This post is part of a series walking through the third volume of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace
In the previous chapter, Kuyper had divided society into “active” and “passive” parts. The “passive” parts of life have to do with joint joy and suffering. This is social, not familial or personal suffering that we’re thinking about. (Those are dealt with elsewhere.) Suffering is tricky to deal with and often involves a false or shallow sympathy, as well as the temptation of the sufferer to withdraw–a general trend to be resisted!
“…we understand why there are some people who are less socially inclined and who prefer to be excluded from this societal commiseration and shut themselves up alone, wishing and asking to be left alone. But we must be careful not to approve of the growing trend around us today that would elevate this tendency to the norm. For a self-sufficiency and an arrogance lurk in this that would preferably turn self-centeredness into a philosophical theory, without considering how much damage it would do among the masses.” (513)
And at this point Kuyper enters a discussion of social compassion, which I’m going to pass over because I plan to deal with it elsewhere. The point is that it has variations and degrees, and teaches us that there is a depth and richness in society. The kind of suffering Kuyper is engaging has specifically to do with sickness, but the same applies to death, accident, and disaster as well. This means that benevolence is likewise widespread, and that sympathy is God’s common grace gift to society. Even when it’s merely pro forma–or even blatant hypocrisy–it’s still valuable.
We also join in rejoicing. Birth, marriage, graduation, etc, are all points of unity. Here the goal is to amplify, rather than to ease as with compassion. This too is important socially, and a gift of common grace.
“Every joy relished by the human heart is a lessening of the curse that burdens our life. And this joy happens to be common property.” (518)
This applies to the nation as a whole–the fact that some over-celebrate doesn’t negate the value of national joy. Even children’s play fits in here!
And this ends Kuyper’s comments on general society in Common Grace (though of course there are other works as well that deal with the topic). He now moves on to science.