Anselm Contra Double-Predestination

Anselm’s Theology of the Possible, part 20

Although most often associated with the post-Reformation era, the “double predestination” debate actually has its origins in the early ninth century when a Benedictine monk, Gottschalk of Orbais, interpreted Augustine as having taught a form of double predestination. Eriugena took up the task of refuting Gottschalk, but his own account of predestination proved just as worrisome as Gottschalk’s. In his treatise on predestination, De concordia, Anselm also briefly weighs in on the issue. While Anselm is accepting of the use of the word predestination to describe God’s sovereignty over evil, he nevertheless insists that God’s causality with respect to such instances is manifestly different than when God’s brings about the good. He writes:


predestination is not only of good things. We can also speak of predestination of bad things, in the same way that God is said to bring about the bad things that he does not in fact bring about, on the grounds that he permits them. For God is said to “harden” someone when he does not set him free from temptation. So it is not inappropriate if we say in this sense that God predestines the wicked and their evil deeds when he does not rectify them and their evil deeds. But he is said to foreknow and predestine the good in a stricter sense, because in them he brings about both what they are and the fact that they are good, whereas in the evil he brings about only what they are essentially, not the fact that they are evil, as was said above. (De concordia 2.2)


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