis (mutual indwelling) is a concept used extensively in the so-called Trinitarian revival; and yet no book-length study in English exists probing how the term actually developed in the “classical period” of Christian doctrine and how it was carefully deployed in relation to Christian dogma. Consequently, perichoresis is often used in imprecise and even careless ways. This path-breaking study aims at placing our understanding of the term on firmer footing, clarifying its actual usage in relation to doctrines of God, Christ, and salvation in the thought of John of Damascus, the eighth-century theologian, monk, and hymn writer who gave it its historically influential application. Since John summed up a whole theological tradition, this work provides not only an introduction to his theological vision but also to the key themes of Greek patristic thought generally and thereby lays an essential foundation for those who would dig deeper into the present-day usefulness of perichoresis.