This post will be in several parts, although people can throw in their two cents before I continue. In the first part, I just want to highlight the concepts of sufficient and efficient grace, and then I will move on to talk about how this has affected theology, with emphasis on EENS.Sufficient grace
is the grace all men are given but that in itself is not enough to save, except for the Jesuits, who apparently said it was enough.Efficient grace
is a higher form of grace that if corresponded with leads to justification.
If you are anything like me, dear reader, your first thought will be to do away with one of these concepts entirely. "Why are there two forms of grace?" you might say. "Why can't there just be 'grace'?" That kind of thinking, which I'm guessing is typical of newbies, will lead you to the clean and satisfying Jansenist position. Alas, that position is diabolical and wrong, as I have been fortunate enough to learn very quickly after my whirlwind two or three-day long love affair with it.
The distinction between sufficient grace and efficient grace is necessary. That is because if there is only "efficient grace," the more powerful form of grace, then the question arises as to how it can be resisted by so many. If it can be resisted, then it's not very efficient, is it? And if it can't be resisted, that destroys free will.
But if there is only "sufficient grace," the weaker form of grace, then the whole system falls apart, because sufficient grace cannot compel anyone, in the sense that God compels His chosen. Briefly, theories that favor efficient grace only tend to deny free will; while those that favor sufficient grace only tend to insult grace itself and the power of God. For that reason, theologians have struggled to reconcile the two types of grace.
The concepts of sufficient and efficient grace were part of a huge battle in the 17th century between Jansenists, Jesuits, and Thomists so let me sum up their positions in my inept and no doubt flawed way --
* The Jesuits
following Molina believed all men had sufficient grace to be saved, and that through free will they could either embrace it or not.
* The Jansenists
abhorred the idea of sufficient grace, eliminating it altogether. For them it was unthinkable that anyone could resist God's grace, as if this were a lessening of the power of God. So they claimed that people were given efficient grace, which they can theoretically resist, but practically never do.
* The Thomists/Dominicans
thought that all men were given sufficient grace, but that God gave MORE grace to those whom He chose, and that those are given efficient grace.
The problem with the Jesuit theory, at least according to Pascal, is that it denies the necessity of efficacious grace. With the Jansenists, the underlying implication, what is not said, is that all those who are not saved don't get any grace at all, sufficient or efficient. This theory denies God's universal salvific will, something that they apparently hoped no one would point out. The Thomists, as Pascal showed in his Provinciales, agreed with the Jansenists in all but name. Here is the section in Pascal where he tries to shame a Dominican into acquiescence.
"Where are we now?" I exclaimed; "and which side am I to take
here? If I deny the sufficient grace, I am a Jansenist. If I admit it,
as the Jesuits do, in the way of denying that efficacious grace is
necessary, I shall be a heretic, say you. And if I admit it, as you
do, in the way of maintaining the necessity of efficacious grace, I
sin against common sense, and am a blockhead, say the Jesuits. What
must I do, thus reduced to the inevitable necessity of being a
blockhead, a heretic, or a Jansenist? And what a sad pass are
matters come to, if there are none but the Jansenists who avoid coming
into collision either with the faith or with reason, and who save
themselves at once from absurdity and from error!"
Pascal mocked the Jesuits for giving everyone a sufficient grace that is in many cases not really sufficient. The mockery can be turned around right back at him. Firstly, "sufficient" does not mean "sufficient in itself," but only "sufficient to lead a man to efficacious grace." Secondly, the Jansenist theory, though internally consistent, has it so that God literally WILLS for men to be damned and WILLS evil. If God only gives his efficacious grace to a select few, who cannot resist it, then how can you possibly say that God wants to save all men? The others are left completely high and dry, abandoned by God.
The Dominican theory was deemed stupid because, through wordplay, it pretended to be an improvement on the Jansenist system while really being a rehash of it. The Jesuits supposedly did not admit efficacious grace, only saying that all men are given sufficient grace. The Thomist/Dominicans tried to avoid this error by saying that some men are given efficacious grace, out of gratuitous favoritism, because God can do what He wants. But this denied God's universal salvific will just as surely as the Jansenists did. It was a difference in name only.
Let me put it another way. The Jansenists said that there was no sufficient grace and that you could only be saved by efficacious grace; the Thomists said that there was sufficient grace, but that you could still only be saved by efficacious grace, which was given gratuitously. In either case, where does the free will come in? And where does God's universal salvific will have any part?
Believe it or not, I mostly side with the Jesuits. The problem is that there are conflicting reports about what Molina, their controversial representative at this time, actually believed. The 19th century Cardinal Gousset, for one, says that the "Molinists" believed in both efficacious and sufficient grace, while Pascal says they only believed in sufficient grace ( and for the sake of convenience, it is Pascal's line that I have taken throughout this post ). If Gousset is right, then I don't see why there was ever a controversy, because that would mean that Molina really held what later became known as "congruism." Congruism is what was later believed by St. Alphonsus Liguori, and earlier, in embryonic form, by both Aquinas and Augustine, in my opinion.
Via congruism, all men are given sufficient grace, and if they correspond with it, by their free will
, working together with God's predestination, they are given efficient grace. St. Thomas speaks somewhere about how theologians often assume that predestination and free will are two opposed principles when they actually harmonize perfectly. They work together in a simultaneity, man choosing with his free will what God grants through predestination. This is congruism in its essence although it didn't have the fancy name yet. I believe both Aquinas and Augustine held an incipient form of congruism and that this is the correct position on grace.
Of all three disputants listed above, Jansenists, Jesuits and Thomists, the Jesuits came closest to pure congruism, and maybe they actually espoused it. Due to conflicting reports, it's hard to say, but they definitely came the closest.
The next post will try to show how this tempest in a teapot, one that consumed 17th century theology, had ramifications much bigger than anyone saw. After the smoke cleared, it became evident that something had been revealed that was not intended to be revealed, that the bomb blast had opened Pandora's box -- suddenly, the Catholic world became aware that there was grace outside the Church.
This had always been known, of course -- if there's no grace outside the Church, how could anyone convert to the Church? -- but it wasn't known
known. I'd compare it to how we all know that we're going to die, but that it doesn't hit us that we're really
going to die until a midlife crisis or some other shocking moment. Until then, you know but without really knowing, living in blissful, affected ignorance.
Very few in the Church before the 16th century really wanted to go very deeply into the consequences of grace existing outside the Church. You can see how St. Thomas teetered on this precipice and continually pulled himself back. St. Augustine hinted at it as a "vortex of confusion."
The Jesuits did not have that kind of prudence. With their tendency to pick apart every piece of information like Swiss watchmakers, they set themselves to their volatile work.
Because if God gives his grace to all men, without exception, and this must be maintained without falling into heresy, then the question arises, at which point does this grace save? You cannot be saved outside the Church, of course, but WHERE is the Church? Isn't it where the grace is?
This is what led to what looks, to the naked eye, like a new semi-Pelagianism. But maybe it is not as simple as I'd previously thought.