Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gottschalk of Orbais a medieval "Five Point Calvinist"

Indeed, just as He [God] predestined all of the elect to life through the gratuity of the free grace of His kindness, as the pages of the Old and New Testaments very clearly, skillfully, and soberly show those seeking wisdom on this matter, so also He altogether predestined the reprobate to the punishment of eternal death, of course, through the most righteous judgment of His immutable justice. (Reply to Rabanus Maurus, Gottschalk of Orbias)
In his book, The Reformation's Conflict with Rome: Why it must Continue! (reviewed here), Robert Reymond mentioned Gottschalk as one of the few medievals to have a clear conception of Paul's teaching on salvation by grace alone (see p. 68 & 82). I first came across Gottschalk (805-69) in Nick Needham's 2000 Years of Christ's Power, Part Two: The Middle Ages, 2000, Grace Publications. Needham gives a potted summary of Gottschalk's controversial career. The son of a Saxon nobleman, Gottschalk was placed in the abbey of Fulda when a child. When he grew up his abbot, Rabanus Maurus refused to release him from his monastic vows. However, he allowed him to move to the monastery at Orbias in north eastern France. Gottschalk was an ardent disciple of Augustine of Hippo. His passionate teaching of Augustinian views on sin, grace and predestination got him into hot water with his old abbot, Rabanus. Eventually his doctrine was condemned at the council of Mainz in 848. Following that, his archbishop, Hincmar of Rheims deposed Gottschalk  from the priesthood, had him flogged within an inch of his life and imprisoned him in the monastery of Hautvilliers, where the turbulent monk spent the rest of his days.

All of the so-called "Five Points of Calvinism" later set out at the Synod of Dort were found in Gottschalk's teaching: The total depravity of man in sin, unconditional election to salvation and eternal life (and the reprobation of the non-elect), Christ died only for the elect or limited atonement, irresistibly effectual grace and the final perseverance of the saints.

Gottschalk was also a notable poet and Needham includes a translation of one of  his hymns,
Freely You created my by Your goodness;
Freely create me afresh, I pray and restore me to life!
Freely You bestow Your gifts, which is why we say they are "by grace".
O Holy Spirit, You bring instant life to those You breathe into:
Together with the Father and His Son, You thunder forth, govern and give light.
You increase and You quicken the faith
Which You grant to whomever You choose.
Gottschalk's teaching was championed by Remigius of Lyons, Florus of Lyons and Prudentius of Troyes. It just goes to show that even in the "Dark Ages" prior to the Reformation that the light of the gospel was not totally extinguished. Have a look at Francis X. Gumerlock essay on Gottschalk of Orbias: A Medieval Predestinarian. The Gottschalk Homepage also has lots of helpful material.

No comments: