Gottschalk – Lone Voice in the Night (5)

Rabanus Maurus, Archbishop of Mainz, folded the letter he had just read and tucked it into his cloak. He drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair and squinted his eyes. Gottschalk—Rabanus remembered him well. Now he was a troublemaker again. Bishop Noting of Verona was alarmed about what Gottschalk was teaching in Italy and other places, and Noting wanted Rabanus to do something about it. Rabanus took out the letter from the bishop and examined it once more. Rabanus had been the abbot of Fulda when Gottschalk was just a young boy at the monastery there. Now Rabanus was an archbishop and had more authority to take care of such things as heretics.

Rabanus frowned as he read the letter again. Gottschalk knew how to get at the heart of the matter. “Double Predestination.” “Christ died for the elect alone.” “Man has no free will of himself to choose to obey God.” Gottschalk had said all those things. Rabanus crinkled the paper into his fist. Statements like these attacked many of Rome’s most important teachings. That vagabond monk must be stopped.

Rabanus called for his secretary with a voice sharper than usual. “I must send a reply to Bishop Noting. Do you have paper and ink ready?”

The monk who served as Rabanus’ secretary nodded.

…there is no double predestination, but only single…to teach a double predestination is to make God unjust…God wants to save all men…these are seven reasons that condemn this terrible heresy and show it to be false.
Rabanus Maurus, Archbishop of Mainz

The letter was sent. The seven arguments Rabanus made against the teachings of Gottschalk were clear, if not so truthful. Rabanus did not name Gottschalk in the letter, but neither did he quote Gottschalk exactly. Making Gottschalk’s teachings sound even worse would help fight this dangerous heresy, Rabanus reasoned. The battle lines were drawn.

Predestination became the topic of many conversations. Bishop Noting received the letter from Rabanus and published it. Scholars discussed it. Gottschalk continued to state his views, too. He showed that what Rabanus taught did not agree with Scripture or with what Augustine had said long ago. Gottschalk showed that the truths at stake were of greatest importance.

Rabanus could see how important they were, too. Only a synod could stop such a bold heretic as this. How dare a common monk who was hardly a priest try to counter a powerful archbishop!

Rabanus wasted no time. He instructed his secretary: “Inform all bishops in Germany as well as the king that they are called to a synod here in Mainz. It shall begin on October 1, in this year of 848.” He clenched his teeth and added, “We must deal with Gottschalk and his heretical teachings.”

[1] I Peter 5:5


[2] Leviticus 19:32


[3] Proverbs 1:8