REALITY—A Synthesis Of Thomistic Thought
CH59: EFFICACIOUS GRACE
Treating the questions of God's foreknowledge, of predestination and of grace, many Molinists, in order to denote themselves as Thomists, refer to classic Thomism under the name of "Bannesianism." Informed theologians see in this practice an element of pleasantry, even of comedy.
Our purpose here is to insist on a principle admitted by all theologians, a principle wherein Thomists see the deepest foundation of the distinction between grace sufficient and grace efficacious.
Revelation makes it certain that many graces given by God do not produce the effect (at least the entire effect) toward which they are given, while other graces do produce this effect. Graces of the first kind are called sufficient graces. They give the power to do good, without bringing the good act itself to pass, since man resists their attraction. The existence of such graces is absolutely certain, whatever Jansenists say. Without these graces, God, contrary to His mercy and His justice, would command the impossible. Further, since without these graces sin would be inevitable, sin would no longer be sin, and could not justly be punished. Judas could have really here and now avoided his crime, as could the impenitent robber who died near our Savior.
Graces of the second kind are called efficacious. They not only give us real power to observe the precepts, but carry us on to actual observance, as in the case of the penitent robber. The existence of actual efficacious grace is affirmed, equivalently, in numerous passages of Scripture. Ezechiel  says, for example: I will give you a new heart and put in you a new spirit, I will take away your heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My spirit in you and bring it about that you follow My commands and observe and practice My laws. Again, the Psalmist says:  All that God wills, He does. The word "wills" must here be understood as meaning all that God wills, not conditionally, but absolutely. Thus He wills a man's free conversion, that of Assuerus, e. g.: at the prayer of Esther:  Then God changed the wrath of the King into mildness. God's omnipotence is, in these texts, assigned as reason for the infallible efficacy of God's decree. .
The Second Council of Orange, against the Semi-Pelagians, after citing many of these texts, says of the efficaciousness of grace:  Whenever we do good, God, in us and with us, brings our work to pass. Hence there is a grace which not only gives real power to act right (a power which exists also in him who sins): but which produces the good act, even while, far from excluding our own free cooperation, it arouses rather this cooperation, carries us on to consent.
St. Augustine  thus explains these same texts: God, by His power, most hidden and most efficacious, turns the king's heart from wrath to mildness.
The great majority of older theologians, Augustinians, Thomists, Scotists, hold that the grace called efficacious is efficacious of itself, because God wills it to be so, not because we will it to be so, by an act of consent foreseen by God. God is, not a mere spectator, but the Author of salvation. How is grace self-efficacious? Here these older authors differ. Some recur to the divine motion called premotion, some to what they call "victorious delectation," some to a kind of attraction. But, amid all differences, they agree that grace is of itself efficacious.
Molina, on the contrary, maintains that grace is efficacious extrinsically, by our consent, foreseen by scientia media. This scientia media has always been rejected by Thomists, who say that it implies a passivity in God relative to our free determinations (futuribilia, and future): and that it leads to "determination by circumstances" (since it is by knowledge of these circumstances that God would foresee what man would choose). Thus the very being and goodness of the will and salutary choice would come from man and not from God. Granted equal grace to each, says Molina,  it can come to pass that one is converted, the other not. Even with a smaller aid of grace one can rise, while another with greater grace does not rise, and remains hardened.
Molina's opponents answer thus: Here we have a good, the good of a salutary act, which does not come from God, Source of all good. How then maintain the word of Jesus:  Without Me you can do nothing? Or that of St. Paul:  What hast thou that thou hast not received? If, with equal grace, and amid equal circumstances, one is converted and the other not, then the convert has a good which he has not received.
Molinists object: If, in order to do good, you demand, besides sufficient grace, also self-efficacious grace, does sufficient grace really and truly give you a real power to act?
It does, so Thomists reply, if it is true that real power to act is distinct from the act itself; if it is true  that the architect, before he actually builds, has a real power to build, that he who is seated has a real power to rise; that he who is sleeping is not blind, but has a real power to see. Further, if the sinner would not resist sufficient grace, he would receive the efficacious grace, which is offered in the preceding sufficient grace, as fruit is offered in the blossom. If he resists he merits privation of new aid.
But does St. Thomas explicitly distinguish self-efficacious grace from that grace which gives only the power to act?He does, and often. God's aid, he says,  is twofold. God gives the power, by infusing strength and grace, by which man becomes able and apt to act. But He gives further the good act itself, by interiorly moving and urging us to good... since His power, by His great good will, operates in us to will and to do. Again:  Christ is the propitiation for our sins, for some efficaciously, for all sufficiently, because His blood is sufficient price for the salvation of all, but does not have efficacy except in the elect, because of impediment. Does God remedy this impediment? He does, often, but not always. And here lies the mystery. God, he says,  withholds nothing that is due. And he adds:  God gives to all sufficient aid to keep from sin. Again, speaking of efficacious grace:  If it is given to this sinner, it is by mercy; if it is refused to another, it is by justice.
Thomists add,  in explanation: Every actual grace which is self-efficacious for an imperfect act, say attrition, is sufficient for a more perfect salutary act, say contrition. This is manifestly the doctrine of St. Thomas.  If man resists the grace which gives him the power to do good, he merits privation of the grace which would carry him on to actual good deed. But the saint has not merely distinguished the two graces, he has pointed out the deepest foundation for this distinction.