Compromise decisions, always the result of being afraid to maintain the Scriptural truth of God’s absolute sovereignty, are never conducive to the welfare and real peace of the church of God. At the synod of Chiersy, 849, Gottschalk had been condemned as an incorrigible heretic, deposed from the priesthood, publicly scourged for obstinacy, compelled to bum his books, and shut up in prison. However, at the synod of Valence, 855, in opposition to Hincmar and the four chapters of the synod of Chiersy, the main positions of the Augustinian system were endorsed, although with such qualifications and distinctions as seemed necessary to save the holiness of God and the moral responsibility of man. But the synod of Langres, 859, although repeating the doctrinal canons of Valence, omitted the censure of the four chapters of Chiersy, and thus prepared the way for a compromise.
In connection with the doctrine of an ABSOLUTE AND TWO-FOLD PREDESTINATION, Schaff has yet the following:
We may briefly state the system of the Augustinian school in the following propositions:
(1) All men are sinners, and justly condemned in consequence of Adam’s fall.
(2) Man in the natural state has no freedom of choice, but is a slave of sin. (This, however, was qualified by Remigius and the Synod of Valence in the direction of Semi-Pelagianism.
(3) God out of free grace elected from eternity and unalterably a part of mankind to holiness and salvation, and is the author of all their good deeds; while He leaves the rest in His inscrutable counsel to their merited damnation. (incidentally, this is also the infralapsarian position—H.V.)
(4) God has unalterably predestinated the impenitent and persistent sinner to everlasting punishment, but not to sin, which is the guilt of man and condemned by God. (this, too, is the infralapsarian position; the infralapsarian begins, in the counsel of God, with the fact of sin and the corruption of the whole human race—H.V.)
(5) Christ died only for the elect.
Gottschalk is also charged by his opponents with slighting the church and the sacraments, and confining the effect of baptism and the Eucharist to the elect. This would be consistent with his theory. He is said to have agreed with his friend Ratramnus in rejecting the doctrine of transubstantiation. Augustin certainly did not teach transubstantiation, but he checked the logical tendency of Predestinarianism by the Catholic—doctrine of baptismal regeneration, and of the visible historical church as the mediatrix of salvation.
So, Gottschalk is accused of confining the effect of baptism and the Eucharist to the elect! What else can possibly be true? Of course, the spiritual effect and benefit of the sacraments is limited only to the elect. Besides, we teach and maintain that this is also the positive purpose of the Lord. Grace is not general, and this also applies to the sacraments. Secondly, although Augustin taught that the visible historical church is the mediatrix of salvation, this must not be understood as if that church father taught, as the Roman Catholic Church would maintain, that this visible historical church is to be identified with the present day Roman Catholic church.
A second contending theory on Predestination is the doctrine of a CONDITIONAL and SINGLE PREDESTINATION. Concerning this doctrine, Schaff his the following, Vol. IV, 534 ff:
Rabanus and Hincmar, who agreed in theology as well as in unchristian conduct towards Gottschalk, claimed to be Augustinians, but were at heart Semi-Pelagians, and struck a middle course, retaining the Augustinian premises, but avoiding the logical consequences. Foreknowledge is a necessary attribute of the omniscient mind of God, and differs from foreordination or predestination (praedestinatio), which is an attribute of His omnipotent will. The former may exist without the latter, but not the latter without the former. Foreknowledge is absolute, and embraces all things and all men, good and bad; foreordination is conditioned by foreknowledge, and refers only to what is good. God foreknew sin from eternity, but did not predestinate it; and so He foreknew the sinner, but did not predestinate them to sin or death; they are simply foreknown, not predestined. There is therefore no double predestination, but only one predestination which coincides with election to-eternal life. The fill of Adam with its consequences falls under the idea of divine permission. God sincerely intends to save all men without distinction, and Christ shed His blood for all; if any are lost, they have to blame themselves.
This is interesting. So, foreknowledge is a necessary attribute of the omniscient mind of God, and differs from foreordination or predestination, which is an attribute of His omnipotent will. Foreknowledge is absolute, embraces all things and all men, good and bad; foreordination is conditioned by foreknowledge, and refers only to what is good. In His foreknowledge God saw beforehand the sinner; but did not predestine him to sin OR DEATH. God sincerely intends to save all men without distinction, and Christ shed His blood for all. However, this is not the Scriptural presentation of God’s foreknowledge. According to the Word of God, God’s foreknowledge is not simply a seeing beforehand, but the eternal knowledge of the Lord that has sovereignly determined all things from before the foundation of the world. And, of course, to teach that God’s foreknowledge has not pre-determined the death of the sinner, leads to the heresy that Christ died for all men. Hence, the denial of God’s absolute two-fold predestination, election and reprobation must lead to the denial of the particular character of the suffering and death of Christ. And we also see this in our present day and age.
Hincmar secured the confirmation of his views by the Synod of Chiersy, held in presence of the Emperor, Charles the Bald, 853. It adopted four propositions:
(1) God Almighty made man free from sin, endowed him with reason and the liberty of choice, and placed him in Paradise. Man, by the abuse of this liberty, sinned, and the whole race became a mass of perdition. Out of this massa perditionis God elected those whom He by grace predestinated unto life eternal; others He left by a just judgment in the mass of perdition, foreknowing that they would perish, but not foreordaining them to perdition, though He foreordained eternal punishment for them. This is Augustinian, but weakened in the last clause.
(2) We lost the freedom of will through the fall of the first man, and regained it again through Christ. This chapter, however, is so vaguely worded that it may be understood in a Semi-Pelagian as well as in an Augustinian sense.
(3) God Almighty would have all men without exception to be saved, although not all are actually saved. Salvation is a free gift of grace; perdition is the desert of those who persist in sin.
(4) Jesus Christ died for all men past, present and future, though not all are redeemed by the mystery of His passion, owing to their unbelief. (we recognize, of course, in this statement the heresy of Prof. H. Dekker of our present day—H.V.)
The last two propositions are not Augustinian, but catholic, and are the connecting link between the catholic orthodoxy arid the Semi-Pelagian heresy.
Hincmar defended these propositions against the objections of Remigius and the Synod of Valence, in two books on Predestination and Free Will (between 856 and 863). The first is lost, the second is preserved. It is very prolix and repetitious, and marks no real progress. He made several historical blunders, and quoted freely from the pseudo-Augustinian Hypommesticon, which he thought presented Augustin’s later and better views.
The two parties came to a sort of agreement at the National Synod of France held at Toucy, near Toul, in October, 860, in presence of the Emperor, Charles the Bald, King Lothaire II, and Charles of Provence, and the bishops of fourteen ecclesiastical provinces. Hincmar was the leading man, and composed the synodical letter. He still maintained his four propositions, but cleared himself of the suspicion of Semi-Pelagianism. The first part of the synodical letter, addressed to all the faithful, gives a summary of Christian doctrine, and asserts that nothing can happen in heaven and earth without the will or permission of God; that He would have all men to be saved and none lost; that He did not deprive man after the fall of free will, but heals and supports it by grace; that Christ died on the cross for all men; that in the end all the predestinated who are now scattered in the massa perditionis, will be gathered into the fulness of the eternal church in heaven.
Here ended the controversy. It was a defeat of predestinarianism in its rigorous form and a substantial victory of Semi-Augustinianism, which is almost identical with Semi-Pelagianism, except that it gives greater prominence to divine grace.
Practically, even this difference disappeared. The mediaeval church needed the doctrine of free will and of universal call, as a basis for maintaining the moral responsibility, the guilt and merit of man, and as a support to the sacerdotal and sacramental mediation of salvation; while the strict predestinarian system, which unalterably determines the eternal fate of every soul by pre-temporal or ante-mundane decree, seemed in its logical consequences to neutralize the appeal to the conscience of the sinner, to cut off the powerful inducement of merit and reward, to limit the efficacy of the sacraments to the elect, and to weaken the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
With this we must agree. The forces of predestinarianism in its rigorous form had certainly suffered a defeat, and the forces of Semi-Augustinianism, practically identical with Semi-Pelagianism, had won the victory. And this need not surprise us. The maintaining of the absolute sovereignty of God must always take place only with the greatest difficulty. We see it also in our present day. However, Schaaf ends this section with the observation that, while churchly and sacerdotal Semi-Augustinianism or covert Semi-Pelagianism triumphed in France, where Hincmar had the last word in the controversy, it was not ecumenically sanctioned. Pope Nicholas, dissatisfied with Hincmar on hierarchical grounds had some sympathy for Gottschalk, and is reported to have approved the Augustinian canons of the Synods of Valence and Langres in regard to the “two-fold predestination” and the limitation of the atonement. And thus the door was left open within the Catholic church itself for a revival of strict Augustinianism, and this took place on a grand scale in the sixteenth century.`