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Gottschalk on Double Predestination

Gottschalk/Godescalc (c. 804-869)

Confessio Brevior
(Shorter Confession Concerning Double Predestination)

Preface by R. Scott Clark

Born in Bern (not far from Geneva), his parents entered him into an Benedictine monastery. When it was time for him to become a deacon, he tried to leave the monastery and was opposed by his abbot.

Later, in France, he read theology under Ratramnus (d. 868). He went on to study at Reims and Orbais where he began to elaborate his doctrine of predestination. He was reading Augustine’s anti-Pelagian writings and became the leader of an early medieval neo-Augustinian movement.

He taught in Italy and in the Balkans, but his doctrine of double predestination generated opposition from his old abbot Rabanus. In 849, Gottschalk returned to Germany to face his critics at the Synod of Mainz where he was condemned, deposed, beaten and sent by Rabanus to a monastery at Hautviller run by the Archbishop of Reims.

From the monastery Gottschalk continued to read and write. Hincmar replied contra Gottschalk by warning his parishioners in his tract, "To the Rural and Simple" to which Gottschalk replied with his Longer Confession (Confessio prolixior). Hincmar was supported by several theologians, most notably John Scotus Erigena (c.810-c.77). Erigena’s tract itself produced a storm of controversy against Hincmar and Erigena.

The Church itself was split. One regional synod sided with Hincmar and another sided with Gottschalk. In response Hincmar wrote Concerning the Predestination of God and Free Will (De praedestinatione Dei et libero arbitrio) arguing that if God reprobates then he is the author of sin which was mainly a collection of Patristic quotations. Hincmar was mainly a canon lawyer and politician who was outmatched by Gottschalk.

Gottschalk has been regarded as something of a hero by more recent predestinarians. His Confessions were reprinted by Archbishop Usher in 1631 in support of predestination and he was also influential among the Jansenists.

As Jonathan Rainbow (The Will of God and the Cross) has noted, Gottschalk is an important witness to the fact that the doctrine of double predestination was not a Calvinist invention in the 16th century. Indeed, Gottschalk's turn to Augustine's strong anti-Pelagianism and anti-semi-Pelagianism was a foreshadowing of the neo-Augustinian renaissance which began before the Reformation and included a number of outstanding late medieval theologians including Gregory of Rimini, from who the Protestants drew their doctrine of predestination.



I believe and confess that God, omnipotently and unchangeably, has graciously foreknown and predestined holy angels and elect men to eternal life, but that He like manner (pariter) has, by his most just judgment, predestined head of all the demons, with all his apostate angels and also with reprobate men, who are his members, on account of their foreknown particular future evil deeds, to merited eternal death: this the Lord Himself affirms in His Gospel: "The prince of this world is already judged" (John 14:11).

Augustine, beautifully explaining these words to the people (Augustine on John, tract. 95), has spoken as follows: "That is, he has been irrevocably destined to the judgment of eternal fire." Likewise concerning the reprobate, the same is true: "Who then believeth not is already judged" (John 3:18), that is (as the aforesaid author explains), (tract. xii), already is damned: "Not that judgment now is manifest, but that judgment is already wrought." Likewise explaining these words of John the Baptist: man has received" (John 3:32), he speaks in this wise (tract. xiv): is a certain people prepared to wrath by God, damned with the Devil." "Those dead scorners, predestinated to eternal death." Again (tract. xlviii): "Why did the Lord say to the Jews: (John 10:26), "Ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep" (John 10:26), unless he saw that they were predestinated to everlasting destruction and not to life eternal by the price of his own blood." Also, explaining these words of the Lord (ibid): "My sheep hear my voice and I know hem and they follow me and I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand: My Father who gave them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand" (John 10:27-29), and he says this: "What can the wolf do? What can the thief and robber do? They destroy none, except those predestined to destruction." Speaking in like manner concerning the two worlds (tract. lxxxvii) he says: "The whole world is the church, and the whole world hates the church; the world, therefore, hates the world, the hostile that which is reconciled, the damned that which is saved, the polluted that which is cleansed." Likewise (tract. cx) he says: "There is a world concerning which the Apostle says: ‘that we should be condemned with this world’ (1 Cor 11:32). For that world that the Lord does not pray, for he certainly cannot ignore that for which it is predestinated." Likewise (tract cvii): "Judas the betrayer of Christ is called the son of perdition as the one predestinated to be the betrayer." Likewise in Enchiridion (cap. 100): "To their damnation whom he has justly predestinated to punishment." Likewise in the book On Man’s Perfection in Righteousness he says (cap. 13): This good, which is required, there is not anyone who does it, not even one; but this refers to that class of men who have been predestinated to destruction: indeed, upon those the foreknowledge of God looks down and pronounces sentence." Likewise in the books de Civitate Dei (lib. xxii, c. 24): " Which is given to those who have been predestinated to death." Likewise blessed Gregory the Pope (Moral. lib. xxxiv, c.2): "Leviathan with all his members has been cut off for eternal torment." Likewise holy Fulgentius in the third book Concerning the Truth of Predestination and Grace (lib. iii, c. 5) says: "God has prepared punishment for those sinners (at least) who have been justly predestinated to the suffering of punishment." And blessed Fulgentius has composed one whole book for his friend Monimus concerning this tantamount question, that is: Concerning the Predestination of the Reprobate to Destruction, (lib. i).

Whence also holy Isodore says (Sentent. 2. cap. 6): "Predestination is double (gemina) whether of election to peace, or of reprobation to death." The same thing, therefore, (with others) I believe and confess, though whatever may happen, with those who are the elect of God and true Catholics, according as I am helped by divine inspiration, encouragement and provision. Amen.

False, indeed, is the witness, who in speaking of any aspect of those things, corrupts them either superficially or with respect to their essential sense.