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History of Dogma - Volume V
« Prev I b. The Controversy as to Predestination. Next »

I. (b). The Controversy as to Predestination.659659Sources, collected by the Jansenist Maugin, Veterum auct. qui IX. sæc. de prædest. et gratia scripserunt, Paris 1650; see the works of Carlovingian theologians in the time of Charles the Bald, Mansi, T. XIV. and XV.; Gfrörer, Gesch. der Karol. Vol. I., and K.-Gesch., Vol. III. 2; Dümmlei, Gesch. des ostfränk. Reichs, Vol. I.; Hauck, K.-Gesch. Deutschlands, Vol. II.: Wiggers in the Ztschr. f. d. hist. Theol. 1859; Weizsäcker in the Jahrbb. f. deutsche Theol. 1859; Hefele, Concil,-Gesch. IV2., p. 130 ff.; Bach, Op. cit. I., p. 219 ff; Reuter l.c. I., p. 43 ff; Borrasch, Der Mönch Gottschalk, 1868; Monographs on Hinkmar by v. Noorden and Schrörs; Freystedt, Der wissensch. Kampf im Prädest.-Streit des 9 Jahrh.; also, Der synodale Kampf im Prädest.-Streit des 9 Jahrh. (Ztschr. f. wissensch. Theol. Vol. 36, pp. 315-368; New Series, Vol. I., pp. 447-478), and Studien zu Gottschalk (Ztschr. f. K. Gesch., Vol XVIII., p. 1 ff.).

The revival of theological science in the ninth century led to a thorough study of Augustine. But the theology of Gregory I. had already accustomed men to combine the formulas of Augustinianism with the Pelagianism required by the system of the cultus. Hence a renewal of the controversy would hardly have taken place had not the monk Gottschalk of Orbais asserted the doctrine of predestination with as much energy as Augustine had done in his latest writings, and had he not been opposed by Hinkmar, whom his jealous colleagues would gladly have charged with heresy. It was not his use of Augustinian formulas that lifted Gottschalk out of the mass of theologians, and gave a startling effect to his confession. It was the fact that the doctrine of predestination had become the strength and support of his being after a misspent life. Here again it is palpable that words are not everything, that they remain a tinkling cymbal as long as they are not the expression of experience. Many joined and followed Gottschalk in speaking as he did at the time; but he alone was persecuted as a heretical teacher, because the opposition felt that he alone was dangerous to their Church system.

Gottschalk’s teaching regarding predestination was not different, either in matter or form, from that of Augustine, Fulgentius, and Isidore;660660Gottschalk is especially dependent on Fulgentius. On Isidore’s doctrine of predestination, see Wiggers, Ztschr. f. d. hist. Theol. 1855; on Bede’s, l.c. 1857. but it must also be said that he taught nothing but predestination. With the devotion, at first of resignation, and afterwards of fanaticism, he committed himself to the hands of God who does all things according to his good pleasure, and does nothing without having determined it irrevocably from the beginning. Predestination is the content of the Gospel, is the object of faith. It is the truth—that twofold predestination to life and death, according to which eternal life is decreed for the good, and death for the sinner, in which, therefore, some are appointed to life, and the rest to death. Nothing is to be set aside that the Church elsewhere teaches, or that it does; but it is a revolt from the Gospel to obscure in the hearts of men the certainty of this eternal unchangeable dispensation of divine grace—for justice and punishment are also good. Until his death Gottschalk defended inflexibly this faith of his, in the living and original language of the convinced advocate.661661On Gottschalk’s life till the outbreak of the dispute, see Hefele, 1.c. The Augustinian spirit, and Augustine’s language in the Confessio prolixior (Migne, CXXI., p. 349): “Tui profecto sic semper indigent omnes electi tui, quo videlicet tibi de te solo semper valeant placere. Quemadmodum palmites indigent vite, quo fructum queant ferre, vel aër aut oculi luce, quo vel ille lucidus esse vel illi possint videre. . . . te igitur supplex invoco . . . ut largiaris indigentissimo mihi per gratuitae gratiæ tuæ invictissimam virtutem, etc.”

But what did the historical Christ, or the Christ of the sacramentally ordered Church, mean here? If the hidden God with his hidden will was a comfort to Gottschalk, then that comfort consisted in the assurance that this God had also predestinated some to life, and the assurance flowed from the economy which culminated in Christ. For from what other source was it known that eternal predestination also embraced the pardon of a section of mankind? The assurance of the individual gained nothing by this; but among the opposition also no one would have anything to do with certainty of salvation; the individual did not count for much to himself or others. Individualism was not yet developed. Christ accordingly was not in question. Even the resolute defender of predestination looked to him when he thought of election to life. But the system of the Sacraments, legal demands and works, which constituted the Church itself, tottered, as it must always totter, wherever religion is recalled from externality to the inner life. This recall was accomplished in a much more abstract way in the present instance than by Augustine. The most profound of the African’s expositions on liberating grace and the blessed necessity of goodness (beata necessitas boni), which form the background of the doctrine of predestination, do not tell strongly upon Gottschalk. Nor had the Frankish monk been able to appropriate the Neoplatonic speculation, that had been toned down or transferred to a wholly different sphere of ideas by Augustine’s teaching. And, again, he did not know the dialectic of the notion of time, which is inseparable from Augustine’s conception. Yet he was not unfamiliar with dialectics; indeed, if we may trust the accounts given us, he at first took pleasure in the problem on dialectical grounds; but the fire he played with afterwards mastered him. The subject matter itself became precious to him. It corresponded to his own mood, ever growing gloomier, and he championed it with the zeal of the missionary. It was not original sin, or sin that he regarded as the chief subject, but the unchangeableness and wisdom of God. He was a theologian in the narrowest sense of the term.

Gottschalk was first opposed by Rabanus in his letters to Noting and Eberard—shortly before A.D. 848.662662See Opp. Raban. in Migne, CXII., p. 1530 sq., Kunstmann, Rabanus Magnentius Maurus 1841. He was accused of teaching that right faith and good works were of no avail to him who was not appointed to salvation, and that God forced men to sin and perdition (invitum hominem facit peccare).663663The view of Rabanus himself, that great, pure, truly pious and unpolitical prince of the Church, was Semi-Pelagian. Other opponents soon arose, and it was declared that he taught a predestination to sin. At the Council of Mainz (848) Rabanus got him condemned,664664Fragment of a confession of Gottschalk laid before the Synod in Hinkmar, De prædest. 5, Migne, CXXV., p. 89 sq. (Hefele, p. 138): “gemina prædestinatio . . . similiter omnino omnes reprobos, qui damnabuntur propter ipsorum mala merita, incommutabilis deus per justum judicium suum incommutabiliter prædestinavit ad mortem merito sempiternam.” and handed over, by command of King Lewis, to Hinkmar to whose province as monk he belonged.665665Migne, CXII., p. 1574. In his letter to Hinkmar, Rabanus declares a predestination as regards wickedness to be simply erroneous, and he is able to tell already of people, who, seduced by Gottschalk, gave up pious practices because, forsooth, they were wholly useless.666666Op. cit. Hinkmar got the judgment against the “miserable monk” repeated at an imperial synodal diet at Chiersey (849). He was deposed from his office, scourged, and rendered harmless in prison.667667Hincm. De prædest. 2; Migne, CXXV., p. 85; cf. Migne, CXXI, p. 1027. Neither Rabanus nor Hinkmar seems at first to have formed as yet any idea of the difficulty of the whole question—caused by the authority of Augustine and other Fathers. Hinkmar contented himself with referring God’s prescience to good or evil, but predestination to goodness alone.668668Hinkmar’s large works on the question in dispute were not written till several years later; (yet see the writing Ad reclusos et simplices, A.D. 849-50; Gundlach in the Ztschr. für K.-Gesch., Vol. X., p. 258 ff.; Freystedt, l.c. p. 320 ff., 358 ff.). The first in three books (856 and 857) was so extensive, that it was not transcribed, and so has perished (see Schrörs, p. 136 f. ). The second, De prædestinatione dei et libero arbitrio, was also prolix enough and very meaningless (written 859 to 860, Schrörs, p. 141 ff.). In the introduction to this work, the history of the sect of predestinationists, which is said to have risen even in St. Augustine’s lifetime, is described in a very unhistorical fashion. The sect has now revived, and its newer members adhere to Fulgentius, who never enjoyed a lofty prestige in the Church (c. 3, 8, 13). Hinkmar’s main proposition is that predestination to punishment embraces compulsion to commit sin. “Præscivit deus hominem ad pœnam.” Accordingly there is only a predestination of, not to, punishment. But the position of the case soon changed. Gottschalk composed two confessions, in which he stated his teaching, supporting it from Scripture and the Fathers,669669Migne, CXXI., pp. 347-349: “Confiteor, deum omnipotentem et incommutabilem præscisse et prædestinasse angelos sanctos et homines electos ad vitam gratis æternam, et ipsum diabolum . . . cum ipsis quoque hominibus reprobis . . . propter præscita certissime ipsorum propria futura mala rnerita prædestinasse pariter per justissimum judicium suum in mortem merito sempiternam.” “Credo siquidem atque confiteor præscisse teante sæcula quæcunque erant futura, sive bona sive mala, prædestinasse vero tantummodo bona. Bona autem a te prædestinata bifariam sunt tuis a fidelibus indagata . . . i.e. in gratiæ beneficia et justitiæ simul judicia . . . Frustra electis prædestinasses vitam, nisi et illos prædestinasses ad ipsum. Sic etiam . . . omnibus quoque reprobis hominibus perennem merito prædestinasti pœnam, et eosdem similiter prædestinasti ad eam, quia nimirum sine causa et ipsis prædestinasses mortis perpetuæ pœnam, nisi et ipsos prædestinasses ad eam: non enim irent, nisi destinati, neque profecto destinarentur, nisi essent prædestinati.” From Gottschalk’s standpoint both confessions are conciliatory. and he also wrote essays in which he emphasised the particularism of Christ’s saving work,670670Gottschalk frequently maintained that Christ did not die for the reprobi, though he taught a certain general redemption of all the baptised; see Hincm. De præd. 29, 34, 35; Migne, CXXV., p. 289 sq., 349 sq., 369 sq. subordinating the latter strictly to the premundane decree of God. He also, in a letter to Amolo, gave expression to the particularly objectionable principle “that baptism and the other sacraments were given in vain to those who perished after receiving them;” for “those of the number of the faithful who perish were never incorporated in Christ and the Church.”671671Hefele, p. 169: “baptistum et alia sacramenta frustatorie eis dari, qui post eorum perceptionem pereunt;” for “qui ex numero fidelium pereunt, Christo et ecclesiæ nunquam fuerunt incorporati.” But it was perceived in the more cultured South, apart from Mainz and Rheims, that it was not Gottschalk but his opponents who diverged from Augustine’s teaching. The best theologians ranged themselves on the side of the Confessor e.g., Prudentius of Troyes, Ratramnus of Corbie, then also the learned and acute Lupus of Ferrières,672672See Freystedt, i.e., p. 329 ff. the priest Servatus Lupus and Remigius of Lyons, for the most part disciples of Alcuin.673673Bach (I., p. 232 ff.) has analysed and discussed the various writings of these men.

There now began a lively theological controversy (849-50), which was not, however, violent enough to involve the rest of the Church and the Pope, and which was unspeakably unsatisfactory, because staunch Augustinians neither could nor would abandon the ruling ecclesiastical system, and had therefore to seek for compromises where Gottschalk’s results endangered it, and because the Frankish Semi-Pelagians soon saw that they would have to approximate their phraseology to Augustinianism. Among the writings in defence of Gottschalk there were accordingly many shades of opinion, but so were there also on the other side.674674Men at that time disputed about predestination, just as “positive” theologians to-day quarrel among themselves about the right of historical criticism. Some defend this right, others would restrict or abolish it; but even the former don’t really believe in it, since they take care not to carry out its conclusions. Florus Magister, e.g., advocated the twofold (gemina) predestination, but yet opposed Gottschalk, since he rejected the thought of the irresistibleness of grace.675675Bach, I., p. 240. Amolo of Lyons treated him in a friendly spirit; but no one else showed so emphatically that Gottschalk’s teaching did away with the historical redemption, the fruits of Christ’s death, and sacramental grace.676676Bach, I., p. 241 ff. The only one who took up a consistent standpoint, and from it opposed the monk, was John Scotus. His teaching did not rest on Augustine’s doctrine of predestination but on the Neoplatonic and Augustinian ontology, which he developed boldly. According to this, evil and death were nothing. Unchangeable being had only one unchangeable will, namely itself, and it evolved itself alone. Everything else consisted in negation, was nothing actual, and bore this very not-being in itself as a punishment. Applying this to the question of predestination, it followed that those were right who would only admit one predestination.677677De divina prædest. Migne, CXXII., p. 355 sq. The Synods at Valencia and Langres (859) condemned the work, after Prudentius and Florus Magister had written against it. But friend and foe felt, without seeing through the pantheism of Scotus, that this was a case of casting out the devil by the aid of Beelzebub (“commentum diaboli”). There was only one way out of the difficulty besides that given by Scotus. This was to give up altogether putting the question in the form of the predestination problem, to hold to the historical Christ, and to do justice to Augustine’s doctrine of grace by reducing the Church system to the experience of the new birth and faith. But no one discovered this expedient,678678Amolo came nearest it. and so the whole controversy necessarily became a maze of insincerity, partly objective, partly conscious. Augustine’s authority, however, was so powerful that the result, if we may speak of such a thing, came nearer Gottschalk’s teaching in words than to the original utterances of Rabanus and his comrades (of whom Pardulus also was one). The latter sought to carry their distinction between prescience and predestination (as regards evil and punishment), and would therefore have nothing said of persons being predestined to punishment. When God foresaw evil, he predestined punishment for those who should not deserve to be redeemed by grace; room, accordingly, is left indirectly to free-will, although, so far as words go, the saved are saved solely in virtue of election. The artificial distinction here made (predestination of life and of the good, prescience of the wicked, predestination of punishment) is apparently defensible, even on an Augustinian basis, since Hinkmar now spoke of a complete loss of freedom through Adam’s Fall. But the distinction was in truth meant to open a door for the entrance of Semi-Pelagianism. This doctrine was adopted at a new Synod of Chiersey (853) under Hinkmar’s leadership.679679The four chapters of Chiersey yielded more to Augustinianism than was consistent with truthfulness: I. “Deus hominem sine peccato rectum cum libero arbitrio condidit et in paradiso posuit, quem in sanctitate justitiæ permanere voluit. Homo libero arbitrio male utens peccavit et cecidit, et factus est massa perditionis totius humani generis. Deus autem bonus et justus elegit ex eadem massa perditionis secundum præscientiam suam, quos per gratiam prædestinavit ad vitam, et vitam illis prædestinavit æternam. Ceteros autem, quos justitiæ judicio in massa perditionis reliquit, perituros præscivit, sed non ut perirent prædestinavit, pœnam autem illis, quia justus est, prædestinavit æternam. Ac per hoc unam dei prædestinationem tantummodo dicimus, quæ aut ad donum pertinet gratiæ, aut ad retributionem justitiæ.” II. “Libertatem arbitrii in primo homine perdidimus, quam per Christum dominum nostrum recepimus. Et habemus liberum arbitrium ad bonum, præventum et adjutum gratia. Et habemus liberum arbitrium ad malum, desertum gratia. Liberum autem habemus arbitrium quia gratia liberatum et gratia, de corrupto sanatum.” III. “Deus omnes homines sine exceptione vult salvos fieri, licet non omnes salventur. Quod autem quidem salvantur, salvantis est donum; quod autem quidem pereunt, pereuntium est meritum.” The fourth chapter says that Christ adopted the nature of each man, and accordingly died for each, though all are not redeemed. The cause of this fact is that those not redeemed are infideles or are deficient in the faith that works by love; “poculum humanæ salutis, quod confectum est infirmitate nostra et virtute divina, habet quidem in se, ut omnibus prosit, sed si non bibitur non medetur.” Mansi, XIV., p. 919.

But what took place here was not authoritative in the Archbishopric of Sens680680See on Prudentius and the Synod of Sens, Hefele, p. 188 f. The four chapters of this Synod, which teach the gemina prædestinatio, are by Prudentius: see Migne, CXXV., p. 64. and the Empire of Lothar. Remigius of Lyons sharply attacked the four chapters of Chiersey as running counter to Scripture and the Fathers.681681Migne, CXXI., p. 1083: “Libellus de tenenda immobiliter scripturæ veritate” as an official paper of the Church of Lyons. At the great Synod held at Valencia of the provinces of Lyons, Vienne and Arles (855), canons were adopted which adhered much more closely to Augustine, and contained the teaching of Remigius. Dislike to the powerful Hinkmar also played a part in their composition. The Synod rejected the four chapters: they had been entered on with too little prudence (“minus prospecte suscepta.”) It taught the double predestination, applied the latter to persons also, and maintained that Christ shed his blood for believers. The question whether God willed to save all men was carefully evaded. If the Synod disowned a predestination to sin, it did not thereby abandon strictly Augustinian ground. On the contrary, the contention that condemnation was based on prescience, and that in the Church’s Sacraments “nothing was futile or delusive” (nihil sit cassum, nihil ludificatorium) shows the anxiety felt not to give up what was held valid by the Church.682682It is superfluous to give the canons here—they are very prolix; see Mansi, XV., p. 3; Hefele, IV., p. 193 ff.; Schrörs, p. 133 ff. If we compare the resolutions of the two Synods word for word, the differences are extremely subtle, and yet the little addition (plus) of the alien co-efficient attached to Augustinianism in the Chiersey decrees is highly significant. Rabanus, Hinkmar, and Charles’s Synod take their stand on ecclesiastical empiricism, and try, because they must, to come to terms with Augustinianism, therein yielding more than can have been agreeable to them. Remigius, Prudentius, and Lothar’s Synod take their stand on Augustinianism, and yet would not give up this ecclesiastical empiricism. But in neither case did anyone permit the suggestion of a doubt as to whether this empiricism and Augustinianism were compatible.

Political affairs prevented the threatened breach from being consummated. The matter was taken up again in the reign of King Charles, Lothar’s son. A few slight modifications of the chapters of Valencia were decided on at Langres (859) in order to enable Charles the Bald, who had subscribed those of Chiersey, to approve of them.683683Mansi, XV., p. 537; Hefele, p. 205. The great Synod of Savonieres (859), at which there were present bishops from three kingdoms, as well as the sovereigns themselves, Charles the Bald, Charles of Provence, and Lothar of Lothringen, adopted the modified chapters of Valencia, and also, as it appears, those passed at Chiersey; the members did not condemn one another on account of disbelief or belief in twofold predestination (gemina predestinatio), and this meant the greatest advance towards peace.684684Mansi, XV., p. 529; Hefele, p. 206. Hinkmar, indeed, did not doubt that there had been and was a predestinationist heresy, which it was necessary to oppose, and whose adherents appealed unjustifiably to Augustine. He composed at the time his prolix work, De prædestinatione (against Remigius and others), under the auspices of his theological king. But the kings’ need of peace was stronger than the zeal of bishops fighting in the dark. At the great Synod of the three realms at Toucy (860), the case postponed at Savonières was brought to an end in a comprehensive synodal edict, which dealt indefinitely with the real kernel of the question, and was destitute of meaning and badly arranged. Controversial points were left alone, and those were confessed on which all were agreed. Hinkmar composed this document. Besides predestination to life, which was set forth in good Augustinian language, it was declared that God willed to save all, that Christ died for all, and that while free-will required to be redeemed and healed after the Fall, it had never been wholly lost.685685The prolix Ep. synodalis in Mansi, XV., p. 563; Hefele, p. 217 ff. Prædestinatio ad mortem is not mentioned. If the worth of a confession depends on its really expressing the existing belief, then the triumph of Hinkmar’s formula was really more valuable than would have been that of the contrary doctrine. The avowal of twofold predestination, in itself even more the expression of a theological speculation than of Christian faith in God the Father, would have meant less than nothing coupled with the retention of ecclesiastical empiricism. Of course the formula of Hinkmar, which no artifice could reconcile with that of Orange, did not mean much either; for, in spite of words, Augustine remained deposed. Gregory I.’s system of doctrine held the field. Men thought of the sacramental Christ, as they rejected, along with Adoptianism, the Augustinian Christology, and it was still this Christ and the good works of believers to which they looked, when, along with twofold predestination, they in fact set aside Augustine’s doctrine of grace.

Gottschalk died in prison, irreconcilable and unreconciled (869), clinging to the prædestinatio ad mortem, which he understood in so “erroneous a sense” that he did not abandon it as Remigius seems to have done. He had prophesied in vain the unmasking and fall of his mortal enemy Hinkmar as Antichrist, that great exemplar of predestination to death.686686The ill-usage he had suffered seems to have rendered Gottschalk at times irresponsible for his actions in the last years of his life. His dispute with Hinkmar about the phrase “trina deitas” is noteworthy. The latter would not permit it on the ground that it was Arian; Gottschalk and Ratramnus defended it by accusing Hinkmar of Sabellianism. Both phrases “una deitas” and “trina deitas” can be defended from the Augustinian standpoint; see Hinkmar’s writing, De una et non trina deitate (Migne, CXXV., p. 473; Schrörs, Hinkmar, p. 150 ff.), in which Boethius’ notion of personality (“rationabilis naturæ individua subsistentia”) plays a part. The number of theological problems discussed at the date of this renaissance of theology was very great; see Schrörs, Hinkmar, p. 88 ff. But the questions were almost all exceedingly minute and subtle, like those suggested by clever children. Nor was the culture of the period possessed of the scholastic technique required for their treatment.


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