By Noah Torres, University of Dallas
I. INTRODUCTION: CONTROVERSIA DE AUXILIIS AND MOLINA
During the sixteenth-century, a monumental debate in theology arose regarding grace and free will between the Order of Preachers and of the Society of Jesus. Known as the controversia de auxiliis (1582-1607), debate centered on whether or not “God’s auxilium [assistance] was intrinsically and infallibly efficacious [and if] its efficacy was determined by the free response of the human recipient.” That is, do God’s graces always turn man towards God and does man merit those very graces through human action?
At the helm of the Jesuits in the controversy was Luis de Molina, who claimed that it was he– not the Dominicans– who properly “acknowledged Aquinas as the ‘sun and prince of scholastic theology’.” In Molina’s opinion, Dominicans such as Domingo Báñez, misinterpreted Thomas Aquinas by asserting that God moves the will towards justification via praemotio physica (physical premotion), which is best understood as “God determinately and indefectibly mov[ing] the creaturely free will from a state of potency to a state of act by a created motion that is distinct from and naturally antecedent to the creature’s own free act.” In vehement disagreement, Molina “denounced the Dominicans as Calvinists.”
Alternatively, Molina insists that “the assistance through which we are helped by God towards justification is not efficacious intrinsically and by its nature; rather it being efficacious depends upon the free consent of the faculty of choice.” Molina notes that divine aid is given according to God’s scientia media, which is his “inscrutable comprehension of each faculty of free choice… He [sees] what each such faculty would do with its innate freedom were it to be placed in this or in that [circumstance].” Men freely select this or that action, thereby making grace efficacious or merely sufficient. In response, Báñez and his confreres claimed Molina “evokes the menace of Pelagianism.” Consequently, the two schools would fight for over twenty-five years until papal intervention; however, Pope Paul V’s decision to let the Thomistic-Báñezian and Molinist schools coexist has left certain troublesome Molinist propositions undisturbed. Molina’s insistence that free will is indifferent and possesses the sole initiative of actualizing grace via concurrence is inimical to God’s causal power. If God and human free will concomitantly cause human action, then there is one act– human willing– that reduces God to a dependent coordinating cause equal to free will whose efficacy is totally conditional and applicable solely when He sees the possibility for efficacy to arise. Further, Molina’s notion of scientia media is unsound, as he contends that God’s knowledge of things informs Him of when to concur with human action, yet because free will is the sole cause of action, nothing guarantees that such action will actually occur, thereby resulting in the entire thesis collapsing upon itself as it forces one to admit deficiency in God’s power and knowledge.
II. MOLINA ON FREE WILL AND HUMAN ACTION
- The Power of Alternatives
At the foundation of Molina’s teachings on grace is his notion of free will, which is best described as an indifferent power of alternatives. On Molina’s position;
Free will can be considered opposed to necessity. Thus, it is said, the free agent is one who, given all the requirements to act, can act or not act, or to do one thing the same as the contrary. In virtue of this liberty, the faculty by which the agent can work as so, receives the designation as ‘free’.
In other words, free will is not fixated on any particular object or end. Rather, the will is simply a power of alternatives; man is absolutely free to pursue commission or omission of this or that action; states of affairs are obtained only by the free agent. Consequently, if free will is nothing but the exercise of power of alternatives, then “in the will [voluntas], freedom formally lies, which unfolds prior to the judgement of the intellect.” Further, “freedom is in the indifferent cognition and understanding that has to precede a free act.” For Molina, “it is by no means necessary that he think of and deliberate about” teleological ends in executing an action; rather, man must merely possess the ability to deliberate about human action.
Molina demonstrates free choice with reference to “dissolute people”. He notes that when they do something debauched, “they do so without any comparisons or deliberations,” regarding the goodness of such an action. Persons also do not have to acknowledge counterfactuals in acting; that is, “cognition of the negation of a movement is not required in order for the faculty not to command the movement.” Molina “a priori allowed nothing to move the will in order to preserve its [creaturely] excellence.” The sole requirement for any human action–good or bad– is that the object of the act is conceived as “pleasurable or desirable [as] an appetitive act,” and not as a moral good Prescinding from this point, consider that if person, P, elects to kill victim, V, P does not have to consider not killing V in order to kill V; rather, P can simply will to kill V.Similarly, if P did not kill V, Molina’s initial assertion stands; P’s not-killing of V is simply a matter of the execution of his will, and not of any moral deliberation, conscious movement towards a necessary end, or knowledge of counterfactuals. Thus, the primary power of free will according to Molina is the pure power to pick something, with the appraisaitive power of the rational intellect assuming a secondary and posterior role in human action. Therefore, freedom is nothing but “the power of complete and active self-determination.”
- Certain Problems with Free Will as a Power of Alternatives
A number of problems arise from Molina’s conception of free will that have significant bearing on the operation of grace. First, the illustration of the indifference of free will indicates that all actions are purely the result of human choice. Concerningly, this indicates that sin is a free choice. However, if the Thomistic position on action is presupposed sin cannot be a free choice. Thomas holds that:
“The proximate internal cause of the human act is the reason and will, in respect of which man has a free-will; while the remote cause is the apprehension of the sensitive part, and also the sensitive appetite…[and] the will is moved to something in accord with reason.”
That is to say, prior to execution, the intellect ascertains moral good, and then the will moves towards it. The thing to which the will moves to “in accord with reason” is God. However, in the event of sin, it is not a free choice that occurs within man, rather it is a corruption of free choice. Sin is “not only the privation of good, which privation is its inordinateness, but also the act which is the subject of that privation.” On Molina’s position, good actions also must be the result of absolute free choice, however, considering Thomas’ articulation that the will moves to something that is in accord with reason– namely the Supreme Good which is beyond human comprehension–then the punishments of original sin are not particularly severe in Molina’s thesis. If, as Thomas asserts, “the natural inclination to [acquired] virtue is diminished by sin,” how could man even freely execute morally good actions as Molina claims? Aquinas is clear that “in the state of corrupt nature, man falls short of what he could do by his nature, so that he is unable to fulfil it by his own natural powers.” For Aquinas and Báñez, precisely because of man’s handicapped reason, God “infuses into man even those [good] habits which can be caused by a natural power.”  Moreso, in the order of habits that move man towards the supernatural goodness, Aquinas asserts that they “can never be in man except by Divine infusion,” both in the integral and corrupt state. Neither love for God nor movement towards Him, by nature of the differing degrees between God and man, can be caused by the latter. 
III. MOLINA ON THE CONCURSU GENERALE AND DIVINE GRACE
- God and Man as Coordinating Causes of Human Action
Logically prescinding from his teaching on human freedom, Molina contends that:
God concurs with secondary causes in their operations and effects, in such a way, namely, that just as a secondary cause immediately elicits its own operation and through it produces its terminus or effect, so too God by a sort of general concurrence immediately acts with it on that same operation and through the operation or action produces its terminus or effect.
That is to say, God does not act on secondary causes, such as the will, as Aquinas and Báñez affirm; rather, God concurs with secondary causes. If man is absolutely free to select whatever he wants, then, “God does nothing over and beyond the common course and order of things.” Rather, God operates in conjunction with secondary causes, which by eliciting their own operations, function solely according to their respective natures. Molina believes that it is “mistaken idea that creatures’ causal powers are essentially incomplete and thus need a kind of motio from their first cause.” Consequently, God’s concurrence is merely “an influence with the causes immediately on the actions and effects.” He does not mediate any concurrence prior to the human act; rather, general concurrence “emanates immediately onto each of their operations and is indifferent of itself.” Put simply, a human agent acts or moves freely per its essential qualities, and the concurrence of God is “nothing but the human act of free choice as [proximately] caused by God.” Molina also asserts that the degree to which grace is efficacious relies on man, noting that the will is “is able in its freedom to produce more intense or languid [supernatural] acts, just all the Doctors hold concerning the natural acts of free choice.” Consequently, as Matava rightly notes, regardless of Molina’s insistence that God concurs with the free execution of the human will, “there is one act—the human act of free choice—which is immediately produced by both God and the human person.” Concomitant to the action or movement of a nature, God does not determine actions nor give them their species. Further, according to Alfred J. Freddoso selecting this or that is not the fault of God, as general concurrence, “within its own order, causally sufficient (in the sense of “enough”) for its intended effect.” Conversely, when “the intended effect is produced, God’s concurrence is said to be efficacious with respect to it [the effect].”
- The Problem of Concurrence and Grace
In the order of grace, as Cessario notes, Molina’s account of the relation of the free will to God effectively places the “burden of actualizing the divine efficacious grace for doing good is something that falls under the responsibility of the individual Christian.” Molina admits that he adopts the position of concurrence in order to emphasize the “the dignity of created things”, however in doing so, he essentially tears from God any true power to assist His creation by forcing the Deity to cooperate simultaneously and equally with human free choice. Molina lucidly asserts that “the contingency of effects that pertain to the order of grace must be traced in part to the human wills and in part to the divine wills as its proximate and immediate source.” To put it plainly, God merely provides sufficientgrace, but he does not actualize it as efficacious grace; it is totally within the power of man to render grace efficacious and operative. In fact, Molina’s thesis destroys the category of operating grace, which Thomas defines as that grace “in which God is the sole mover.” Since God does not enact any motio prior to human choice, there is no such thing as grace that is operative qua operative, but only efficacious or sufficient. It is neither cooperating, as cooperating grace requires that,“our mind both moves and is moved,” by God. Effectively, Molina’s “doctrine of concurrence puts creatures on a par with the Creator when it comes to their free acts: Molina’s position requires that the human person create his or her self- determinations ex nihilo.” Consequently, God’s grace is not infallible. In fact, grace is “intrinsically neither efficacious nor inefficacious,” but intrinsically neutral for Molina.
Contra Molina, Aquinas clearly asserts that “nothing can act beyond its species, since the cause must always be more powerful than its effect.” Following this principle, then it is impossible to uphold that man’s free will possesses any significance on the imposition of grace. Considering that men are certainly less powerful than God in every respect, “every preparation in man must be by the help of God moving the soul to good.” As God is the Supreme Goodness, nothing that is good can occur without His efficacious inherence of His very goodness. Further, “An agent of infinite power needs no matter or disposition of matter.” God, in His omnipotence, can simply act on a person, and does not need the person to exercise his creaturely nature in this way or that way to secure an intended effect. Molina’s notion of concurrence combined with his libertarian notion of free will effectively makes human action the cause of efficacious grace. Implicitly, Molina “suggests that the soul can act supernaturally in quasi-independence,” which is a condition far beyond creaturely nature. However, the need for efficacious grace cannot arise out of acting, but it must arise out of a deformed state of affairs in need of repair. Consequently, Aquinas asserts that “the first cause of the defect of grace is on our part, but the first cause of the bestowal of grace is on God’s.” Further, the “divine will is perfectly efficacious” and “no defect of a secondary cause can hinder God’s will from producing its effect,” either necessarily or contingently.,
IV. MOLINA ON THE SCIENTIA MEDIA OF GOD
- Future Contingents and Counterfactuals
The final aspect of Molina’s teachings on grace is his notion of scientia media. According to Molina, middle knowledge is coined as such because it falls between God’s simple knowledge and knowledge of vision; the former “is natural knowledge of his own essence, in which he grasps all logical possibilities prior to his decision to create,” while the latter is “knowledge of the world as it actually exists.” That is to say, natural knowledge’s object is possible contingents (P could sit down if presented with a chair, but it is not necessary that P sit) and knowledge of vision knows actual future contingents (P will sit down). In God’s scientia media, however, “all contingent states of affairs are represented with certainty to God… before any act or free determination of the divine will; and they are represented not only as being possible but also as being future–not absolutely future.” That is to say, God possesses prevolitional knowledge of all futurible possible worlds and counterfactuals. Thus God can simultaneously see what Matava coins “subjunctive conditionals: ‘If person P were in non-determining, complete circumstances C at time t, he would (freely) perform action A’.” However, God relies entirely on the free choice of an acting agent. On Matava’s example, God would have knowledge of both the execution of A and any other contingent execution of A or lack of execution of A.
- Problems with Scientia Media
The most significant problem with middle knowledge is the grounding problem, which holds that “that there is nothing in virtue of which future conditionals that are supposed to be the objects of God’s middle knowledge are true.” That is, since God knows all counterfactuals and intends to concur with accordingly, yet they rely totally on human free will for their realization, there is nothing that grounds these counterfactuals in reality. God merely knows what would happen. Matava quotes Báñez, who says:
Since the knowledge of God must be certain and wholly infallible, if such an object does not have certitude and infallibility from elsewhere, it cannot be an object of divine knowledge unless one would dare to blaspheme, asserting the knowledge of God to be fallible.
Aquinas notes that “God causes things by His intellect, since His being is His act of understanding; and hence His knowledge must be the cause of things, insofar as His will is joined to it.” This is so because “in all knowledge there is an assimilation of the knower to the known… either the knowledge is the cause of the thing known, or the thing known is the cause of the knowledge, or both are caused by one cause.” However, what is known cannot be the cause of God’s knowledge because what is known are things contained within circumstances, and circumstances are temporal and thus prone to change and corruption; God, as Pure Act, is not prone to change and corruption. Neither can knowledge of a thing or the thing known can be caused by something, as “there can be nothing caused in God.” Consequently, there is one solution, “His knowledge is the cause of things. Conversely, our knowledge is caused by things inasmuch as we receive it from things.” To admit otherwise is a “determinism of choices by the circumstances.” Concurrence is presupposed by God possessing scientia media, but if there is nothing to ensure future contingents since they rely solely on human will, then concurrence could not happen and consequently neither could the offering of divine grace. Basing God’s action on knowledge of things subjects Him to change and forces Him into fallibility.
V. CONCLUDING REMARKS
Luis de Molina posits three theses which are inimical to understanding the relation of God to man. First, his libertarian definition of free will affords man absolute freedom in his actions. The will orders itself in one way or another by way of man’s free choice. Second, Molina posits that God concurs with human actions. That is to say, God and human will are concomitant causes of human action, however it is the choice of the human agent which gives species to an action, thus making man and not God the cause of grace. Third, Molina posits the concept of scientia media, which he holds is God’s subjunctive conditional knowledge of futuribles. However, because of Molina’s notion of free will, middle knowledge is “impossible because the object of such knowledge lacks all intrinsic determination.” Nothing guarantees what God foresees as transpiring due to free will, thereby denying that His existence is Pure Act, that His knowledge is effectual, and that His grace is infallible.
Aichele, Alexander. “The Real Possibility of Freedom: Luis de Molina’s Theory of Absolute Willpower in Concordia I,” in A Companion to Luis de Molina, edited by Matthias Kauffman and Alexander Aichele, 3-52. Leiden: Brill, 2014.
Aquinas, Thomas. Summa theologiae. Translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. New Advent. 2nd ed. Oxford, 1920. https://www.newadvent.org/summa/.
Aquinas, Thomas. Quaestiones disputatae de veritate. Translated by Robert W. Mulligan, S.J. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1952. https://web.archive.org/web/20190324080819/https://dhspriory.org/thomas/.
Anfray, Jean-Pascal. “Molina and John Duns Scotus,” in A Companion to Luis de Molina, edited by Matthias Kauffman and Alexander Aichele, 325-363. Leiden: Brill, 2014.
Cessario, Romanus. “Molina and Aquinas,” in A Companion to Luis de Molina, edited by Matthias Kauffman and Alexander Aichele, 291-321. Leiden: Brill, 2014.
Feingold, Lawrence. “God’s Movement of the Soul Through Operative and Cooperative Grace,” in Thomism and Predestination: Principles and Disputations, edited by Steven A. Long, Roger W. Nutt, Thomas Joseph White. Ave Maria: Sapientia Press, 2016.
Freddoso, Alfred J. “Molina, Luis de,” in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward Craig. (London: Routledge, 1998).
Gaetano, Matthew T. “The Reception of Aquinas in the De Auxiliis Controversy,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Reception of Aquinas, edited by. Matthew Levering, Marcus Plested, 255-279. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021.
Matava, Robert Joseph. Divine Causality and Human Free Choice: Domingo Báñez, Physical Premotion, and the Controversy de auxiliis Revisited. Leiden: Brill, 2016.
Molina, de Luis. “On Concurrence,” in De liberi arbitrii cum gratiae donis, divina praescientia, praedestinatione et reprobatione concordia, translated by Alfred J. Freddoso. Unpublished. https://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/untrans.html
Molina, de Luis. “On Divine Foreknowledge,” in De liberi arbitrii cum gratiae donis, divine praescientia, praedestinatione et rerobatione concordia, translated by Alfred J. Freddoso. Ithaca: Cornell Press: 1988.
Molina, de Luis. “Parte primera: Sobre las fuerzas del libre arbitrio para obrar el bien,” in Concordia del libre arbitrio con los dones de la gracia y con la presciencia, providencia, predestinación y reprobación divinas, translated by Juan Antonio Hevia Echevarría. Oviedo: Fundación Gustavo Bueno, 2007. https://filosofia.org/cla/mol/c031222.pdf
White, Thomas Joseph. “Catholic Predestination: The Omnipotence and Innocence of Divine Love,” in Thomism and Predestination: Principles and Disputations, edited by Steven A. Long, Roger W. Nutt, Thomas Joseph White. Ave Maria: Sapientia Press, 2016.
 Literally, the Controversy of [Divine] Assistance, otherwise known as grace.
 Robert Joseph Matava, Divine Causality and Human Free Choice: Domingo Báñez, Physical Premotion, and the Controversy de auxiliis Revisited. (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 5.
 Matthew T. Gaetano, “The Reception of Aquinas in the De Auxiliis Controversy,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Reception of Aquinas, eds. Matthew Levering, Marcus Plested. (Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2021), 264.
 Matava, Divine Causality, 9.
 Matthew T. Gaetano, “Aquinas in the De Auxiliis,” 256.
 Luis de Molina, “On Divine Foreknowledge,” in De liberi arbitrii cum gratiae donis, divina praescientia, praedestinatione et reprobatione concordia, trans. Alfred J. Freddoso (Ithaca: Cornell Press: 1988), IV. Disp. LIII.30, 236.
 Luis de Molina, “On Divine Foreknowledge,” in De liberi arbitrii cum gratiae donis, divina praescientia, praedestinatione et reprobatione concordia, trans. Alfred J. Freddoso (Ithaca: Cornell Press: 1988), IV. Disp LII. 9, 168.
 Alexander Aichele, “The Real Possibility of Freedom: Luis de Molina’s Theory of Absolute Willpower in Concordia I,” in A Companion to Luis de Molina, ed. Matthias Kauffman and Alexander Aichele. (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 29.
 In respect of the decision of Paul V and the occasional subsequent positive reception of Molinism (usually as articulated by Francisco Suarez, however) by the Magisterium, none of Molina’s positions will be labeled as definitive errors. They may be problematic, but they are not erroneous and they are not heretical.
 Luis de Molina, “Parte primera: Sobre las fuerzas del libre arbitrio para obrar el bien,” in Concordia del libre arbitrio con los dones de la gracia y con la presciencia, providencia, predestinación y reprobación divinas, trans. Juan Antonio Hevia Echevarría (Oviedo: Fundación Gustavo Bueno, 2007). I. Disp II. 3. https://filosofia.org/cla/mol/c031222.pdf (translation from Spanish mine) “Así se dice que agente libre es aquel que, puestos todos los requisitos para actuar, puede actuar y no actuar, o hacer una cosa lo mismo que la contraria. En virtud de esta libertad, la facultad por la que este agente puede obrar así, recibe la denominación de «libre».”
 Molina, “Parte primera,” I.Disp II.3. (translation from Spanish mine), “que la voluntad, en la que formalmente radica la libertad, que se despliega antecedida por el juicio de la razón.”
 Molina, “On Divine Foreknowledge,” IV. Disp XLVII.6, 89.
 Molina, “On Divine Foreknowledge, “ IV. Disp XLVII.7, 91.
 Molina, “On Divine Foreknowledge,” IV. Disp XLVII.7, 91.
 Molina, “On Divine Foreknowledge,” IV. Disp XLVII.7, 92.
 Romanus Cessario, “Molina and Aquinas,” in A Companion to Luis de Molina, ed. Matthias Kauffman and Alexander Aichele. (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 315.
 Molina, “On Divine Foreknowledge, IV. Disp XLVII.8, 93.
 Romanus Cessario, “Molina and Aquinas,” 314.
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, IaIIae Q. 75, a.2, resp.
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, IaIIae, Q. 75, a.1, resp.
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theoloiae, IaIIae, Q. 85.a.1, resp
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, IaIIae, Q. 109, a.2, resp. There is no ambiguity in Thomas’ language in this article. Consider that in the Latin
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, IaIIae, Q. 51, a.4, resp.
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, IaIIae, Q. 51, a.4, resp.
 See Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, IaIIae, Q. 109, a.1-3.
 Molina, “On Concurrence,” I. Disp XXVI.5, trans, Alfred J. Freddoso. Unpublished. https://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/untrans.html
 Molina, “On Divine Foreknowledge, IV. Disp. XLVII.10, 94.
 Jean-Pascal Anfray, “Molina and John Duns Scotus,” in A Companion to Luis de Molina, ed. Matthias Kauffman and Alexander Aichele. (Leiden: Brill, 2014),348.
 Molina, “On Concurrence,” I. Disp XXVI.
 Molina, “On Concurrence,” I. Disp XXVI. 13
 Matava, Divine Causality, 107.
 Molina, “On Divine Foreknowledge,” IV. Disp LIII.30, 237.
 Matava, Divine Causality, 107.
 Alfred J. Freddoso, “Molina, Luis de,” in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward Craig. (London: Routledge, 1998), 2.
 Freddoso, “Molina”, 2.
 Cessario, “Molina and Aquinas,”
 Molina, “On Concurrence,” II. Disp. XXVI.14.
 Molina, “On Divine Foreknowledge,” IV. Disp. XLVII.14.97.
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, IaIIae, Q. 111, a.2, resp.
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, IaIIae, Q. 111, a.2, resp.
 Matava, Divine Causality, 126.
 Freddoso, “Molina,” 2.
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, IaIIae Q. 112, a.1, resp.
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, IaIIae, Q. 112, a.2, resp.
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, IaIIae, Q. 112, a.2, ad 3.
 Thomas Joseph White, “Catholic Predestination: The Omnipotence and Innocence of Divine Love,” in Thomism and Predestination: Principles and Disputations, eds. Steven A. Long, Roger W. Nutt, Thomas Joseph White. (Ave Maria: Sapientia Press, 2016), 111.
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, IaIIae Q. 112, a.3, ad. 2
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae Ia, Q.19, a.8, resp.
 According to Matava, “Báñez’s neglect among Anglophone scholars is that none of his works have been translated from the original Latin [into English].” (See, Matava, Divine Causality, 11). This is lamentable, considering Banez’s prominence in the Controversy. Consequently, references to Aquinas will be used for the Dominican position.
 Matava, Divine Causality, 154.
 Molina, “On Divine Foreknowledge,” IV. Disp L.15, 140.
 Matava, Divine Causality, 114
 Matava, Divine Causality, 131.
 Matava, Divine Causality, 133. Here, Matava quotes from Báñez’s Apologia, I c. 16 §2 (182):
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia, Q. 14, a.8, resp.
 Thomas Aquinas, Quaestiones disputatae de veritate, trans. Robert W. Mulligan, S.J. (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1952.) Q.2, a.14, resp.
 Thomas Aquinas, De veritate, Q.2, a.14, resp.
 Thomas Aquinas, De veritate, Q.2, a.14, resp.
 Matava, Divine Causality, 130.
 Lawrence Feingold, “God’s Movement of the Soul Through Operative and Cooperative Grace,” in Thomism and Predestination: Principles and Disputations, eds. Steven A. Long, Roger W. Nutt, Thomas Joseph White. (Ave Maria: Sapientia Press, 2016), 184.