Richard of St. Victor's argument for the necessity of the Trinity : an exposition and analysis of the argument for a tri-personal God in De Trinitate

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


In his magnum opus, ‘De Trinitate’, the twelfth century canon Richard of St. Victor offers sustained reflection on core dogmatic claims from the Athanasian creed. At the heart of the treatise is Richard’s argument for exactly three divine persons. Starting with the necessity of a single, maximally perfect divine substance, Richard reasons along four steps: (i) God must have maximal charity, or other-love; (ii) to be perfectly good, delightful, and glorious, God’s other-love must be shared among at least two, and (iii) among at least three, divine persons; (iv) the metaphysics of divine processions and love each ensure the impossibility of four divine persons. Scripture and trustworthy church authorities already give Richard certainty in these truths of faith. Even so, as an act of ardent love Richard contemplates on the Trinity as seen in creation. From this epistemic point of departure, he supports his conclusions from common human experience alone. Recently, philosophers of religion – such as Richard Swinburne, William Hasker, and William Lane Craig – have used Richard’s trinitarian reflection as a springboard for constructive work in apologetics and ramified natural theology. Additionally, medieval and Victorine scholars have increasingly recognized the novelty and rigour of Richard’s contribution to trinitarian philosophical-theology. However, to date there has been no dedicated study of the heart of Richard’s project in ‘De Trinitate’. In this thesis I offer an historically informed exposition of Richard’s argument for the necessity of the Trinity, as well as philosophically informed analysis. Further, I address some of the most pressing concerns with Richard’s argument. Richard’s work is not only suggestive, but highly compelling. If sound, it is situated to contribute to the contemporary philosophical and theological trinitarian discussion. I conclude by considering its application for (so called) Latin and Social, as well as heterodox, trinitarian theologies.
Date of Award16 Jun 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorOliver Daniel Crisp (Supervisor), Alan James Torrance (Supervisor) & Jonathan Curtis Rutledge (Supervisor)

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 11 April 2027

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