Common Grace, 2.79

Common Grace, 2.79 January 25, 2022

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

Given the regularity of suffering in this world–which occurs by God’s decree and counsel–we see God’s wisdom at work. “Wisdom” in this sense is not mechanical or chaotic, it is planned and connected to all things. The laws of nature are under the rule of this wisdom. These laws govern the actions of nature, and so we follow them. Nobody seriously disagrees with this–if we drop something the law of nature is that it falls downward according to the course of gravity.

In the same way, there may be laws governing suffering. We should follow the regularity we see in this part of human existence as well. That these are new discoveries does not negate our obligation to use them well, any more than advances in physics and chemistry in the past few years would be somehow exempt from our obligations to use those fields well. Our actions in this sphere should be governed by love. Specifically, we should use this understanding of the nature of suffering and its seeming regularity in the world to lessen suffering. If insurance helps with this, we must use it.

At this point, Kuyper gives us a sort-of executive summary:

  1. “God in his common grace takes away from most people the disasters that should strike all of us, allowing them to visit only a few;”
  2. “God permits these few to be visited by these disasters, not by chance but in accordance with a certain regularity as a result of his holy counsel;”
  3. “God has gradually revealed this regularity of suffering to us;”
  4. “the knowledge of this regularity enables us to spread and apportion the financial losses of such disasters equally to everybody.” (678)

“This equal distribution and apportioning,” Kuyper says, “is precisely what the Reformed confession demands.” (678) Our guilt is first communal, and so the suffering should be born communally. The same applies to insurance.

Kuyper thinks that “insurance” is an unfortunate name for the practice. It suggests egoism. “Participation” would be a better name for it. But, you know, that’s what we get when we let the world name things. (679)

That insurance was started by unbelievers is no reason to reject it. We don’t reject other things because unbelievers come up with them–such as harps or cities (here Kuyper is referencing the inventions of Cain and his descendants in Genesis 4:17-22).

One final defense of insurance: all of us will die. And while savings for death is perhaps a better approach, uncertainty means that insurance is also wise. God’s wise regularity teaches us this truth.

As he draws his reflections on insurance to a close (finally), Kuyper ends by highlighting his objection to socialism. Yes, it would perhaps be better if everyone participated in the insurance program. But to force everyone to join in, as socialist programs do, is wrong. So we have to make do with the people who sign up.

Rounding out his long discussion on insurance, Kuyper concludes:

It is not at all surprising that many devout Christians have looked with resentment at insurance. The reason for this is the human arrogance with which it often is presented and the pride with which statisticians come to its defense. Furthermore, this important subject has never yet been discussed from a decidedly Reformed perspective on the basis of principles and overall context. And although we readily concede that the explanation we have present is also very incomplete… we nevertheless believe that our argument is consistent with the direction in which the Reformed faith must move in this regard, and that more than one individual will give praise and glory to our God for his common grace, whose mercy shines so gloriously, not least in the regularity of communal suffering.” (681-682)

Somebody–not me–needs to do a thorough write up of what Kuyper has to say about insurance. He covers everything from Providence to suffering to the love of our neighbors, which is not what I would have guessed if you had told me that Kuyper had written more than 50 pages on insurance.

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast an Amazon Associate (which is linked in this blog), and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

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