Common Grace, 2.63

Common Grace, 2.63 October 11, 2021

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

We are called as God’s creatures to join God in battling “suffering and misery as a common enemy.” (545) This immediately raises the question how how this can possibly be the case, when it is God Himself who sends suffering and misery as punishment for our sin? We will be helped, Kuyper tells us, to look specifically at death–death is a punishment for sin and an enemy to be fought. It is unnatural–though to be fair: unfallen man may very well not have lived forever:

“From this it does not follow, of course, that the first human being would have lived endlessly on this earth; rather, the opposite appears to be the case. Paradise was certainly not the highest state of bliss. The coming kingdom of glory stands above paradise.” (546)

Still, death as it is, is unnatural and brought by God’s judgment and punishment and curse. It is also an enemy, “the last to be destroyed.” (546-547)

So death is both Go’s decree and God’s enemy. This is a direct claim by Scripture, which Kuyper recaps in four points:

  1. “death exists because of sin,
  2. death has come into the world as judgment and punishment,
  3. death is an enemy, and
  4. therefore battle must be waged against death, a battle that will end in death’s annihilation.” (547)

How do we tie all of this to suffering more generally? Death is connected to all other suffering. We see this in experience the world over. All other forms of suffering tap into the power of death: blindness, disease, sorrow, etc. Even these are a kind of partial death, rather than “complete death”, and so each “restricts life for us.” (547-548) All of this suffering is found in the scriptural threat “you will surely die”, and all temporal and eternal suffering are bound together in that one word. (548-549)

And yet, because of common grace temporary misery is “tempered death.” That is, it is lessened but still real in this life. (549-550) We see death, suffering, and misery all as enemies of God–lightened strokes of the curse. God fights all of these, and so should we. (We see this even in such Old Testament passages as those concerned with resisting leprosy.)

The grand point of all this is that we must not ally ourselves with suffering by passively submitting to it. About which Kuyper will have more to say 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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