In the splendid red robes of an archbishop in the Holy Roman Empire, Rabanus Maurus stood next to the king of Germany. The king was clothed in his royal cape as well, a scepter in his hand and a crown upon his head. Other bishops in all their finery stood in rows on either side of Rabanus and the king. Rabanus leaned on the curved, golden handle of his archbishop’s staff. He looked around the room at other clergymen of the church who were called to come to this Synod of Mainz. Then he lifted his chin and stared at the lone monk standing before them, a man accused of teaching terrible heresies.
The archbishop raised his hands to pray and begin the meeting. It was October 1, 848, and a chill wind blew outside the cathedral that the men were gathered in.
They took their seats. A list of charges were read against Gottschalk, the man accused of heresy. Several bishops shook their heads as the list was read. One or two looked on Gottschalk with a hint of pity. Then in his simple priest’s garment, Gottschalk rose to answer the accusations.
He faced the king and the bishops. His shoulders were straight. His voice was deep and clear as he spoke. “Men of Synod, I am grateful for this opportunity to set before you exactly what I believe, and I do so in the joyous conviction that it is in accordance with the one doctrine of the church.”
Gottschalk’s arguments were grounded in Scripture. Gottschalk explained how predestination is one decree of God, but it is one decree with two aspects: election and reprobation. It is a double predestination.
Gottschalk spoke of how God is unchangeable. God does not look ahead into the future to decide what to do. He does not change his mind like that. God decides what will happen in the future! And so God decided who will go to heaven and who will go to hell even before the world began. God is God.
And if God is God, He does all that he wills to do. He saves only those people who he wants to save. Christ died only for them, the elect. Not one child of God is lost. The cross did all it was supposed to do!
Gottschalk showed how all these things fit together. It was indeed “the one doctrine of the church” that he set forth. If any man of Synod did not like what this monk had just said, no one doubted his faith and courage.
But many men at the Synod did not like what Gottschalk had confessed. The archbishop, who led the Synod in its decisions, gripped his staff until his knuckles were white. Rabanus Maurus had arguments of his own. In the end, this Synod of 848 condemned the monk and priest named Gottschalk. What he taught was heresy. The church said so. The archbishop said so. Synod was over.
Gottschalk did not know what would become of him now, but he knew this better than all the rest of the men at Mainz that day: God’s will had been done. God is God.