Common Grace, 3.56

Common Grace, 3.56 August 22, 2023

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

Kuyper now turns his focus from the broader category of “upbringing” to the specific category of “schooling.” This is focused on individual skills. Upbringing and schooling aren’t the same thing, and we need to keep that in mind. One of these is for us as human beings and is ongoing through our whole lives. It is even ongoing through our educations, which is a finite period. “Upbringing bears on what it means to be a human person, whereas education concerns the value of one’s manual or intellectual work. Stated simply, upbringing relates to one’s being, while education affects one’s capability. Upbringing, therefore, must benefit all, whereas not all people benefit from an education.” (465)

Moving back to the general question, we must ask: Where does the church fit in to our “upbringing”? All people have “upbringing” through common grace, so some people even advance here ahead of Christians. What does this mean for the church?

We must remember that both particular grace and common grace affect our formation [presumably Kuyper intends this only for believers]. Nor should we outsource all religious formation to the church–other institutions have an impact there. At least, the church should not do this exclusively as an institution; as an organism the church works to shape us through parents, teachers, and the church officers–though the latter is the only permanent one. Obviously we are formed by parents, teachers, the church, etc as an organic whole, with each having an influence.

And if Kuyper is getting a bit muddled at this point, I think it’s because he explicitly ties all of this in to infant baptism. (468) Because he has baptized unbelievers he gives the church religious responsibility to them, which leads to some muddling of roles as noted above…

Education itself is more focused than this general upbringing, and involves civil society and civil order. Specifically, there are two interests in play:

  1. Keeping knowledge and skills alive socially;
  2. Being able to provide what we need.

The second of these is a slow process of development.

In all this we see common grace using personal interest and aptitude to work social good:

“The general stimulus may be the desire of each individual to earn a living, yet education that prepares one for business endeavors has a fundamentally deeper significance. In accordance with the blessing of common grace, human endeavor serves–and must continue to serve–to do justice to the power of man over the natural world in increasing ways, in spite of his sins.” (469)

Over the past century, education and upbringing have separated and left the home through the industrial revolution. This meant we needed public schools, though we haven’t always considered the whole society’s needs in them. We must be careful that additional schooling–admittedly necessary–is part of an organically whole upbringing and not a vehicle for undermining the faith.

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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