Hincmar could not believe it. The monk would not recant. What more could Hincmar do to make this heretic deny what he said? Hincmar had underestimated the man’s courage.
That’s what Hincmar, Bishop of Rheims thought. But others thought differently. Gottschalk had been terribly treated and put into prison for what he taught. No one else understood predestination like Gottschalk did, but a few others in the Church of Rome could begin to see some truth in what he said. Gottschalk had friends. They wrote letters to Hincmar, protesting how cruel he had been to the monk. They continued to discuss what Gottschalk believed and taught.
While Gottschalk was in prison, three more synods were held to consider the doctrines that he had discovered in the Scriptures and in the writings of Augustine. The truth would not be easily dismissed. Some decisions leaned in Gottschalk’s favor. But in the end, the truth was firmly denied. With the final synod, Rome began to officially hold to doctrines that agreed with what Rabanus and Hincmar taught. These doctrines agreed with Rome’s ideas about the monastic life and the mass. One doctrine led to another.
And what became of Gottschalk?
He recovered from his wounds, though he was kept in prison for the rest of his life. He wrote two confessions while he was there. From the damp, cold cell that was his miserable home, he carefully set forth the truth of double predestination and other teachings that belong with that doctrine. His confessions are remarkable documents for that time. He saw the important truths that Augustine had taught some 500 years before, but he was not joined in full understanding of those truths until Luther and Calvin saw them, some 700 years later. As it has been said, Gottschalk seemed to be a man out of time. He was alone in these spiritually dark days.
Yet he was not really alone. In 868, after twenty years in prison, he died to join the church of all ages, the church that waits in glory. He joined the martyrs in white robes beneath the altar who cry, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”
Indeed, God put Gottschalk there in that time and in that place to be an important witness and testimony, to be a voice—a lone voice in the night of this world. May we hear that voice, boldly and clearly, in our time, too.
Please note that the preceding stories about Gottschalk’s life must be considered historical fiction. Research from so long ago as the 9th century is often sketchy, and turning such information into stories requires adding details that can only be guessed at. Nevertheless, enough facts are known about Gottschalk to be certain that he is a man well worth considering and remembering. For more on this important figure from church history, read Portraits of Faithful Saints (pages 68-72) and Contending for the Faith (pages 95-103), both by Herman Hanko and published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association.