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§ 122. The Contending Theories on Predestination, and the Victory of Semi-Augustinianism.

During the imprisonment of Gottschalk a lively controversy, was carried on concerning the point in dispute, which is very creditable to the learning of that age, but after all did not lead to a clear and satisfactory settlement. The main question was whether divine predestination or foreordination which all admitted as a necessary element of the Divine perfection, was absolute or relative; in other words, whether it embraced all men and all acts, good and bad, or only those who are saved, and such acts as God approves and rewards. This question necessarily involved also the problem of the freedom of the human will, and the extent of the plan of redemption. The absolute predestinarians denied, the relative predestinarians affirmed, the freedom of will and the universal import of Christ’s atoning death.

The doctrine of absolute predestination was defended, in substantial agreement with Gottschalk, though with more moderation and caution, by Prudentius, Bishop of Troyes, Ratramnus, monk of Corbie, Servatus Lupus, Abbot of Ferrières, and Remigius, Archbishop of Lyons, and confirmed by the Synod of Valence, 855, and also at Langres in 859.

The doctrine of free will and a conditional predestination was advocated, in opposition to Gottschalk, by Archbishop Rabanus Maurus of Mainz, Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims, and Bishop Pardulus of Laon, and confirmed at a synod of Chiersy, 853, and in part again at Savonnières, near Toul, in 859.

A third theory was set forth by John Scotus Erigena, intended against Gottschalk, but was in fact still more against the orthodox view, and disowned by both parties.

I. The doctrine of an Absolute and Two-Fold Predestination.

Gottschalk professed to follow simply the great Augustin. This is true; but he gave undue disproportion to the tenet of predestination, and made it a fundamental theological principle, inseparable from the immutability of God; while with Augustin it was only a logical inference from his anthropological premises. He began where Augustin ended. To employ a later (Calvinistic) terminology, he was a supralapsarian rather than an infralapsarian. He held a two-fold predestination of the elect to salvation, and of the reprobate to perdition; not in the sense of two separate predestinations, but one predestination with two sides (gemina, i.e. bipartita), a positive side (election) and a negative side (reprobation). He could not conceive of the one without the other; but he did not teach a predestination of the sinner to sin, which would make God the author of sin. In this respect he was misrepresented by Rabanus Maurus.683683    Rabanus makes Gottschalk teach a ”praedestinatio Dei, sicut in bono, sic ita et in malo … quasi Deus eos [reprobos] fecisset ab initio incorrigibiles.” But even Hincmar concedes (De Praed., c. 15, in Migne 125, col. 126) that the predestinarians of his day (moderni Praedestinatiani) taught only a predestination of the reprobates ad interitum, not ad peccatum. Cardinal Noris and Hefele (IV. 140) admit the perversion of Gottschalk’s words in malam partem by Rabanus. The same charge of making God the author of sin by predestinating and creating men for sin and damnation, has again and again been raised against supralapsarians and Calvinists generally, in spite of their express denial. In his shorter Confession from his prison, he says: “I believe and confess that God foreknew and foreordained the holy angels and elect men to unmerited eternal life, but that he equally (pariter) foreordained the devil with his host and with all reprobate men, on account of their foreseen future evil deeds, by a just judgment, to merited eternal death.” He appeals to passages of the Scriptures, to Augustin, Fulgentius, and Isidor, who taught the very same thing except the pariter. In the larger Confession, which is in the form of a prayer, he substitutes for equally the milder term almost or nearly (propemodum), and denies that God predestinated the reprobates to sin. “Those, O God,” he says, “of whom thou didst foreknow that they would persist by their own misery in their damnable sins, thou didst, as a righteous judge, predestinate to perdition.” He spoke of two redemptions, one common to the elect and the reprobate, another proper and special for the elect only. In similar manner the Calvinists, in their controversy, with the Arminians, maintained that Christ died efficiently only for the elect, although sufficiently for all men.

His predestinarian friends brought out the difference in God’s relation to the good and the evil more clearly. Thus Ratramnus says that God was the author (auctor) as well as the ruler (ordinator) of good thoughts and deeds, but only the ruler, not the author, of the bad. He foreordained the punishment of sin, not sin itself (poenam, not peccatum). He directs the course of sin, and overrules it for good. He used the evil counsel of Judas as a means to bring about the crucifixion and through it the redemption. Lupus says that God foreknew and permitted Adam’s fall, and foreordained its consequences, but not the fall itself. Magister Florus also speaks of a praedestinatio gemina, yet with the emphatic distinction, that God predestinated the elect both to good works and to salvation, but the reprobate only to punishment, not to sin. He was at first ill-informed of the teaching of Gottschalk, as if he had denied the meritum damnationis. Remigius censured the “temerity” and “untimely loquacity” of Gottschalk, but defended him against the inhuman treatment, and approved of all his propositions except the unqualified denial of freedom to do good after the fall, unless he meant by it that no one could use his freedom without the grace of God. He subjected the four chapters of Hincmar to a severe criticism. On the question whether God will have all men to be saved without or with restriction, and whether Christ died for all men or only for the elect, he himself held the particularistic view, but was willing to allow freedom of opinion, since the church had not decided that question, and the Bible admitted of different interpretations.684684    The particularists appealed to the passage Matt. 26:26, pro multis (περὶπολλῶν, without the article), and understood it in the restricted sense as distinct from pro omnibus; while they arbitrarily restricted the omnes (παν́τες) in 1 Tim. 2:3 and similar passages.

The Synod of Valence, which met at the request of the Emperor Lothaire in 855, endorsed, in opposition to Hincmar and the four chapters of the Synod of Chiersy, the main positions of the Augustinian system as understood by Remigius, who presided.685685    See the canons of this Synod in Mansi, XV. I sqq., and Hefele, IV. 193-195. It affirms a two-fold predestination (“praedestinationem electorum ad vitam et praedestinationem impiorum ad mortem”), but with such qualifications and distinctions as seemed to be necessary to save the holiness of God and the moral responsibility of man. The Synod of Langres in the province of Lyons, convened by Charles the Bald in 859, repeated the doctrinal canons of Valence, but omitted the censure of the four chapters of Chiersy, which Charles the Bald had subscribed, and thus prepared the way for a compromise.

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.

(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.

(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.686686    Dr. Bach, a learned Roman Catholic historian, states this point thus (l.c., I. 230): ”Der historische Christus und die Kirche, der sichtbare Leib Christi verflüchtigt sich schon bei Gottschalk zu einem leeren Abstraktum, sobald der concrete Boden der Erwählung nicht mehr die Kirche und ihre Sakramente, sondern ein lediglich fingirtes vorzeitliches Decret Gottes ist. Es taucht dann immer ein Surrogat der Phantasie, die s. g. unsichtbare Kirche auf, und diejenigen, welche die grossartige realistische Lehre des hl. Augustin von der Kirche und den Sakramenten zerstören, nennen sich vorzüglich Augustinianer, indem sie nicht wissen, dass die Lehre Augustins von der Praedestination auf dem concreten Boden der Christologie und Anthropologie steht und ohne diese zur gefährlichsten Häresie wird.

II. The doctrine of a Conditional and Single Predestination.

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 (praescientia) 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 sinners, but did not predestinate them to sin or death; they are simply praesciti, not praedestinati. There is therefore no double predestination, but only one predestination which coincides with election to eternal life. The fall 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.

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:687687    Capitula IV. Carisiacensia, in Hincmar, De Praed., c. 2; in Mansi, XIV. 920; Gieseler, II. 88; and Hefele, IV. 187.

(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.688688    “perituros praescivit, sed non ut perirent praedestinavit, poenam autem illis, quia justus est, praedestinavit aeternam.” 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.689689    “Libertatem arbitrii in primo homine perdidimus, quam per Christum Dominum nostrum recepimus: et habemus liberum arbitrium ad bonum, praeventum et adjutum gratia: et habemus liberum arbitrium ad malum, desertum gratia. Liberum autem habemus arbitrium, quia gratia liberatum, et gratia de corrupto sonatum.”

(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.

The last two propositions are not Augustinian, but catholic, and are the connecting link between the catholic orthodoxy and 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 Hypomnesticon, 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.690690    Mansi, XV. 563; Hefele, IV. 215 sqq. 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 a 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.

But 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 oecumenically sanctioned. Pope Nicolas, who was dissatisfied with Hincmar on hierarchical grounds, had some sympathy with Gottschalk, and is reported to have approved the Augustinian canons of the Synods of Valence and Langres in regard to a “two-fold predestination” and the limitation of the atonement.691691    The decree of the pope is lost; but the fact rests on the authority of the well-informed Prudentius of Troyes in the Annales Bertiniani ad ann. 859 (Pertz, Mon. Germ., I. 453 sq.): “Nicolas, pontifex Romanus, de qratia Dei et libero arbitrio, de veritate Geminaepraedestinationis et sanguine Christi, ut pro credentibusomnibus fusus sit, fideliter confirmat et catholice decernit.” Hincmar doubted such a decision, and charged Prudentius with partiality (Ep. 24 addressed to Egilo, Bishop of Sens). The Jesuits labored hard to set it aside against the Jansenists and Calvinists, but without good reason. Weizsäcker (p. 574), Hardwick (p. 165), and Möller (in Herzog2V. 327) accept the statement of Prudentius, and Weizsäcker says: “Hatte in Gallien die Hoftheologie des Königs den Semipeligianimus (?) durchgebracht, so hat doch der Papst für Augustin entschieden … Die Kirchengeschichte darf ganz unbedenklich in ihre Blätter diese Entscheidung des römischen Stuhls gegen den Semipelagianismus des neunten Jahrhunderts aufnehmen, die man seit Mauguin niemals hätte bezweifeln sollen.” Neander and Gieseler are silent on this point.

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.


The Gottschalk controversy was first made the subject of historical investigation and critical discussion in the seventeenth century, but was disturbed by the doctrinal antagonism between Jansenists (Jansen, Mauguin) and Jesuits (Sirmond, Cellot). The Calvinistic historians (Ussher, Hottinger) sided with Gottschalk and the Jansenists. The controversy has been more calmly and impartially considered by the Protestant historians of the nineteenth century, but with a slight difference as to the limits and the result of the controversy; some representing it merely as a conflict between a stricter and a milder type of Augustinianism (Neander, Kurtz), others as a conflict between Augustinianism and a revived and triumphant Semi-Pelagianism (Baur, Weizsäcker). The former view is more correct. Semi-Pelagianism was condemned by the Synod of Orange (Arausio), 529; again by the Synod of Valence in the same year, and by Pope Boniface II., 530, and has ever since figured in the Roman catalogue of heresies. The Catholic Church cannot sanction what she has once condemned.

Both parties in the contest of the ninth century (leaving the isolated Scotus Erigena out of view) appealed to Augustin as the highest patristic authority in the Latin church. Both agreed in the Augustinian anthropology and soteriology, i.e. in the doctrine of a universal fall in Adam, and a partial redemption through Christ; both maintained that some men are saved by free grace, that others are lost by their own guilt; and both confined the possibility of salvation to the present life and to the limits of the visible church (which leads logically to the horrible and incredible conclusion that the overwhelming majority of the human race, including all unbaptized infants, are eternally lost). But the Augustinian party went back to absolute predestination, as the ultima ratio of God’s difference of dealing with the saved and the lost, or the elect and the reprobate; while the Semi-Augustinian party sought the difference rather in the merits or demerits of men, and maintained along-side with a conditional predestination the universal benevolence of God and the universal offer of saving grace (which, however, is merely assumed, and not at all apparent in this present life). The Augustinian scheme is more theological and logical, the Semi-Augustinian more churchly and practical. Absolute predestinarianism starts from the almighty power of God, but is checked by the moral sense and kept within the limits of infralapsarianism, which exempts the holy God from any agency in the fall of the race, and fastens the guilt of sin upon man. Relative predestinarianism emphasizes the responsibility and salvability of all men, but recognizes also their perfect dependence upon divine grace for actual salvation. The solution of the problem must be found in the central idea of the holy love of God, which is the key-note of all his attributes and works.

The practical difference between the catholic Semi-Augustinianism and the heterodox Semi-Pelagianism is, as already remarked, very small. They are twin-sisters; they virtually ignore predestination, and lay the main stress on the efficacy of the sacramental system of the historical church, as the necessary agency for regeneration and salvation.

The Lutheran system, as developed in the Formula of Concord, is the evangelical counterpart of the Catholic Semi-Augustinianism. It retains also its sacramental feature (baptismal regeneration and the eucharistic presence), but cuts the root of human merit by the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Calvinism is a revival of Augustinianism, but without its sacramental and sacerdotal checks.

Arminianism, as developed in the Reformed church of Holland and among the Wesleyan Methodists, and held extensively in the Church of England, is an evangelical counterpart of Semi-Pelagianism, and differs from Lutheranism by teaching a conditional election and freedom of the will sufficient to accept as well as to reject the universal offer of saving grace.

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