Common Grace, 3.18–redux

Common Grace, 3.18–redux November 15, 2022

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

So it looks like my side trip through Rings of Power has thrown off my equilibrium when it comes to Common Grace, and I’ve mixed up my posts (and I’m not entirely sure how). So here’s the real Chapter 18 from volume 3 of Common Grace.

The state and the church find their unity, according to Kuyper, in the Son as Mediator–though the creation/redemption distinction remains. So now we may look at what to think if the institutional church becomes part of the state.

Theoretically people can live together without a state, but that’s not the rule and generally is overlooked by theologians and philosophers of politics alike. Even colonists like the Puritans originate from an organized state and build their own organized state. The point is: states generally predate the arrival of the church.

We’re also focusing here on the institutional church–not just the preaching of the Gospel. Though of course missions work precedes such an institution–even if that’s less common these days. So what happens “when the institutional church enters an established state“? (150)

First, particular grace now shines alongside common grace. As we’ve seen, common grace provides the law and enough light to start a state. Darkness has to do with salvation. And even though they sin and are punished, common grace shines on. Paul wrote Romans to an established society against a backdrop of law and justice–however obscured by sin. The Gospel comes in as the power of God. This is not just soteriology, but a whole understanding of life that revivifies common grace as well. The law is set in its place, human relationships are clarified, and life is rightly viewed. All are “obligated to seek God’s will” so far as possible–governments are not exempt from this, including pagan governments. (153-154) Ignoring this obligation will bring judgment–more so for governments.

The arrival of the Gospel creates a new obligation on government. Yet we cannot understand the Bible in isolation. Simply reading the Bible won’t give us the guidance we need. Even we believers struggle with this truth. Yet neither is this an excuse. Our obligations remain, leaving us with the question of how politicians are to fulfil them. More on that in the next chapter.

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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