Predestination and the interpretation of 1 Timothy 2: from Augustine to Gottschalk

How can it be the case that omnipotent God wills for all to be saved, yet some are not in fact saved? The paper shows
how this difficult question has prompted much controversy in the Latin West from the time of Augustine onwards.
The question has its origins in the biblical texts; most notably the need to reconcile 1 Timothy 2 with passages such
as Romans 9. The paper begins with an overview of these biblical texts, before showing that Augustine took what can
be considered a restrictive interpretation of 1 Timothy 2;4 in the Enchiridion. It then proceeds to Prosper of
Aquitaine and the so-called ‘semi-Pelagian’ controversy, tentatively resolved by the second council of Orange.
Subsequently, the analysis proceeds to the predestinarian controversy of the ninth century, sparked by Gottschalk’s
preaching of double predestination. It shows that few were willing to adopt the extremities of the kind of position
advocated by Gottschalk; rather, there was a tendency to interpret Augustine in a manner that preserved the sense
that in some way God wills the salvation of the reprobate. In this regard, the patristic controversies prepared the
ground for medieval scholastic reflections on these difficult questions. In particular, Prosper of Aquitaine had
identified three troublesome ‘test cases’ for the intersection of the relevant doctrines; namely, the posthumous fate
of (1) Gentiles before Christ, (2) unbaptised infants, and (3) those after Christ who are ignorant of the Gospel
through no fault of their own. The paper shows how John of Damascus’s interpretation of 1 Timothy 2 through the
lens of the antecedent/consequent distinction allows scope for a strong sense in which the salvific will of God is
universal. This development represented something akin to the broad trajectory taken by Latin theology from
Augustine to the ninth century and beyond; it is for this reason, no doubt, that the translation into Latin in the
twelfth century of John Damascene’s De Fide Orthodoxa found a receptive audience in the West.