Common Grace, 3.54

Common Grace, 3.54 August 8, 2023

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

Continuing his discussion of “upbringing”, Kuyper notes that it connects the past/ancestry with the future and binds us together as one humanity. We see this continuity in the animal world.

Here Kuyper doesn’t intend to make a commentary on evolution–we’re sticking to recorded history here. By this comparison we can see that people are different from the animals. We have forward and upward development, unlike the animals where repetition is the primary order of the day. Animals do what they do by instinct, people by upbringing. Without upbringing, we are lost.

Upbringing is both automatic through observation and repetition, as well as intentional through instruction. The bulk of the work is done automatically, since even the taught stuff carries imitation within it.

“School” is the broad word here, not just the building, but all the learning we do. Behind this is always God, using people as His tools for the unfolding of history.

We can also see here where common grace keeps sin from dissolving the link between generations. [Here we get another of Kuyper’s unfortunate racial observations about the places which are “less” developed and how they provide a vague picture of what might have been.] There would be no progress without common grace, as we can see even from the antediluvian generations.

So what then is a “Christian upbringing”? As with the “Christian family”, there are two types:

  1. Education in Christianity that leads to salvation.
  2. “The best education of its kind.” (451)

Common grace draws the line here, and nudges the second along through revealed truths. The secondary effect of the culture of the first is the realm of common grace as well, though of course evangelism is a function of particular grace.

The higher standard of education, though not “Christian” in the theological sense (non-Christians can teach as well as Christians), has come to mean “Christian” as opposed to other approaches.

Yet we also see our “Christian” schools going secular, so we need a different name for them. [In our own time, we might remember that Harvard was founded as a Christian institution, and still has a Divinity school, yet is hardly a bastion of Christian orthodoxy–what should we call such an institution?] We might need a more specific category of “Christian” schools.

At this point, we’re still just talking about “regular education, with only a Christian element added.” (452) We need “Christian education” that is permeated with Christianity. The Christian schools are those that can take a fully Christian perspective. (453)

To straighten all this out some, we need to separate “general human formation” from “certain skills and expertise.” The end of these both must be done in the schools, since parents have neither the time nor the skills to do this on their own.

Education must likewise be whole and ongoing. This means there must be harmony between the home and the school to make sure that the upbringing is what it should be, and particular and common grace alike must be at work in both places. Public schools have rejected this and violated our human unity. This weakens the child overall.

More on this in the next post.

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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