Dykstra, Russel J. “Thomas Bradwardine: Forgotten Medieval Augustinian.” PROTESTANT REFORMED THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL (Nov 2000. Vol 34, Number 1). http://www.prca.org/prtj/nov2000.html#Bradwardine. Accessed 13 May 2007.
Russell J. Dykstra
Thomas Bradwardine is a late medieval theologian of considerable significance who has been all but lost to the twentieth century church. In his day, Bradwardine’s obvious intellectual ability and theological acumen earned him the designation Doctor Profundus and a spot in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.1 His published works include learned volumes on logic as well as on geometry and physics. The mathematical and scientific works were on the cutting edge of those fields and are still referred to today. His theological magnum opus is a defense of God’s sovereignty, especially over against the Pelagianism of his age – a mammoth work entitled The Cause of God against the Pelagians.
Despite his evident ability and significant writing, Bradwardine remains largely unknown to the church world today. This is due partly to the inaccessibility of his works, and partly to the paucity of material written on Bradwardine. In the introduction to his work, Bradwardine and the Pelagians: A Study of his ‘De Causa Dei’ and its Opponents, Gordon Leff laments that “little that is definite or consistent has been said” about Thomas Bradwardine.2 That was in 1957, interestingly enough, the year when two major works on Bradwardine appeared – that of Leff and the scholarly work of Heiko Oberman, Archbishop Thomas Bradwardine: A Fourteenth Century Augustinian.3 Since that time the dearth of material on Bradwardine has continued, and the English reader is severely limited.4
In spite of this dearth of scholarly publications on Bradwardine, he deserves serious consideration. From a church historical perspective, he represents a resurgence of a relatively pure Augustinianism in the late Middle Ages. From a doctrinal point of view, he was one of few who maintained the doctrine of sovereign, double predestination as Augustine had, and as many of the sixteenth century reformers would. He is a light for the truth in the relatively dark time of the Middle Ages, and that, coming two centuries before the great sixteenth century reformation. In addition, sufficient connections exist between Bradwardine and John Wyclif to explore possible influences of the earlier Bradwardine on Wyclif, as well as on other subsequent theologians.
The purpose of this article is to acquaint the reader with Thomas Bradwardine’s thought and to set forth his significance. The question that looms large is the mystery of God raising up a Bradwardine at that time in the history of the church, only to have Bradwardine and his work so soon sink into obscurity. God has promised that His church and His truth shall not fail. The medieval age is a time of severe trial for both the church and the truth. The appalling apostasy, corruption, and idolatry makes one wonder how the church could have survived. A cursory glance at this period might well cause one to conclude that God’s promises failed. Yet God preserved both His people and His truth. Of that, Bradwardine is proof. His significance is that he stands as a beacon of light for the doctrines of sovereign grace in the dark medieval night of Rome’s Pelagian and Semi-Pelagian errors.
The date of Thomas Bradwardine’s birth is disputed. Henry Savile, Bradwardine’s earliest biographer, sets it at 1290, but Walter F. Hook doubts that the date can be set with any certainty.5 Oberman demonstrates that it was almost certainly five or ten years later and, additionally, calls into question Savile’s evidence that Bradwardine was born in Chichester.6 It is clear that the Bradwardine family took its name from Bradwardine, a parish near Hereford.7
Virtually nothing is known of Bradwardine’s early life, not even the date of his entering Oxford University. In Oxford, he studied in Merton College, and he excelled in his studies. He studied philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy before turning his attention to theology. In his day Bradwardine was unsurpassed in the science of mathematics, and, as noted above, he published several works in the area of mathematics and physics.
In 1325 Bradwardine accepted the office of a junior proctor in the University of Oxford. There he was soon involved in a legal dispute that involved the autonomy of the University. The chancellor and proctors insisted that discipline of the University remained with them, not the Church. The king supported this, and a few years afterwards exempted the University from episcopal jurisdiction.8
Heiko Oberman, in an introduction to a translation of a section of Bradwardine’s De causa Dei, points out that Bradwardine had a conversion experience in the late 1320s. Bradwardine describes his attitude prior to his conversion:
Idle and a fool in God’s wisdom, I was misled by an unorthodox error at a time when I was still pursuing philosophical studies. Sometimes I went to listen to the theologians discussing this matter [of grace and free will], and the school of Pelagius seemed to me nearest the truth.... In the philosophical faculty I seldom heard a reference to grace, except for some ambiguous remarks. What I heard day in and day out was that we are masters of our own free acts, that ours is the choice to act well or badly, to have virtues or sins and much more along this line.9
Bradwardine was so profoundly influenced by this view that – as he relates – “every time I listened to the Epistle read in church and heard how Paul magnified grace and belittled free will—as is the case in Romans 9, ‘It is obviously not a question of human will and effort, but of divine mercy,’ and its many parallels—grace displeased me, ungrateful as I was."10
The text (Rom. 9:16) troubled Bradwardine for some time, but he describes his change of heart:
Even before I transferred to the faculty of theology, the text mentioned came to me as a beam of grace and, captured by a vision of the truth, it seemed I saw from afar how the grace of God precedes all good works with a temporal priority [God as Savior through predestination] and natural precedence [God continues to provide for His creation as ‘first mover’]…. That is why I express my gratitude to Him who has given me this grace as a free gift.11
As a result, Romans 9:16 became one of Bradwardine’s favorite texts. He quotes it in De causa Dei more than any other verse of the Bible.
Eventually this brilliant student became a lecturer in Merton College in Oxford. During that time Bradwardine began writing his chief work, De causa Dei, which was probably completed in 1344 in London.
In 1335 he left Oxford to serve in the court of Richard (of) Bury, newly appointed Bishop of Durham. Here Bradwardine found one of the richest libraries of medieval England as well as a very stimulating and learned circle of theologians — including Richard FitzRalph, the future Archbishop of Armagh (1360), and Bradwardine’s future theological opponent, Robert Holcot.
Although he had serious reservations about them, Bradwardine accepted the offered prebends (beneficiaries) to support himself, at least one of which (Lincoln Cathedral) was a sinecure (without care of souls).12
Bradwardine was appointed (c. 1338) one of the confessors (chaplains) to King Edward III, a king known for his immoral life. He traveled extensively with the king’s entourage.13
At the request of King Edward, Bradwardine was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by Pope Clement IV in Avignon. Politics played heavily in the matter. The Pope is reported to have said that if the king of England were to ask him to make a bishop of a jackass, that he could not refuse the request. This so angered some of the Cardinals, that one of them, Hugo, Cardinal of Tudela, took the opportunity at Bradwardine’s consecration (July 19, 1349) to rebuke the pope and insult the English. He sent a clown on a jackass into the proceedings and had the clown ask to be made the Archbishop of Canterbury.14
Following his consecration Bradwardine hurried to England, where the black plague was decimating the population. He contracted the disease shortly after his arrival in August, and died on August 26. “During his episcopate of a few weeks duration, nothing was done or attempted of public importance."15
The Age of Badwardine
It is well known that philosophy in the late Middle Ages was not only influential, it was also intertwined with theology. This is the era of medieval scholasticism, when philosophy was pressed into the service of established and accepted theological doctrines. There were several schools of philosophical thought, each having its distinct position on the question of universals, namely, Are universals real? Or, In what sense are universals real? The answer to that question placed the theologian/philosopher in a specific category, which, in some areas of theology, had no little influence on how one formulated specific doctrines.
In Bradwardine’s day, the philosophy of William of Ockham, fresh and exciting, was having significant influence in certain academic circles. Ockham was a nominalist who therefore denied the existence of universals. More significantly, he insisted that all knowledge is intuitive, but that God can place knowledge of a thing into a man’s mind, even when the thing does not exist.16
In addition, Ockham maintained that God cannot be known by man intuitively, but only by revelation, and that is known only by faith. Thus in Ockham’s thought is introduced beginnings of the radical separation between faith and reason which would blossom in the Renaissance.
One area of special concern for Bradwardine was Ockham’s teaching on the relationship of God to man. Ockham elevated God so high above His creation that God became virtually detached from and uninvolved in it. Hence he allowed that man had great freedom in his activity, even an independent position.17 Ockham also maintained that the exalted power of God allowed Him to act arbitrarily in His dealing with men. Applied to soteriology, it meant that God could save a man in an extraordinary fashion if He so pleased – say by granting merit for a man’s works, which in turn might earn God’s saving grace.
Ockham was condemned by Pope John XXII and excommunicated. Yet the pope did not specifically condemn the teachings that Bradwardine considered Pelagian. In addition, Ockham’s philosophy was popular in England and on the continent.
In such a philosophical climate, therefore, Bradwardine lived and studied. As a result, there are those who insist that Bradwardine was reacting to the philosophy of Ockham with its consequences, particularly that God was not the center of man’s life,18 and that Bradwardine was upholding realism.19
However, Bradwardine’s efforts must not be so construed. Bradwardine was astute enough to distinguish between Ockham’s philosophy on universals and Pelagianism. He titled his work The Cause of God against the Pelagians, and the work gives every indication that Bradwardine was taking specific aim at Pelagianism. The issue was not epistemology, nor centrality of God in man’s knowledge. The issue was rather this: Is God’s grace the sole cause of salvation, or is the cause of salvation to be found in any sense in man? In fact, Ockham also taught that man was capable of loving God by nature, ex puris naturalibus.20 That puts man first in his works, and able to merit with God. This is the Pelagianism opposed by Bradwardine. Notwithstanding that the errors of Pelagius appeared in a slightly different form than Augustine confronted them in the fifth century, Bradwardine was maintaining salvation by God’s grace alone, over against the Pelagianism of his day.
From a philosophical point of view, then, perhaps a plausible argument could be raised that Bradwardine was maintaining the realist position over against the nominalist position. That is really beside the point. This was no philosophical discussion for Bradwardine. His intent was to maintain the biblical doctrines of God and salvation. This for Bradwardine was true Augustinianism.
However, virtually every churchman of the Middle Ages was Augustinian! At least, most claimed that their views were supported by him. It often happened that debating theologians on both sides of a particular issue called on Augustine for support (as would Luther and his opponents). Oft times both were at least formally correct. There were several reasons for this. First, Augustine had written a tremendous amount, and that, on a wide variety of topics. Secondly, Augustine had developed over his lifetime and, not infrequently, changed his views along the way. Thus theologians could quote the early Augustine supporting one idea, and quote the mature Augustine to prove an opposing position. Thirdly, medieval scholarship on Augustine and his works was neither thorough nor complete. Many of his works were not available to the theologians. Some of his views were simply reported by others, perhaps not accurately. Other views ascribed to Augustine were actually another writer’s interpretation of Augustine. In addition, the chronology of his works was not established, so that one could not always know whether it was an early or later work of Augustine.
Describing this situation, Hook writes, “Augustine was less read than praised; and when he was quoted, the quotations were too frequently taken from abstracts made from his works, apart from the context; consequently, he was frequently misunderstood, and more frequently misinterpreted"21 Joseph Kelly, in his study, “The Knowledge and Use of Augustine among the Anglo-Saxons,” concludes that “the Anglo-Saxon knowledge and use of Augustine were both broad and deep,"22 but notes that the Anglo-Saxons tended to be utilitarian in their use of Augustine. They quoted Augustine where he addressed the concerns of the day. He notes specifically that the Anglo-Saxons neglected the anti-Pelagian works of Augustine because they did not meet their immediate needs. “Retrogression to paganism provided far greater problems than doctrinal deviance among the English Christians, and Augustine’s attacks on heretics met few needs in Early Middle Ages."23
Be that as it may, Bradwardine was far more faithful to Augustine than most of his contemporaries. Hook observes that “Bradwardine was a student of the entire works of the great Latin doctor, whom he regarded as the true apostolic logician and philosopher."24 He stood against what he called the “pestiferous Pelagians” of his day.25
Pelagians were followers of a fourth century British monk named Pelagius, with whom Augustine did battle. Pelagius taught that man was neither good nor evil at birth because the fall of Adam did not affect the human race. Sin was in the act, learned by imitation, and not a part of man’s nature. Thus man was able to do good or evil, but committing sin did not make man evil, that is, did not make man’s nature depraved; he could subsequently choose the good. The Pelagians contended that in every man God formed the ability (posse) for keeping God’s law (which gift Pelagius called “grace”), and it was up to man to will and accomplish the good. By keeping the law of God, man could make himself worthy of salvation, for by these good works he merited a certain righteousness and the right to saving grace.
Augustine battled this teaching ferociously, and the church of that day condemned the teachings of Pelagius.26
However, a modification of the Pelagian error, later called Semi-Pelagianism, arose in its place. Concerning fallen man, it held that every man was born spiritually sick, nigh unto death, but not dead in sin. Though he would die without the aid of the great Physician, man could yet do good with the assistance of God’s grace, although this grace was resistible. The Semi-Pelagians attacked especially the doctrine of sovereign, double predestination that Augustine had affirmed in the Pelagian controversy. They insisted rather that predestination was based on God’s foreknowledge, in the sense that God knew who would believe and who not, and chose accordingly.27
Thus the central teaching of both Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism is that salvation is not all of God, but something is left for man to accomplish. Man is able to merit something with God if he properly uses what he has from God. This is the Pelagianism that Bradwardine faced in his day – the teaching that man by his works merited with God, and that his salvation in some way depended on his works. This error finally won the day in the medieval church because the idea of merit was woven into the warp and woof of her theology and sacerdotalism.
It is worthwhile to consider briefly the issue of authority, that is to say, what is the authority upon which Bradwardine maintains his doctrinal positions. From De causa Dei it becomes immediately plain that the main and decisive authority for Bradwardine is Scripture. This stands to reason in that Bradwardine’s polemic against the Pelagians is a treatise which is theological, not philosophical. It was noted above that Bradwardine rejected the teaching of the philosophers in Oxford because it was Pelagian. Scripture opened his eyes to the truth of God’s sovereignty in salvation, particularly Romans 9. Irena Backus notes, “In the preface of De causa Dei Bradwardine says that he sought to elucidate the correct interpretation of the canonical Scriptures (Scripturae canonicase) and of the Catholic doctors (Catholici doctores), seeing that all Pelagians, ancient and modern alike, twist their meaning so as to make it correspond to their heresy."28
In fact, Bradwardine maintains that man can know God, not by reason, but only by revelation. He writes, “O blush with shame, philosophy, and arrogant knowledge, to presume to have the smallest ken of God, so that you, so small, would know Him entirely through your little mind, probe all His secrets, grasp and fully comprehend His whole being."29 In addition, Leff notes, “Accordingly Bradwardine concluded that the highest truth in philosophy was that we cannot by ourselves know God."30
On the relative (un)importance of philosophy, Oberman points out that “[w]e can no doubt speak of the philosophy of Thomas Bradwardine, as has been done till now, but in this way it was not made sufficiently evident that he uses philosophy in the same manner as a scholar in his days had to use Latin in order to make himself understood."31
That important observation of Oberman applies also to the meaning of terms. Bradwardine will call on Aristotle, for example, not as an authority to back Bradwardine’s main argument. Rather, he uses Aristotle to set forth the various elements in a concept.32
The church fathers, however, were of great importance to Bradwardine. He stated explicitly in De causa Dei that he intended to quote a goodly number of the them in order to demonstrate to the modern day Pelagians that he (Bradwardine) was not alone in his stand.33 Backus describes Bradwardine’s high view of the fathers as follows:
Bradwardine’s attitude to Origen, Jerome and Cyprian is equally subtle. Many excellent theologians have erred, he asserts, this is what distinguishes their writings from the Holy Scripture. There are no ecclesiastical writers greater than Origen, Jerome, Cyprian and the most illustrious Augustine. Yet Origen is frequently criticised by the other three. For he erred most gravely, no theologian ignores it, and the blessed Jerome amended some of his works. However, continues Bradwardine, Jerome frequently corrected himself, Augustine and Jerome often disagree; and Augustine sharply criticises Cyprian for his views on heretical baptism….34
Backus noted that “[a]ll in all, the modern reader is struck by Bradwardine’s ‘linear’ and favourable attitude to the Fathers. All ancient Christian writers are fallible, but all constitute auctoritates and so should be taken seriously."35
Yet, for all the importance that the Fathers had for Bradwardine, Scripture remained the ultimate authority. Oberman differentiating between various medieval traditions as to the relation of Scripture and the Fathers, describes the tradition of which Bradwardine was a part.
Tradition I, then, represents the sufficiency of Holy Scripture as understood by the Fathers and doctors of the church. In the case of disagreement between these interpreters, Holy Scripture has the final authority. The horizontal concept of tradition is by no means denied here, but rather understood as the mode of reception of the fides or veritas contained in the Holy Scripture. Since the appeal to extrascriptural tradition is rejected, the validity of ecclesiastical traditions and consuetudines is not regarded as “self supporting” but depends on its relation to the faith handed down by God in Holy Scripture.
Thomas Bradwardine can be pointed out as one of the first outspoken representatives of Tradition I at the beginning of the fourteenth century. Though his references to the problem of Scripture and Tradition are relatively few and scattered, his emphasis on the exclusive and final authority of Holy Scriptures is quite explicit.36
This is the pattern followed in De causa Dei. In his presentation of the doctrine Bradwardine is at pains to demonstrate the truth from Scripture. He does call various church fathers into the discussion in his efforts to explain the passages. However, the goal is ever to gain the right interpretation of Scripture.
The cornerstone of Bradwardine's theology is, without question, the truth that God is sovereign. Oberman notes that Bradwardine returns "in the discussion of every problem to his dominant theological idea: the Sovereignty of God." 1
Bradwardine builds his argument for God's sovereignty on two axioms, which serve as a basis for every statement about God that follows. The two axioms are these:
1. God is the highest good, "in comparison with whom nothing is better or more perfect." 2
2. "There cannot be an endless hierarchy in things, but … in the chain of causes there is a first cause."3 Bradwardine writes, "God makes all things, and moves all things. In every formation, in every motion, there must be some ... immovable mover; else the process would be endless." 4
This God, being the first cause, always existed and, being perfect, is immutable. God "cannot change for the better because he is already perfectly good. Neither can he change for the worse, because he is necessarily perfect, and therefore cannot cease to be so."5
Based on these truths, Bradwardine proceeds to set forth forty corollaries against the same number of heresies previously condemned by the church. This serves two purposes. First, Bradwardine proves that he is orthodox and a faithful theologian of the church. Secondly, he shows that all these heresies contradict these basic truths about God. The implication is that all heresies will deny these central truths.
Bradwardine maintains not only the greatness of God, but also that God is far greater than the creature. Leff comments (critically) that "theologically, on the contrary, the whole spirit and purpose of De causa Dei is only too concerned with emphasizing the infinite chasm between God and his creatures."6 Bradwardine insists on the incomprehensibility of God's being and works, but, contrary to Ockham, he denies that God is thus arbitrary.
Bradwardine rejects the teaching that the actions of God are "contingent," but rather defends the proposition that His actions are "necessary." However, this necessity arises from within God Himself. Oberman explains: "God is unchangeable love and this love gives direction to His will, and thus the idea of God's will as without norm has been rejected."7
God's absolute sovereignty derives from His being the Creator of all things. Writes Bradwardine, "Thus Thou truly art my God…. Nothing else is necessary in an absolute way or exists by itself; yea, by itself nothing exists, but out of Thee, through Thee and to Thee, for in no other way can anything exist."8 God not only created all, He continues to govern and sustain all.
Since God is sovereign, His will "is universally efficacious and invincible, and necessitates as a cause."9 Bradwardine insists that nothing can defeat or make void God's will. He argues that the frustration or vanquishing of God's will could only arise from the created wills of either men or angels. However, that necessarily means that "the will of the creature must be superior … to the will of the creator: which can by no means be allowed." 10
Many a theologian pays lip service to the sovereignty of God, yet most flinch when it comes to God's control over the actions of men, especially their sins. Distinctions are made between God willing sin and God permitting sin. Faced with this question, Bradwardine does not retreat from the conviction that God is sovereign in all and over all. He insists that even when God only permits (voluntas permittens) sin, God is in some way yet actively willing. He draws the conclusion, "Therefore God does not merely permit but actually wills to be done all that is done."11 He maintains that, somehow, all things good and evil fit into the counsel of God. As to the actions of the creatures, if God does not will it, the action will not be performed.
Yet Bradwardine goes farther than this. He insists that no creature can act apart from God, not only because God must will the action, but also that God must give the power to the creature to act. God authors, man does, Bradwardine maintained.12 This applies to all the actions of men, both good and evil deeds. Bradwardine certainly understood that the manner in which God works is entirely different in the good and the evil deed. Nonetheless, God is involved in the action as a coeffector.
Does God then become responsible for evil? Bradwardine rejects that notion, but even then is careful not to detract in any way from God's sovereign control. He insisted that "all things that happen, happen of necessity." 13 However, Bradwardine does not use the word "necessity" as an antonym for "freedom" but rather as the opposite of "contingency," for he will not allow any contingency in God. Bradwardine called upon a distinction made by Augustine between necessitas invita and voluntaria, that is, a necessity upon man that is involuntary versus a necessity that is in some way voluntary. The first idea, Bradwardine rejects; the second, he asserts. Oberman's evaluation is that "this conception of necessity can become the basis of a doctrine of coefficiency according to which God works supremely, but in such a way that the freedom of will is maintained." 14
Yet the objection was raised against Bradwardine that since God wills sin, God is responsible for it. However, Bradwardine teaches that God wills sin, not in the sense that God wants sin as an anarchist wants lawlessness to cover the land. Rather God wants sin to be, even as God wants natural disasters to occur. The sin committed by man is not the end or goal of God when God wills that sin will occur. Sin is rather the means God uses to accomplish another goal, and that, a good one.
Bradwardine presents a number of arguments to prove that God uses sin for a good purpose. First of all, this belongs to the perfection of God's sovereignty. That is, "God's sovereignty is much more perfect when it extends over the good and the evil than over the good."15 Secondly, Romans 8:28 teaches that God uses all things for good to the elect. This "all things" would necessarily include sin. Thirdly, Bradwardine teaches that sin, by way of contrast, accentuates the beauty of the good in this life. In this connection, he refers to the beauty of the star, which beauty appears only in the darkness of night. Fourthly, God wills sin as a punishment for previous sins.16
Gordon Leff is highly critical of Bradwardine's doctrine of God's sovereignty. He writes:
In The Cause of God, not only does Bradwardine explicitly reject determinism, he refutes it. Nonetheless, Leff maintains that Bradwardine's theology is essentially determinism. He is convinced that Bradwardine leaves man with no freedom. Again, Leff writes:
Leff virtually ridicules Bradwardine's efforts to solve the tension between God's sovereignty over sin and man's freedom as a thinking and willing creature who is responsible for his own sins. He concludes:
It is telling that while Leff sees this conclusion very nearly as an admission of failure, Oberman views it as evidence of Bradwardine's humility. Oberman correctly concludes that Bradwardine "has succeeded in not making God the author of evil, in spite of pressing the divine operation in the deep of sin very far. It should, however, be admitted that he does not make it easy for critics to believe in his orthodoxy."20
This significant issue, namely, God's sovereignty over sin and man's culpability for his sins, is a question with which theologians have struggled for centuries. It is impossible to arrive at a complete solution with all the details fixed. At some point the believer must admit that he cannot penetrate farther into the mystery. Such an admission is not due to a failure in the theological system. Rather it is due to the fact that man cannot comprehend the ways of God. He can set forth the truth of the Bible that God is sovereign over all; that God cannot sin; that man is guilty for his sins. The theologian may go as far as he can to give a rational explanation to these truths. However, at some point he is forced to stop and admit that he can go no farther, as did Bradwardine.
In this respect, Bradwardine is not different from Augustine. Augustine did not face the question in the same form. His concern was the sovereign right and power of God to change one sinner and not another. How was it that God worked in a man the will to believe, and yet did not override the freedom of man? Augustine answers, "Now, should any man be for constraining us to examine into this profound mystery, why this person is so persuaded as to yield, and that person is not, there are only two things occurring to me, which I should like to advance as my answer: 'O the depth of the riches!' and 'Is there unrighteousness with God?'" And then Augustine concludes with what his English disciple may well have been consciously imitating, "If the man is displeased with such an answer, he must seek more learned disputants; but let him beware lest he find presumptuous ones." 21
Bradwardine obviously did not shrink back from maintaining the absolute sovereignty of God over all, including the sins of men.
This insistence on God's sovereignty Bradwardine maintains in the doctrines of salvation, starting with a vigorous defense of sovereign, absolute, double predestination. He grieves that "those pestiferous Pelagians deny predestination."22 In a prayer included in the Cause of God, Bradwardine describes the folly of the Pelagians.
The issue Bradwardine faces is twofold. First, what is the relation of predestination to foreknowledge? And secondly, what is the relation of predestination to works? The answer of the Pelagians of Bradwardine's day to the first question is the same given by the Semi-Pelagians of the fifth century - namely, that predestination is based on God's foreknowledge. God elected based on His foreknowledge of the faith and works that men do. That brings in the second question, and the answer of Bradwardine's opponents is that predestination is based on the works that men do.
Hence one of the first tasks Bradwardine faces is to define the foreknowledge of God and to determine the extent of it. Not unexpectedly, Bradwardine maintains that the knowledge of God is both absolute and determinative. He writes, "It is certain, that God has a knowledge of all things present, of things past, and of things to come: which knowledge is supremely actual, particular, distinct, and infallible."24 God's knowledge is not dependent on the creature, nor does God obtain His knowledge of all things as men do. God is omniscient and knows His creatures eternally. Bradwardine teaches that if God be dependent for His knowledge on His creatures, then God is neither the highest nor the first. 25 But, he insists, "God himself is the first and the last, the beginning and the end."26 In fact, he avers that "the knowledge of God is a cause of the thing known and not vice versa."27 Bradwardine agrees with Augustine that "God knew all his creatures both corporeal and incorporeal, not because they exist; but they therefore exist, because he knew them," adding this significant address to God: "No incident can possibly arise which thou didst not expect and foresee, who knowest all things: and every created nature is what it is, in consequence of thy knowing it as such." 28 Obviously, the reason why God has this knowledge is simply because God is sovereign and what God wills eternally is what happens.
This is significant for the question of the relationship of foreknowledge and predestination. For Bradwardine, they are one and the same. God's foreknowing the people He would bring to heaven is due to the fact that God wills it, and will accomplish it.
Fully in harmony with that, Bradwardine rejects the notion that predestination is in any way based on the works of men. On the contrary, Bradwardine maintains that predestination is the cause of the grace that men receive. Oberman notes that this is the "the main motif of his doctrine of predestination: predestination does not happen on account of human works, but on account of the gracious will of God."29
Leff indicates that Bradwardine faces all the arguments in that regard.
Since Bradwardine has firmly established that God is sovereign, also as creator and redeemer, he does not need much additional evidence to reject the notion that man merits election. He points out that if God saved not graciously but based on some cause outside of himself, that would mean that God's foreknowledge was not certain, but that is impossible.31 Bradwardine also uses Ephesians 1 to demonstrate that election is all of grace, for there would be no praise and thanksgiving to God for election if it were based on man's works.
Bradwardine defines predestination as "God's prevolition, or pre-determination of his will, respecting what shall come to pass."32 He does not limit that predetermination of God to the final state of men. He includes all that the future holds. Bradwardine teaches that there are two aspects of this predestination. The first includes all that God has determined for the man's life on earth, including grace, merits, and wiping out of sins in the present. Everything God determined eternally for the elect He brings to pass. The second aspect of predestination has to do with the future life, and includes glory and reward. The two fit together in that the life of each elect person is intended to bring him to glory and the specific reward God had determined for him.
Bradwardine maintains that predestination is of two kinds (gemina), that is, election and reprobation. Here Bradwardine faces fiercer battles. As is true today, so also in the fourteenth century, many fancied themselves follows of Augustine because they maintained a doctrine of election of one form or another. Reprobation is another matter. If it be allowed as a doctrine at all, surely (so the enemies of reprobation declare) it must be maintained that reprobation is based on the evil works of men. God rejects the guilty. If it be unfair and cruel to harm someone without provocation or just cause, does not reprobation ascribe to God injustice and cruelty? Would a just God reprobate and predestine anyone "to eternal fire unless it were done on the account of preceding guilt"?33
Bradwardine, however, did not compromise on this cardinal truth of sovereign, unconditional, double predestination. He writes plainly, "All those to be saved or damned … he willed from eternity to be saved or damned, … and this by no means by a conditional or indeterminate will, but by his absolute and determinate will."34 In order to demonstrate that God is just, Bradwardine carefully distinguishes, on the one hand, the reason for reprobation, namely, God's sovereign, unconditional decree, and, on the other hand, the basis for the reprobate being punished. He writes, "God … punished no one apart from his own temporally preceding and eternally lasting fault (culpa); however, God did not eternally reprobate anyone on account of fault, as a cause antecedently moving the divine will, but on account of certain final causes."35
Let the enemies of the truth marshal their arguments (and they did). Bradwardine is ready. They point out that John 1 states, "He gave them power to become the sons of God" and conclude that, since it is by predestination and grace that men become sons of God, "this lies within their own free power and occurs in no other way than by merits acceptable to God."36 This text, he replies, teaches the opposite. The text obviously says that those referred to in John "did not make themselves sons of God. God does this."37 He then proceeds to quote church fathers and philosophers to refute their claim, making heaviest use of Augustine.
Another argument claims that on the basis of the Psalm 69, "Let them [the sinners] be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous," it is plain that the works of men merit their being reprobated. Bradwardine notes first how impossible is that interpretation.
Then Bradwardine presents the proper interpretation, presenting Augustine's supporting exposition - "Brethren, let us not take this to mean that God would have enrolled someone in the book of life and then erased him out of the book…."39
Quoting the fathers - ancient and medieval - and expounding the Scriptures, Bradwardine boldly sets forth the truth. Interestingly, he teaches that God has a deeper purpose in reprobation than the mere destruction of the reprobate, namely that they serve the good of the elect. Oberman summarizes the profit for the elect:
Bradwardine insists that "because [God] chooses to predestine and create one of His creatures for the service of another creature," that removes from God the charge of being cruel or unjust. Adding, "This is particularly true, since He punishes no man with eternal damnation unless such a man deserves it, that is to say, unless through his sins he deservedly and justly requires eternal punishment." 41
And yet, that is not the final word. Bradwardine is quick to point out that the purpose of predestination is exactly the exaltation of God's name. God created and predestined both elect and reprobate "for His own service, praise and glory."42
Bradwardine ends where he began - God is sovereign. He writes that,
Anyone who maintains sovereign predestination will inevitably face the charge that this doctrine eliminates the need for preaching the gospel to all. Bradwardine heads off the charge. He insists that "God instructs all to come to Christ, not so that all will come, but because otherwise no one would come."44 In fact, he asserts that "God operates in the heart of man with that call…not that they hear the gospel in vain, but thus the hearer is converted and believes."45