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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: August 2012

4 - Theology of the Trinity from Richard of St Victor to the Reformation


In the next two chapters we will give a historical overview of the developments of the theology of the Trinity from the medieval period until today. Most textbooks claim that in the medieval period two distinct models of trinitarian theology were developed. The first model is usually called the intrapersonal model (or the psychological model). This model draws its inspiration from the analysis of the mental processes of intellect and will. The other is usually called the interpersonal model: this model generally attempts to portray the Trinity in terms of the loving encounter of three ‘Persons’.

We will first discuss the theology of the Trinity of Richard of St Victor, who sees the Trinity in terms of a community of love. St Bonaventure (who was both an academic theologian and a mystic) adopted some of the key ideas of Richard, but he also drew on St Augustine's theology of the Trinity. This observation is not without significance, for it illustrates that the two models should not necessarily be regarded as mutually exclusive. The Augustinian approach was further developed by Aquinas, the greatest of the scholastic theologians. We will also examine the thought of Jan van Ruusbroec, who presents us with a beautiful and dynamic theology of the Trinity, which is of immediate relevance to Christian spirituality.

Suggested readings
Emery, Gilles, Trinity in Aquinas (Ave Maria, FL: Sapientia Press, 2006).
Friedman, Russell, Medieval Trinitarian Thought from Aquinas to Ockham (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).
Hayes, Zachary, Saint Bonaventure's Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity (New York: The Franciscan Institute, 2000).
Helm, Paul, John Calvin's Ideas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).
Nieuwenhove, Rik, Jan van Ruusbroec: Mystical Theologian of the Trinity (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003).
Richard, Saint-Victor, La Trinité, ed. Salet, Gaston, Sources Chrétiennes 63 (Paris: Cerf, 1998)
Victor, St, The Twelve Patriarchs. The Mystical Ark. Book Three of The Trinity, Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1979).
Karl, Rahner, The Trinity, rev. edn, trans. Donceel, J., intro. LaCugna, Catherine Mowry (New York: Crossroad, 1998), 106.
Charles, Carpenter, Theology as the Road to Holiness in St. Bonaventure (New York: Paulist Press, 1997), 24–7.
Works of St Bonaventure, vol. IX. Breviloquium, trans. Monti, D., Bonaventure Texts in Translation Series (New York: The Franciscan Institute, 2005), 30–1
Works of St Bonaventure, vol. iii. Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity, trans. Hayes, Z., Bonaventure Texts in Translation Series (New York: The Franciscan Institute, 2000), 132
Lewis, Ayres, Nicea and its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 379–80
Bonaventure, St, The Soul's Journey into God. The Tree of Life. The Life of St Francis, trans. Cousins, E., Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), 103.
Gilles, Emery, La trinité créatrice (Paris: Librairie J. Vrin, 1995), 199
Joseph, Wawrykow, ‘Trinity’, in The SCM Press A–Z of Thomas Aquinas (London: SCM Press, 2005), 164.
Matthew, Levering, Scripture and Metaphysics: Aquinas and the Renewal of Trinitarian Theology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), 110–43.
Gilles, Emery ‘Trinity and Creation’, in Nieuwenhove, Rik and Wawrykow, Joseph, eds., The Theology of Thomas Aquinas (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005), 58–76.
David, Coffey, Deus Trinitas: The Doctrine of the Triune God (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 30
Nieuwenhove, Rik, ‘In the Image of God: The Trinitarian Anthropology of St Bonaventure, St Thomas Aquinas and the Blessed Jan van Ruusbroec’, Irish Theological Quarterly 66 (2001): 109–23 and 227–37.
Anselm, Min, Paths to the Triune God: An Encounter between Aquinas and Recent Theologies (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005), 183
Étienne, Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (London: Sheed & Ward, 1980), 409
Denys, Turner, The Darkness of God: Negativity in Christian Mysticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).
Bernard, McGinn, ‘The Significance of Ruusbroec's Mystical Theology’, Louvain Studies 31 (2006): 19–41
Pelikan, Jaroslav and Lehmann, Helmut T., eds., Luther's Works, 55 vols. (St Louis: Concordia and Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1955–1986)
David, Lumpp, ‘Returning to Wittenberg: What Martin Luther Teaches Today's Theologians on the Holy Trinity’, Concordia Theological Quarterly 3/4(2003): 228
D. Martin Luthers Werke kritisch Gesamtausgabe (Weimar, 1884 vv)
Arie, Baars, Om Gods verhevenheid en Zijn nabijheid: De Drie-eenheid bij Calvijn (Kampen: Uitgeverij Kok, 2004), 570–1
Samuel, Powell, The Trinity in German Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 21–2.
Dennis, Ngien, ‘Trinity and Divine Passibility in Martin Luther's “Theologia Crucis”’, Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 19 (2001): 34.
Arand, C., ‘Luther on the Creed’, Lutheran Quarterly 20 (2006): 2–3.
Martin, Luther, Lectures on Galatians 1535, ed. Pelikan, Jaroslav (Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1963), 277
Nieuwenhove, Rik, ‘St Anselm and St Thomas Aquinas on “Satisfaction”: Or how Catholic and Protestant Understandings of the Cross Differ’, Angelicum 80 (2003): 159–76.
Anne, Hunt, The Trinity and the Paschal Mystery: A Development in Recent Catholic Theology (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1997), 6.
Richard, Stauffer, Dieu, la création et la Providence dans la predication de Calvin (Bern: Peter Lang, 1978), 151–76.
John, Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Beveridge, H. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 114.
John, R. Loeschen, The Divine Community: Trinity, Church and Ethics in Reformation Theologies (Missouri: The Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1981).
Philip, W. Butin, Revelation, Redemption and Response: Calvin's Trinitarian Understanding of the Divine–Human Relationship (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 39ff.
Torrance, David and Torrance, Thomas, eds., Calvin's Commentaries: The Gospel according to St John 1–10 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 20.