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Continuing our discussion of the history of doctrine as it involved Gottschalk, we wish to make a few comments upon our preceding article. It is very difficult for us to believe that Gottschalk maintained the doctrine of a conditional predestination, as far as the doctrine of reprobation is concerned. Schaff quotes from Gottschalk, which might conceivably lead one to believe that Gottschalk taught a reprobation upon foreseen sin and unbelief. However, in the first place, the teaching of God’s sovereignty and a double predestination go hand in hand. The doctrine of election demands the doctrine of reprobation. We must either maintain both or deny both. To deny the doctrine of sovereign reprobation must lead to the denial of the doctrine of election. This lies in the nature of the case. The doctrine of election certainly means that the Lord, sovereignly, elected some, and this implies that He did not elect others. The doctrine of election is necessarily particular. Besides, that Gottschalk did not teach a doctrine of a conditional reprobation is evident also, it seems to me, from his role in the history of the church and of doctrine. After all, he was opposed by Hincmar who did teach a single predestination and a conditional reprobation. And he was condemned by the synod of Chiersy, and this synod declared in favor of a conditional reprobation and also that Christ died for all men without any exception. Why should Hincmar oppose Gottschalk if the latter taught a conditional reprobation? Hincmar’s opposition to Gottschalk was surely because he did not agree with the teachings of this martyr for the Christian faith. 

In a preceding article, we remarked that there were three contending theories on Predestination. We have already called attention to the theory of absolute predestination as advocated and defended by Gottschalk and others. We also called attention to the doctrine of free will and a conditional predestination, in opposition to Gottschalk, and defended by such men as Hincmar, Archbishop Rabanus Maurus, and others. A third theory was set forth by a John Scotus Erigena, which was intended against Gottschalk, but was in fact still more against the orthodox view, and disowned by both parties. Erigena denied the doctrine of an absolute predestination, and he also defended the free will as being the very essence of man. 


Let us now trace the development of the doctrine of sin in the Church of Rome, as culminating in the decrees of the Council of Trent. We will be guided by Hodge as he treats this subject in his Systematic Theology. According to Hodge, it is a very difficult matter to decide the exact nature of this doctrine of Rome on sin. He writes, Vol. II, page 164:

This is a point very difficult to decide. Romanists themselves are as much at variance as to what their Church teaches concerning original sin as those who do not belong to their communion. The sources of this difficulty are, (1) First, the great diversity of opinions on this subject prevailing in the Latin Church before the authoritative decisions of the Council of Trent and of the Romish Catechism. (2) The ambiguity and want of precision or fulness in the decisions of that council. (3) The different interpretations given by prominent theologians of the true meaning of the Tridentine (of the Council of Trent—H.V.) canons.

Hodge writes that the diversity of sentiment in the Latin Church or Romish Church (we must understand that when we speak here of the Roman Church we refer to the Church as it existed prior to the Reformation) is evident from the fact that there were mainly three conflicting elements in the Latin Church before the Reformation, in relation to the whole subject of sin: first, the doctrine of Augustine, secondly, this doctrine as set forth by the Semi-Pelagians, and, thirdly, the doctrine of the schoolmen who endeavored to find a middle ground between the other systems. We need to emphasize at this time the teachings of Augustine. Augustine taught and defended that original sin does not merely consist in the loss of original righteousness. This original righteousness was purely a supernatural gift that Adam possessed, and, when he sinned, he merely lost this added gift, and Adam, therefore, and his posterity after him, was left exactly in that state in which man had originally been created. Augustine, however, taught that original sin denotes the corruption of our nature, including both guilt and pollution. And this church father also taught that fallen man has no power to effect what is spiritually good; he can neither regenerate himself, prepare himself for regeneration, nor cooperate with the grace of God in that work. And these principles necessarily lead to the doctrines of efficacious and irresistible grace and of sovereign election. Augustine, therefore, championed the truths of utter depravity and corruption and the sovereignty of God’s predestination. 

A second conflicting element within the Church, besides Augustinianism, was represented by the Semi-Pelagians. The principal leaders of this party were John Cassianus, an Eastern monk and disciple of Chrysostom, and Faustus of Rhegium. Of these two, the abler and more influential was Faustus, who secured the condemnation of Lucidus, an extreme advocate of the Augustinian doctrine, in the Synod of Arles, 475 A.D. This Faustus was born in Brittany in the beginning of the fifth century or toward the close of the fourth. He died in 491. From 462 until his death he was bishop of Rhegium. This explains why he is known as Faustus of Rhegium. However, the Semi-Pelagians were far from agreeing among themselves either as to sin or as to grace.

Concerning Cassian Hodge writes the following, Systematic Theology, Vol. II, 166:

Cassian taught that the effects of Adam’s sin on his posterity were, (1) That they became mortal, and subject to the physical infirmities of this life. (2) That the knowledge of nature and of the divine law which Adam originally possessed, was in a great measure preserved until the sons of Seth intermarried with the daughters of Cain, when the race became greatly deteriorated. (3) That the moral effects of the fall were to weaken the soul in all its power for good, so that men constantly need the assistance of divine grace. (4) What that grace was, whether the supernatural influence of the Spirit, the providential efficiency of God, or his various gifts of faculties and of knowledge, he nowhere distinctly explains. He admitted that men could not save themselves, but held that they were not spiritually dead; they became sick, and constantly needed the aid of the Great Physician. He taught that man sometimes began the work of conversion; sometimes God; and sometimes, in a certain sense, God saves the unwilling. Vincent evidently regarded the Augustinian doctrine of original sin as making God the author of evil; for, he says, it assumes that God has created a nature, which acting according to its own laws and under the impulse of an enslaved will, can do nothing but sin. And he pronounces heretical those who teach that grace saves those who do not ask, seek, or knock, in evident allusion to the doctrine of Augustine that is, is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God who showeth mercy.

The position of the Semi-Pelagian certainly is clearly revealed in the above quotation. Cassian taught that the sinner is not dead but sick, and that he constantly needs the aid of the Great Physician. This was also set forth by the later Arminians in their Five Points of the Remonstrance. And imagine declaring heretical those who teach that grace saves those who do not ask, seek, or knock, evidently alluding to the doctrine of Augustine that it is not of him what willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God Who sheweth mercy. Of Faustus Hodge writes as follows:

Faustus admitted a moral corruption of nature as the consequence of the fall of Adam, which he called original sin. In his letter to Lucidus he anathematizes the doctrine of Pelagius that man is born “without Sin.” From this deteriorated, infirm state, no man can deliver himself. He needs the grace of God. But what grace was is doubtful. From some passages of his writings there would seem to be meant by it only, or principally, the moral influence of the truth as revealed by the Spirit in the Scriptures. Semi- Pelagians agreed, however, in rejecting the Pelagian doctrine that Adam’s sin injured only himself; they admitted that the effects of that sin passed on all men, affecting both the soul and the body. It rendered the body mortal, and liable, without divine assistance, of doing anything spiritually good. But as against Augustine they held, at least according to the statements of Prosper and Hilary, the advocates of Augustinianism in the south of France, (1) That the beginning of salvation is with man. Man begins to seek God, and then God aids him. (2) That this incipient turning of the soul towards God is something good, and in one sense meritorious. (3) That the soul, in virtue of its liberty of will or ability for good, cooperates with the grace of God in regeneration as well as in sanctification. That these charges were well founded may be inferred from the decisions of the councils of Orange and Valence, A.D. 529, in which the doctrines of Augustine were again sanctioned. As the decisions of those councils were ratified by the Pope they were, according to the papal theory, declared to be the faith of the Church. Among the points thus pronounced to be included in the true Scriptural doctrine, are, (1) That the consequence of Adam’s sin is not confined to the body, or to the lower faculties of the soul, but involves the loss of ability to spiritual good. (2) That sin derived from Adam is spiritual death. (3) Grace is granted not because men seek it, but the disposition to seek is a work of grace and the gift of God. (4) The beginning of faith and the disposition to believe is not from the human will, but from the grace of God. (5) Believing, willing, desiring, seeking, asking; knocking at the door of mercy, are all to be referred to the work of the Spirit and not to the good which belongs to the nature of fallen man. The two great points, therefore, in dispute between the Augustinians and Semi-Pelagians were decided in favor of the former.

Now it is true that the synod of Orange, 529, is especially known because of its consistent condemnation of Semi-Pelagianism. Many historians leave the impression, therefore, that this synod represents a last victory for the Augustinian conception of predestination and sovereign grace. However, this may be disputed. It is true, on the one hand, that the synod did maintain, rather inconsistently, the total incapability of man to do any good, over against the Semi-Pelagians. But, on the other hand, it denied the infallible and irresistible operation of sovereign grace. As far as predestination is concerned, the synod was satisfied simply to express that a predestination to evil is to be condemned; in other words, it must have nothing of sovereign reprobation. And in the decisions of this Synod of Orange nothing is found concerning sovereign election and reprobation. From this it appears very clearly that they were afraid to maintain the strict doctrine of Augustine. The synod assumed an apologetic attitude. Although it opposed the doctrine of the Semi-Pelagians, it nevertheless was far from maintaining the positive doctrine of predestination and sovereign grace.