Molina, Luis a distinguished Spanish theologian, was born at Cuenga, in New Castile, in 1535. In 1553 he entered the Order of the Society of Jesus, studied at Coimbra, and afterwards served for twenty years as professor of theology in the University of Evora, in Portugal. He died at Madrid, October 12, 1601. In his writings, which treat especially of grace and free-will, he propounded a system of doctrine which has since been called Molinism, after him. It was while writing a commentary on Thomas Aquinas (published at Cuenca, 1593, 2 volumes, fol.) that he was led to attempt the old Pelagian Controversy by a conciliation of free-will in man with the divine foreknowledge, and with predestination, and he finally advocated his system in his De liberi arbitrii concordia cum gratiae donis, Divina Praescientia, Providentia, Praedestinatione, et, Reprobatione (Lisbon, 1588, 4to). This book, dedicated to the grand Inquisition of Portugal, at once gave rise to a violent controversy. Molina rejects the sufficiency of grace, asserting that grace is sometimes sufficient, sometimes insufficient, according as the will is cooperating with or resisting it. According to his theory, the efficacy of grace is the result of the consent of the human will; not that this consent gives it any strength, but because this consent is requisite in order that grace should be efficient. He therefore says that man requires grace in order to do good, but that God never fails to grant this grace to those who ask it with fervor; he also asserts that man has it in his power to answer or not to the calling of grace. These opinions, which had found many followers, were first attacked by the Spanish Dominicans as being of a Pelagianizing tendency, while they themselves were firmly attached to the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas, and came hence to be named Thomists (q.v.). The innovation was afterwards attacked also by the Calvinists as opposing the theology of Augustine, and also by the Jansenists. Indeed, so much opposition had been encountered by the Molinists, as the propagators of this peculiar doctrine were called, that it was thought wise in 1594 to bring the matter to the consideration of pope Clement VIII, who enjoined silence on both parties, and promised to commit the decision of the dispute to a congregation of theologians. Upon this the Dominicans used their influence with Philip II to induce the pope to reopen the question at once; and, the king's persuasion prevailing, the pope in 1597 organized for that special purpose a congregation called De Auxiliis, consisting of a president, cardinal Malnici, the bishop of Trent, of three other bishops, and seven theologians of different fraternities. It was made their task to inquire into the nature of the assistance derived from grace, and its mode of operation. On January 16, 1598, the opinions of Molina were thus summarized:
(1) A reason or ground of God's predestination is to be found in man's right use of his freewill.
(2) In order that the grace which God bestows to enable men to persevere in religion may become the gift of perseverance, it is necessary that they may be foreseen as consenting and cooperating with the divine assistance offered them, which is a thing within their power.
(3) There is a mediate prescience which is neither the free nor the natural knowledge of God, and by which he knows future contingent events before he forms his decree.*
(4) Predestination may be considered as either general (relating to whole classes of persons), or particular (relating to individual persons). In general predestination there is no reason or ground for it beyond the good pleasure of God, or none on the part of persons predestinated; but in particular predestination (or that of individuals) there is a cause or ground in the foreseen good use of free-will. In 1601, finally, the decision of the congregation was rendered. It pronounced in favor of the Thomistic opinions. But notwithstanding this decision, the Jesuits, who were almost en masse with the Molinists, succeeded in prevailing on Clement VIII to reopen the case; and a new congregation was appointed, consisting of fifteen cardinals, five bishops, and nine doctors, over whom the pope himself presided on seventy-eight different occasions between March 20, 1602, and January 22, 1605; but when about to pronounce sentence he died, and the congregation's sittings had to be continued under his successor, Paul V, from September 1605, until March 1606. Yet even after the expiration of such a long period of deliberation, covering over two hundred sittings, a settlement of the question seemed less likely than ever; and pope Paul, not wishing to condemn or to approve either party, public policy requiring that the pope should not make an enemy of France by deciding against the Jesuits, nor of Spain by deciding against the Dominicans, quietly concluded to discontinue the sittings, simply announcing that he reserved to himself the right of giving his verdict when he should see fit. Only in dismissing the contending parties, in 1607, he forbade their publishing anything more on the subject. This command, however, was but little regarded, and the Scientia media of Molina came to be substantially adopted by Jesuit theologians, while all his adversaries,. the upholders of "efficacious grace," have protested against this system as semi-Pelagianism. Jansenius, for instance, accuses Molina of disregarding St. Augustine, and of misrepresenting his opinions, etc. Bossuet says, in answer to this reproach of semi-Pelagianism (see his answer to Jurieu, Avertissement aux Protestants), "As for M. Jurieu's objection of our Molinists being semi-Pelagials, if he had only opened their books he would have seen that they recognised in all the elect a gratuitous preference on the part of divine grace — a grace ever predisposing, ever necessary for all pious deeds. This we never find among the semi-Pelagians. Going further, or making grace to be preceded by some purely human acts with which it is then connected, I do not hesitate to assert that no Roman Catholic will contradict me when I say that this would be a fearful mistake, which would take away the very foundation of humility, and that the Church would never tolerate it, after having so often decided, and lately in the Council of Trent, that everything good, even to the first disposition of the sinner to be converted, comes from an impelling and predisposing grace, which is preceded by no merit." Molina wrote also De Justitia et Jure (Cuenca, 1592, 6 volumes, fol.; Mayence, 1659). See Antonio, Nova Bibliotheca Hispano; Alegambe, De Script. Soc. Jesu, page 314 sq.; Abrgeu de Hist. de la Congregation de Auxiliis; Bossuet, Avertissement aux Protestants; Encycl. des Gens du Monde; Fleury, Eccl. Hist. 183:4; Le Clerc, Bibl. Univ. et Hist. volume 14; Aug. le Blanc, Hist. Congreg. de Auxil. Gratiae Divin. (Domin.); Meyer, Hist. Controv. de Divin. Gratia Auxil. (Jesuit); Kuhn Kathol. Dogmatik, 1:291 sq.; Ranke, Hist. of the Papacy, 1:587 sq.; 2:90 sq.; Nicolini, Hist. of the Jesuits, page 231, 232; Walch, Religiose Streitigkeiten ausser d. luther. Kirche, 1:269 sq.; Schrockh, Kirchengeschichte s.d. Ref. 4:295 sq.; Hagenbach, Hist. Doctrines, 2:202, 278, 280, 288; Bickersteth, Christian Student, section 4, page 233; Wetzer u. Welte (Roman Catholic), Kirchen-Lexikon, 7:199 sq.
*In Molina's theology the "natural" knowledge of God is that of what he effects by his direct power or by second causes. His "free" knowledge is that of what he purposes of his own free-Will. His mediate "knowledge" ("scientia media") is that of what will depend on the freewill of his creatures, whose actions he foresees by a knowledge of all the forces by which those actions will be brought about and controlled.