Gottschalk: Turning the World Upside Down

popecardinals-lThe Medieval Church of the 9th century was filled with controversy and apostasy. However, from time to time, voices of hope would rise up and stand for sound doctrine even if it was not popular to do so. Though these individuals were imperfect people who had many flaws; they, nevertheless, stood for the perfect truth of Scripture during a time when truth was rarely seen.

One of these individuals was a monk by the name of Gottschalk of Orbais (ca. 804-869). Born in Germany, Gottschalk took a lifelong monastic vow as a young boy. When he grew older, he eventually moved to a monastery at Orbais which was located in northeast France. It was in this place where he became a reader of the great Augustine, and became very zealous for the doctrines of grace. During his time, he took the forefront in the battle for the doctrine of predestination.

As he preached these doctrines to others, many were converted wherever he went. But with his preaching of truth came much conflict, as it does still today:

Steve Lawson:

Hincmar ordered Gottschalk to appear before the Synod of Chiersy (849) where he was charged with heresy. Specifically, he was accused of gemina pradestinatio — double predestination — a step in which he went even further than his teacher Augustine. Not only did God eternally predestine His elect to eternal life, Gottschalk maintained that He also foreordained all reprobates to eternal death. When Gottschalk refused to recant, the synod charged him a heretic and flogged him within an inch of his life. His books were publicly burned and he was imprisoned at Hautvilliers.

Other men came and stood with Gottschalk. They were people who also believed in God’s sovereign hand over all things. But despite their protests, they could not overturn the decisions. Gottschalk stayed in prison for two decades after the charges.

It has been said that he went mad shortly before his death. He was denied a Christian burial and was seen as a heretic. Yes, it seems like a sad end for any individual. However, despite the difficulty and controversy, Gottschalk held fast to what he believed in and set a good example for others to follow. Therefore, believers can pull out key lessons from his life that can be applied to them today.


Even in a time when it was unpopular to do so, Gottschalk held fast to the doctrines of grace. The center of gravity of his thinking was his fundamental belief in the supreme authority of God to govern every area of creation and life, including salvation. From this high ground he would not be budged.”

“To the end, Gottschalk maintained a deep conviction as to God’s sovereignty. The truths of sovereign grace were both the cause of his suffering and his comfort in suffering. Many joined with Gottschalk in testifying to those truths, but he alone was persecuted as a heretical teacher, as the opposition felt he alone was dangerous to their church system. But though his enemies assailed him, Gottschalk has been vindicated by champions of the faith as a martyr to the truth.

Gottschalk’s life and ministry is a reminder to us to stand for biblical truth in the midst of a sin-stained world. And we can see examples of this modeled in the Scriptures. For the apostles, preaching Jesus as the Christ was controversial. And it started uproars and persecutions (Acts 17:1-5). As they preached Jesus as the Messiah, the Jews described them as “men who have upset the world” (17:6). Such a badge of honor! The apostles knew that many in the world would not accept the Gospel message, yet it did not hinder their resolve to proclaim it!

Our Lord was crucified for preaching imagesagainst tradition, legalism, and hypocrisy, and calling others to biblical fidelity. Therefore, we should see ourselves as privileged to be ridiculed for our faith in the Lord. May we be crucified for proclamation of the Gospel of grace, as we turn the world upside down with the Scriptures.

We are joining the e-fight for sound doctrine in the church and society today. These blogs won’t be idle statements from cowards behind a keyboard. Instead, these words will be an outflow from pastors who are in the ministry trenches, and who are also willing to live by and die for these truths.

Our goal is not to provoke or upset through rude speech or sinful gestures. Instead, our desire is to bring life-giving Word to the spiritual wasteland.

Through every theological insight, culture comment, book review, or devotional thought, we hope to do it all for the magnification of the Savior and for the edification of the church at large.

It is the conviction of these contributors to stand firm for the truth and to upset the world for the glory of God.

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