This post is part of a series walking through the second volume of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace
At the end of the last chapter, Kuyper hinted at the question of the relationship between common grace and means. Here, Kuyper argues that creation has two types of creatures in it: those who use means and those who don’t. The latter includes things like plants and such which use no means, as contrasted with animal that do. The “higher” the animal, the more involved the means tend to be.
Scripture, Kuyper argues, uses this point to teach us through animal examples (socially, not physically). Ants, for examples, are used in the Bible to teach us truths about society. The modern world is much more interested in physical parallels, such as we hear discussed about the relationship between man and ape.
As the highest being, man uses the most means. To deny the use of means is therefore to work against the creation order–usually quite inconsistently. For example, the “Christian Scientists” [a new cult in Kuyper’s time, now semi-well established in ours] say we should reject all medical means in favor of mental and spiritual struggle (and at this point Kuyper includes a lengthy quotation from a Christian Scientist tract). And yes of course there is some truth to this kind of mind-over-matter business. We’ve certainly seen examples of it aplenty in the world. Psychosomatic illness is a real thing.
Yet, there is a clear counter to this claim by the Christian Scientists:
“In response, we would simply say here that anyone who considers this to be the truth must also abstain from food. If indeed only our spiritual existence is real and our bodily existence merely apparent and imaginary, and thus unreal, then it is as equally nonsensical to eat food as it is to take medicine. And if this is countered with the objection that the food that is eaten is not real either, that it is only ‘apparent’, then it goes without saying that the same also applies to medicine; it is therefore folly to want to fight any use of medicine that is unreal and has no real effect anyway.” (527-528)
Neither can we draw a line simply between natural physical things (food) and the physical results of sin (sickness) and argue that the latter is caused by sin so God should be appealed to and physicians ignored. Here we arrive directly at the doctrine of common grace. God ordains common grace to combat “common misery” or “common consequences of sin.” (528) Resisting these good means is sinful–they are God’s means. True, some consequences can’t be avoided and some means are human or devilish lies. So we must be careful and clear in our thoughts.
Yet we see that God gives means explicitly in Genesis 3:21 (i.e. clothes to cover shame and protect from the environment). So we may use means to resist the curse–even medicine.