This post is part of a series walking through the third volume of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace
This chapter is the last (out of 28!) on church and state, and as such Kuyper provides a summary and hits a few main points. For example, he reinforces the fact that from this viewing the church must be examined as an institution, rather than as an organism. Likewise church and state (as institutions) exist because of sin, and are mechanical rather than organic (though the church is based in particular grace and the state in common grace). The state as an institution predates the church, which was born at Pentecost. Both are ultimately united in Christ–even though a diversity of churches is now the order of the day. This means churches ought to preach and be examples with the dual goals of conversion of society and elevation of the life of the nation. This approach is neither neutrality nor relativism but rather the reality that uniformity is no longer possible in the modern world.
The big takeaway from this chapter for the contemporary reader, coming to Kuyper more than a century later, is that the world we live in and in which institutional churches have to function is a jumble. To attempt to simplify it by imposing a false unity is simply a failure to understand how common grace has developed, well, really since the collapse of the Roman Empire, but especially since the Reformation. But it is also a failure to understand how particular grace works through the church as an institution. Because however much individual churches may agree on the Gospel (and there are many churches that do agree on the Gospel), we simply to not agree sufficiently to establish any kind of meaningful unity.
It is therefore even more true that no one church or group of churches should seize the government and use it to impose unity on other churches. Instead, Kuyper argues that we need to recognize where we are in history and live faithfully in our time. We are at a moment of pluralism, and (unlike Kuyper’s day) where Christians are largely out of power and shunned by the cultural leadership. So be it. We need to live faithfully and well in those circumstances as we are called to by Scripture.
And with that, in the next post we turn to Kuyper’s extended reflections on the family.