This post is part of a series walking through the second volume of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace
As time passes, we have more means at our disposal with which to resist the curse. But why does time march on? Certainly to complete the number of the elect–the Bible is clear on that. But we also see that God has the goal of the flowering of common grace as well.
This raises the question of why God stretches this out? Why not just have all of the elect at the beginning of everything–say, within a few generations after Adam, and bring it to an end then? For that matter, why did it take so long for there to be a large number of the elect anyway?
This point here is not “to muddle in the work of God,” but rather for us to highlight that the “number of the elect per se does not explain the protracted existence of this world.” (703) In other words, it’s not just the elect, but something else at work here as well.
The same may be asked about our common grace tools for resisting the curse. Why weren’t they all given to us at once? In order to answer this, we need to look at “the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) This could mean the end point when Christ returns. But, as in Matthew 13, Jesus seems to mean something else. In Matthew 13, “the end of the age” is the whole process “from seed to the blade to the ear to the full ear.” (704-705) It is the whole course of an era.
So, “end” encompasses the whole life of the world as it exists in an organic unity. We see the same idea in James’ discussion of sin, as well as in Jesus’ life and death. Just as Solomon’s temple had to be built step-by-step according to plan, so existence follows the Master Builder’s plan. To be fair, Kuyper hasn’t really answered his own question here. At least, not directly. His original question had been “why does God do it this way?” and the answer he gives us is “this is what God does.” The ‘why’ question was answered with a ‘what’, rather than with a reason. Which isn’t out of line with Scripture, of course. That’s how God responds to Job, at the very least…
Still, the bigger point is clear. Creation grows like a seed towards the end God has ordained for it. All the long centuries are required for its full growth. Towards this end all human life falls under common grace, and is moving at all times and everywhere towards the divinely-appointed culmination.
“And even though much still baffles us concerning the cause of the kingdom of the content of our faith, all of it nevertheless has significance, and no part of it can be missed. The reason for this is that it pleases God to bring about what he put into this world from the beginning. Therefore he has chosen to persevere in this process in spite of Satan’s wiles and in spite of man’s sins, bringing it to full development so that the full life energy of his creation will become manifest in the completion of the world.” (708)
We’ll see what this completion is in the next post.