I was given a copy of Pillars of Grace, volume 2, a book written by Steven J. Lawson. It is part of a series written to show that the doctrines of sovereign grace have been held by faithful men in every era of church history. This volume covers the period between AD 100 to 1564. This is, in my opinion, an important work for reformed people to be aware of since it shows that the doctrines of predestination (Calvinism) is not recent but goes back to the founding of the New Testament church.
One man in particular stood out in my reading. Gottschalk was a monk who lived in the 9th century. He was born in Germany but most of his ministry was in France. He was greatly influenced by the writings of Augustine. Gottschalk’s theology had an overriding sense of the sovereignty of God in all things, but especially in salvation. He taught Augustine’s doctrines of predestination – that God saves his elect and predestines the specific people that he has determined to save. He was strongly opposed to the idea that God’s election is based on his foreknowledge of what people would do. Gottschalk correctly taught that this made man sovereign and God merely responded to man’s determined will.
An area that Gottschalk developed more fully was the theology of reprobation – God’s sovereign decree concerning the non-elect. Gottschalk taught that just as God is sovereign in determining who will be saved so he is sovereign in determining who will be reprobate. His view of this area is the understanding reflected in the Westminster Confession of Faith (chapter 3) and other reformed standards.
But for his theological faithfulness Gottschalk was severely persecuted. It is interesting to note that in the history of the church those who have held to divine sovereignty in salvation have been the object of persecution more than any other group. When Gottschalk refused to recant, his archbishop declared him a heretic and imprisoned him. For the next 12 years he was repeatedly flogged with whips and other forms of torture in an attempt to have him sign a confession denouncing God’s sovereignty in salvation. Even after suffering a mental breakdown in prison Gottschalk refused. At the age of 64 he died physically broken but faithful to the end.
The theology we hold and believe to be biblical and thus true, has come to us at a great cost. Others before and after Gottschalk suffered for what we now call the reformed faith. They persevered to the end because they understood that being reformed was not something that could be put aside and still be faithful to the Lord. Since salvation is the work of God, He alone must receive the glory and praise. May God raise up Gottschalks for our generation who will stand firm for the truth, even unto death, that the gospel of divine grace would be proclaimed throughout the world to the praise of the sovereign God.