This post is part of a series walking through the second volume of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace
Common grace is really a sort of ‘double tempering’ in that it restrains both sin (as we saw in the last chapter) and the cure itself, as Kuyper is going to survey in this chapter. (488) Through this discussion we have to remember the organic unity of the material and spiritual in both the visible and invisible worlds.
In the physical world especially we have to remember common grace–failing to do so causes divisions between believers that are unnecessary. As an example of this, Kuyper looks to vaccination. I hope to have a longer piece on this very topic available soon elsewhere, but just to give us a taste of what Kuyper has to say:
“To cite but several examples, think only of the question of healing exclusively through prayer, or whether health insurance is permissible, or whether lightning rods should be employed, or whether one should receive vaccination against cowpox, and so forth. By taking common grace far to little into account, we lose insight into what governs these and similar practical matters. Consequently people approach such issues with inadequate rationale and deficient arguments. Among believers this then leads to conflicting beliefs, and people end up choosing sides. For this reason it is important to clarify this aspect of common grace with some precision.” (489)
More on Kuyper on vaccine and on insurance in later posts. This clarification starts with understanding that there are “two kinds of divine order”, or two ways the effects of the curse on our bodies is tempered:
- By God’s direct action;
- by God’s “using us as a secondary cause via means.” (489-490)
In terms of the first, “ordinary or natural influences” affect our bodies according to God’s providential order. So for example, one scientist tried to explain a flourishing culture by that culture’s relationship to Earth’s magnetic poles. Aside from whether this research results in anything worthwhile [hint: it doesn’t, but Kuyper thinks it’s all kinds of interesting anyway], the point is that natural influences affect our lives and our cultures via common grace. Even the secularists believe kernels of this when they speculate on the alien origins of life on earth. Climate and geographical studies likewise show elements of the truth of the influence of nature in the extreme climates of society–though even in these places grace still shines.
Natural disasters fall into the category of God’s direct action as well, though we have to be careful with something like famine as conditions always changing (the same applies to disease). There are also personal differences that come into play here: some individuals are weak and others are strong. These too are functions of common grace.
More on this topic in the next post.