Common Grace, 1.32-33

Common Grace, 1.32-33 January 28, 2020

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

What did it mean that God placed “enmity” between the serpent and mankind? What does it even mean to be an ‘enemy’ of an animal? To be sure, some animals can understand us at least in part when we speak (and how much more so must that be true when God speaks?). This seems especially to apply to the serpent,w hich was ‘crafty.’ ‘Crafty’ in this case seems to mean both a sort-of natural intelligence and some degree of prudence. It may also mean ‘skillful,’ ‘clever’, or ‘careful.’ It was also an aspect of the serpent that was created good by God and subsequently abused by Satan–to the point where we are now at war with snakes.

And at this point things might feel a bit weird to us. On the other side of the environmentalist movements of the 1970s, it seems that if we are at war with nature, we must be the aggressors more than anything snakes can do to us. (Outside the island of Guam, that is.) Still, there is something here worth thinking about–particularly the way nature and our relationship to it has changed after the fall. For example, Kuyper asks whether or not snakes were dangerous in the Garden, and answer with a firm ‘no.’ Poison is incompatible with perfection. Instead, snakes became poisonous as part of the curse after the fall.

So this is the enmity that comes into the world, and where creation begins to have a dual nature. It is the image of both Christ and Satan. That said, we don’t know what the biological nature of the change looked like, and we can’t know because what we see now is more of an anti-nature with which we are at war. Fortunately it is a war in which we have the promise of victory. What we need now is a new nature, which points to the grace behind the enmity and reminds us of the future new creation.

The pre-condition of both common and particular grace is God’s long-suffering. We see this characteristic at work in Adam’s long life. After all God could have killed the organism of the human race and started over. Instead He elected (heh) to give grace and election and choose a people for himself. We consequently live in between paradise and the last day, in this stretch of time where history unfolds by means of grace holding off death. Rather than exterminating man and making a new creation, God chooses to recreate man and so preserve His own honor.

This is emphasized when God speaks to Adam and Eve and the serpent. In each case, He is the priority of the conversation. A part of this Divine Honor is at work in the common grace that brings shame to Adam and Eve. By their guilt, they show that some glimpses of the Image of God remain in them. This is not repentance, it is more like Judas’ or Esau’s regret. It is still common grace, but not particular grace. The same applies to their excuses. By contrast, Satan neither shows shame nor makes excuses. Adam and Eve at least try to distance themselves from sin…

More on this in the next posts.

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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