SEARCH THE ARCHIVE

? SEARCH TIPS
Exact phrase, enclose in quotes:
“keyword phrase here”
Multiple words, separate with commas:
keyword, keyword

At the close of our preceding article we mentioned three contending theories on the doctrine of predestination: the doctrine of absolute predestination was set forth by Gottschalk and defended, though with more moderation and caution, by others; of free will and a conditional predestination; and a third theory as set forth by John Scotus Erigena which was disowned by both of these parties. And we promised to call attention to these contending theories. Now it is true that we are discussing the doctrine of sin in this series of articles. But it is also true, and most emphatically, that the doctrine of predestination is inseparably connected with the doctrine of sin. This was certainly true in the writings and views of Augustine. If we maintain the Scriptural doctrine of sin, that man is of himself dead in sins and in trespasses, then we must hold to the doctrine of an absolute predestination. If, on the other hand, we teach that man is not by nature, or without saving grace, dead in sins and in trespasses, but able to do good, and to accept the gospel, then the gospel is set forth as an offer of salvation and one must also teach a conditional predestination, a predestination that is based upon foreseen faith and unbelief. That this is true is surely evident today. And it was also true of the period in the history of the Church and of doctrine, to which we are now calling your attention. This explains why the history of doctrine has much to teach us, and also why we may be comforted by it. 

In connection with the doctrine of an ABSOLUTE AND TWO-FOLD PREDESTINATION, Schaff has the following, Vol. IV, 530 ff:

Gottschalk professed to follow simply the great Augustin. This is true; but he gave undue disproportion to the tenet of predestination, and made it a fundamental theological principle, inseparable from the immutability of God; while with Augustin it was only a logical inference from his anthropological premises. (notice that Schaff writes that Gottschalk gave undue disproportion to the tenet of predestination—this would indicate, would it not, that Schaff does not approve of this emphasis that Gottschalk placed upon the doctrine of predestination—H.V.). He began where Augustin ended. To employ a later (Calvinistic) terminology, he was a supralapsarian rather than infralapsarian. He held a two-fold predestination of the elect to salvation, and of the reprobate to perdition; not in the sense of two separate predestinations, but one predestination with two sides, a positive side (election) and a negative side (reprobation). He could not conceive of this one without the other; but he did not teach a predestination of the sinner to sin; which would make God the author of sin. In this respect he was misrepresented by Rabanus Maurus. In his shorter Confession from his prison, he says: “I believe and confess that God foreknew and foreordained the holy angels and elect men to unmerited eternal life, but that he equally foreordained the devil with his host and with all reprobate men, on account of their foreseen future evil deeds, by a just judgment, to merited eternal death.” He appeals to passages of the Scriptures, to Augustin, Fulgentius, and Isidor, who taught the very same thing except the equally. In the larger Confession, which is in the form of a prayer, he substitutes for equally the milder term almost or nearly, and denies that God predestinated the reprobates to sin: “Those, O God,” he says, “of whom thou didst foreknow that they would persist by their own misery in their damnable sins, thou didst, as a righteous judge, predestinate to perdition.” He spoke of two redemptions, one common to the elect and the reprobate, another proper and special for the elect only. In similar manner the Calvinists, in their controversy with the Arminians, maintained that Christ died efficiently only for the elect, although sufficiently for all men.

In connection with this quotation, we would observe the following. When Gottschalk speaks of a salvation or redemption that is common to the elect and the reprobate, he, according, to Schaff, merely means that the redemption of Christ, as such, is great enough to cover the sins of all men, although not teaching that Christ actually died for all men. However, according to the above quotation, Gottschalk, always teaching an absolute election, did teach a conditional reprobation, teaching that the Lord foreordained the devil with his host and with all reprobate men, on account of their foreseen future evil deeds, by a just judgment, tomerited eternal death. This is certainly a conditional reprobation. We do not object to the teaching that the Lord certainly foreordained men to a merited eternal death, but we must not believe that God foreordained men to eternal death on account of their sin, and that their sin is the ground for their reprobation. It is true that infralapsarianism teaches that the Lord sovereignly willed that men should be left in their sin’s but those fathers never taught that the Lord reprobated because of their sin. This is exactly what the Arminians taught, and our fathers, although infralapsarian, would never teach this. However, that the Lord sovereignly reprobated, or predestinated to sin is certainly Scriptural, as when the apostle Paul, in Romans 9, declares that the Lord hated Esau and loved Jacob because they did good or evil, in order that the counsel according to election might stand, and also that He, as the heavenly Potter, makes vessels unto honour and unto dishonor. In the light of this, we have difficulty understanding why Philip Schaff should criticize Gottschalk for laying undue emphasis upon the truth of an absolute predestination. But, we do wish to make one other remark. Gottschalk, according to Schaff, did make his conception of predestination a fundamental theological principle, inseparable from the immutability of God. When, therefore, he wrote in his shorter Confession, that the Lord had foreordained men, on account of their foreseen future evil deeds, by a just judgment, to merited eternal death, did he mean to say, not that the Lord had reprobated them on account of their sins, but that the Lord had sovereignly predestined that men would be condemned eternally because of their sins, and therefore be punished with a merited eternal death if only it be understood that the Lord had sovereignly willed that sinner? One can certainly teach this and at the same time be in full harmony with the Scriptural truth of an absolute and unconditional reprobation.

His predestinarian friends brought out the difference in God’s relation to the good and the evil more clearly. Thus Ratramnus says that God was the author as well as the ruler of good thoughts and deeds, but only the ruler, not the author of the bad. He foreordained the punishment of sin, not sin itself. He directs the course of sin, and overrules it for good. He used the evil counsel of Judas as a means to bring about the crucifixion and through it the redemption. Lupus says that God foreknew and permitted Adam’s fall, and foreordained its consequences, but not the fall itself. Magister Florus also speaks of a praedestinatio gemina (double predestination, H.V.), yet with the emphatic distinction, that God predestinated the elect both to good works and to salvation, but the reprobate only to punishment, not to sin. Remigius censured the “temerity” and “untimely loquacity” of Gottschalk, but defended him against the inhuman treatment, and approved of all his propositions except the unqualified denial of freedom to do good after the fall, unless he meant by it that no one could use his freedom without the grace of God. He subjected the four chapters of Hincmar to a severe criticism. On the question whether God will have all men to be saved without or with restriction, and whether Christ died for all men or only for the elect, he himself held the particularistic view, but was willing to allow freedom of opinion, since the church had not decided that question, and the Bible admitted of different interpretations.

We wish to observe the following. In the first place, this Remigius certainly does not make a very favorable impression upon us. He himself holds to the particularistic conception of the death of Christ, but is willing to allow freedom of opinion and allow room within the church for those who teach that Christ died for all men, declaring that the Scriptures admit this universal interpretation. Now it must surely be true that the Word of God does not teach both. If the Word of God teaches that Christ died for all men, then it cannot teach that He died only for the elect. And this so-called freedom of opinion can never do anything else than work havoc within the church of God. But we are particularly interested in what the predestinarian friends of Gottschalk brought out more clearly as far as God’s relation is concerned with respect to the good and the evil. Thus, for example, Ratramnus says that God was the author as well as the ruler of good thoughts and deeds, but only the ruler, not the author, of the bad. He also declares that the Lord foreordained the punishment of sin, not sin itself, that God directs the course of sin, and overrules it for good. And Lupus says that God foreknew and permitted Adam’s fall, and foreordained its consequences, but not the fall itself. Now, is there anything in all these statements with which the infralapsarian would not agree? Of course, we are supralapsarian in our conception. But, cannot all these statements be viewed as the infralapsarian conception of a Divinely sovereign reprobation? The infralapsarian begins, in the counsel of God, with the reality of sin. He is so afraid to make God the author of sin. And we must all be afraid to make the Lord the author of sin. And, beginning with the fact of sin in the counsel of God, he then declares that the Lord sovereignly willed to leave the reprobate in his sin, and that He did not will to bestow upon him saving faith, and that Christ died only for the elect. With this tie do not disagree as such, but we believe that the Word of God goes further, teaching that the Lord has sovereignly willed all things. I write this because, after all, we declare that they are in agreement with our Confessions, and they are infralapsarian.

The Synod of Valence, which met at the request of the Emperor Lothaire in 855, endorsed, in opposition to Hincmar and the four chapters of the Synod of Chiersy, the main positions of the Augustinian system as understood by Remigius, who presided. It affirms a two-fold predestination, a predestination unto life and a predestination of the impious unto death, but with such qualifications and distinctions as seemed to be necessary to save the holiness of God and the moral responsibility of man. The Synod of Langres in the province of Lyons, convened by Charles the Bald in 859, repeated the doctrinal canons of Valence, but omitted the censure of the four chapters of Chiersy, which Charles the Bald had subscribed, and thus prepared the way for a compromise. (In connection with the synod of Chiersy; see our preceding article; immediately under the heading: Gottschalk and Hincmar—H.V.)

And so another compromise decision was reached. Such decisions are always the result of being afraid to maintain the Scriptural truth of God’s absolute sovereignty. And they always have disastrous results. Moreover, they clearly show how difficult it has always been to maintain the truth of God’s absolute sovereignty.