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In our preceding article, we had begun with a historical survey of, Gottschalk, the champion of the truth, as set forth by Philip Schaff in his History of the Christian Church, Vol. IV, 522, ff. Particularly, we were quoting from Philip Schaff as he wrote about Gottschalk and Rabanus Maurus. Rabanus Maurus, who had in the meantime become archbishop of Mainz, had been urged to refute this “new heresy,” as advocated and taught by Gottschalk. He wrote a letter on predestination, intended against Gottschalk though without naming him, putting the worst construction on the views on predestination as set forth by Gottschalk, and rejecting this doctrine of predestination for seven reasons. We named these reasons in our preceding article. And we concluded by calling attention to the fact that the denial of the doctrine of predestination always goes hand in hand with the theory that the Lord would have all men to be saved, and that the advocates of this presentation hate the Scriptural truth of absolute predestination. We recognize this also in our present day. Indeed, our Protestant Reformed Churches are surely in good company. We now continue with this quotation from Philip Schaff.

Foreknowledge and foreordination are distinct, and the latter is conditioned by the former (Maurus had just written prior to this that God would have all men to be saved, yet He actually saves only a part; why He makes such a difference, we do not know and must refer to His hidden counsel—H.V.). Here is the point where Rabanus departs from Augustin and agrees with the Semi-Pelagians. He also distinguishes between praesciti and praedestinati. The impenitent sinners were only foreknown, not foreordained (this surely reminds us of the Arminian doctrine of a predestination upon foreseen faith or unbelief—H.V.). He admitted that “the punishment is foreordained for the sinner,” but denied that “the sinner is foreordained for punishment.” He supported his view with passages from Jerome, Prosper, Gennadius, and Augustin.

To teach, we understand, that “the punishment is foreordained for the sinner,” simply means that the Lord, in His counsel, saw who would not believe and continue in sin, and so foreordained punishment for that sinner. But Rabanus would not teach that the sinner is foreordained for punishment. He would not teach that the Lord had eternally foreordained sinners who would perish because of their sins.

Gottschalk saw in this tract (the letter of Rabanus Maurus to Noting, to reject the views of Gottschalk—H.V.) the doctrine of the Semi-Pelagian Gennadius and Cassiarius rather than of “the most catholic doctor” Augustin. He appeared before a Synod at Mainz, which was opened Oct. 1, 848, in the presence of the German king, and boldly professed his belief in a two-fold predestination, to life and to death, God having from eternity predestinated His elect by free grace to eternal life, and quite similarly all reprobates, by a just judgment for their evil deserts, to eternal death. The offensive part in this confession lies in the words two-fold and quite similarly, by which he seemed to put the two foreordinations, i.e. election and reprobation, on the same footing; but he qualified it by a reference to the guilt and future judgment of the reprobate. He also maintained against Rabanus that the Son of God became man and died only for the elect. He measured the extent of the purpose by the extent of the effect. God is absolutely unchangeable, and His will must be fulfilled. What does not happen, cannot have been intended by Him.

It surely must warm our hearts to hear Reformed language such as this. Indeed, this is reformed and Scriptural language. Gottschalk maintained that the Son of God died only for the elect. We need not ask ourselves the question on whose side the modern “reformed” church world would have stood at the time of this controversy, on the side of Gottschalk or of Maurus. Gottschalk maintained that the extent ‘of the purpose must be measured by the extent of the effect. Hence, that the cross saves only some must mean that the Son of God died only for those and not for all men. How true: what does not happen, cannot have been intended by God. God is absolutely unchangeable, and His will must be fulfilled. It must surely do our hearts good to hear a champion of the Middle Ages defend this same doctrine which we also hold dear and precious.

The details of the synodical transaction are unknown, but Rabanus, who presided over the Synod, gives as the result, in a letter to Hincmar, that Gottschalk was condemned, together with his pernicious doctrine (which he misrepresents), and handed over to his metropolitan, Hincmar, for punishment and safe-keeping. (Of course, it need not surprise us that Gottschalk was condemned. Was not Rabanus the president of this synod? Besides, does it surprise us that the truth is condemned?—H.V.) 

GOTTSCHALK AND HINCMAR Hincmar, archbishop of Rheims, a most influential, proud and intolerant prelate, was ill-disposed towards Gottschalk, because he had been somewhat irregularly (though not invalidly) ordained to the priesthood by a rural bishop, Rigbold of Rheims, without the knowledge of his own bishop of Soissons, and gone on travels without permission of his abbot, although Gottschalk is vindicated in both respects. He treated the poor monk without mercy. Gottschalk was summoned before a synod of Cbiersy in the spring of 849. He refused to recant, and was condemned as an incorrigible heretic, deposed from the priesthood, publicly scourged for obstinacy, according to the rule of St. Benedict, compelled to burn his books, and shut up in the prison of a convent in the province of Rheims. According to the report of eye-witnesses, he was scourged “most atrociously” and “nearly to death,” until half dead he threw his book, which contained the proofs of his doctrine from the Scriptures and the fathers, into the fire. It is a relief to learn that St. Remigius, archbishop of Lyons, expressed his horror at the “unheard of impiety and cruelty” of this treatment of the miserabilis monachus, as Gottschalk is often called by his friends. 

In his lonely prison at Hautvilliers, the condemned monk composed two confessions, a shorter and a longer one, in which he strongly re-asserted his doctrine of a double predestination. He appealed to Pope Nicolas, who seems to have had some sympathy with him, and demanded a reinvestigation, which, however, never took place. He also offered, in reliance on the grace of God, to undergo the fiery ordeal before the king, the bishops and monks, to step successively into four cauldrons of boiling water, oil, fat and pitch, and then to walk through a blazing pile; but nobody could be found to accept the challenge. Hincmar refused to grant him in his last sickness the communion and Christian burial, except on condition of full recantation. Gottschalk scorned the condition, died in his unshaken faith, and was buried in unconsecrated soil after an imprisonment of twenty years (868 or 869).

One might ask the question whether all this suffering was worthwhile. After all, it only concerned a matter of conditional or unconditional predestination. Had Gottschalk recanted and taught that the “punishment is foreordained for the sinner,” rather than maintain that the “sinner is foreordained for punishment,” he would have been spared all this misery and pain and humiliation. But he stood firm. To him the truth he loved was a vital matter. It was of such stature that he was willing to suffer and die for it. And this should also be true of us. After all, this doctrine of a “double predestination” does not only touch upon the certainty of our salvation, but, more important still, it touches upon the question whether God is God alone. And this is all important! Gottschalk had the courage of his convictions. It is certainly true that his ruling and all-controlling idea of the unchangeableness of God reflected itself in his own inflexible conduct. His enemies charged him with vanity, obstinacy and strange delusions. Jesuits condemn his doctrine; whereas Calvinists vindicate him as a martyr to the truth. We do well to take note of this. Notice, please, that his enemies charge him with vanity and obstinacy. Note, too, that Jesuits condemn his doctrine—this surely means that the doctrine of a “double predestination,” a predestination that consists of election and reprobation, as condemned by the Jesuits and supported and maintained by. Calvinists, is surely according to the Word of God. We repeat: our Protestant Reformed Church, teaching and maintaining the absolute sovereignty, is in good company. 


During the imprisonment of Gottschalk a lively controversy was carried on concerning the point in dispute, which is very creditable to the learning of that age, but after all did not lead to a clear and satisfactory settlement. According to Schaff:

The main question was whether divine predestination or foreknowledge which all admitted as a necessary element of the Divine perfection, was absolute or relative; in other words; whether it embraced all men and all acts, good and bad, or only those who are saved, and such acts as God approves and rewards. This question necessarily involved also the problem of the freedom of the human will, and the extent of the plan of redemption. The absolute predestinarians denied, the relative predestinarians affirmed, the freedom of will and the universal import of Christ’s atoning death. 

The doctrine of absolute predestination was defended, in substantial agreement with Gottschalk, though with more moderation and caution, by Prudentius, Bishop of Troyes, Ratramnus, monk of Corbie, Servatus Lupus, Abbot of Ferrieres, and Remigius, Archbishop of Lyons, and confumed by the Synod of Valence, 855, and also at Langres in 859. 

The doctrine of free will and a conditional predestination was advocated, in opposition to Gottschalk, by Archbishop Rabtius Maurus of Mainz, Archbishop Hincmar of Rbeims, and Bishop Pardulus of Laon, and confirmed at. a synod of Chiersy, 853, and in part again at Savonnieres, near Toul, in 859. 

A third theory was set forth by John Scotus Erigena, intended against Gottschalk, but was in fact still more against the orthodox view, and disowned by both parties.

Before we discuss these contending theories on the doctrine of predestination, it is always well to bear in mind that the doctrine of free will goes hand in hand with conditional predestination, and that these doctrines also go hand in hand with the doctrine of a universal atonement. And this is also true today. This history of doctrine has surely much to teach us. And we may also be comforted by it. With this we plan to continue in our following article.