Common Grace, 2.49

Common Grace, 2.49 July 20, 2021

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

Having seen in the previous chapters that God’s foreknowledge is tied to His decree rather than to His foresight, Kuyper recaps his argument that God does not “see” what will happen in the same way the Biblical prophets do. There is no “what will happen” outside of God’s counsel. Which tells us that God does not “see” obstacles and then remove them: He sets the goal and then determines the means by which His goal will be accomplished. This does not, however, negate the relativity of the human perspective:

“At the same time, we must not be oblivious to the fact that, from our human perspective, everything is in a state of constant change, and in terms of our own finite awareness there is something profoundly reassuring in holding on to this notion of a fatherly care that accompanies us. In relation to spiritual reality, everything has two sides, and everything can be presented in two ways: how it manifests itself from God’s side, and how it manifests itself in our human awareness.” (426)

Scripture presents both the Divine perspective and the human perspective, and we must not forget that. That human perspective, if nothing else, has a pedagogical value–the future is uncertain from our perspective by God’s design:

“Nothing would have had a more devastating impact on our spiritual life than if God had laid open before us the ‘book’ of his decrees. In reading what it had decreed, we would have lost all courage, our resilience would have vanished, and any growth or development in us would have simply been aborted. For this reason, the truths of God’s eternal counsel have been deliberately hidden from us. From our perspective, then, our whole future is uncertain, notwithstanding the fact that it is totally certain and fixed with God.” (427)

The antithesis is at work here, “which for us seems irreconcilable–between the eternal in God and the temporal in our human existence.” (428) God’s Transcendent goodness was Incarnate, so these temporal statements have meaning. In this tension, “providence” becomes a comforting doctrine. We live in the flux, so God changes things for us (from our perspective) and brings peace.

We must not say that God’s absolute decrees are hidden from us because of sin; even Adam wasn’t told all things before the Fall. God ordained this mystery in the world from the beginning.

“It is part of the decree itself that the decree should remain hidden from our understanding until it had been implemented. God himself, who created us, has therefore ordained our human nature in such a way that, apart from any knowledge of the decree, we should continue our life day by day, from past to present. This occurs by the urging of our hearts and our minds, and the resilience of our wills. In all of this we are guided by God’s commands and exhortations, his threats and promises, and this proceeds in the context of all the circumstances and under the impact of all the influences that are part of his decree.” (430)

We are and live as human beings and must not extrapolate back onto God a contradiction with His revelation. Ultimately, these difficulties are all the problem of immanence and transcendence. We must remember both the this-world “our Father” and the above-this-world “in heaven” for us to live and worship well.

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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