A division of actual internal grace, efficacious grace means today grace that infallibly obtains the free cooperation of the will. It is considered in two senses: (1) as actually producing, together with the will, the election of a free act—efficacious grace has this connection with the free act from the consent of the will; (2) as already having infallible connection with a future free act of the will prior to that free action absolutely foreseen by God.
Grace Efficacious before Will's Consent. Some have questioned whether all efficacious grace has this efficacy. St. Alphonsus Liguori and others speak of a grace of prayer, given to everyone and rendered efficacious by the recipient's consent. It has no more prior connection with consent rather than dissent; it gets its efficacy entirely from the recipient's response. With this grace all can pray. If they pray, they infallibly receive grace of its nature efficacious, which is necessary for more difficult deeds.
Some modern theologians simply assert that efficacious grace means that the performance of a good act by man is due to God's primacy in grace manifesting itself in man's good act. Others identify efficacy with the infallibility of grace in obtaining God's absolute will in creation prior to man's absolute consent: the city of the blessed. Thus, grace is efficacious in obtaining good acts from mankind as a whole, the acts of individuals being left out of the direct consideration.
But the majority of theologians hold that all efficacious grace has infallible power to obtain the consent of the will prior to the will's consent; for otherwise there could be no providence in God, nor any certain and infallible predestination of the elect, nor would there be any certain and infallible means of implementing the divine will.
Places in Scripture (Prv 21.1; Jer 31.33; Ez 11.9; Jn 10.29; Phil 2.13) bear out the idea that grace has efficacy prior to the consent of the will, but not all has; however, Christian humility has always understood that the difference between one and another in the work of salvation is always due to God's action, which would not be true if the reason why grace is efficacious in one and not another is sometimes the consent of the will. From this follows the corollary that every good act performed by man is a special benefit of God.
Freedom under Efficacious Grace. But despite this priority of the efficacy of grace, it in no way necessitates the will's consent, but leaves intact the ability to dissent, under the action of the most powerful grace; it does not move the will irresistibly to will that to which it solicits it. Man, even under the action of grace, which is infallibly going to obtain the will's consent, retains the power of self-determination to will or not will deliberately that to which he is solicited by preceding indeliberate acts; infallibly he will consent, but he can dissent—efficacious grace does not remove this power. It should be noted that to predetermine the will is not the same as to necessitate it; the former effects that man will infallibly consent, but it does not thereby remove the power of dissent, which is freedom of choice.
In view of recent Catholic writing a distinction should be made between acting freely under grace, with the power not to act, and acting spontaneously, gladly, willingly. The latter is spontaneity, not freedom; a free act may be made with great reluctance, as it was in the agony in the garden.
The reformers held that every grace necessitates the will; it acts spontaneously, but not freely. The Jansenists also held that efficacious grace, stronger than the opposite concupiscence, necessitates the will. But the freedom of the will under the influence of efficacious grace is a dogma of faith; (see H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, 1554, 2002–03). For Biblical reference (see Sir 31.8–11; 2 Cor 6.1); they show that man is able to dissent from the very grace to which he consents.
One meets here two facts. The efficacy of grace is not derived from the consent of the will, yet it leaves the will free. Theologians have striven over this problem for centuries without definite conclusion.
Bibliography: alphonsus liguori, The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection, ed. e. grimm (Brooklyn 1927). b. beraza, De gratia Christi (Bilbao 1929). j. farrelly, Predestination, Grace and Free Will (Westminster, Md. 1964). p. fransen, Divine Grace and Man, tr. g. dupont (New York 1965). r. garrigou-lagrange, Grace, tr. Dominican Nuns, Menlo Park, Calif. (St. Louis 1957). s. gonzÁlez, Scarae theologiae summa, ed. Fathers of the Society of Jesus, Professors of the Theological Faculties in Spain, 4 v. (Madrid), v. 1 (1962), v. 2 (1958), v. 3 1961), v. 4 (1962); Biblioteca de autores cristianos (Madrid 1945) 3.3:295–312. h. lange, De gratia (Freiburg 1929). j. pohle, Grace, Actual and Habitual, ed. and tr. a. preuss (St. Louis 1942). h. rondet, Gratia Christi (Paris 1948).
[f. l. sheerin]