Gottschalk lifted his head and straightened his back. He looked out the window of the scriptorium and smiled. Sunlight was coming in. It was time for prayers and it would be a pleasant walk to the chapel.
He closed the book he was reading, carefully lifting its ancient pages back into place. “On Man’s Perfection in Righteousness by Augustine,” read the title page. Gottschalk smiled at this too. Ever since he came to the monastery of Orbais a number of years ago, he had tried to study the works of Augustine as much as possible. Now he was ordained as a priest and had reason to study Augustine even more. He liked to talk to the other monks about the things he was learning.
“We know that God is God and that he is unchangeable, do we not?” Gottschalk would say.
“Yes, of course, Gottschalk, we know that.”
“Then we must also believe that there is double predestination. Augustine taught that. He said that God graciously chose some men to be his elect children and God decided that other men would justly go to hell. God did not try to look into the future to see who would be good or bad to do this. If God had, that would mean he could change his mind because of what he might see. But God can’t change.”
“No, Gottschalk, God only decided election,” his fellow priests and monks would argue. “That is single predestination. And God does look ahead in the future to see who will be worthy to go to heaven or hell.”
“But that is not Scripture,” Gottschalk would insist.
Gottschalk continued to talk about double predestination. He quoted the Bible. He quoted Augustine. He found other church fathers who taught such truths, and he exchanged letters with other scholars about it.
And Gottschalk kept studying Scripture. In fact, the more he read, the more he saw the importance of believing that God decided from eternity both who would be elect and who would be reprobate. The whole gospel hangs on this truth! God decided both—or he decided neither. Man can’t choose to be a child of God; only God can choose the elect. And Christ died only for the elect then, too. These truths fit together. Gottschalk saw that, and he proved it from Scripture.
Gottschalk was excited to share these discoveries with others. He started preaching these things in the surrounding countryside. Many people listened and were glad to hear this new teaching. He went from town to town, and traveled to other countries to bring the good news of the gospel there.
Yes, Gottschalk knew the church had not taught these things since the time of Augustine, almost 500 years ago. That was a long time. Instead, the church had been moving away from what Augustine and the Scriptures taught. In Gottschalk’s time of the middle of the 9th century, the days were spiritually dark. But Gottschalk was opening up a small ray of light for all to see. He was a lone voice in the night.
The truth was so clear and so beautiful! Surely most people, if not all, would be able to see it and love it like Gottschalk did. That’s what Gottschalk thought.
But Gottschalk was wrong. Not everybody did. In fact, some people were becoming quite alarmed by what he taught. To them, this was a “new heresy.”