I agree with John Frame that Traces of the Trinity is one of the most delightful books I have read in a long time.
But I am a little upset about it.
Because I had a similar book planned for my future self. Peter Leithart beat me to the punch. Yet this is probably a good thing because Leithart is the theologian who takes seemingly separate strings and ties them into a theological tapestry.
The basic argument of the book is that there is a pattern to all of creation of mutual indwelling, reciprocal habitation, and interpenetration. In theological terms, there is a perichoresis (or perichoratic) pattern to creation. Yet giving the thesis up front like this seems almost immoral.
For Leithart weaves for us a picture of life before giving the theological punch. This allows the blow to come with more force. He has convinced you before you ever get to the argument.
This mutual indwelling pattern is seen in physical reality, language, sound, sex, personal relations, ethics, and concepts we form to understand the world. Humans are not the world and the world is not humans, but we don’t exist independently of the world. The world comes into us and we go into the world as we interact with it.
Our skin has pores; it is porous. Because it is, so are we.
You have to look closely to see your pores, but our bodies are pocked with larger holes, just as essential to life….We can live with our skin pores covered, but we cannot live if our giant holes get blocked. We breathe seven to eight liters of air per minute, which amounts to about four hundred cubic feet a day, 550 liters being oxygen. That’s a lot of the outside to welcome in every day, but it needs to be done. Cut off the flow of oxygen from outside into your lungs for more than a few minutes, and you die.
Space and Place
I could go on, but what struck me is how much this aligned with my theoretical view of space and place. For too long we have thought of space and place as external to us, but we form space and place, we interact with it, and it also forms us.
There is a mutual indwelling between us and space. Space for too long has been thought of as abstract and distant from us.
What if a theological view of space includes this idea of perichoresis? What if space is porous and open? What if it is moldable and has a transcendent, enchanted, and legendary purpose? What if it is not de-sacramentalized, but sacramentalized? The tendency remains to view humanity as adrift in a cold unenergized cosmos. This “coldness” can be seen in the concepts that arise when space/place are invoked. To be placed does not only imply geographical locations, but physical locations represent social, ideological, and mental places, or places of identity.
That just gives you a taste. I think this changes or at least gives us a new lens to viewing how Jesus is bringing the kingdom, our role in this process, and what it means to be image bearers of God.
I will trace this out more in the future, but for now go ahead and pick up Leithart’s newest book.