This post is part of a series walking through the third volume of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace
“How the state must be viewed, organized, and led must be inferred… from:”
- “The knowledge of natural life, viewed in the light of common grace, and
- the special revelation given to us in the Holy Scripture.” (179)
These are not really two categories of things, but rather 2. complements and clarifies 1. For example, when we take an institution like marriage we see in nature monogamy as superior to polygamy. Scripture confirms this and tells us why it is so. But, we might ask, what about all those polygamists in the Old Testament? [Or in the New Testament–given that polygamy is never strictly forbidden there.] In this case we can’t just say “read your Bible”, which is why the Roman Catholic church is so tempted by the magisterium.
And at this point Kuyper gives us an aside on the authority of Rome–which is the kind of authority that existed with the apostles, but also which ceased with the deaths of the apostles. That is why the Roman Catholic at times must work at odds with Scripture. Rome fails the three tests for a legitimate religious authority: 1) “clear attestation in Scripture;” 2) “legitimation through results;” 3) “it could bind our souls directly through the witness of the Holy Spirit.” (181)
Back on the main topic, we have to sort out the nature/Scripture relationship ourselves and justify how we’re doing it. We usually just proof-text things and leave it at that, without really thinking deeply about it. And for some questions, such as “what must I do to be saved?”, this is fine–even preferable. But for others we must dig into Scripture and nature more deeply. As an example of these more complex questions, which side should one take in the Boer War? These difficult questions simply can’t be proof-texted–though heretics try and often end in the abuse of Scripture.
The Bible is a complex text–for example, should we be inspired by the words of Cain or Pharaoh? What about when God ‘repents’? What about the histories, some of which is normative but other parts of which are not? We do much to answer these questions when we remember that Scripture is not a mosaic, it is an organic whole. When we read it we must read it as such. [He didn’t know it, but here Kuyper was anticipating the development of the field of Biblical theology…]
Two quick issues in closing:
- Israel’s specific Old Testament polity should not be ours–it was specifically given for a time and place that has passed.
- The Old Testament vs. the Gospel of the New Testament is the subject of the next chapter, which itself is the subject of the next post.