Pope Hadrian of Rome & Augustinian Predestination Soteriology
During the reign of Pope Hadrian of Rome (772-795) the Church in Spain was going through internal and extremely fascinating controversies. One of the controversies concentrated on what was the proper way of understanding God’s divine choice and predestination. Two major traditions crossed swords. Those who held the Augustinian predestination soteriology led by Elipandus of Toledo and those who rejected it led by Migetius. The clanks and clangs of their swords reached Pope Hadrian of Rome.
In a nutshell Augustinian predestination soteriology stressed the sovereignty of God in electing in Christ Jesus some fallen humans who are in bondage of sin (Jn. 8:34) and hostile towards God (Ro. 8:7) to receive his mercy and compassion while passing over other equally fallen humans to receive his righteous justice (Ro. 9-11). Those whom God the Father elected are given to His Son and they are kept to the end of time (Jn. 6) We, the Church, choose Christ because He chose us first (Jn. 15:16, Acts 13:48, Eph. 1:3-11). Faith is thus not the cause of our election but its effect (Jn. 10:26-28). Augustine expounded:
Let us, then, understand the calling by which they become the chosen, not those who are chosen because they believed, but those who are chosen in order that they may believe. ‘You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you’ (Jn. 15:16). For, if they were chosen because they believed, they would, of course, have first chosen Him by believing in Him in order that they might merit to be chosen.(PS 17.34)
Elsewhere Augustine wrote:
They were chosen before the foundation of the world by that predestination by which God foreknew His future actions, but they were chosen out of the world by that calling, by which God fulfilled that which He predestined. ‘For those He predestined, He also called,’ that is, with that calling which is according to His purpose.”¹
Augustinian predestination soteriology hold that all who believes in Christ Jesus as Lord will be saved. However as the result of sin, no one left on her own will believe (Ro. 3:10-18). Christ’s person and works are foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18, 23) to those without God’s Spirit. Only those whom the Father draws and give to His Son will believe (Jn. 6:44, 65; 12:36-40; 17:19-20; Phi. 1:29).
In 786 Pope Hadrian’s solution, as recorded in his Letter 95 to the Spanish Bishops, was to return the bishops to the works of Fulgentius. Citing Fulgentius, Pope Hadrian wrote that “we have always acknowledged to be taught to us by apostolic doctrine, and which we thus faithfully preach. For, clearly and frequently blessed Paul makes known the predestination of those whom God saves by grace.”(Epist. 3.642)
Pope Hadrian invoked Romans 8:29-30 and explained that, “God begins his work of predestination in calling, and completes it in glorifying”(ibid.) Siding with Elipandus, Pope Hadrian concluded that, “the truth of predestination must be held by all of the faithful.”(ibid.)
Long before the Reformer Martin Luther, who took Augustinian predestination soteriology far beyond Augustine before him and John Calvin after him in his work On The Bondage of Will, Pope Hadrian defended what we now call Reformed predestination and election doctrines of grace.
Pope Hadrian, Letter 95. MGH, Epist. 3:642:
Augustine, The Predestination of the Saints, 17.34, in The Works of Saint Augustine: Answer to the Pelagians IV: To the Monks of Hadrumetum and Provence, ed. John E. Rotelle, trans. Roland J. Teske (Hyde Park, N.Y.: New City Press, 1999), 177–178.
 Augustine, On the Predestination of the Saints, 34, in Saint Augustine: Four Anti-Pelagian Writings, 260. For Augustine election is final: “The ordering of his future works in his foreknowledge, which cannot be deceived and changed, is absolute, and nothing but, predestination.” (NPNF 5:542)