Common Grace, 1.31

Common Grace, 1.31 January 21, 2020

This post is part of a series walking through the first volume of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace.

If nothing else, chapter 31 has the best title of any chapter so far: “Doom and Grace” could very well be a chapter title out of The Lord of the Rings

In the Fall of man, death entered creation. Yet, death “had a bridle put on it” at the very moment of sin.  (272) This bridling of death had two components: 1) “the full effect of death was suspended and restrained” and 2) “a way was opened for the escape from death.” (272-273) We have a tendency in reading the passage to focus on the judgment for sin, which is of course certainly there, and overlook the grace that comes along with judgment. Specifically, the grace that comes holds life in place against the power of death. This life has two requirements: emergence and maintenance. We see these requirements paralleled in the Christian life in the practices of baptism (the emergence of life from a world of death) and the Lord’s Supper (the maintenance of life against the ongoing decay of the world).

In the sentence against Eve (pain in childbirth) and against Adam (sweating and toiling for food) we also see grace conveyed as much as doom. Eve will suffer in childbirth, but she will bring forth children. Life will emerge in the midst of the curse. Adam will sweat and work for his food, but he will bring forth food. Life will be maintained in the midst of the curse. We’ll see more on these general blessings to mankind in future chapters.

We also see that nature itself is changed by Adam’s sin. So we do not deny the punishment that comes to mankind. Yet we must also see grace here as well. If we see common grace in the punishment given to Adam and Eve, we see particular grace in the punishment given to the serpent. Which isn’t to say we understand the punishment perfectly, there’s a mystery at work here as well. Some kind of punishment was given to the serpent as an animal and separate from the punishment given to Satan. Again, this is something of a mystery to us, but we have to be careful not to over-spiritualize it. The effects of the fall on creation are real, and are the reason that we have to struggle even to merely survive in the midst of a hostile world.

Which raises the question, just what is the nature of the conflict between the serpent and man? More on that in the next post…

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

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