Common Grace, 2.16

Common Grace, 2.16 December 29, 2020

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


Where does common grace fall relative to the ‘the confession concerning Christ’? (140) Obviously we must not elevate the Incarnate God-man above God the Father (‘Christo-centrism’) as the pantheists do. Instead, Christ must be the center which sheds light on a sinful world–but we must not reverse those. That is, Christ must be our focus and the way in which we understand the ‘essence of things.’ We must not reverse that and say that we only understand Christ because the world is so ‘sunken into sin.’ (141)

The Incarnation itself was a miracle of the Holy Spirit. And though the way was prepared through her, Mary herself was not the cause of Christ’s holiness. He stands apart from us in being without original sin. This raises the question of the role of heredity relative to sin. Certainly it plays a function in the sins we struggle with as individuals. An alcoholic parent is likely to have a child who struggles with the same thing–even if the child is given up for adoption. Yet even with that fact, original sin is equal in all of us.

Christ, however, was conceived apart from original sin. Mary’s relative holiness is irrelevant and historical/theological attempts to purify her miss this point and fall into the question of why God didn’t just let us all be born like Mary. Ultimately, the idea that Mary was without original sin renders “the entire Incarnation superfluous.” (144)

Even Aquinas admits that this is all by the wayside in any case, given that Scripture itself never says that Mary was sinless…

What’s more, Jesus lived in a tent just as we do. That is, he lived in a temporary body looking forward to a permanent one. Jesus as he lived in his community was both a real human being and an incomplete human being (albeit a perfect one). But what was the nature of this community? It was not just the spiritual life of the elect. It was rather the whole of human life. This is how God’s glory was seen in Christ.

Nor was this community merely external or only superficial. Jesus lived the fully bound and organic life that all human beings live. He had the full web of relationships that all of us have. It is in this web that we see another place where common grace was at work in Christ’s life, and had been at work preparing the way for His coming. This must be a part of what we confess when we confess the Incarnate Savior.

More on this community preparation by common grace in the next chapter.

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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