This post is part of a series walking through the first volume of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace.
In the previous post Kuyper highlighted how common grace preserves the knowledge of God. In today’s post, we see that despite the knowledge of God so preserved, common grace bears no spiritual fruit.
For example, God began to guide the nations by means of common grace after the Flood, but then gave them over to Satan and their sin. This is not to be confused with the ‘hardening,’ as that of Pharaoh, but rather is the moral decay that follows idolatry.
“To put it succinctly, the deterioration begins with the sin against the first table of the Law, and the consequence of that sin against the first table of the Law is that by way of punishment God lets the nations decay in their sin against the second table of the Law.” (494)
This is what we see in Romans 1. Kuyper gives us some further explanation of this process of decay:
- “Deterioration” as a result of sin refers to the nations, rather than to individuals. Individuals may indeed be exceptions to national trends–but national trends to happen. The same pattern that other nations went through occurred in Israel as well.
- Deterioration is a gradual process–though faster in some places than in others. Likewise some nations had farther to fall than others, given that all nations start off different relative to each other.
- Common grace has different aspects to it: one kind involves law and order, another prosperity and affluence, another strength and courage, yet another arts and sciences, or enterprise and commerce, or domestic and moral life, or even religious life. These movements of common grace are not always concurrent in their presence, rise, or fall.
Since Paul had seen good government firsthand, he couldn’t have meant in Romans 1 that a universal withdrawal of common grace was going on all the time in the world. Instead, he was talking about the collapse of common grace in the religious sphere. This isn’t to say that the different aspects of common grace are unrelated! The collapse of any one of them undermines the others over time.