God's Grace and our Free Will


Just some questions in regards to St. Thomas’ theory of free will and grace. In the Summa, Aquinas says that all our good actions are only through the grace of God. This includes the act of turning to God for mercy and salvation. Without grace he says something to the effect that we are sick men who are struggling to rise. In that case, why wouldn’t God grant the grace to turn to Him to everyone? After all, he desires for all of us to be saved and this is the only way for us to be saved.



He does give the grace to everybody.

Doctors prescribe medicine, but not everybody follows the doctor’s orders. Some are proud or stubborn or have false confidence in their health, and they die as a result. A person who does this in the spiritual life will suffer spiritual death.



If I understood the Thomist stance correctly, he does give everyone suffucient grace but does not neccessarily give them efficacious grace unless they will it. But since we can’t will the good without God’s grace, if I understand Aquinas correctly, why doesn’t he grant everyone the grace needed to will efficasiouly?



Because people have a free will to accept or decline an offer of grace. God can’t force anyone to accept or do anything as that is not love. Love is to freely do the best for the other even if that price is my own life.



Sufficient grace is enough to gain efficacious grace if the person cooperates with it.



The answer is free will. This answer proves hard to accept, because free will necessitates an equal measure of responsibility.
We are responsible to cooperate in our own salvation.
Grace is not force.

By analogy:
You could also say that our parents give us “grace” when we are given life and birth. We have everything we need to live life, and still we must participate in that journey.

Grace is not force.



Grace is supernatural and entirely gratuitous from God so we can’t cause it such as by willing it or produce it by our own natural powers and thus St Paul says “And if by grace, it is not now by works, otherwise grace is not more grace” (Romans 2:6). But, it is in our power of free will to place an obstacle to grace such as resisting it or to not place an obstacle to the working of grace in us by not resisting it. This is what the Council of Trent taught as well as what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, for example, “God’s initiative demands man’s free response.” It is within our power of free will to cooperate or not cooperate with God’s grace. So the operation of our free will in consenting to and cooperating with grace is an effect of grace if we do not resist it. The official teaching of the Church does not divide or distinguish grace into sufficient and efficacious but as the CCC does into sanctifying and actual grace.

Aquinas does not distinguish at least explicitly and formally between a division of grace into sufficient and efficacious graces as you may have read somewhere ( on Aquinas’ division of grace, see ST, Part I-II, Q. 111). Such a system of the division of grace, its consequences, and related doctrines was developed and refined by certain later interpreters of Aquinas. In the Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 3, Part II, Aquinas writes that although a person cannot be converted without God’s grace and God is ready to give his grace to all and wills the salvation of all, we can place an obstacle in ourselves to receiving his grace such as by previous unrepentant sins in which God may withhold his grace from us or by resisting his grace when he does give it.

According to Fr. William Most, Aquinas appears to have two approaches gathered from his writings concerning God’s universal salvific will and related doctrines such as the bestowal of grace and predestination and connected to a couple of seemingly irreconcilable scripture texts. For an in depth study of this, check out Fr. Most’s book ’ Grace, Predestination and the Salvific Will of God: New Answers to Old Questions’ which can be found online at the following link:



Grace is always there but we may not appropriate it. The reasons can be a whole list of things though.



First of all I don’t believe the Church is totally on board with STA on this matter. And in any case the Church teaches that while man cannot turn to God without His help, without grace, he can nevertheless resist and reject the grace given. IOW we can’t possibly be saved without God and yet we can still refuse to be saved


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