Trelcatius, 1610, on Theological Method

Under “The Principles of Divinity,” Trelcatius introduces his two-fold method for the study of Theology. His method of moving from the Cause to the Effect and from the Effect to the Cause in modern terms is both Deductive and Inductive, a priori and a posteriori. Divinity, he writes for both approaches “holdeth the first and principal place.”

The subject of this Theological wisdom are matters divine, both for their nature, and the manner of considering: for whereas a Subject hath two parts, the one that containeth the place of the matter, and is called the thing considered: the other of the form and is the manner of considering it: we observe then both in the explication of the subject. The thing considered is God himself, and all things disposed unto God, that is all things divine, either of their own nature or by revelation unto God. The manner of things considering is proportional to God’s truth, even the whole truth, and every part thereof alike (or equally) infused, fitted to the dignity of the deliverer to the nature of the argument, as also to the condition of those to whom it is delivered.

And this is the nature and verity of Divinity: now we will briefly show the Method of our Instruction concerning the same.

There is a two-fold Method of teaching, the one from the Principle, the other unto the Principles, the one a Priori preceding from the Cause to the Effect, and from the first and highest to the lowest and the last. The other a Posteriori, proceeding from the Effect to the Cause, or from the last and lowest to the highest and first. The use of the former is chiefest and sciences contemplative, of the latter, in the practice (or active.)

Now whereas Divinity in both these holdeth the first and principal place (by reason thereof some have distinguished into Contemplative and Active) and for that it affordeth a faculty both of knowing and doing well, which is the right way of wisdom. It hath fallen out that Divinity hath been handled in a diverse Method by diverse men, yet by all of them profitably and faithfully.

For whereas all order is taken either from the nature of things to be considered, or from the better and easier knowledge thereof, Calvin, Melancthon, Ursinus, have done well who observed an order of their better knowledge in a method, unfolding by way of analysis. I like manner Hiperius Musculus, Hemingius, Zanchius, have done well observing the order of Nature in a Method of composing and couching things handsomely together. We in this Institution [Leiden] will join both together, borrowing from the Method of unfolding in the invention of the same, that from both the full Divinity which we have in hand may arise.

Therefore by an order Synthetical (as we term it) we begin from the first Principles, that by means we may come to the last. But we will set down a declaration such as we call Analytical, of the first, middle, and last things. First we teach the truth by way of confirmation, then in reproving falsehood by way of confrontation: that, by the help and benefit of every point of Divinity, and by the Analysis of the same, through causes thereof: but this is, by the Appendix (or addition) of the general solutions, which we lay under every place (or point) and set against the principal arguments of our adversaries, especially Bellarmine: this is the Method.

Trelcatius hits upon two pivotal issues when discussing Scripture. First, Bibliology as a portion of the larger body of Theology is essentially Theocentric. The study and defense of Scripture is included when Trelcatius writes “The thing being considered is God himself, and all things disposed to God.” Secondly, he deals with the manner of considering of how Theology should be considered. He writes that the way the Scripture should be considered must be “proportional to God’s truth” which would be to consider the revelation of God to be absolutely true.

In this brief excerpt Trelcatius explains his Theological method including deductive and inductive reasoning, first Principles being primary, the topic under consideration, God himself, and the proper manner to consider God and his revelation proportional to what God says about himself, a good method for any theological discourse or Theological writing.

Lucas Trelcatius, A Brief Institution of the Common Places of Sacred Divinitie wherein the Truth of every place proved, and the sophisms of Bellarmine are reproved, translated by John Gawen (London: Imprinted by T. P. for Francis Burton, dwelling in Pauls Church-yard, and the sign of the Green Dragon, 1610), 5-8.

Published by Dr. Peter Van Kleeck, Sr.

Dr. Peter William Van Kleeck, Sr. : B.A., Grand Rapids Baptist College, 1986; M.A.R., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1990; Th.M., Calvin Theological Seminary, 1998; D. Min, Bob Jones University, 2013. Dr. Van Kleeck was formerly the Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, Grand Rapids, MI, (1990-1994) lecturing, researching and writing in the defense of the Masoretic Hebrew text, Greek Received Text and King James Bible. His published works include, "Fundamentalism’s Folly?: A Bible Version Debate Case Study" (Grand Rapids: Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, 1998); “We have seen the future and we are not in it,” Trinity Review, (Mar. 99); “Andrew Willet (1562-1621: Reformed Interpretation of Scripture,” The Banner of Truth, (Mar. 99); "A Primer for the Public Preaching of the Song of Songs" (Outskirts Press, 2015). Dr. Van Kleeck is the pastor of the Providence Baptist Church in Manassas, VA where he has ministered for the past twenty-one years. He is married to his wife of 43 years, Annette, and has three married sons, one daughter and eighteen grandchildren.

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