Saturday, September 18, 2010


In his website article on Luís Molina Alfred Freddoso provides some historical context:

The most famous and controversial of Molina's three published works was the Liberi arbitrii cum gratiae donis, divina praescientia, providentia, praedestinatione et reprobatione concordia (A Reconciliation of Free Choice with the Gifts of Grace, Divine Foreknowledge, Providence, Predestination and Reprobation) (first edition, Lisbon 1588; second edition, Antwerp 1595). Popularly known simply as the Concordia, this work was in large part extracted from the Commentaria in primam divi Thomae partem (Commentaries on the First Part of St Thomas's Summa Theologiae), which was subsequently published at Cuenca in 1592. Molina also authored a five-volume work on political philosophy, De Justitia et Jure (On Justice and Law), the first complete edition of which appeared only posthumously (Venice, 1614). Although there are also modern editions of a few unpublished pieces, most of Molina's shorter tracts and commentaries survive only in manuscript form.

The publication of the first edition of the Concordia ignited a fierce controversy about grace and human freedom that had already been smoldering for two decades between the youthful Society of Jesus (founded in 1540) and its theological opponents. At Louvain, the Jesuit Leonard Lessius had been assailed by the followers of Michael Baius for harboring views on grace and freedom allegedly contrary to those of St Augustine. In Spain and Portugal, the Jesuits were accused of doctrinal novelty by theologians of the more established religious orders, especially the Dominicans, led by the redoubtable Bañez.

When the dispute began to jeopardize civil as well as ecclesiastical harmony, political and religious leaders in Iberia implored the Vatican to intervene. In 1597 Pope Clement VIII established the Congregatio de Auxiliis (Commission on Grace) in Rome, thus initiating a ten-year period of intense investigation--including eighty-five hearings and forty-seven debates--that rendered the Concordia one of the most carefully scrutinized books in Western intellectual history. At first, things did not go well for the Jesuits; … [h]owever, due to the efforts of Cardinals Robert Bellarmine and Jacques du Perron, Molina's views emerged unscathed in the end. In 1607 Pope Paul V issued a decree allowing both parties to defend their own positions but enjoining them not to call one another's views heretical.

In a shorter article about "Molinism" itself, Freddoso writes:

[God's grace] is rendered efficacious not only by Peter's free consent but also, and indeed more principally, by God's antecedent predetermination to confer a "congruous" grace that will guarantee Peter's acting well in [the circumstances involving that grace]. This model, which brings Molinism more into line with Bañezianism, is known as Congruism and was worked out in detail by Robert Bellarmine and Francisco Suárez. In 1613 Congruism was mandated for all Jesuit theologians by the Father General Claude Aquiviva. …

Other Molinists, including Molina himself, vigorously reject any … antecedent absolute election of Peter to salvation. They insist instead that God simply chooses to create a world in which he infallibly foresees Peter's good use of the supernatural graces afforded him, and only then does he accept Peter among the elect in light of his free consent to those graces." (emphasis added)

God's election of Peter to salvation is not "controlled" by Peter's response to His grace, since the world in which Peter responds to God's grace unto salvation depends in the first place on God's willing to actualize the world that contains that particular good. As for why God has not actualized the world in which all persons responded well to His grace, I suspect it may be the case that there are some persons who reject all possible graces in every conceivable world. I believe Alvin Plantinga refers to this as "transworld depravity." It's conceivable and therefore at least a sound initial premise. Aside from that notion, however, the very meaning of grace is that it is gratuitous: a gift, not an obligation. Hence, in seeing Peter willing to sin, God is not obliged to provide him with grace sufficient that forestalls his desire to sin, since leaving Peter to his own devices is much a mode of God's intrinsic and complete goodness as delivering otherwise saving graces. A good God is a just God is a gracious God. As Walter McDonald says in his article, "Congruism", in The Catholic Encyclopedia:

…grace which proves efficacious is given by God to one who, He foresees, will use it freely; whereas He foresees no less surely, when giving a grace which remains merely sufficient, that it will not last in the recipient beyond the initial or necessary stage of its duration. Congruism further insists that the motion passes into the free stage when the circumstances are comparatively favourable (congruous) to it; but when they are comparatively adverse (not congruous), it will not continue, at least as a rule. The circumstances are to be deemed favourable or unfavourable not absolutely, but comparatively, that is, in proportion to the intensity of thegrace; for it is plain that, no matter how adverse they may be, God can overcome them by a strong impulse of grace such as would not be needed in other less stubborn cases; and, vice versa, very powerful Divine impulses may fail where the temptation to sin is very great. Not that in the necessary stage of the motion there is not sufficient energy, as we may say, to continue, always supposing freedom; or that it is not within the competence of thewill, when the crucial point has been reached, to discontinue the motion which is congruous or to continue that which is not so. … The will is likely to be drawn, and almost invariably is drawn, by the stronger, i.e. more congruous, motive; it is not, however, drawn ofnecessity, nor even quite invariably, if Molinism is true. In this, which is the only psychologically intelligible sense of Congruism, Molina, Lessius, and all their followers were Congruists just as much as Francisco Suárez or Bellarmine.

McDonald notes a lasting theological dispute in all this:

Difference of opinion among Molinists is manifested only when they proceed to inquire into the cause of the Divine selection: whether it is due to any antecedent decree of predestination which God means to carry out at all costs, selecting purposely to this end only such graces as He foresees to prove efficacious, and passing over or omitting to select, no less purposely, such as he foresees would be without result if given. Francisco Suárez holds that the selection of graces which are foreseen to prove efficacious is consequent on and necessitated by such an antecedent decree, whereby all, and only, those who will actually be saved were infallibly predestined to salvation, and this antecedently to any foreknowledge, whether of their actual or merely conditional correspondence with the graces they may receive. The great body of the theologians of the Society of Jesus, as well as of other followers of Molina, while admitting that individuals, such as St. Paul, may be, and have been, predestined in that way, do not regard it as the only, or even the ordinary, course of Divine Providence.

Joseph Pohle, in "Molinism" in The Catholic Encyclopedia, writes:

Whereas Molinism tries to clear up the mysterious relation between grace and free will by starting from the rather clear concept of freedom, the Thomists, in their attempt to explain the attitude of the will towards grace, begin with the obscure idea of efficacious grace. The question which both schools set themselves to answer is this: Whence does efficacious grace (gratia efficax), which includes in its very concept the actual free consent of the will, derive its infallible effect; and how is it that, in spite of the infallible efficacy of grace, the freedom of the will is not impaired? It is evident that, in every attempt to solve this difficult problem, Catholic theologians must safeguard two principles: first, the supremacy and causality of grace (against Pelagianism and Semipelagianism), and second, the unimpaired freedom of consent in the will (against early Protestantism and Jansenism). For both these principles are dogmas of the Church, clearly and emphatically defined by the Council of Trent. Now, whilst Thomism lays chief stress on the infallible efficacy of grace, without denying the existence and necessity of the free cooperation of the will, Molinism emphasizes the unrestrained freedom of the will, without detracting in any way from the efficacy, priority, and dignity of grace. As in the tunnelling of a mountain, galleries started by skilful engineers from opposite sides meet to form but one tunnel, thus it might have been expected that, in spite of different and opposite starting-points, the two schools would finally meet and reach one and the same scientific solution of the important problem. If we find, however, that this is not the case, and that they passed each other along parallel lines, we are inclined to attribute this failure to the intricatenature of the subject in question, rather than to the inefficiency of the scholars. The problem seems to lie so far beyond the horizon of the human mind, that man will never be able fully to penetrate its mystery.

Pohle continues:

Freedom of the will is a consequence of intelligence, and as such the most precious gift of man, an endowment which he can never lose without annihilating his own nature. Man must of necessity be free in every state of life, actual or possible, whether that state be the purely natural (status purœ naturœ), or the state of original justice in paradise (status justitiœ originalis), or the state of fallen nature (status naturœ lapsœ), or the state of regeneration (status naturœ reparatœ). Were man to be deprived of freedom of will, he would necessarily degenerate in his nature and sink to the level of the animal.

Pohle then notes that:

Molinism escaped every suspicion of Pelagianism by laying down at the outset that the soul with its faculties (the intellect and will) must be first constituted by prevenient grace a supernatural principle of operation in actu primo, before it can, in conjunction with the help of the supernatural concursus of God, elicit a salutary act in actu secundo. Thus, the salutary act is itself an act of grace rather than of the will; it is the common work of God and man, because and in so far as the supernatural element of the act is due to God and its vitality and freedom to man. It must not be imagined, however, that the will has such an influence on grace that its consent conditions or strengthens the power of grace; the fact is rather that the supernatural power of grace is first transformed into the vital energy of the will, and then, as a supernatural concursus, excites and accompanies the free and salutary act. In other words, as a helping or co-operating grace (gratia adiuvans seu cooperans), it produces the act conjointly with the will. According to this explanation, not only does Divine grace make a supernatural act possible, but the act itself, though free, is wholly dependent on grace, because it is grace which makes the salutary act possible and which stimulates and assists in producing it. …

It is rather the will itself which by its consent, under the restrictions mentioned above, renders the prevenient grace (gratia prœveniens) co-operative and the completely sufficient grace (gratia vere sufficiens) efficacious; for, to produce the salutary act, the free will need only consent to the prevenient and sufficient grace, which it has received from God. This theory reveals forthwith two characteristic features of Molinism, which stand in direct opposition to the principles of Thomism. The first consists in this, that the actus primus (i.e. the power to elicit a supernatural act) is, according to Molinism, due to a determining influx of grace previous to the salutary act (influxus prœvius, gratia prœveniens), but that God enters into the salutary act itself (actus secundus) only by means of a concomitant supernatural concursus (concursus simultaneus, gratia cooperans). The act, in so far as it is free, must come from the will; but the concursus prœvius of the Thomists, which is ultimately identical with God's predestination of the free act, makes illusory the free self-determination of the will, whether in giving or withholding its consent to the grace.

The second characteristic difference between the two systems of grace lies in the radically different conception of the nature of merely sufficient grace (gratia sufficiens) and of efficacious grace (gratia efficax). Whereas Thomism derives the infallible success of efficacious grace from the very nature of this grace, and assumes consequently the grace to be efficacious intrinsically (gratia efficax ab intrinseco), Molinism ascribes the efficacy of grace to the free co-operation of the will and consequently admits a grace which is merely extrinsically efficacious (gratia efficax ab extrinseco). It is the free will that by the extrinsic circumstance of its consent makes efficacious the grace offered by God. If the will gives its consent, the grace which in itself is sufficient becomes efficacious; if it withholds its consent, the grace remains inefficacious (gratia inefficax), and it is due — not to God, but — solely to the will that the grace it reduced to one which is merely sufficient (gratia mere sufficiens).

Pohle goes on to argue that:

This explanation gave the Molinists an advantage over the Thomists, not only in that they safeguarded thereby the freedom of the will under the influence of grace, but especially because they offered a clearer account of the important truth that the grace, which is merely sufficient and therefore remains inefficacious, is nevertheless always really sufficient (gratia vere sufficiens), so that it would undoubtedly produce the salutary act for which it was given, if only the will would give its consent. Thomism, on the other hand, is confronted by the following dilemma: Either the grace which is merely sufficient (gratia mere sufficiens) is able by its own nature and without the help of an entirely different and new grace to produce the salutary act for which it was given, or it is not: if it is not able, then this sufficient grace is in reality insufficient (gratia insufficiens), since it must be supplemented by another; if it is able to produce the act by itself, then sufficient and efficacious grace do not differ in nature, but by reason of something extrinsic, namely in that the will gives its consent in one case and withholds it in the other.

None the less, Pohle adds, "At this stage of the controversy the Thomists urge with great emphasis the grave accusation that the Molinists, by their undue exaltation of man's freedom of will, seriously circumscribe and diminish the supremacy of the Creator over His creatures, so that they destroy the efficacy and predominance of grace and make impossible in the hands of God the infallible result of efficacious grace." He then argues that "The consideration of these serious difficulties leads us to the very heart of Molina's system, and reveals the real Gordian knot of the whole controversy. For Molinism attempts to meet the objections just mentioned by the doctrine of the Divine scientia media." Pohle elaborates on scientia media:

If, for example, He foresees by means of the scientia media that St. Peter, after his denial of Christ, shall freely co-operate with a certain grace, He decrees to give him this particular grace and none other; the grace thus conferred becomes efficacious in bringing about his repentance. In the case of Judas, on the other hand, God, foreseeing the future resistance of this Apostle to a certain grace of conversion, decreed to allow it, and consequently bestowed upon him a grace which in itself was really sufficient, but remained inefficacious solely on account of the refractory disposition of the Apostle's will. Guided by this scientia media God is left entirely free in the disposition and distribution of grace. On His good pleasure alone it depends to whom He will give the supreme grace of final perseverance, to whom He will refuse it; whom He will receive into Heaven, whom He will exclude from His sight for ever. This doctrine is in perfect harmony with the dogmas of the gratuity of grace, the unequal distribution of efficacious grace, the wise and inscrutable operations of Divine Providence, the absolute impossibility to merit final perseverance, and lastly the immutable predestination to glory or rejection; nay more, it brings these very dogmas into harmony, not only with the infallible foreknowledge of God, but also with the freedom of the created will. The scientia media is thus in reality the cardinal point of Molinism; with it Molinism stands or falls. This doctrine of the scientia media is the battlefield of the two theological schools; the Jesuits were striving to maintain and fortify it, while the Dominicans are ever putting forth their best efforts to capture or turn the position.

Pohle then adds some meta-theological considerations:

As long as there is an historical development of dogma, it is natural that, in the course of time and under the supernatural guidance of the Holy Ghost, new ideas and new terms should gain currency. The deposit of faith, which is unchangeable in substance but admits of development, contains these ideas from the beginning, and they are brought to their full development by the tireless labours of the theological schools. The idea of the scientia media Molina had borrowed from his celebrated professor, Pedro da Fonseca, S.J. ("Commentar. in Metaphys. Aristotelis", Cologne, 1615, III), who called it scientia mixta. The justification for this name Molina found in the consideration that, in addition to the Divine knowledge of the purely possible (scientia simplicis intelligentiœ) and the knowledge of the actually existing (scientia visionis), there must be a third kind of "intermediate knowledge", which embraces all objects that are found neither in the region of pure possibility nor strictly in that of actuality, but partake equally of both extremes and in some sort belong to both kinds of knowledge. In this class are numbered especially those free actions, which, though never destined to be realized in historical fact, would come into existence if certain conditions were fulfilled. A hypothetical occurrence of this kind the theologians call a conditional future occurrence (actus liber conditionate futurus seu futuribilis).

Pohle remarks that for

…the very purpose of securing the freedom of the will and in no way to do violence to it by a physical premotion of any sort, the Molinists insisted all along that the knowledge of God precedes the decrees of His will. They thus kept this knowledge free and uninfluenced by any antecedent absolute or conditioned decree of God's will. Molinism is pledged to the following principle: The knowledge of God precedes as a guiding light the decree of His will, and His will is in no way the source of His knowledge. It was because by their scientia media they understood a knowledge independent of any decrees, that they were most sharply assailed by the Thomists.

I don't have much to add at this time. Just posting what I've been reading. I would like to note, however, that if God's actual decrees "metaphysically precede" His knowledge of that which He can decree, then He is not free: for His actions would be infallibly known by Himself before He committed them. How His existence outside time ties into all this, I am not certain. Suffice to say I am a Thomist by "Leonine" default, not by ideological indefatigability. [I can't believe I typed indefatigability correctly in one burst of key strokes! {Or did I?}] After all, I felt called to the Jesuits before I felt called to Thomas, so Molinism has always figured in there somewhere.

Stay tuned.

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