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§ 120. Gottschalk and Babanus Maurus.


Gottschalk, the son of Count Berno (or Bern), was sent in his childhood by his parents to the famous Hessian convent of Fulda as a pious offering (oblatus). When he had attained mature age, he denied the validity of his involuntary tonsure, wished to leave the convent, and brought his case before a Synod of Mainz in 829. The synod decided in his favor, but the new abbot, Rabanus Maurus, appealed to the emperor, and wrote a book, De Oblatione Puerorum, in defence of the obligatory character of the parental consecration of a child to monastic life. He succeeded, but allowed Gottschalk to exchange Fulda for Orbais in the diocese of Soissons in the province of Rheims. From this time dates his ill feeling towards the reluctant monk, whom he called a vagabond, and it cannot be denied that Rabanus appears unfavorably in the whole controversy.

At Orbais Gottschalk devoted himself to the study of Augustin and Fulgentius of Ruspe (d. 533), with such ardent enthusiasm that he was called Fulgentius.674674    By Walafrid Strabo his fellow-student at Fulda, who had a high opinion of his learning and piety, and wrote a poem entitled “Gotescalcho monacho qui et Fulgentius;” in Opera ed. Migne, Tom. II. (“Patr. Lat.,” Tom. 114, col. 1115-1117). Neander (III. 474, note) supposes that Gottschalk probably borrowed from Fulgentius the term praedestinatio duplex. He selected especially the passages in favor of the doctrine of predestination, and recited them to his fellow-monks for hours, gaining many to his views. But his friend, Servatus Lupus, warned him against unprofitable speculations on abstruse topics, instead of searching the Scriptures for more practical things. He corresponded with several scholars’ and made a pilgrimage to Rome. On his return in 847 or 848, he spent some time with the hospitable Count Eberhard of Friuli, a son-in-law of the Emperor Louis the Pious, met there Bishop Noting of Verona, and communicated to him his views on predestination. Noting informed Rabanus Maurus, who had in the mean time become archbishop of Mainz, and urged him to refute this new heresy.

Rabanus Maurus wrote a letter to Noting on predestination, intended against Gottschalk, though without naming him.675675    Epist, V. ad Notingum, De Praedestinatione, first published, together with a letter Ad Eberhardum comitem, by Sirmond, Paris, 1647; also in Rabani Mauri Opera, Tom. VI., ed. Migne (“Patr. Lat.,” Tom. 112, col. 1530-1553). Hefele (IV. 134) complains that this edition has many inaccuracies and typographical errors. He put the worst construction upon his view of a double predestination, and rejected it for seven reasons, chiefly, because it involves a charge of injustice against God; it contradicts the Scriptures, which promise eternal reward to virtue; it declares that Christ shed his blood in vain for those that are lost; and it leads some to carnal security, others to despair. His own doctrine is moderately Augustinian. He maintains that the whole race, including unbaptized children, lies under just condemnation in consequence of Adam’s sin; that out of this mass of corruption God from pure mercy elects some to eternal life, and leaves others, in view of their moral conduct, to their just punishment. 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. Foreknowledge and foreordination are distinct, and the latter is conditioned by the former. 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. He admitted that “the punishment is foreordained for the sinner,” but denied that “the sinner is foreordained for punishment.”676676    Hefele (IV. 136) declares this to be inconsistent, because both sentences amount to the same thing and give a good orthodox sense. “In Wahrheit ist ja auch der Sünder praedestinirt ad mortem oder poenam, aber seine Praedestination ist keine absolute, wie die des electus, sondern sie ist bedingt durch die praevisa demerita.” He supported his view with passages from Jerome, Prosper, Gennadius, and Augustin.677677    Chiefly from the Hypomnesticon (Commonitorium, Memorandum), usually called Augustinian work against the called Hypognosticon (Subnotationes), a pseudo-Pelagians, which was freely quoted at that time as Augustinian by Scotus Erigena and Hincmar; while Remigius proved the spuriousness. It is printed in the tenth vol. of the Benedict. ed. of Augustin, and in Migne’s reprint, X. 1611-1664. See Feuerlein: Disquis. Hist. de libris Hypognosticon, an ab Hincmaro, in Augustana Confessione et alibi recte tribuantur divo Augustino. Altdorf, 1735.

Gottschalk saw in this tract the doctrine of the Semi-Pelagian Gennadius and Cassianus 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.678678    The fragment of this confession is preserved by Hincmar, De Praedest., c.5 (Migne, 125, col. 89 sq. ): ”Ego Gothescalcus credo et confiteor, profiteor et testificor ex Deo Patre, per Deum Filium, in Deo Spiritu Sancto, et affirmo atque approbo coram Deo et sanctis . ejus, quod gemina est praedestinatio, sive electorum ad requiem, sive reproborum ad mortem [so far quoted verbatim from Isidore of Seville, Sent. II. 6]: quia sicut Deus incommutabilis ante mundi constitutionem omnes electos suos incommutabiliter per gratuitam gratiam suam praedestinavit ad vitam aeternam, similter omnino omnes reprobos, quia in die judicii damnabuntur propter ipsorum mala merita, idem ipse incommutabilis Deus per justum judicium suum incommutabiliter praedestinavit ad mortem merito sempiternam.” The offensive part in this confession lies in the words two-fold (gemina) and quite similarly (similiter omnino), 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.

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.



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