Double Predestination in the Carolingian Era

In the 9th century, a Saxon monk named Gottschalk taught what is known today as double predestination.  Swedish historian Bengt Hagglund explains it this way: “[Gottschalk] claimed (with some justification) that he found support for his teaching in the writings of Augustine” (p. 153).  Hagglund goes on.

“Gottschalk did not say…that certain persons are predestined to evil.  What is rather decided beforehand is that the ungodly will receive the punishment which they deserve, just as the righteous will receive eternal life.  In both cases, therefore, the right thing is done. …The atonement wrought by Christ applies only to those elected to eternal life” (p. 153).

Hagglund also quotes Gottschalk – here’s Gottschalk:

“For just as the unchangeable God, prior to the creation of the world, by his free grace unchangeably predestined all of his elect to eternal life, so has this unchangeable God in the same way unchangeably predestined all of the rejected, who shall be condemned to eternal death for their evil deeds on judgment day according to his justice as they deserve.”

Though some defended Gottschalk, his view was condemned at a synod in 849 and he was banished to a monastic prison for 20 years.  Why was he banished and his view condemned? Because, as Hagglund notes, the church of the day emphasized the freedom of the will and man’s cooperation with grace.  In other words, his views weren’t appreciated because of the semi-pelagian theological context.  As a side note, it is good to remember that the calvinistic Reformers didn’t make up double predestination; it wasn’t a theological novelty.

Quotes taken from Bengt Hagglund’s History of Theology (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1968).

shane lems

sunnyside wa

One Reply to “Double Predestination in the Carolingian Era”

  1. It is sad that, particularly in the context of the church, the people who advocate the sovereignty of God are persecuted. I mean, God can exist, as long as He knows His place, right? That being right under man.

    I don’t think someone can be a humanistic Christian. They can be saved just as a newborn can be alive but not disciplined in any system of beliefs. But I do not believe the name Christian should be used so liberally if people hold that they are in control and God is subject to their whims.


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