This post is part of a series walking through the first volume of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace.
Kuyper argues that there are three stages by which common grace is withdrawn. In other words, we should expect to see decline, rather than progress, as the order of the day.
First comes a “falsifying of their relationship to God” (501). The introduction of idolatry as a means of worshiping the true God was the beginning of the collapse of common grace. Idolatry in this sense usually is the result of a false idea of sacrifice that confuses the spirit and the flesh. (502-503)
Second comes the “falsifying of their [the Gentiles’] relationship to one another.” (503-504) The collapse of our relationship with God is followed by the decay of our relationship with each other. Specifically these strike against gender realities and sexual relationships.
Third come the “falsifying of their relationship to themselves.” (504) The last stage is a transition involving the moral collapse of society that follows the unmooring of sexual ethics.
At this point, there is no further withdrawal of common grace–at least not until the man of sin appear, more on that later in the volume. Here, we should just remember that this doesn’t happen simultaneously in all nations. It is usually staggered. I suspect that Kuyper would revise that conclusion if he could see 21st century America…
Even though he’s talking about the Gentile nations (i.e. those who do not have access to particular grace yet), common grace doesn’t function “only where particular grace is absent.” (505) Instead common grace works with particular grace, as we see in Old Testament Israel, where the majority were not elect.
Rather, particular grace presumes common grace, and even requires it:
“Without common grace any functioning of particular grace would be unthinkable… Particular grace could not be grafted onto the wild trunk of the sinful human life unless that wild trunk was first pruned by common grace.” (505)