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Controversies on Grace
These are concerned chiefly with the relation between grace and free will. How can the all-persuasiveness of grace, which imposes such a potent influence on the human will and elicits therefrom such good works, reside harmoniously in the same subject with the simultaneous consent of the free will? Since merely sufficient grace (gratia mere sufficiens) in its very concept contains the idea of a withholding of consent on the part of free will, and is therefore at the very outset destined to inefficiency (gratia inefficax), the question in its last analysis reduces itself to the relation between free will and efficacious grace (gratia efficax), which contains the very idea that by it and with it the free will does precisely that which this grace desires should be done. The most radical solution would be simply to cut the Gordian knot, and with the Pelagians set aside supernatural grace, or with the Reformers and Jansenists banish entirely all free will. For whether we boldly set aside the first or the second alternative, in either case the great problem of the relation between grace and free will will have been disposed of, and the great mystery solved in the simplest manner possible. For if there be no grace, why, then, all things are accomplished by the liberum arbitrium; if there be no freedom, then grace reigns supreme. As against the Pelagians and Semipelagians the existence and necessity of efficacious grace for all meritorious acts was duly treated in the article GRACE. Here we propose to defend briefly the preservation of free will with grace as against the systems of the Reformers and Jansenists, which are hostile to free will.
I. HERETICAL SOLUTIONS
According to Luther's theory, man's free will was so impaired by original sin that like a horse it could perform good or bad acts only as "it was ridden either by God or the devil". Nor did the Redemption by Christ restore the will as it was enjoyed in Paradise; therefore the will influenced by grace must by an interior necessity follow in all things the coercion of grace. Of all the Reformers, Calvin (Instit., lib. II) has given the most consistent and scholarly theory of the loss of free will under grace. He maintains that the sin of Adam annihilated the freedom of the will; that the Redemption did not restore this primitive freedom, though it released man from the bondage of Satan; that, however, the will influenced by grace does not remain entirely passive, but preserves the spontaneity of its unfree acts. The later Lutherans, as well as those of the present time, scarcely ever emphasize as harshly as their master the moral impotence of nature in the domain of ethical good, but the followers of Calvin still cling stubbornly to his teaching. In opposition to both sects, the Council of Trent, (Sess. VI, can. iv-v) defined as dogma not only the survival of moral freedom in spite of original sin, but also the preservation of the freedom of the will acted upon and working with grace, especially efficacious grace.
The definition of Jansen (d. 1638) is not materially different from that of Luther and Calvin, save only that, in distinguishing more closely between freedom from external coercion (libertas a coactione) and freedom from intrinsic necessity (libertas ab intrinseca necessitate), he concedes to the will under the influence of grace only the former kind of liberty, at the same time maintaining against all sound ethics that in our fallen state the mere freedom from external coercion is sufficient for merit and demerit, and that therefore the really decisive freedom from intrinsic necessity is not required. In its exterior form this system seeks to clothe itself completely in Augustinian attire, and to give the impression that even St. Augustine taught unqualified Jansenism. The system teaches that the will of fallen man sways like a reed between two delights, the heavenly delight of grace (delectatio coelestis s. caritas) and the earthly delight of concupiscence (delectatio terrena s. concupiscentia). Both are ever present in man; like hostile forces, each strives for the mastery, the irresisting will being necessarily overcome by whichever delight happens to be the stronger. If the heavenly delight be stronger than the opposing earthly one, it overcomes as efficacious grace (gratia efficax s. magna), the will with an irresistible impulse for good. If, on the other hand, the evil delight be the stronger, it compels the will to sin and this in spite of the likewise present heavenly delight, which as sufficient grace (gratia sufficiens s. parva) is just too weak to gain the ascendancy over the other. If both these delights are exactly equal in strength so as to maintain a perfect equilibrium, then the will remains trembling in the balance. It will be seen that this theory is conceived in perfect accord with the parallelogram of forces, and reduces itself in its last analysis to the most extreme determinism, and absolutely kills all freedom. Not the conquering power of the heavenly delight (delectatio coelestis victrix), which is emphasized in the Augustinian system also, but the idea that this delight cannot be resisted (gratia irrestibilis) was branded as heresy by Innocent X on 31 May, 1653(cf. Denzinger, "Enchiridion Symbolorum", ed. Bannwart, S.J., 1908, n. 1093 and 1095).
The sources of our faith record a decided protest against the subjugation of free will by efficacious grace. For if grace, instead of elevating and ennobling free will, subverts it, then all the Biblical counsels and prohibitions relative to the affairs of salvation which can be accomplished only with the help of efficacious grace, become vain and meaningless. Only in the event of the will remaining free have the words of Christ any significance: "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matt., xix, 17). Saint Paul presupposes the cooperation of free will when he writes to his disciple Timothy: "Exercise thyself (exerce te ipsum) unto godliness" (I Tim., iv, 7), and again when he says generally: "And every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour" (I Cor., iii, 8). Tradition, as Calvin candidly admits (Instit., II, 3, 10), regards freedom of will and the efficacy of grace not as antagonistic principles, but as harmonious factors. Like Jansen, however, Calvin believes that he can regard St. Augustine as a supporter of his heresy. How unfounded and mistaken is this claim has been clearly demonstrated in the article AUGUSTINE, SAINT.
II. CATHOLIC SYSTEMS OF GRACE
According as the theological examination of grace and free will in its efforts to demonstrate the mutual relations between the two took as its starting-point respectively either grace or free will, two pairs of closely related systems were evolved: Thomism and Augustinianism, which take grace as the starting-point, and Molinism and Congruism, which set out from free will. These are the extremes. The middle ground is held by Syncretism, which may be regarded as an eclectic system making an effort at compromise.
This system rests upon thoughts to which St. Thomas himself in his time gave expression. It received its most significant development from the subtle Michael Bañez (1528-1604), a Dominican gifted with a remarkably clear and acute mind, who was the chief opponent of Molina. From the idea that God is the primal cause (causa prima) and the prime mover (motor primus), it is concluded that every act and every movement of the thoroughly contingent secondary causes (causae secundae) or creatures must emanate from the first cause, and that by the application of their potentiality to the act. But God, respecting the nature of things, moves necessary agents to necessary, and free agents to free, activity — including sin, except that God is the originator only of its physical entity, not of its formal malice. Inasmuch as the Divine influence precedes all acts of the creature, not in the order of time, but in that of causality, the motion emanating from God and seconded by free intelligent agents takes on the character of a physical premotion (proemotio physica) of the free acts, which may also be called a physical predetermination (proedeterminatio physica), because the free determination of the will is accomplished only by virtue of the divine predetermination.
In this premotion or predetermination is also found the medium of the Divine knowledge by which God's omniscience foresees infallibly all the future acts, whether absolute or conditional, of intelligent creatures, and which explains away at once the undemonstrable and imaginary scientia media of the Molinists. For just as certainly as God in His predetermined decrees knows His own will, so certainly does He know all the necessarily included determinations of the free will of creatures, be they of absolute or conditional futurity. Now if we carry these philosophical principles from the domain of the natural to the supernatural, then efficacious grace (gratia efficax) must be regarded as a physical premotion of the supernaturally equipped will to the performance of a good act, for revelation undeniably refers back to grace not only the possibility, but also the willing and the actual performance of a good act. But the will predetermined to this free good act must with a metaphysical certainty correspond with grace, for it would be a contradiction to assert that the consensus, brought about by efficacious grace, can at the same time be an actual dissensus. This historical necessity (necessitas consequentiae), involved in every act of freedom and distinguishable from the compelling necessity (necessitas consequentis), does not destroy the freedom of the act.
For although it be true that a man who is freely sitting cannot at the same time be standing (sensus compositus), nevertheless his freedom in sitting is maintained by the fact that he might be standing instead of sitting (sensus divisus). So it remains true that grace is not efficacious because free will consents, but conversely the free will consents because grace efficaciously premoves it to the willing and performance of a good act. Here gratia efficax is intrinsically and by its nature (ab intrinseco s. per se) efficacious, and consequently intrinsically and extrinsically different from sufficient grace (gratia sufficiens), which imparts only the posse, not the agere. To make merely sufficient grace efficacious a new supplementary grace must needs be supplied. How then is such a grace really sufficient (gratia vere sufficiens)? To this most of the Thomists reply: If the free will did not resist the grace offered, God would not hesitate to supply the efficacious grace so that the failure of the grace is to be referred to the sinful resistance of the free will.
A survey of the strictly regulated uniformity of this system, of the relentless and logical sequence of the idea of the causa prima and the motor primus in every natural and supernatural activity of creatures, and lastly of the lofty and resolute defense of the inalienable right of grace to be considered the chief factor in the affair of salvation, must instill into the minds of impartial and dispassionate students a deep respect for the Thomistic system. Nevertheless the Molinists claim that there are certain gaps and crevices in this majestic structure, and, by inserting the levers of criticism in these, they believe they can shake the foundations of the edifice and encompass its downfall. We shall here confine ourselves to the four greatest objections which Molinism marshals against Thomism.
The first objection is the danger that in the Thomistic system the freedom of the will cannot be maintained as against efficacious grace, a difficulty which by the way is not unperceived by the Thomists themselves. For since the essence of freedom does not lie in the contingency of the act nor in the merely passive indifference of the will, but rather in its active indifference — to will or not to will, to will this and not that — so it appears impossible to reconcile the physical predetermination of a particular act by an alien will and the active spontaneousness of the determination by the will itself; nay more, they seem to exclude each other as utterly as do determinism and indeterminism, necessity and freedom. The Thomists answer this objection by making a distinction between sensus compositus and sensus divisus, but the Molinists insist that this distinction is not correctly applicable here. For just as a man who is bound to a chair cannot be said to be sitting freely as long as his ability to stand is thwarted by indissoluble cords, so the will predetermined by efficacious grace to a certain thing cannot be said to retain the power to dissent, especially since the will, predetermined to this or that act, has not the option to receive or disregard the premotion, since this depends simply and solely on the will of God. And does not the Council of Trent (Sess. VI, cap. v, can. iv) describe efficacious grace as a grace which man "can reject", and from which he "can dissent"? Consequently, the very same grace, which de facto is efficacious, might under other circumstances be inefficacious.
Herein the second objection to the Thomistic distinction between gratia efficax and gratia sufficiens is already indicated. If both graces are in their nature and intrinsically different, it is difficult to see how a grace can be really sufficient which requires another grace to complete it. Hence, it would appear that the Thomistic gratia sufficiens is in reality a gratia insufficiens. The Thomists cannot well refer the inefficacy of this grace to the resistance of the free will, for this act of resistance must be traced to a proemotio physica as inevitable as the efficacious grace.
Moreover, a third great difficulty lies in the fact that sin, as an act, demands the predetermining activity of the "first mover", so that God would according to this system appear to be the originator of sinful acts. The Thomistic distinction between the entity of sin and its malice offers no solution of the difficulty. For since the Divine influence itself, which premoves ad unum, both introduces physically the sin as an act and entity, and also, by the simultaneous withholding of the opposite premotion to a good act, makes the sin itself an inescapable fatality, it is not easy to explain why sin cannot be traced back to God as the originator. Furthermore, most sinners commit their misdeeds, not with a regard to the depravity, but for the sake of the physical entity of the acts, so that ethics must, together with the wickedness, condemn the physical entity of sin. The Molinists deny that this objection affects their own system, when they postulate the concursus of God in the sinful act, and help themselves out of the dilemma by drawing the distinction between the entity and malice of sin. They say that the Divine co-operation is a concursus simultaneus, which employs the co-operating arm of God only after the will by its own free determination has decided upon the commission of the sinful act, whereas the Thomistic co-operation is essentially a concursus proevius which as an inevitable physical premotion predetermines the act regardless of the fact whether the human will can resist or not.
From this consideration arises the fourth and last objection to the claim of the Thomists, that they have only apparently found in their physical premotion an infallible medium by which God knows in advance with absolute certainty all the free acts of his creatures, whether they be good or bad. For as these premotions, as has been shown above, must in their last analysis be considered the knell of freedom, they cannot well be considered as the means by which God obtains a foreknowledge of the free acts of rational agents. Consequently the claims and proper place of the scientia media in the system may be regarded as vindicated.
Just as Thomism appeals to the teachings of St. Thomas as its authority, Augustinianism appeals to St. Augustine. Both systems maintain that grace is intrinsically and by its very nature efficacious, but Augustinianism claims merely a proedeterminatio moralis, and proceed not from the concept of God as the first and universal cause and prime mover, but with Jansen builds upon the idea of a twofold delight in human nature. The exponents of this system are: Berti, Bellelli, Louis Habert, Bertieri, Brancatus de Lauria, and others. The greatest defender of the system is Laurentius Berti (1696-1766), who in his work "De theologicis disciplinis" (Rome, 1739-) propounded the theory with such boldness, that the Archbishop of Vienne, Jean d'Yse de Saléon, in his work entitled "Le Bajanisme et le Jansénisme resuscités dans les livres de Bellelli et Bertieri" (s. l., 1745), declares it to be nothing other than a revival of Jansenism. After an official investigation, however, Benedict XIV exonerated the system.
The foundation of the system is the same as that of Jansenism, though it claims to be thoroughly Augustinian. In Augustinianism also there is a ceaseless conflict between the heavenly delight and the evil delight of the flesh, and the stronger delight invariably gains the mastery over the will. Sufficient grace, as a weak delight, imparts merely the ability (posse), or such a feeble will that only the advent of the victorious delight of grace (delectatio coelestis victrix, caritas) can guarantee the will and the actual deed. Therefore, like Thomism, the system postulates an essential difference between sufficient and efficacious grace. The necessity of gratia efficax does not spring from the subordinate relation between causa prima and causa secunda, but from the inherited perversity of fallen human nature, whose evil inclinations can no longer, as once in Paradise, be overcome by the converting grace (gratia versatilis; adjutorium sine quo non), but only by the intrinsically efficacious heavenly delight (gratia efficax; adjutorium quo).
Augustinianism differs, however, from Jansenism in its most distinctive feature, since it regards the influence of the victorious delight as not intrinsically coercive, nor irresistible. Though the will follows the relatively stronger influence of grace or concupiscence infallibly (infallibiliter), it never does so necessarily (necessario). Although it may be said with infallible certainty that a decent man of good morals will not walk through the public streets in a state of nudity, he nevertheless retains the physical possibility of doing so, since there is no intrinsic compulsion to the maintenance of decency. Similar to this is the efficacy of grace. We may refrain from a criticism of Augustinianism since it never really became a school, and since it has as little in common with true Augustinianism, as Jansenism has. (See the article AUGUSTINE, SAINT.)
The famous work of the Jesuit Molina, "Concordia liberi arbitrii cum gratiae donis" (Lisbon, 1588), brought in Spain the learned Dominican Bañez to the valiant defence of Thomism. In 1594 the dispute between the Thomists and the Molinists reached a fever heat. Pope Clement VIII in order to settle the dispute convened in Rome a Congregatio de Auxiliis (1598-1607), and to this the Dominicans and the Jesuits sent, at the pope's invitation, their ablest theologians. After the congregation had been in session for nine years without reaching a conclusion, Paul V, at the advice of St. Francis de Sales, permitted both systems, strongly forbidding the Jesuits to call the Dominicans Calvinists, or the Dominicans to call the Jesuits Pelagians. The deliberations of the congregation are fully set out in the article CONGREGATIO DE AUXILIIS.
It seems fitting to say a few words here concerning the celebrated Spanish Jesuit, Peter Arrubal, who took a leading part in the controversy between the Dominicans and the Jesuits (from 22 Feb., 1599, to 20 March, 1600) as well as in the disputations held before Clement VIII (1602-1606). Peter Arrubal was born in 1559 at Cenicero in the Diocese of Calahorra; he died at Salamanca on 22 Sept., 1608. On 21 April, 1579, he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Alcalá, Rome, and Salamanca. During the disputation on Grace, he distinguished himself by refuting the Apologia of the Dominicans, composed by them against the teachings of Molina. In the public disputations held before the Holy Father, he was the leader of the Jesuits. Successfully and impressively he demonstrated in these disputations that the teaching of Molina was altogether removed from Semipelagianism, and that he (Molina) merely taught the holdings of the Council of Trent and in no wise introduced into the Church any new doctrine. The Holy Father forbade the publication of any work on the disputed question by reason of the intense excitement then prevalent, consequently Arrubal's great work "De auxiliis gratiae divinae" remained unpublished. But two folio commentaries, "In primam partem Summae theol. S. Thomae" (Madrid, 1619, 1622); 2nd ed., Cologne, 1630), were prepared by him and published through the agency of P. De Villegas and P. De la Paz, both Jesuits.
The fundamental principles of the Molinistic system of grace are the following: efficacious grace and sufficient grace, considered in actu primo, are not in natura and intrinsically different one from the other (as the Thomists hold), but only accidentally so and according to their external success, inasmuch as sufficient grace becomes efficacious just as soon as the free will corresponds to it. If the will withholds its consent then sufficient grace remains efficacious and is termed "merely sufficient grace" (gratia mere sufficiens). Now since one and the same grace may in one instance be efficacious, and in another inefficacious, it follows that the so-called gratia efficax must be conceived according to its essence as efficax ab extrinsico. In this conception there is no lessening of the dignity and priority of grace. For since the anticipatory grace invests the created will, quite irrespective of its consent in actu primo, supernaturally with moral and physical powers, and since moreover, as a supernatural concursus, it influences the actus secundus or good act and thus becomes efficacious grace, it follows that the good act itself is the joint product of grace and free will, or rather more the work of grace than of free will. For it is not the will which by its free consent determines the power of grace, but conversely it is grace which makes the free good act possible, prepares for it and co-operates in its execution. The infallibility of the success, which is contained in the very idea of efficacious grace, is not to be explained by the intrinsic nature of this grace, nor by a supernatural proemotio physica, but rather by the Theologoumenon of the scientia media, by virtue of which God foreknows from all eternity whether this particular will would freely co-operate with a certain grace or not. But since God by virtue of His scientia media has at His own disposal all the sufficient and efficacious grace, the infallibility of the successful outcome remains in perfect accord with the freedom of the will, and furthermore the dogma concerning final perseverance and predestination is entirely preserved.
It is apparent that above all Molinism is determined to throw a wall of security around the free will. The Thomists maintain that this is done at the expense of grace. Instead of making the free will dependent on the power of grace, it is will which freely determines the success or failure of grace. Thus in the last analysis it is human will which decides whether a particular grace shall prove efficacious or not, although revelation teaches that it is God, who with His grace gives both the willing and the doing of a good act. Even friends of Molina, notably Cardinal Bellarmine (De grat. et lib. arbitr., I, 12), saw the force of this difficulty and declined to follow the extreme Molinism, which, by the way, was not taught by Molina. This explains the Instruction issued by Claudius Acquaviva, the General of the Jesuits in the year 1613, directing all the teaching body of the Society to lay increased stress on the fact that efficacious grace differs from sufficient grace not only ab extrinsico, but also in its moral (not its physical) nature even in actu primo, inasmuch as efficacious grace being a special gift of God has a higher moral value than merely sufficient grace, which according to the infallible foreknowledge of God recoils ineffectively in consequence of the resistance of the will. Thus it remains true that God Himself effects our good deeds, not that He merely supplies us with the potentiality.
Congruism is based on an unessentially modified form of Molinism, than which it is more carefully worked out in its details. It was endorsed by the Jesuit General Claudius Acquaviva (d. 1615) and by his successors Muzio Vitelleschi (d. 1645) and Piccolomini (d. 1651), and was made the official system of the Society of Jesus. The system was really originated by Molina himself, but received its definitive form from the labours of Bellarmine, Suarez, Vasquez, and Lessius. It takes its name from the gratia congrua, that is, a grace suited to the circumstances of the case, which is opposed to the gratia incongrua, a grace namely which is not suited to the circumstances of a certain case. Both of these concepts are purely Augustinian, as a reference to Augustine (Ad Simplicianum, I, Q. ii, n. 13) will show.
It is quite obvious that gratia congrua corresponds with efficacious grace, and gratia incongrua with merely sufficient grace. Accordingly the efficacy of a grace depends upon its peculiar agreement or congruity with the interior and exterior disposition of the recipient, whereby a certain relationship of choice is established between grace and free will, which at the hand of God in the light of His scientia media becomes the infallible means of carrying out all His designs of grace in great things and small with certain success and without violence. Even a small grace, which by reason of its congruity is attended with success, has an incomparably greater sanctifying value than an ever so much more powerful grace, which by reason of unfavourable circumstances of inclination, training, and environment fails in its purpose, and therefore as a gratia incongrua appears to the Divine foreknowledge as merely sufficient. Concerning the method of operation of the efficacious, or the congruous grace, the Congruists like the Molinists make three divisions: the efficacy of power (efficacia virtutis); the efficacy of union (efficacia connexionis); the efficacy of infallibility (efficacia infallibilitatis).
The efficacy of the power to will and to do is peculiar to the efficacious and sufficient grace, that is to say, it is derived neither from the human will nor from the Divine foreknowledge. The efficacy of the union between act and grace depends upon the free will, because according to the dogma efficacious grace is not irresistible, but can be rejected at any time. The efficacy of infallibility springs not from the physical nature of grace but from the infallible foreknowledge of God (scientia media), which cannot be deceived. After due consideration of all the various phases of the Catholic doctrine of grace, it would seem that the congruistic remodelled Molinism comes fairly near the truth, because it is intelligently adjusted between the anti-grace Pelagianism and Semipelagianism on the one hand, and the anti-free-will Calvinism and Jansenism on the other. Nevertheless there are numerous critics who find much to object to in Congruism, and who fail to see in it a clear solution of the problem of grace and free will. They find it difficult to believe that grace adjusts itself slavishly to all the circumstances of the recipient, when the story of many a conversion shows that grace simply lays hold of man and without much parley leads him whithersoever it would have him go. Thus, grace does not depend for its efficacy on the congruity of the circumstances, but conversely the congruity of the circumstances is shaped and brought about by grace. Like all the other systems Congruism is forced to the confession: "We are standing before an unsolved mystery."
In the conviction that in each of the four systems we have thus far considered there must be in spite of imperfections many grains of truth, the Syncretic system hopes by proceeding in an eclectic manner, by adopting the good points of the various systems and eliminating all that is improbable and secondary, to evolve another or fifth system. The first incitement to the creation of this system came from the Paris Sorbonne (Ysambert, Isak, Habert, Duplessis d'Argentre, Tournely), whose views received a certain consecration from the fact that St. Alphonsus Liguori, the great Doctor of the Church, endorsed them ("Op. dogmat.", ed. Walter, I, 517 sqq. ; II, 707, sqq.). Among more recent exponents of this system may be mentioned: Godfrey a Graun, Schwetz, Cardinal Katschthaler, Herrmann. The distinguishing trait of the Syncretic system is found in the acceptance of two quite distinct sorts of efficacious grace, namely, the (Thomistic-Augustinian) gratia ab intrinseco efficax and the (Molinistic-Congruistic) gratia ab extrinsico efficax. Their respective functions are so apportioned, that the intrinsically predetermining grace of the Thomists (i.e. of the Augustinians, as in e.g. in the writings of St. Alphonsus Liguori) is employed in the difficult works, e.g. in the patient endurance of great trials, in the overcoming of sever temptations, in the execution of difficult duties, etc.- while on the other hand the non-predetermining grace of the Molinists is reserved for the less difficult good works, such as a short prayer, a slight mortification, etc. Both these graces are given by God for the performance of their respective functions.
Prayer is placed a a link joining the two, and as the proper and practically infallible means of obtaining the Thomistic grace necessary for the performance of the difficult works of salvation. Who prays will secure his eternal salvation; who does not pray will be lost forever. If any one thing is to be specially singled out for commendation in this Syncretic system of grace, it is its insistence on the fact, which cannot be too strongly emphasized, that prayer is our individual duty, an absolute necessity and an infallible means in the attainment of our eternal salvation. Our minds cannot be too thoroughly imbued with the truth of the statement that our present provision of grace is essentially and intrinsically a magnificent economy of prayer. Even though Syncretism had performed no other service than the vigorous proclamation of this great truth, it alone were sufficient to rescue the system from oblivion. The system has not, it is true, solved the real problem of the relation between grace and free will. On the contrary, the linking together of the two kinds of efficacious grace only increases the difficulties found in the other systems. Consequently this system ends like the others in the inevitable conviction that we are confronted by a great mystery.