An absolute divine decree that a man shall perform a good act, infallibly effective before man's consent is given. Because such decrees are implied in scriptural teaching that every good act is the work of God, the gift of God, that His providence infallibly rules human action, Catholic theologians unanimously affirm these decrees for all good acts, but differ in explaining them. Some hold formal predefinition: God first absolutely decrees that a man shall perform good acts and consequently decrees efficacious graces to obtain them. So say they who reject God's middle knowledge (scientia media), affirming that the efficacy of grace comes from its intrinsic nature; and also say some who affirm middle knowledge, deriving the efficacy of grace partly from it—some of these affirm God would seek endlessly by middle knowledge to obtain effective grace, so determined is He to have these good acts.
Strict Molinists hold virtual predefinition: God simply intends to give man this grace to which, by middle knowledge, He sees man would consent, thereby intending the resulting good act; but He would give the same grace if He foresaw man's dissent, because He had no prior absolute intent to have a good act, but only if obtainable with this grace. This difference of Catholic opinion is due to differences about the condition under which God intends to save all men, and the source of grace's efficacy.
See Also: bÁÑez and baÑezianism; free will and grace; grace, efficacious; grace, sufficient; molinism; perseverance, final; predetermination; will of god.
Bibliography: c. williams, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 8:659–660. j.m. dalmau, Sacrae theologiae summa, ed. Fathers of the Society of Jesus, Professors of the Theological Faculties in Spain (Madrid 1962) v. 2. b. beraza, De gratia Christi (Bilbao 1929).
[f. l. sheerin]