Appeared in Vol. 11 No. 1,2 Download PDF here

This article was a senior thesis submitted by John Janaro to the Theology Department of Christendom College. It was written under the direction of Bill Marshner and is a ne scholarly endeavor. Mr. Janaro probes the mystery of the relationship between human freedom and God’s all embracing causality. Building upon the insights of Fr. William Most, he challenges the metaphysical grounds of the Dominican and Jesuit schools in their explanations of this great mystery.

“A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me”

(Psalm 51:12, 14).

… we beg you not to receive the grace of God in vain”

(2 Corinthians 6:1).



There is an apparent contradiction that lies at the very root of the philosophical problem of human freedom. This contradiction is the fact that human free choices, if they are a part of a creation-dependent universe, require an extra-human cause to bring about their existence. Often the proposed solutions to this contradiction involve a denial of one of the horns of the dilemma. Either freedom is explained away as an illusion of a determined universe or else the order of the universe itself is attributed to the fluctuations of cosmic chance. This kind of solution, however, is unacceptable to metaphysicians of the Christian tradition because man’s freedom and God’s all encompassing causality are both fundamental truths of the Christian faith.

Consequently, Catholic theologians have struggled fiercely and often desperately to apply metaphysics to the question in such a way that the truth of both concepts is fully preserved. The theories they propose take on a particular significance when applied to God’s action upon the will in the gift of grace. It is usually in the discussion of the influence of efficacious grace upon the will that theologians put forth their theories on the relationship between God’s causality and man’s free action. The investigation into this relationship, though informed by the body of revelation, is primarily a metaphysical one and deserves attention in its own right.

The major differences which have separated the schools and have been the topics of consistent debate are differences in metaphysics. The principles of God’s primary causality of all being and man’s freedom of action are incontestable and recognized as such by all orthodox theologians. Debate has centered upon the nature of the interaction between the primary cause and the human agent and how such interaction is compatible with the preservation of freedom in the faculty of the will. Conversely, man’s freedom must be such that it does not introduce an external efficient cause into God’s knowledge. Therefore the metaphysical speculation necessarily involves considerations of Divine epistemology.

The metaphysical question, then, can be summed up thus: God is the primary principle cause of all being and all motion. The movement of the human will is a motion which must come under the Divine causality and its product, the free act, is a being which must have God as its primary cause. If God causes the being of a free act and the motion of a free faculty, how does He avoid necessitating the human will which He has moved to perform the specific action whose being He has caused?

The development of sophisticated positions on these (and related) questions was greatly aided by the intellectual crisis of sixteenth century Europe. The Protestant Revolt gave occasion for the defense of human freedom, and the Council of Trent provided the doctrinal formulations on efficacious and sufficient grace that Catholic theologians over the next fifty years would seek to explain. Indeed , grace became the battleground over which the great Jesuit and Dominican orders debated highly detailed theological positions, each with fundamental metaphysical implications.

This theological debate over the relationship between grace and free will, and the corresponding metaphysical debate, has been dominated by theologians of these two orders for the last four centuries. Though there has been a brilliant clarity achieved by both schools in the explication of their respective positions, the intellectual difficulties of each remain. Some more recent thinkers have attempted to break new ground and to forge theories that answer the objections of both sides. These theories often leave important questions of metaphysics unanswered or undeveloped. In order to investigate the problem fully, it is necessary to have a detailed understanding of the metaphysical assertions of the traditional positions. In this aspect of the investigation, Revelation acts as a check on metaphysical error, though ultimately the metaphysics is designed to help explain the data of Revelation regarding grace. The best of the modern theological theories should be examined in order to discern what metaphysical positions are necessary to justify it; then these positions should be tested against the assertions and objections of the schools. In this way a metaphysics may be discovered which is both acceptable to the Theology of Grace and enlightening on the problem of reconciling Divine omnipotence with human freedom in general.

The historical situation which initiated the traditional dispute among the great theological schools reveals the significant differences between the two systems as well as the zeal with which they have been held and defended. Particularly important is the amount of attention which the Holy See gave to the question in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and the failure of Rome to endorse the position which appeared to many theologians of the time to be the detailed and accurate exposition of traditional thinking on the matter.

The debate over the validity of this exposition first became prominent on the academic and ecclesiastical scene with the publication of the Concordia by the great Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina in Lisbon in 1588.1 In this monumental work, Molina develops his controversial doctrines of simultaneous concursus and scientia media. The treatise won the approval of the Inquisition in Portugal. Nevertheless, neighboring Spain was to provide harsh criticism of Molina’s theories. Dominic Banez of the University of Salamanca, one of the great giants of the Order of Preachers, reviewed the Concordia and found nine propositions that had been condemned by the Spanish Inquisition. He relayed his concerns to Archduke Albert, the viceroy of Portugal, who in turn passed the Banezian censures on to Molina for reply. Molina denied that he was rejecting efficacious grace; he asserted that he was opposing the Thomistic doctrine of physical predetermination. Hence the differences touched upon both metaphysics and Revelation. Debates and discussions rose up in most of the major learning centers of Spain: Valladolid, Salamanca, Saragossa, Cordova, etc.2 Finally Pope Clement VIII formed a commission – the Congregatio de Auxiliis – to study Molina’s book. When the congregation issued a rapid condemnation, Clement, not satisfied with the depth of their investigation, summoned the generals of the Jesuit and Dominican orders to appear with their champion theologians before the commission to defend their respective views. After the death of one of its presiding officers (Cardinal Madrucci) Clement bypassed the Congregation and began to witness the debates himself. All in all there were 85 sessions held before Clement and the subsequent Pope Paul V. Finally the frequent debates were brought to a halt with the decree of September 5, 1607, permitting each school to hold and teach its own opinion and forbidding either from condemning the other as heretical. The Pope called upon both orders to await a final decision by the Holy See-. In 1611, The Inquisition forbade the publication of any book dealing with efficacious grace, and no such book appeared for most of the rest of the century. This was an attempt to prevent unhealthy disunity and rivalry between the two great orders.3 What at first had seemed like sure condemnation for the Jesuit theory, then, had instead become an occasion for theological and metaphysical speculation on a grand scale; speculation which would increase once the most threatening aspects of the rivalry had disappeared.


It has been about 400 years since the genesis of the towering theological constructions that comprise the positions of the Order of Preachers and the Society of Jesus on grace and free will. Since the metaphysics of free will and Divine causality is nearly always discussed within treatises on grace, it is important to be familiar with the theological positions. Trent teaches that there is a grace which will infallibly produce its effect – God is capable of moving the will to perform a salutary act with infallible certainty, yet the will is able to resist this motion. It does not receive it passively but rather cooperates with it and freely performs the action, though the gift of grace guarantees its performance. There is also a merely sufficient grace which gives to the will the power to perform the salutary act but is in fact resisted by the will. Although the act does not take place the grace is nevertheless still truly sufficient for its performance.4

These important doctrinal formulations are, of course, compatible with the rest of the Church’s teaching on grace; namely that God is wholly responsible for every aspect of a salutary act and that man is incapable of doing anything that positively pertains to his salvation without the grace of God .5 To these teachings both theological schools claim complete adherence.

The Thomists hold that sufficient grace confers the power to perform a salutary act. The will, in and of itself, is not in potency to the performance of salutary acts – this potency is conferred by sufficient grace. The will, however, requires an additional motion to actualize the potency thus conferred. This is efficacious grace, which infallibly applies the power of the will to the action which sufficient grace rendered it capable of performing. God knows the action of the will in His own efficacious decrees.6

The Jesuits, on the other hand, hold that God has a special knowledge called the scientia media in which He knows, antecedent to His will to create, whatever any created will would do in any situation. Therefore God knows how any free will would respond to any grace which He might give. Many Molinists assert that God decrees a “fixed order” of grace and that efficacious grace is distinguished from sufficient grace by the foreseen response of the will under this order. Others, notably Suarez and Bellarmine, maintain that God gives efficacious grace when He gives that grace which He foresees will bring about the salutary act and that He gives merely sufficient grace when He gives a grace which, though sufficient in itself to produce the act, is foreseen as failing in the particular will to which it is given. Since God knows infallibly how any possible will would act in any situation, He can choose to give efficacious grace simply by giving that grace which He knows would work.7

The difference between the two Jesuit positions consists in the fact that, in the former, God’s establishment of grace is logically independent of His foreknowledge; consequently God does not predestine by arbitrary will alone, but rather by His will following upon His foreknowledge (this manner in which He chooses to predestine, of course, is arbitrary). The logical order of the Divine decree is grace, knowledge, predestination. In the Suarez-Bellarmine position, however, predestination is arbitrary in the first sense mentioned above; foreknowledge merely assures the efficacy of the grace given. Here the logical order of the decree is knowledge, grace, predestination.

Either position, when considered in so simplified a form, provokes many unanswered questions. Even the careless reader would immediately be struck by the apparent difficulty in the Thomist system of preserving the will’s freedom under an infallible motion. Similarly the Jesuits must face the accusation that God’s knowledge (which, because of His simplicity, is the same as God Himself) is caused by the distinct truth of “what the will would do” in a hypothetical situation. In order to solve these and more subtle difficulties the schools turn to principles of metaphysics.

Indeed, the Thomists are zealous in the assertion that their system alone is compatible with the fundamental principles of metaphysics. This assertion is demanded by Thomistic methodology. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, one of the great apologists of the school in the 20th century, insists that the method of the Angelic Doctor studies first the universal exigencies of first principles of reason and of being, then the essential exigencies of the Divine nature known by reason and faith … It is therefore by the light of these principles that St. Thomas examines all the problems and must consider the problem of human liberty, and not in the reverse order.8

For Thomists the critical point is the Omnipotence of God. God is the primary cause of anything which comes into being. God’s determination is responsible for all of the ontological content which makes up the universe. The concept of the dependence of the universe upon God turns upon this truth. Thomists also insist that God’s status as Pure Actuality turns upon this truth. Garrigou-Lagrange argues that there is no escaping the dilemma “God determining or determined.” He states that “if God does not predetermine our salutary choice … it is He Himself who is determined by us, and even necessitated to see something which is independent of Him.”9

Thus the Thomists say that, since God is Pure Act, He cannot passively receive knowledge from any “cause” external to Himself. If God decrees the existence of all beings infallibly, how is it that there are any contingencies in the universe? Future contingencies, when considered as future and in their creaturely causes, are undetermined and unknowable. In eternity, however, they have “already happened” because there is no past, present, or future in eternity; therefore they are determined. Since these contingencies are “contingent beings” they must be caused by God. He decrees all future contingencies, including free acts, and this decree brings about their existence in eternity. Because of His simplicity, the decree is the same as God Himself; therefore in knowing Himself He knows all free acts. Eternity is not the medium, as if God passively receives knowledge from what He “sees” in eternity. Rather it is a condition, because in eternity those acts which are future in their creaturely cause are in existence “now.” God knows that existence because He is causing it to be in eternity – its being is the condition by which it is knowable but His causality is the medium through which He knows it.10

If, however, God is the cause of free human acts, how does the human agent claim any responsibility or offer any cooperation in the performance of an action? Here the Thomists distinguish between primary and secondary causes. Primary causes are responsible for the being (the existence) of an effect, while secondary causes bring about the becoming of an effect.11 They also distinguish between principal and instrumental efficient causes: a principal cause “acts by reason of its own proper action” rather than solely by reason of the application of another cause. Primary and secondary principal causes, then, act by their own proper power to produce the being and becoming of an effect, respectively. Secondary principal causes, in producing the becoming of an effect, depend on the primary principal cause for the being of the effect and for their own being-in-act. Secondary principal causes have a “stable active power” which is not dependent on the particularapplication of the primary cause; nevertheless the primary cause is required in order to reduce this power from potency to act. Secondary principal causes “work by the power of their form” but depend upon the primary cause for the exercise of that power.12

The human will is a secondary principal cause of its free acts. It is by its nature inclined to will the good-in-general but it is indifferent with respect to means which participate imperfectly in the good. Thomists say that the will, when prepared to act, possesses passive indifference regarding the particular goods which are the subject of deliberation. As a secondary principal cause it is proper to the will to be able to choose between various means proposed. The will is passive in that it stands in potency to a variety of options presented to it in deliberation. It is indifferent because the will does not require any of the particular goods; its natural inclination does not demand that it accept any particular incomplete good. This is the will considered in sensu diviso; that is, in its naturally indeterminate state in relation to possible particular goods.13

For the will to determine itself, however, it must be moved from potency to act by the primary cause, which is the Divine motion to a specific act.

Under this motion, the will actualizes its potential to choose a particular good; nevertheless it remains free by virtue of the fact that it retains active indifference towards all of its options.14 The will is now active with respect to one particular good. As such, it includes the determination to the particular good. This is the will in sensu composito; it includes all the conditions (including determination) in which a choice is made. Since it is active and determined, it must choose a particular good. However it retains its indifference by virtue of its constitution as a power.15

According to Banez, this indifference is preserved by the intellect. The intellect perceives that the goods in its sphere of deliberation are not the perfect good. Therefore it makes the judgment that none of the particular goods are necessary to the will. The Divine motion directs the potency of the will toward one of the particular goods, but it does not make that particular good necessary in and of itself. Therefore the intellectual judgment of indifference remains.16

Bossuet demonstrates that active indifference is freedom by the example that the will possesses it during its operation:

“It would be absurd to say,” as Bossuet remarks, “that our own decision takes away our liberty. It would be no less absurd to say that God has taken it away by His decree. And just as our will in determining itself to choose one thing rather than another, does not take from itself the power of choosing between two things, we must conclude likewise that this decree of God does not do so.”17

No one says that, when the will is acting for a particular good, it is somehow necessitated by that good; this is impossible because the will is necessitated only by the perfect good. The will, when acting, retains its freedom to act in a different manner, though a different course of action is not compatible with the action which the will is in the process of exercising. Therefore, when in act, the will possesses active indifference; “[t]he connection between our will and this finite good remains always something contingent. “18

With this understanding of primary and secondary causality and the active indifference of the will, Thomists go on to defend the infallible Divine influence on the will in their doctrine of physical premotion. They assert the principal that “no potency, not even an active potency such as the will, can reduce itself to act.”19 St. Thomas states that “God moves all things proportionately according to the very mode of the nature of each being.”20 Therefore God moves the human will according to its nature; since the will cannot be coerced by anything external to it, this motion must be an internal motion which does not force the will yet at the same time infallibly produces the effect. The being of a free act must remain within the power of the Divine cause.21

The premotion is a creature distinct both from God’s act of producing it and the human agent’s subsequent action which it produces. Its being is considered as passive – it constitutes the relation of dependence of the created will upon the Divine action. Therefore when God determines the will, the will receives this relation which moves it from potency to act.22 This relation is an accidental quality that inheres in the will and therefore must be in conformity with its nature.23

God determines the will by His decree; the effect of this decree upon the will is the creation of a relation of dependence of the will upon this decree. This relation is an accident that inheres in the will and is totally in conformity with the will’s nature as a created cause which depends totally on God for its being and power. The will’s dependence varies according to the aspect under which the act is considered. God is the only principal cause of the existence of the act itself, for God alone has the proper power of creating. The will causes the existence of the act only instrumentally. However the will is a secondary principal cause of the specific nature of the act, since it is within its proper power to bring about certain kinds of effects. Therefore the will is responsible for all of the limitations upon the being of the effect; it is a principal cause of the essential and accidental properties of the act. This causality, however, is clearly secondary because the power of the will to cause is still dependent upon the primary principal cause to move it from potency to act. This is accomplished by the physical premotion.24

The Thomists defend the liberty of the will on the basis of active indifference. The physical premotion can in no way be seen as a necessitating influence because it does not transform the particular contingent good into a necessary good anymore than does the will’s own determination. It is also not a temporally prior external influence; because of the distinction between the Divine decree (which forms part of God’s foreordained Providence) and the being of the physical premotion itself, the premotion can come into existence (in time) at the same moment as the self-determination of the will. Also, as an accident, it is internal to the will and cannot be considered an intrusion upon it.25

The Thomist system has made provision for God’s knowledge, universal causality, and the preservation of human liberty. However it now faces the task of exonerating God of responsibility for evil actions. This is rather difficult to do within the context of this system. Since God determines the existence and specification of all acts by virtue of His creative and primary causality, He is responsible for the being and specification of evil acts as well. The Thomists clarify this by distinguishing that God is responsible for all aspects of an evil action which are good, namely its existence and the motion which produces it. What makes an action evil, however, is not anything positive that it possesses but rather something that it lacks. This lack is wholly due to the insufficiency of the secondary cause. God is responsible for the action but the will is responsible for the defect, hence the sinfulness, of the action.26

In their doctrine on grace, however, Thomists make it clear that efficacious grace is required to overcome the defect of the secondary cause with respect to salutary acts. When sufficient grace is given, the will sins by its refusal. God can deny efficacious grace as a punishment for previous sin or even original sin. Nevertheless, why does God deny efficacious help in the instance of the first sin? Any defect in the will whatsoever suffices as an explanation; even the defect of mere contingency. It seems, though, that God’s denial precedes the defect in the will, since the defect would not be present without the denial. Thomists distinguish two orders of causality and state that it is sufficient for the human defect to have a priority of nature in one order to assert human guilt.27 Garrigou-Lagrange states that when man sins

his failure, in the order of material causality, precedes the refusal that God extends to him of actual efficacious grace and is the reason for this failure. In another order of causality, however, this failure presupposes the Divine permission of sin and the absence of efficacious grace, without which there would be no sin.28

John of St. Thomas states that “when efficacious help is refused to a man, as far as the man is concerned there is sin or inadvertence, and each is voluntary.”29 The often stated doctrine that God only applies physical premotion for a specific act of sin consequent upon a “voluntary inadvertence” by the will in response to the motion toward the general good is true only in the material order of causality. Seen from the standpoint of the Divine decrees, however, the existence of the premotion to the act of sin is an antecedent part of the Providential plan; hence the inadvertence of the will is unavoidable.30

Such is the outline of the Thomist system. Divine causality is incorporated into this system with ease because the free will is seen as dependent upon actualizing causes: the physical premotion and the apprehension of the intellect. By its practical judgment, the intellect moves the will in the order of finality to the specified object; God’s motion is the primary efficient cause of the will’s exercise; and the will itself, by virtue of its proper power, is the secondary efficient cause.31

One need not look any farther than this basic conception of the operation of the will to find the foundations of the metaphysical differences between the two schools. For the Thomists, the existence of actualizing causes is necessary for the will because of the basic principal that no potency is capable of reducing itself to act. The Jesuit school rejects this as a universally applicable principal. The doctrine of the great theologian Francisco Suarez is that certain potencies eminently contain their own actualities. This is somewhat obscure. Obviously a potency cannot formally contain its own actually because the absence of actuality is part of the definition of potency. The eminent mode is one “in which a perfection is said to be contained in something in a higher way.”32 The will is in potency to actuate itself in numerous possible ways. It is a peculiar potency in that its definition includes self actualization and indifference.33 Therefore every actualization in a specific manner is eminently contained in the unlimited scope of the will in potency, which even Garrigou-Lagrange admits “extends beyond the finite good which it chooses.”34

Since the will eminently contains its own actuality, it does not require the influence of any other cause. Knowledge is only a necessary condition for action, since objects are presented to the will through intellectual judgments. Suarez rejects the “final practical judgment” of the intellect as a cause that moves the will. This is because the intellect is not formally free, but rather is compelled to assent to truth. Therefore the intellectual judgment would be a necessary one and its causal influence on the will would produce a necessary action. The role of the intellect, then, is merely to present the object.35 Molina says that

It is enough that the intellect see some good in the object in order to will it, or some evil in order to reject it … Accordingly, with the same intellectual disposition and knowledge … the will can, by its innate liberty, will, or not will, or do neither … 36

The intellect only determines the will “in virtue of a previous free volition.”37 Ultimately it is the will itself which is responsible for its act and motion. Suarez calls the will an “active potency, of its own power and intrinsic nature free . . . that it is within its power to exercise it or not to exercise it ….”38 On this basis Suarez rejects the physical premotion. Since the power proper to the will is self determination, it is absurd to say that premotion is necessary because the will would then have no power to move itself. To insist upon the necessity of predetermination is to see the will as a purely passive potency which is neither free nor empowered to act.39 Suarez says that freedom requires that “that faculty, when it exercises its act, is so disposed, and (as I say) proximately prepared to work, that given all the things required for acting, it can act or not act.40

If premotion were necessary, then the will would never possess this proximate indifference because one of the things that is required would specify the action. Suarez rejects the idea that the Banezian theory of the indifference of objects preserves freedom; the fact that the objects of deliberation are not necessary objects is not directly relevant because “formal liberty is a property not of the object, but an intrinsic property inhering in the will of the one operating ….”41

Suarez also rejects the idea that a Divine premotion is in conformity with the nature of the will, since his very definition of that nature rules it out:

… it is enough if we show, from the effects, that this way of acting is intrinsic in our faculty; and consequently, it is not connatural to it or consistent with the nature of things that it be moved in another way extrinsically by God; and that cannot be affirmed of any action of ours, still less of all, unless it is clear from revelation.42

The Jesuit system must deal with objections raised by the consideration of the Divine Omnipotence. Since God’s causality is required for all being and all motion, how can the will be solely responsible for its movement, and what is the source of the being of the free act? Suarez answers that the principal that “everything that moves must be moved by another” can be applied to the will in the sense that it is totally dependent upon God for the originating and sustaining creation of the power of self-motion in it, and that it is totally dependent upon God for the application of the power to an object distinct from the will as principal. The latter is the Suarezian simultaneous concursus.43

God and the will simultaneously (in time) produce the free action. The terminus of the Divine action is the act itself rather than the principal of the will. Therefore, since the action constitutes the will in second act, the will can be said to be dependent upon God for the application of the power to its object (which is the act). Nevertheless the will, as it is in first act, does not need the physical premotion to move into second act. The will has the power to move of its very nature, but depends upon God’s creative power for the existence of a human act, which is the terminus of the will’s movement. God concurs with the will in conjunction with His foreknowledge.44

The objection to this is that God’s causality becomes merely a condition for the will’s free action and that God is determined in what He shall cause by the inferior cause. In this system, however, God has freely chosen to co-operate with the human will, therefore His necessity in doing so comes solely from this decision. Furthermore the will is more than conditionally dependent upon God’s causality for its free exercise, since its very power of exercise is totally dependent upon God’s creative causality. By virtue of the very nature of the power which God has created in the will as constituted in first act, however, the will is only conditionally dependent upon God for its constitution in second act, because of the necessity of the creative causality for the being of the action which constitutes the will in second act. God’s causality is absolutely necessary for the will constituted in first act, therefore the will is completely dependent upon God for its exercise, since He is the Primary Cause of all that the will requires for its exercise. Nevertheless, given God’s provision of all that is necessary for the will’s exercise, the will still requires God’s power to produce the being of the free action. Since God has already provided the will with all that is necessary to it, this power is only conditionally required from the standpoint of the principal of the will. It is absolutely required, however, for the existence of the free action as such.45

Suarez does not deny, however, that God can determine the will to perform a specific action. He can directly create an action of the will by choosing to concur only with that option which He wills to take place. He can also add a special premotion to the will as constituted in first act which is designed to produce the act God desires. This is precisely what the Thomists call premotion, and Suarez has no problem in asserting that physical premotion is within God’s power. However, Suarez insists that this premotion necessitates the will; God is capable of necessitating the will as His omnipotence demands that He have this capacity. According to Suarez, the Council of Trent only specifies that the free act is not necessitated.46

Since God has chosen to co-operate with the created will, how is He able to decree an infallible Providential plan? Here is where Molina’s famous (or infamous, as some would have it) scientia media fits into the scheme. God knows what any possible free will would do in any possible set of circumstances antecedent to His choice to create such a will in such circumstances. Molina appeals to Scripture, where Christ states that the cities of Tyre and Sidon would have repented if the Gospel had been preached there (Mt.11:21). Although God chose not to create those circumstances (Gospel preaching in Tyre and Sidon), He knows what the free human agents in those cities would have done in those circumstances. This knowledge of God is infallible and is demanded by His omniscience.47 Molina calls this “middle knowledge” because its object is the conditional future; this is distinguished from the purely possible, which is known by the knowledge of simple intelligence, and the contingent future, which is known by the knowledge of vision.48

Because of the scientia media, God knows infallibly what the will would do in any situation. He knows that if He were to create a human will with all that is necessary for its action, place it in a situation in which it has several options (A, B, and C), and agree to provide simultaneous concursus for the being of whatever action the will chose, the will would choose option A. Therefore God can arrange His Providential plan antecedently by choosing to create those circumstances and those wills which will bring about the accomplishment of His purposes. Or He can independently decide to create a given order of circumstances and then base His Providential plan (by His own free choice to do so) upon the responses of the human wills that He foresees will take place once He actualizes this order. All of these distinctions, of course, are merely logical ones within the timeless eternal decree of God; this Act has no actual composition or temporality.49

The question immediately arises as to how God is able to know conditional futures with an infallible certainty. Molina posits that it stems from God’s all encompassing knowledge of the created cause: “God has a very profound and unfathomable comprehension of each free will.”50 Suarez, however, holds that God knows the objective truth of the proposition “Peter will do A.” Other Molinists hold that God knows all truth in His own essence, which eminently contains all truth-even the truth of a conditional future considered independently from His creating decrees.51

This brief description of the metaphysics underlying the positions of the Dominican and Jesuit theological schools reveals serious difficulties in both philosophy and theology that each school must face. The Jesuits, and other critics of the Thomist system, raise competent objections about the Banezian conception of the free faculty. Banez insists that freedom is preserved in the will under the Divine motion because of the indifference of the object. He states that it would not be rational for the will to choose necessarily what is proposed as indifferent.52 The Thomist school excuses any apparent necessity in the will by explaining that the will under the Divine motion acts with the necessity of consequence rather than the necessity of consequent. If a syllogism has a necessary premise and a contingent premise, the conclusion follows by the necessity of consequence but it is contingent by virtue of the contingent premise.53 Molina rejects this defense, claiming that it only proves that God is free with respect to the conclusion; for the will itself will move with the necessity of consequence only if it is self determined.54 To prove this last, a Molinist would argue as follows. Thomists assert that the premise “The will must do whatever God moves it to do” is necessary but the premise “God moves the will to do A” is contingent because A is not necessary to either the will or God. Therefore the conclusion “the will does A” is contingent. It is true, the Molinist would reply, that A is not necessary to the will when considered in itself, but when considered along with all the conditions required to act, A does become necessary by virtue of a relation between A and the Divine decree. A considered by itself is indifferent; considered as “Divinely commanded” it is a necessary object. If one considers the second premise with respect to the will – “the will receives the Divine motion to do A” – one can see that, although A is contingent in itself, the will’s reception of a Divine motion to do A is necessary; therefore the conclusion that the will does A follows with the necessity of consequent.

Thomists might object that the will’s own determination to do A would thereby also constitute A as necessary. But here the Thomists’ own distinction accurately applies. The necessary premise is that “the will must do whatever it determines itself to do.” But the premise that “the will determines itself to do A” is clearly contingent; therefore the conclusion that “the will does A” follows with the necessity of consequence. This bears out completely Molina’s thesis that freedom remains in the will if the determining condition involved in the consideration of the act is the free choice itself.55

The other great Thomistic stumbling block is the problem of evil. Banez holds that, in the order of grace, God is not the cause of the privation called non-conversion, though He is the cause of the absence of grace from which non-conversion follows. Molina counters that there is no privation in nature as such; nature is considered as lacking only when considered in the order of grace. When God establishes such an order and then deprives a man of grace, God is responsible for the privation.56

In the natural order, the Thomists claim that guilt is preserved if the voluntary inadvertence precedes the motion to the material element in one order of causality. Even if human guilt is present because of this, it does not follow that God does not positively will the sin. Considered from the standpoint of the Divine will, the voluntary inadvertence of the human will is an inevitable companion of the determination to the material element of sin which is part of the eternal decree. It is difficult to imagine how God could will that no man sin and, at the same time, decree that which makes sin inescapable for a man. Theologically, this poses severe difficulties for the concept of the Universal Salvific Will, an objection which we shall see Father William G. Most develop in Chapter V.

The Jesuits also come under attack for their doctrine of the will. Thomists declare that a self-actuating potency is impossible; God cannot create a faculty that is capable of moving itself because then, says Garrigou Lagrange,

there would be a reality produced, that of our free deter- mination, which would not depend upon the First Being, and which would be in us an absolute beginning, which is contrary to the principal of causality.57

God alone is self-determining, because He is the principal origin of all things. If human liberty were self-determination it would not be analogous to the Divine liberty, but univocal to it.58

The Jesuits would deny both accusations. To the former they would answer that the being of a free determination is dependent upon the simultaneous concursus, and the principal of the will, though properly empowered, is conditionally dependent; therefore there is no absolute beginning. Furthermore the human power of self-determination is analogous to the Divine power of self-determination because it is created by God and limited as to its possibilities in particular situations by the objects which it confronts. The human will is not omnipotent or uncaused.

The greatest Jesuit difficulty, however, is the scientia media. The “futurible” is known with infallible certainty antecedent to God’s will to create. The problem is that if God has not caused the futurible to exist, then it simply does not exist. A non-existent is simply that, and as such it cannot be known as an existent. If God’s knowledge of the conditional future is consequent to His causing it, then, the Molinists say, He has determined it. If the futurible exists independent of God’s causality, then God ceases to be the Creator of all things.59

The Molinist attempts to explain the scientia media are weak. GarrigouLagrange rejects Molina’s explaination, saying that “The supercomprehensive knowledge of a cause cannot enable anyone to see in it a determination which is not there.”60 He explodes Suarez’s propositional truth theory, saying that if this were true God would know the truth of the proposition “the world will exist” before He decided to create and would therefore be necessitated by that truth. Garrigou-Lagrange cites Aristotle as saying that propositions about undetermined futures are neither true nor false. And although God’s essence contains all truth eminently, the only truths present independent of the Divine decree are absolutely necessary truths. The truth of the futurible also cannot be known from the circumstances because this would mean that the circumstances determined the futurible. This would eliminate the very freedom that the Jesuits are trying so hard to preserve.61

Finally, if God knows anything independent of His determination, then His own knowledge is determined by it. He is made to see some thing which is outside of His causal power. Hence God ceases not only to be creator; He also ceases to be Pure Act. Thus He ceases to be God.62

It is clear why 85 debates and two popes were unable to resolve the dispute four centuries ago. The polemics have lasted for several hundred years without coming any closer to a resolution of the fundamental problems of each system. With this in view, many theologians, impressed with the intellectual genius of both theories, have sought to incorporate elements of both into new systems. Others have attempted to find more accurate solutions by examining closely the writings of St. Thomas himself. Some of these attempts deserve closer consideration, since they may offer new insights into areas where the schools have reached an impasse.


Some Thomists claim that the Dominican theological school does not accurately represent the teachings of St. Thomas on the metaphysics of free will and Divine causality. They cite several key texts of the Angelic Doctor in which basic doctrines of the will and God’s knowledge and causality are spelled out. In the Prima Pars, Question 14, article 9, St. Thomas states that God knows all things in eternity by the knowledge of vision. According to article 13, there is a distinction between the being that an event has as an object of the Divine knowledge, which is necessary, and the being that an event has in itself, which may be contingent due to its contingent proximate cause: “the thing itself that is known … can be characterized in its own independent existence in a way it cannot be characterized in its condition as part of the act of knowing.”63

Choice involves a union of intellect and will. The will is initially moved by the “intelligible essence of the good or the fitting.” It then moves the intellect to judge goodness and fittingness among particulars. The judgment that a particular is good or fitting moves the will to act for it. Since the universal (“the good”) potentially contains many particulars (“goods”) the will is not determined to any one thing. St. Thomas demonstrates this in the Contra Gentiles, book 2, chapter 48.64

In addition to the apprehended universal, God also moves the will to its natural end. Since He is the cause of the nature of the will, He is capable of bringing about a natural movement within it. Therefore God does move the will to act and man requires this motion in order to exercise his will. The way in which St. Thomas explains this motion in the Prima Secundae, question 9, article 6, however, makes this the most important text of the Moderate or Middle Thomist theory:

God moves man’s will as universal mover to the universal object of the will, which is the Good. A man cannot will anything without this universal motion. A man, however, makes up his own mind with respect to the willing of this or that, which may be authentically or only seemingly a good.65

St. Thomas goes on to distinguish this kind of interaction between God and the human agent from the special motion which God uses when He determines the will to a particular good through grace.66 Hence many Middle Thomists would say that St. Thomas’ metaphysic of Divine concourse must be distinguished from his doctrine of grace.

The main thesis of the Middle Thomist position is that man’s autonomous contribution to the free act, upon which rests its contingency, is not any kind of being but rather a limitation of being. God does cause a man to will a particular, but He does so mediately rather than immediately. The specification of the act is a limitation of the motion toward the good in general. When God causes a man to will the good, the man limits that determination to the willing of this particular good. The man’s contribution is merely one of limitation; he is able to move his will and act for the good only by virtue of the Divine motion to the general good. The limitation, considered as such, is non-being and does not require God for its cause.67

This idea of limitation fits with the common Thomistic conception of primary and secondary causes: “The proper effects of the secondary cause limit existence to be a particular existence just like the nature of a secondary free cause limits and determines the Divine action in conformity with the nature of its freedom.68

The Dominican school, however, is not unaware of the challenge which the Middle Thomists have offered. Garrigou-Lagrange raises significant objections. He states that the distinction between premotion in general and grace in I-II, q. 9, a. 6 is generally understood by commentators as referring to operative grace which works “above and independent of our deliberation.” Co-operative grace, which works with our deliberative process, is analogous to premotion in the natural order.69 He insists that the particular determination is a “new actuality” which the movement of the will to the general good does not suffice to explain.70 He strikes down the idea that the particularization can be considered merely as a limitation or non-being by making an important distinction: “This free determination in the direction of good, though being a limiting potency with reference to the existence itself of the free act, is itself a positive perfection with reference to the free faculty that it actuates.“71 The being of this positive perfection requires the Divine causality.

Garrigou-Lagrange seems effectively to dismiss the thesis of the Middle Thomists. Nevertheless the Middle Thomists bring out an important aspect of the question that deserves further investigation. The difficulties of the system of the Dominican school center on the preservation of freedom in the will and the problem of Divine causality and sin. Perhaps man contributes a negative or non-being to the situation of a free choice in such a way that its contingency is preserved but God remains the Author of all being. The kernel of such an idea can be found in the work of a man who considered these great questions centuries before Banez and Suarez and Molina were born – St. Anselm of Canterbury.


In his treatises De Libertate Arbitrii and De Casu Diaboli, St. Anselm develops a theory of the will that is in many ways peculiar. The will is self-moving by virtue of inclinations given to it by God. Two natural inclinations, called affections, are the causes of the first movement of the will. The affections inhere in the will as tendencies or dispositions for the sake of which all other things are willed. There are two such affections – the affection for justice and the affection for the beneficial. These are willed necessarily but the means to achieve them are varied and thus can be chosen.

Anselm, however, distinguishes choice from freedom; the latter applies to justice alone.72

Here one sees the problem with Anselm’s theory itself. The sinner loses the affection of justice and therefore becomes a slave to sin. He still has the power of choice regarding what is beneficial, but he is no longer able to do what is just. Thus all of his actions are sins; he is not free to do anything good. 73 Anselm states that slavery to sin is opposed to freedom; such slavery

… is nothing other than an inability to avoid sinning … a man is a servant of sin for no other reason than this: that he can’t avoid sinning because he is unable to return to uprightness, or to recover rectitude and have it again.74

For the purposes of this investigation, the technical point that the will of a sinner cannot do good is not as important as the idea, as Anselm states it, that “when the will deserts the uprightness it has received, it cannot regain it unless God gives it back.”75 More important is the precise way in which Anselm develops the concept of the will’s dependence upon God. Anselm recognizes God as the source of the will’s action:

He (God) does cause all actions and all movements, in that He causes the things from which, out of which, by which, and in which they come to be. Every creature possesses only such power to will or to do anything as God has given. Willing – which is sometimes just, sometimes unjust – is nothing other than using the will and the ability to will which God gives. Thus, willing, insofar as it is, is something good and is from God.76

In reference to Satan, Anselm develops an important, though obvious, distinction:

Insofar as Satan’s will and its turnings or movement, are something, they are good and they are from God. But insofar as his will lacks the justice that it shouldn’t lack, it is something evil … and whatever is evil is not from God but from willing, or from the moving of the will …. Therefore, what is something is made by God and is His; but what is nothing, i.e., what is evil, is made by an unjust creature and is his.77

The sinner is incapable of performing just actions, yet he must perform a just action in order to recover the affection of justice.78 When such a man performs a sinful action, God causes the being of the action and the movement of the will, and the sinner is solely responsible for the lack of justice in the act. What is the relationship between God and man in the exercise of a just action? Anselm gives us the clue:

“When a man does good, he is responsible for the fact that his deeds are not evil. He is responsible because when able to desert justice, he did not desert, but kept rectitude through free choice with the aid of grace.”79

Here there seems to be a distinction between the man’s “not deserting” and his “keeping rectitude.” G. Stanley Kane, commenting on the text, extends this notion to the sinner as well. The sinner must “refrain from doing something unjust” in addition to being given the grace of God, in order to recover justice. This refraining is not a positive act; it merely means that the sinner does nothing rather than doing something unjust. God brings about the positive act of justice through His grace. God is responsible for all that is positive in the act; the man contributes a refraining which, though necessary for God to work the just action in him, is nothing positive of itself. Hence God retains full credit for the act.80

In separating God’s primary contribution to the act from man’s “primary contribution” (if such a term can be used about a non-being), St. Anselm enables us to consider the possibility of self-determination in such a way that God’s causality of all being is preserved in a manner pleasing to the Thomists. One of the better 20th century attempts to approach the question makes fundamental use of this consideration.



Father William G. Most, an American priest and theologian, has written a thorough and extensive treatise on the problem of predestination and grace called New Answers to Old Questions. Proceeding from the demands of Revelation properly understood, Most insists that several of the most important metaphysical conclusions of the Thomists must be rejected. Then, using Revelation and the fundamental notions of Thomism on being, movement, and causality, Most develops a system to explain efficacious grace and predestination. This system raises new metaphysical implications which Most develops as far as is necessary to support his thesis. These implications shed new light on the subject of free will and Divine causality and may provide the necessary answers to some of the major problems of the metaphysical systems of the older schools.

The focal point of the Mostian system is the Anselmian consideration (though he does not use this term). Most’s inspiration is not St. Anselm, but rather St. Thomas himself. The Angelic Doctor offers an idea much like Anselm’s in the Contra Gentiles:

although a man, by the movement of his free will, can neither merit nor obtain Divine grace, yet he can impede himself from receiving it …And since this is in the power of free will [namely] to impede or not to impede the reception of Divine grace not undeservingly is he charged with a fault who sets up an impediment to grace. For God, so far as He is concerned, is ready to give grace to all … but they only are deprived of grace who set up an impediment to grace in themselves.”81

Several fundamental principals are stated here. God wills to give grace to all men, and does not do so only because of willful impediments set up by man. St. Thomas is very clear that this applies to God “as far as He is concerned.” It is not sufficient, then, to appeal to a priority of human inadvertence in the material order of causality alone. Also the power of impeding and non-impeding is “in the power of free will,” whereas the power to merit grace is not. The distinction between the impediment and the Divine willingness clearly implies that the impediment is the product of the will alone.

This is the foundation of Most’s thesis on predestination. God wills all men to be saved, and He reprobates only those in whom He foresees “persistent resistance.” All those who do not resist He predestines, but their non-resistance is not the cause of their predestination; rather the Divine decree that they be saved is the cause. Of itself, non-resistance does not bring about anything. It only means that the predestined do not put up any obstacle to God’s will to save them.”

The Mostian theory of grace follows upon this. He distinguishes two “stages” in the process of a salutary free action. In the first stage, God presents the intellect with a salutary good, enlightening it to have knowledge of this good. He then moves the will to take “initial complacency” in this good. At this moment the will has two “options.” It can place resistance to this good; that is, it can contribute defect to the process. Or it can non-resist; that is, it can do nothing at all with respect to these initial motions. In the second stage, God moves the will, in the Thomistic sense, to either the material element of sin (if the will has supplied the defect) or to the salutary act (if the will has done nothing to resist). Under the motion of the second stage, the will cooperates as a secondary cause.83

Both resistance and non-resistance, considered as such, are non-beings.

Resistance must be distinguished from the act of resistance; the former is simply the defect in the will and therefore has no ontological content and is not caused by God (as Thomists have always asserted) while the latter has being insofar as it is an act and follows upon the defect and God’s causality in the second stage. Non-resistance is simply nothing. It is not a movement of the will. It is not good by virtue of its object since there is no object; nothing is done. Nor is it good by virtue of its end, since no end is intended. Since the absence of good is the absence of being, the non-resistance is non-being.84

By distinguishing two stages in the Divine motion and restricting the will’s limiting contribution to resistance or non-resistance, Most presents another form of the Middle Thomist metaphysical system that overcomes Garrigou-Lagrange’s objection. Specification must be considered as being in the sense that it is the perfection of the potency of the will, but resistance and non-resistance in and of themselves do not constitute a determination of the potency, therefore they do not represent its perfection. By distinguishing between non-resistance and specification, Most is able to attribute the latter, which is a perfection, to the primary causality of God. Hence God remains the cause of all being.

The application of the non-resistance theory to a situation in which the will must select between good and evil is clear enough. How the theory applies to situations in which the will must choose between several morally permissible goods, however, is somewhat more obscure. According to Most (once again with reference to the order of grace), God could send several “specified graces” to the human agent, with each grace bringing about simultaneously the knowledge of the good in the intellect and the initial complacency in the will. The will remains in a state of indecision until it has resisted all but one of the options. Then the second stage takes place as earlier described, with reference to the good which has not been resisted by the will.85

Also God could move a man to deliberate and thus “to come to see one or more specified goods.” Then God would bring about “an initial complacency in the one or more goods. Then the man could resist all or all but one (if several are seen).” God could also bring goods to the attention of the intellect through the mediation of secondary causes 86

It seems that resistance in deliberation between morally permissible goods must be distinguished from the resistance which precedes a morally wicked action. The former does not seem to be a moral defect in that a morally good action can follow from deliberation among several goods.

Having accepted the Thomist concept of physical premotion, Most is perfectly comfortable with the idea that God can move the will “infrustrably” by overcoming the will’s resistance. Here he distinguishes between autonomous and secondary freedom. The former is usually preserved under physical premotion because “the physical movement does not move a man as far as positive consent without the condition of non-resistance in the first part of the process of the granting of a grace ….” The latter is the condition of the will under an infrustrable motion – God can move the will thus and preserve this freedom because He is omnipotent.87

Most’s primary interest in positing autonomous freedom is to save Thomistic metaphysics from itself. He criticizes past theologians for relying too much on metaphysics and not enough on proper theological method. This led them into a metaphysics which, when applied to Revelation, had the effect of rendering vacuous the doctrine of the Universal Salvific Will.88

Most cites the obvious sources in Scripture (1 Cor 10:13, 2 Pet 3:9, 1 Tim 2:1-6) and the Fathers (Gregory of Nyssa, Chrysostom, Damascene, Hippolytus, Ambrose, Prosper) to affirm that God truly wills all men to be saved.89 He himself states that

… the precise measure of the salvific will is this: God wants the salvation of all men to such an extent that He did not spare even His only Son, but sent Him to the most dreadful death of the Cross, in order to establish infinite objective titles for each individual man ….90

Revelation seems to demand that we recognize a true universal salvific will in God, though not an efficacious one, due to the resistance of creatures. Banez, however, does not see it this way. Most quotes him as saying that the universal salvific will must be present in God eminently because He causes the Christian man to have such an attitude. But it is not present formally in God.91

Thomists must assert that God reprobates some men antecedent to consideration of their demerits. Most says that such a reprobation would not be mysterious and inscrutable; rather it would be totally without reason.92

The author of New Answers to Old Questions, then, seeks a solution that preserves the integrity of Revelation rather than one that proceeds primarily from metaphysical considerations. In the process of doing this; he makes an important breakthrough in the metaphysical problem itself. His system preserves God as the author of all being, but it does so in such a way that man is clearly responsible for sin. His next task is to reconcile man’s “negative autonomy” with God’s foreknowledge.

Most distinguishes two ways that God knows future contingencies: through the medium of the Divine decree and by means of the Divine intellect. In the latter sense, the medium is eternity itself, and the decree is required only for the existence of the beings in eternity; not as a means of knowledge. The existence of the contingency as present and determined is required for it to be the object of certain knowledge; therefore the decree must cause that existence. It is true, of course, that God knows all things in Himself by virtue of the Divine decree. But He also knows all things in eternity by virtue of the Divine intellect itself. This intellect is transcendent and therefore it is not changed or perfected by what it knows. The decree causes the beings in eternity which the transcendent intellect knows, but it does not cause the non-beings of resistance and non-resistance. Most insists that this best conforms to the mind of St. Thomas, who always has recourse to eternity when he speaks of God’s knowledge of future contingencies.93

The medium of eternity is required for God to know future contingents. Banez insists that God could know future contingents solely in their causes because of their subjection to the First Cause. Most rejects this view because resistance and non-resistance do not come under the Divine causality; therefore God knows them with His transcendent intellect and only knows them in the Divine decree insofar as He knows what beings He is causing in eternity. Resistance would, by virtue of the Divine permission, result in the fact that the motions of the first stage would no longer exist in the will. God would know this in His causality because He would no longer be causing them.94

How does Most tackle the objection of passivity in God? God’s will is not determined by human resistance in that He freely permits this resistance. God’s knowledge is neither caused nor added-to by the presence of negatives. Most appeals to St. Thomas – a negation is not the cause of the truth of a negative proposition. The mind itself is the efficient cause by “conforming itself to the non-being that is outside the mind.” Therefore the mind itself produces the truth. No movement takes place in the Divine intellect when it knows the negatives, even though the negatives are logically prior to God’s act of knowing them. This is because, though they are logically prior in their own non-existence, the truth of propositions about them is logically posterior to the act of knowing, since this act produces such truth. Also, one cannot say that there is an increase in the Divine knowledge because increase implies temporality, and all things are “simultaneously” present to God in eternity.95

Now Most must explain God’s knowledge of futuribles. There is no dispute that God knows infallibly what any free will would do in any circumstance, including those circumstances and wills which do not in fact exist in eternity. If God did not have infallible knowledge of the futuribles, His knowledge about them would be conjectural; this would be to posit an imperfection in God. Therefore the traditional dispute has been about the manner in which God knows futuribles. Thomists state that God knows futuribles by virtue of “hypothetical Divine decrees” – He knows what He would cause free will A to do in circumstances B, if He caused A and B to exist. The Jesuits, of course, hold to the theory of the scientia media. Most cannot accept the Thomist theory because the hypothetical Divine decree does not include the non-beings which are known in eternity, and upon which – according to the Divine pleasure – the decrees are based. Therefore he must accept the scientia media.96

He accepts the hypothetical Divine decree because it is necessary for the “hypothetical beings” whose existence is posited. For the non-beings, however, Most has recourse to the transcendent intellect, but without an attempt at explanation. “The transcendent Divine intellect knows what determination a creature would make, even though it would make it entirely freely, and even though there is no determinism within the creature.”97

Therefore that which is undetermined in itself must somehow be knowable to God.98 Most quotes St. Albert the Great:

“.. the light of the Divine intelligence, which is of in- finite power… penetrates… into hidden parts, I mean, hidden in themselves and in [their] cause …. from [His] infinite~ower of foreseeing withersoever that which is mutable may turn itself.99

The Mostian thesis is a formidable one. Its metaphysical implications are significant in that it seeks to resolve the principal difficulties of both physical premotion and the scientia media. It is necessary to develop more fully the solutions proposed to see precisely what the scope of their impact is on the traditional metaphysics. Is it possible to assert both physical premotion and the scientia media in such a way that the weighty metaphysical objections of the great Jesuit and Dominican theologians are answered? To what extent does the Mostian thesis require us to lay aside metaphysics and simply to believe, without any understanding, that which is demanded by Revelation?


In the Thomist tradition, William G. Most asserts God’s causality of all being and all motion. Therefore, the metaphysical system required by his thesis is founded upon Thomistic ground. It is necessary here to distinguish between the Mostian thesis on grace, which is explicitly stated in the treatise, and the Mostian system, which is the metaphysics that best complements the thesis. The latter is not developed in any significant detail by Most, whose stated concern is solely theology. Therefore this investigation will attempt to work out the blueprint for a Mostian system of metaphysics, particularly in those areas in which its contribution may affect the consideration of the metaphysical objections of the traditional schools.

The Thomistic notion of Divine causality includes the principal that no potency cannot reduce itself into act. Therefore the will, considered as a power, requires the Divine premotion. By accepting physical premotion, Most does not need to face the difficulties of explaining a self-actuating potency. Jesuits, however, have always objected that physical premotion necessitates the will because it is God, rather than the man, who is free regarding what the man will do in a particular situation. The only contingency thus demonstrated is with respect to the Divine decree, which proves only that God is free.

Most, however, distinguishes two stages in physical premotion; the Divine movement brings about the initial stage by necessitating the will, but the movement does not continue in the presence of resistance. The second stage of movement is, by God’s own free decision, dependent upon the non-resistance of the will. Therefore God is not necessitated by the will; nevertheless the act is now clearly contingent with respect to the will, because it retains two “options” under the initial stage of the Divine motion. The second stage of premotion, then, is no more necessitating to the will than is the will’s own positive determination with which it temporally coincides because the Jesuit objection that the will does not place the contingency no longer applies.

What about what Most calls “secondary freedom;” that is, freedom of the will under an infrustrable motion that overcomes resistance? Perhaps the Thomist defense of the freedom of the faculty of the will under premotion is sufficient to explain freedom in this secondary sense. As seen earlier, St. Thomas himself makes the distinction between the normal motion of the will and the special operation of infrustrable grace (I-II, 9, 6). The will is determined in a way that conforms to its nature, in that resistance is a defect introduced by the will rather than an act proper to its nature; therefore its elimination does not violate the will’s nature.

In the Thomist scheme God predetermines the will antecedent to any consideration of contingencies placed by the will itself. Most’s idea, however, implies that although God has the power to predetermine the will in such a way and make resistance impossible, He does not always do so. God can move the hearts of men in any manner He chooses. Usually, however, He moves men to morally good acts consequent to non-resistance.

Resistance, in the Mostian system, must be carefully defined. Therefore it is important to distinguish two motions in the will: complacency and consent. This distinction must be made in order to distinguish the defect of resistance from the mere defectiveness of the will considered as creature. In order to say that God causes all motion in the will, one must say that the defect of resistance “inheres” (so to speak) in thewill as constituted in first act. But the will is constituted by its nature in first act with all that is necessary for it to choose good actions.

There seems to be a dilemma here – if the defect is in the will as it is in first act, it is natural and therefore non-culpable. If it is culpable it must be voluntary and therefore proceed from an action which constitutes the will in second act. But the will cannot move into second act, the Thomists say, without God’s primary motion (no potency can actualize itself).

Here is where the distinction comes in. The will is constituted in first act with respect to two distinct modes of action – necessary (complacency) and free (consent). An action in the former mode necessarily precedes an action in the latter, but only conditionally so. The necessitated act of complacency is a condition for choice in the same way that the form of the particular good in the intellect is.

More specifically, complacency is the act of loving the good-in-general. The will must love “goodness itself;” however it is not continually in act with respect to this love. Rather, the act of loving the good-in-general is elicited from the will when the intellect apprehends a particular and the goodness present in it. The initial response of the will to this apprehension is a spontaneous loving of goodness. This is the act of complacency. It ought to follow that the will love and choose the particular for the sake of the good-in-general. The particular, however, is not identical with “goodness;” it is only an imperfect participation in it. The will possesses goodness (in this life) by acting for its limited manifestations. It can, however, love goodness without choosing to possess it in the particular manner presented. Therefore, although the will should act for the morally upright particular presented to it, it does not have to do so. It is capable of “resisting” the particular. But is not this resistance a determination of the will; an act?

As previously stated, Thomists assert that God must cause the act of resistance because it is a motion and because it has being by reference to its matter (though its “form” is defective). The act of resistance is determinate; therefore it has some being and must be caused by God.

In the Mostian system, however, the act of resistance is distinguished from “simple resistance” which precedes it. This latter “resistance” takes place with the act of complacency. God moves the will into second act with reference to actions of complacency but the will remains in first act with reference to actions of choice. The will that takes initial complacency in “goodness” has not yet determined itself to choose any particular good. Also, the act of complacency is undetermined with respect to resistance or non-resistance. Nevertheless the will under this motion is distinguished from the will as simply constituted – therefore it is possible for a defect to enter the will which is not present naturally. Resistance, then, is placed within the act of complacency. This defect “inheres” in the will as constituted in second act with respect to actions of complacency. Complacency is a necessary condition for choice; but complacency without defect is a necessary condition for morally upright choice. Hence the will is prevented by a condition from choosing the morally good option.

The resistance is not an act distinct from the complacency; rather it is a defect introduced by the will under the motion to complacency. It in no way affects the act of complacency itself; nevertheless the motion to complacency is necessary in order for the will to place resistance so that this resistance can be distinguished from defects natural to the will.

Most himself does not present an explanation of the placement of resistance with this degree of detail. Rather, he speaks of God causing initial effects in the agent (apprehension in the intellect and complacency in the will). These effects cease upon resistance. For Most, resistance is posited as temporally posterior (with respect to the will) to the effects of the initial stage. 100 The problem with Most’s presentation here is that it fails to clearly distinguish any kind of actuality in the will that is under the influence of the effects; therefore there is nothing to explain the introduction of a defect into the power as constituted in first act with reference to free choices.

Also, Most’s notion of posteriority introduces a notion of indeterminateness in God’s causality. If the “effects” are defined as an act of complacency, the resistance terminates this act, so that if God wishes to cause an act of complacency, His determination of the duration of the act must be logically consequent to His knowledge of the placement of resistance. If resistance is placed within the act, however, God can determine a specific act of a specific duration without reference to the will’s resistance. This is because resistance has no bearing on the status of the act of complacency as act. Thus God is wholly responsible for a being – the “act of complacency;”the logical order of the Divine decree is (1) determination of the act in its entirety, (2) knowledge of the placement of resistance. In the posterior scheme, however, the logical order is (1) determination of effects of indeterminate duration, (2) foreknowledge of resistance, (3) determination of the duration. This poses difficulties regarding foreknowledge, as will become evident later.

In determining an act of complacency, God also determines a complete movement, since the will infallibly takes complacency in the good regardless of whether or not it places resistance. Resistance and non-resistance, then, do not in any way effect the being of the act of complacency, or the movement of the will to it. An imperfect analogy is the fact that the desire of attaining a good exists, as a desire, in the same way in those who hope to attain it as in those who despair of attaining it.

The will’s resistance does not constitute the power in second act with reference to consent; resistance, merely as a defect, is not within the proper powers of the will, so it need not be considered as an act of resistance. What, precisely, is this defect? It is a limitation of the will as potency. The will, as a power, is undetermined with respect to any particular good. It is also limited conditionally from choosing any particular good; it depends upon knowledge and complacency. When these conditions are present, however, the will can still limit itself by resistance. It renders itself conditionally unable to act for the particular. The will is not responsible for the defect of limitation when the conditions are absent. In the presence of the conditions, however, there is no limitation except that which the will places upon itself. Here the will alone is responsible for the defect.

In contrast, the Thomists say that the moral defect is contributed by the will when God moves the will to the act of consenting to resist. But since this act always involves a moral defect, the will under this determination must resist in order for the Divine motion to be determinate. Under the Mostian system, however, the Divine motion to the act of complacency is determined regardless of the placement of resistance or non-resistance by the will. Hence God in no way is responsible for the fact that the will places the moral defect – He is merely responsible for the fact that the will takes complacency. The will does not have to place the defect under the Divine motion; in the Thomist system it does.

Thus the Mostian system answers the principal Jesuit objections regarding freedom and the problem of evil under the Thomist premotion. Can the Mostian scientia media be made acceptable to Thomists? Perhaps the key can be found in the consideration of non-being and eternity. Most rejects Garrigou-Lagrange’s dilemma simply by asserting that God’s intellect is transcendent; therefore He can know things independent of the Divine causality by seeing them in eternity. Thomists insist that God would be passive in His knowledge without the mediation of the Divine decree – the creature would cause Him to see it. Thomists would agree, however, that negatives do not cause knowledge about themselves. Therefore God knows all negatives by virtue of the beings which He does cause in eternity. Since negatives do not cause the knowledge about negative propositions, however, it seems that God could know the truth of such propositions not only in Himself (in that He is not causing them) but also in eternity, by virtue of the objective truth of these propositions; a truth which is efficiently caused by His intellect and not by the negatives.

Thomists object to the scientia media, saying that God could not know the truth of the proposition “Peter would do A if …” because this proposition would have no determinate truth antecedent to God’s will to create. This is true because God is the cause of all being, and the truth value of the proposition “Peter would do A if …” is inseparable from the existence of Peter’s doing A in eternity; an existence caused by God. This is why the Thomists posit hypothetical decrees – they would say that, even if God could know beings by virtue of a transcendent intellect alone, He would still have to cause, at least hypothetically, the existence of those beings because something has to exist in order to be known. But if He caused the hypothetical existence of Peter’s doing A, He would determine it.

What distinguishes hypothetical existence from real existence? In q. 14, a. 13 of the Prima Pars, St. Thomas distinguishes beings as they are in themselves (their “independent existence”) from beings as they are in the mind (their “condition as part of the act of knowing”). Hypothetical existence has being in the latter sense only (in the Divine intellect), while real existence has being in both senses. Therefore God can be said to “cause” a hypothetical being when He considers a possible action. He is not creating a being; rather He is performing a free act of consideration by which the purely possible is considered as if it presently existed.

Thus the “hypothetical being” is distinguished from the purely possible only by the mode of consideration. God knows all beings in eternity. He knows all purely possibles in His simple intelligence; He knows what He could make. He also knows, however, what a possible would “look like” (if you will) if it existed. If it existed it would be eternally present to Him; therefore He can know the purely possible as it would be if it were eternally present.

If He can know the futurable as it would be if it were eternally present, how is it that He does not determine it? Here is where the negative becomes important. The necessity of God as cause disappears in the question of non-beings. The truth about a non-being is caused by the intellect that knows it without the mediation of the will (except in a permissive sense). In a hypothetical universe, all of the being that exists in a real universe is hypothetically present. The transcendent intellect considers a hypothetical being in the same manner that it knows a real being; that is, as “in” eternity. Therefore the content of the knowledge is the same except for the fact that God knows that the real being has its own existence. This He knows by virtue of His knowing His own will to create such a being.

In the “hypothetical universe” – or collection of hypothetical beings – all positive propositions would have truth by virtue of the beings that hypothetically exist. All positive beings would have determined hypothetical existence, and thus be fit objects of certain knowledge. Similarly, all negative propositions would have determined truth values by virtue of their being considered as “in” eternity. However, God’s hypothetical causality would not determine the non-beings, since there is nothing for Him to cause. Yet God’s intellect would cause His knowledge of the truth of the negative propositions.

The negative proposition is knowable as true because of the intellect’s consideration of the hypothetical universe, whose content is the same as if it were a real universe. However, there is nothing present at all in the hypothetical universe that could in any way cause God to know the truth of a negative – only the transcendent intellect, considering hypothetical beings as present, can by its penetrating power come td a knowledge of the negative. Since it is the transcendent intellect’s consideration alone which is responsible for the truth of the negative proposition, whether the decrees and beings are hypothetical or real does not matter as long as the mode is one of eternity. Eternity is the condition whereby that which is undetermined in its cause (the negative placed by the hypothetical will considered as such) can be considered as determined by the transcendent intellect.

This negative, as we have seen, is placed within the act of complacency. The hypothetical being of the act of complacency is wholly determined. Such an act is always accompanied by either resistance or non-resistance. This “specification” cannot be deduced from the act; however it is always “present” with the act. Therefore when the possible act is considered as present, there is objective truth to the negative proposition. Here one sees clearly the difficulty mentioned earlier regarding any indetermination in the Divine decree for the act of complacency antecedent to foreknowledge. The act considered as present is considered as wholly determined (even with regard to its duration).

It appears that this concept of the scientia media steers between the difficulties in the Jesuit and Thomist notions of God’s knowledge of futuribles. The Jesuits state that God knows “Peter would do A if . . . ” because of its objective truth. As we saw, Thomists had objected that this proposition, unless it is determined, is neither true nor false. They assert that God knows “Peter would do A if . . . ” because He determines it. Middle Thomists would like to say that God knows “Peter would do A if …” because it exists as hypothetically present in God’s consideration; however this hypothetical existence would depend upon the divine determination. In the Mostian system, what God determines are the conditions under which the negative is placed. Therefore the negative can be considered as “present” by virtue of the hypothetical act of complacency (which is always accompanied by one of two negatives) being considered as if it were eternally present. Because of this, it is possible for God to know the objective truth of the negative proposition, without that truth being determined by the Divine decree. The Aristotelian objection to the Jesuit theory is overcome by the fact that the proposition, considered in eternity, does not refer to an “undetermined future.”

To put it simply, if God has a decree which says that He would move possible will X to complacency in possible good Y if He chose to create it in such and such circumstances etc., the Divine intellect, by virtue of the decree, sees possible will X taking complacency in possible good Y in the same way that it would if it actually existed. If present, however, possible will X also either resists or non-resists. Since one or the other is true when such an act takes place, God’s transcendent intellect is able to know which one since He knows the hypothetical act in the same manner (eternally present) as He knows a real act. The negative is still undetermined, however, with reference to possible will X antecedent to its hypothetical act of complacency.

How God knows the truth of the proposition we do not know. The negative proposition has an objective truth, not because this truth is “caused” by any of the hypothetical beings, but because of the mode of eternity. God does not know it in any of the hypothetical beings, but simply because, in eternity, it “would be” objectively true. Since there is merely a fact of objective truth and not an object to inform the intellect, only the transcendent intellect, whose knowledge is not caused by objects, can see it. It does not need to have reference to any of the beings in order to know non-being. It can know the objective truth solely because the mode (eternity) requires the negative determination.

Such knowledge is mysterious, indeed, but not metaphysically impossible. In this conception of the scientia media, there is no being present which God does not cause, no passivity of intellect, and no undetermined object that is known as determined. It is a “middle knowledge” because it is not known simply by God but rather is known by an act of considering the possibles as eternally present. This consideration is no more mysterious and unfathomable than eternity itself, which is timeless and in which all things are. Such is to be expected in the investigation of the things of God.

These previous theses are by no means intended to be a developed metaphysical system. They stand merely as speculations which admittedly require further development, clarification, and perhaps even revision. Nevertheless they demonstrate, if nothing else, that William G. Most’s theory presents important insights that open up whole new avenues of metaphysical consideration. Both the Jesuit and Dominican schools need to examine their traditional objections in light of these insights. This chapter proposes the manner in which such an examination might proceed. It is quite possible that metaphysics, as well as Revelation, demands that the key elements of the Mostian thesis be accepted.


This investigation has sought to propose a new challenge to the traditional schools on the grounds of metaphysics. Most challenges them as theologically insufficient; the metaphysics that is needed to justify his system provides a similar challenge to the metaphysical presuppositions of the schools. Metaphysical systems, however, are not ends in themselves – the problem of free will and Divine causality is inseparable, in that real universe

in which we live, from the mystery of grace. The metaphysics of the former can be a tool to shed light upon the latter. As to the solution of the problem of grace and free will, which will lay all metaphysical objections to rest, this investigation, like all others that have proceeded it in good faith, awaits the decision of the Apostolic See and submits itself fully to that decision and to the teachings of the Church. Without such a guide, metaphysics can easily go astray and become lost within the mental walls of a fallen human intellect.

This and all such knowledge is but a shadow of the great mysteries of God, Who is Father, Origin and Cause of all things, and Son, eternally begotten of the Father and through Whom and for Whom all things were made, Who in the fullness of time was sent to make His dwelling among men; and Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son as their eternal Love, and sent by the Father and the Son to sanctify those who place no obstacle in His path. May He receive glory and honor and praise unto ages of ages. Amen.


1Concordia liberi arbitrii cum gratia donis, divina praescientia, providentia, praedestinatione, et reprobatione ad nonnullus primae partis divi Thomae articulos. Lisbon, 1588; 1589 added appendix ad Concordia liberi arbitrii (44 p.). The appendix answers the objections of Banez. Most surviving copies of the first edition have the appendix in the form of a subsequently printed insert. Reprinted, Antwerp, 1705; Paris, 1876. Another edition, Cuenca, 1592; Leon, 1593. Third edition,Venice, 1594; 1602. Other editions, Leipzig, 1622.

 2“Congregatio de Auxiliis,” Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908, vol. IV, col. 2-3.

3 “Congregatio . . .,” col. 3.

   4Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, trans. Patrick Lynch, ed. James

Canon (St. Louis: Herder, 1954), pp. 244-245. 5 5Ott, pp. 234-235.
6Ott, p. 246; “Grace, controversies on,” Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908, vol. 6, col. 2-4 7Ott, p. 247; “Grace …,” col. 5-8.

 8 Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, God, His existence and His nature, II, trans. Dom Bede Rose (St. Louis: Herder, 1949), p. 355.
9 Garrigou-Lagrange, God, p. 540.

10 Garrigou-Lagrange, God, pp. 71-74. St. Thomas deals with this in 1, a. 13, q. 14 of the Summa Theologica, where he states that God knows future contingencies because they are present to him in eternity. Mention of knowledge in the Divine decree is conspicuously absent. St. Thomas states that a future contingency is knowable only as present; it is unknowable in its causes. Here Cardinal Cajetan comments that, since the Divine decree is a cause of the future contingency, it follows that the contingency is unknowable in the divine decree. This seems to contradict the position here expounded by Garrigou-Lagrange.

11Raymond Fowerbaugh, The notion of ‘physical premotion’ in the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1951), p.1.

12Fowerbaugh, pp. 24-27.

13Garrigou-Lagrange, God, pp. 77-79; Gerard Smith, Freedom in Molina (Chi

cago: Loyola University Press, 1966), pp. 121-123.

14Garrigou-Lagrange, God, pp. 77-79.
15 Smith, pp. 121-123.

16Smith, pp. 128-129,134.

17Garrigou-Lagrange, God, p. 77.
18Garrigou-Lagrange, God, p. 77.   

19 Fowerbaugh, p. 4.

20 Garrigou-Lagrange, God, p. 356.

21Garrigou-Lagrange, God, p. 79.

22Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Predestination, trans. Dom Bede Rose (St.

Louis: Herder, 1950), pp. 241, 257-258.
23Fowerbaugh, p. 95.

24Fowerbaugh, p. 50.

25Garrigou-Lagrange, Predestination, pp. 244, 261-262.

26Smith, pp. 117, 125-126.

27Garrigou-Lagrange, God, pp. 370-372.
28Garrigou-Lagrange, God, pp. 372-373.
29Garrigou-Lagrange, God, p. 373.

30Garrigou-Lagrange, God, pp. 372-374.

31 Smith, p. 134; St. Thomas, Summa Theologicae, IaIIae, 9, 6.

32Donald Attwater, ed., A Catholic Dictionary (New York: Macmillan, 1961), p.168.

33Thomas U. Mullaney, Suarez on Human Freedom (Baltimore: Carroll Press,

1950), pp. 1-9.

34Garrigou-Lagrange, God, p. 359.
35Mullaney, pp. 35-37.
36Smith, p. 111.

37 Mullaney, p. 36.

38Francisco Suarez, “Disputationes Metaphysicae” XIX, sec. 4, no. 8, in Renaissance Philosophy, trans. Herman Shapiro and Arturo B. Fallico (New York: Modern Library, 1969).

39 Mullaney, pp. 51-58.

40 Suarez, XIX, sec. 4, no. 8.

41Mullaney, pp. 16, 21.

42Suarez, XIX, sec. 2, no. 15.

43Mullaney, pp. 43-47.
44Mullaney, pp. 43-47.
45Mullaney, pp. 43-49, 62-64.
46Mullaney, pp. 19-20, 22-23.
47 Smith, pp. 101, 136-141.

48 Garrigou-Lagrange, God, p. 82.

49“Grace . . .,” col. 5-8.

50Garrigou-Lagrange, God, p. 82.

51Garrigou-Lagrange, God, pp. 83-84.
52Smith, pp. 119-120, 134.
53Garrigou-Lagrange, God, p. 361.
54Smith, pp. 122-123.

55 Smith, pp. 122-123.
56Smith, p. 117.

57Garrigou-Lagrange, God, p. 358.
58Garrigou-Lagrange, God, p. 357.
59Smith, pp. 141-142, 167.

60Garrigou-Lagrange, God, pp. 82-83.
61Garrigou-Lagrange, God, pp. 83-85.
62Garrigou-Lagrange, God, pp. 73, 540.

 63St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. Thomas Gornall, eds. Blackfriars, Vol. IV (New York: McGraw Hill, and London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1964), I, 14, 13.

64St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, trans. James F. Anderson

(Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1955), II, 48.

65St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. Thomas Gilby, eds. Blackfriars, Vol. XVII (New York: McGraw Hill, and London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1970), 1-11, 9, 6.

66Summa Theoligica, I-II, 9, 6.

67Smith, pp. 141-142, 164.

68Fowerbaugh, p. 71.

69Garrigou-Lagrange, Predestination, p. 266.
70Garrigou-Lagrange, Predestination, p. 298.
71Garrigou-Lagrange, God, p. 560.

72G. Stanley Kane, Anselm’s doctrine of freedom and the will (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1981), pp. 61-67, 71-74, 156-157.

73 Kane, pp. 162-163, 166.

 74Jasper Hopkins and Herbert Richardson, eds., Theological Treatises of St. Anselm (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Divinity School Library, 1965), p. 70.

75St. Anselm, p. 67.
76St. Anselm, p. 65.
77St. Anselm, p. 123.
78 Kane, pp. 162-163.
79 Kane, p. 164.
80 Kane, pp. 164-166.

81William G. Most, New Answers to Old Questions (London: St. Paul, n.d.), p.131 (Summa Contra Gentiles III, 158).

82Most, introd.

83Most, pp. 118-131.
84Most, pp. 365, 472.
85Most, pp. 367-368.
86Most, pp. 367-368.