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Common Grace, 2.46

Common Grace, 2.46 July 6, 2021

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

“We are all familiar”, Kuyper begins chapter forty-six, “with the contrast between the ordinary and the extraordinary, with the vast appeal that the extraordinary usually has for us.” (394) So the Sabbath appeals as unusual in the midst of the ordinary.

At least, it should. Unfortunately we have ‘regressed’ and are left with the sense that we have lost something superior–whether better highs or worse lows we are not always clear.

Spiritually, grace/regeneration brings us home to the extraordinary. This does not make us all into preachers, but it means we must live in all of our lives as in the extraordinary. The alternative is to fall into the error of monasticism and a false dualism. And while our Protestant version won’t look like the Roman Catholic errors, we still end in the same place. Kuyper gives examples of the Salvation Army, certain aspects of the Methodist and temperance movements, or even into a sham piety driven by legalism.

But we must also be careful not to overcorrect here, and make the mistake of banishing all spiritual things with only the world left behind. We need some revival, but not only revival. Specifically, we need a retrieving of the pattern of work-sleep-revival. This means we must neither neglect the world nor the spiritual life. Rather the two must live together with the spiritual life fueling our life in the world. Spiritual disciplines are key here and shape our lives in the world. They enable us to live in the ordinary “with a threefold motivation:”

  1. “to glorify God”
  2. “to bless the world”
  3. to train for battle and to actually fight against Satan (399-400)

Here we must resist pride: we are not the world’s saviors, patrons, teachers, etc. This attitude on our part is not only wrong, it hardens the world. We should instead love the world.

“We should approach the world as a world in which we recognize and rediscover God’s own handiwork, albeit damaged–a world that God loved to the extent that he gave to it his only Son. Therefore, we too must love the world, and love it in such a way that we give ourselves. And we do this not through artificial means as if to seduce it but rather because of our deepest convictions and because we feel a sense of solidarity with the world. We also do this in the knowledge of the world’s transformation, convinced that the aim of every work of grace is to wrest the world from Satan and establish it again as glorifying our God who has ordained and created it, and who has maintained it in spite of its degradation.” (400)

We are to live full, good, ordinary lives. In this we see common grace at work. And here, again Kuyper uses some unfortunate cultural examples that haven’t aged well into the 21st century. The point of his examples is that self-purification is going to look different for different people (which is certainly true enough). This knowledge should keep us humble, since for nobody is it our inner goodness that protects us from sin. We also see here the need to nurture common grace and keep it in sight in our lives in society. We should see common grace at work in our lives, in our families, in our schools, in our culture as a whole. In these areas we should work to expand the influence and power of common grace. More on this 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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