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Vestigia trinitatis

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In an article on vestigia trinitatis in early modern thought, Dennis Klinck notes that the early 17th century saw a flowering of Trinitarian theology in England. Theologians, poets, and others saw the Trinity reflected in political life, human psychology, every sphere of knowledge. They agreed fully with the Augustinian doctrine of the "vestigia trinitatis, and elaborated it at length.

One John Dove saw a Trinitarian structure in human construction: "in every thing which is made and framed by the art of man, there by necessarily three things, and yet these three make one, matter, shape, and order: by the matter is represented the Father, by the shape the Son which is the image of his Father, by order the holy Ghost, which orders and disposes all things." As artist, man imitates God not by creating ex nihilo: but there is a Triune imitation, but according to Dove (in Klinck's summary), "He is . . . 'powerful' (like the Father) only insofar as he can manipulate pre-existing matter, to which he can give shape insofar as, in his wisdom, he imitates the Son and, in his love or will, he imitates the Holy Spirit in disposing things in a correct order, presumably by loving each properly"

Martin Fotherby's Atheomastix sets out an elaborate Trinitarian structure for philosophy. Philosophy is divided into natural, rational, and moral, corresponding to Father, Son and Spirit. Each is in turn Triune: "natural philosophy comprehends metaphysics (the Father), mathematics (the Son), and physics (the Holy Ghost); rational philosophy, grammar (the Father), logic (the Son), and rhetoric (the Holy Ghost); and moral philosophy, ecclesiastics (the Father), economics (the Son), and politics (the Holy Ghost). Fotherby offers some explanation for these correspondences: thus, in the area of natural philosophy, metaphysics is like the Father because it considers 'the pure essence of things,' mathematics like the Son because it considers 'of formes and figures,' and physics like the Holy Ghost because it considers 'the motions and operations of all natural bodies.'"

Fotherby suggests that the unity and diversity of knowledge reflects the unity and diversity of the Trinity: "they are all conjoined together, as in one common nature. And, as in the Trinity it may again be said; That the Father, is not the Son; nor the Son, the Holy Ghost, nor the Holy Ghost the Father; so my it be said likewise, in those three arts, and sciences: That Grammar, is not logic; nor Logic, Rhetoric; nor Rhetoric, Grammar. Here again disjoined. And yet, in another respect again conjoined. For, as in the Trinity, the Father does beget the Son, and they two produce the Holy Ghost: so, in this other Trinity, LOGOC, Ratio, doth beget LOGOS, verbum; and they two produce out of them, an other third LOGOS, which is Oratio."

posted by Peter J. Leithart on Tuesday, August 21, 2007 at 12:17 PM

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