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Common Grace, 2.57

Common Grace, 2.57 September 7, 2021

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

Having finished his discussion of angels, as well as his reflections on direct common grace as restraint of sin and softening of the effects of the curse, Kuyper now turns to common grace as it “lets us ourselves function as an instrument and uses us ourselves as the means.” (497) Kuyper gives examples of this, including Judah’s intercession to keep his brothers from murdering Joseph. [Genesis 37:26-27]

This brings us to the category of “the use of means.” (498) There are two things to distinguish here:

  1. Means “based on creation ordinances”, and so woven into human nature.
  2. Means as a result of the Fall.

Common grace only applies to the second of these. Still, most of God’s governance of the world is through means. We see this in people being born, which involves both God’s direct actions and means (i.e. the father and the mother in sexual union). In this sense, Augustine’s traducianism was wrong:

“traducianism refers to the doctrine that the human soul is the product of procreation, and that an individual’s soul therefore derives from the life of the soul of the father and mother.”

By contrast, Kuyper argues for creationism, which

“affirms that the human soul’s existence ultimately cannot be traced to procreation but comes about directly through [Divine] creation.” (499)

But we need not focus exclusively on reproduction. Wherever we look we see God working through means. We should not deny this any more than we should deny created reality.

“…virtually all of God’s working appears to become mediated in nature. We can go even further and say that all activities of God that are traceable have such an instrumental character–that is, they make use of something that already exists.” (500)

So we must not ignore the means God uses to govern the world–though neither ought we diminish God’s majesty as Sovereign of creation. Neither should the fact that God’s work is different from ours diminish our worship or lessen His splendor. He works organically through the nature of creation, while we work mechanically. This does not lessen the value of our work or His, it simply tells us that nature itself is religious. Or, as the title of the chapter suggests, “nature is not irreligious.” It is not “a power set in contrast to God, while at the same time being partly dependent on him.” Rather, that God works this way shows His sovereignty and reminds us that we must not assume that God’s direct intervention in the world is somehow a sign that He is more concerned with some aspects of creation than others.

More on this topic 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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