In Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman The Joker has captured Vicki Vale and is dancing with her at the top of a cathedral. She is frightened and worn out, unable to fight back, dragged around as The Joker dances with her; it is a dance where only The Joker is in control, forcing her to do his will, Vicki captured by a monster.
It is a dance that Vicki has not chosen, nor desires to be part of, one simply motivated by fear, a dance where she is dragged around by a lunatic who desires her.
This is a great analogy and picture of the god of arbitrary choice, the god of neo-Calvinistic election, the god who chooses some to share in his glory, and chooses some to burn in hell forever. And this god is one of arbitrary choice.
Those chosen do not have a choice, for it has all been mapped out and decided before the foundation of the world, the elect always the elect, the damned always damned to hell. Indeed, some will argue that every action and event in this world has been pre-ordained by god, decided and determined.
Brian Zahnd once described this picture like god dancing with a mannequin.
If this is what god is like, then god is a psychotic lunatic like The Joker, and atheism or apostasy are the only options.
Who remembers seeing this video?
In this moment we are invited into something quite beautiful.
At first we feel awkward watching, viewing something that is unfamiliar and so passionate. But then something changes, and we feel the connection.
The passion, the spirituality, the emotion, the culture, the bond, the meaning, the significance, the sharing, the connection, the love; the relationship.
This is no mere dance, but a sharing in something beyond words that signifies a depth of love and relationship, a bond that is unique. It is a dance of equals, a dance of relationship, a gift given to one another.
Every analogy falls short when we speak of God, and my use of this video is no different, yet it helps shed light.
Jesus’ prayer to his Abba was of Oneness (John 17:22), a desire that humanity may encounter, live in, and be part of the Trinitarian Life, be sharers in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), to join in the Divine Dance.
Perichoresis is a term used by some of the early church writers to describe the Trinity, a term to seek to gives words to the mutual, indwelling, self-giving love of relationship that exists within the Godhead, Father, Son and Spirit, maintaining the distinction of each, yet also highlighting the oneness and mutuality, the community of relationship that has always been.
‘This relation is one of eternal mutual indwelling, or ‘perichoresis,’ as it has been called, rendered possible by Their oneness of nature…’ John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, p 91
God is the God of dance, inviting us into the passion, the movement, the moment, the energy.
Maximus the Confessor (c. 580 – 662) describes how humanity is called into the divine reality of the Trinity, with humanity participating in the divine ‘energeia’ and becoming like that which they participate in. He goes on to say, when seeking to make sense of the incarnation, of humanity and divinty, he says,
“For it is just as when a sword has been heated what is able to cut becomes able to burn, and what is able to burn becomes able to cut (for just as fire was united to iron, thus also the burning of fire was united to the cutting of the iron). The iron has become able to burn by a union with the fire, and the fire becomes able to cut by a union with the iron. Neither thing has undergone a change with respect to mode of exchange with the other in the union, but each has remained, in the identity of what was composed in the union, without falling from what belonged to it according to nature. Likewise, in the mystery of the divine incarnation, the divine and the human were united…where neither of the natural activities was displaced because of the union, and neither was acquired after the union as something unrelated…” Abiguum 5
So God in Christ invites humanity into divinty, into the dance of the Trinitarian Life, a dance of love, not coercion, a dance of compassion, not fear, a dance of total relationship and Unconditionality.