Common Grace, 2.52

Common Grace, 2.52 August 10, 2021

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

We’ve seen in previous chapters that common grace is within the doctrine of providence. How this works is difficult to systematize and must be done carefully and slowly, and not in a popular work like this. In this series, we’re just noting the link between common grace and providence, with ‘providence’ being narrowly defined as the stretch of time between creation and the end of time.

So common grace is included in the spiritual realm, with which our lives are closely bound. The Roman Catholics had a false view of this unity which the Reformers rightly repudiated, but which they failed to clearly and properly replace. In short: God works both directly and by means in the world. Creation is God’s immediate and direct work, but in providence God works through means.

If nothing else, providence is God’s work to preserve creation by keeping in place what already exists. God is directly at work in this, though mystery always lies at the bottom of God’s work in providence and creation. Still, we see God’s glory at work in His providential means as well. The more we learn about the world, the more we see this. For example, we know more now about both disease and lightning than at any point in history. Yet we must not let this lessen our religious devotion:

“Again and again we discover how all kinds of phenomena that initially were attributed to the immediate working of God in fact have various sorts of intervening means by which God accomplishes them. If, regrettably, people have become accustomed to underestimating what happens through mediation, as if God’s majesty shone only in the immediate, then the result is that the revelation of God’s majesty is diminished. In this way the influence of religion itself is lessened by the increase in our knowledge of nature. The end result is that some people become fanatical about natural science while closing their eyes to the majesty of God, while others, wishing to uphold the glory of their God, end up resenting natural science as if it were black magic from the evil one. If, however, we clearly see that both God’s immediate and his mediate activities are equally majestic and sublime, and that it has pleased God to glorify himself in both, then all conflict between religion and our expanding knowledge of nature vanishes.” (457)

But what about spirits and the spiritual realm? Both are also part of our lives, as Scripture clearly teaches. Both good and evil spirits act according to God’s will and affect the natural world. Yet our sciences cannot study this impact, since ‘spiritualism’ is a false science and psychology/physics must admit their limits. So we again hit the borders of mystery.

In all this we see how vast and deep God’s mediatorial governance is. Common grace is part of this mediatorial governance, and has been since the fall. Specifically, common grace starts in the spiritual realm, else Satan would long since have destroyed all good in creation. We don’t know exactly how this works, just that our lives are the better and lighter for it.

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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