Common Grace, 3.66

Common Grace, 3.66 October 31, 2023

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

The fact that science and Scripture seem to be at odds with each other does not negate the value of science for dominion over nature. It just means that science can’t teach us spiritual truths when it tries to build on observation alone. So we must hold to God’s independence from matter, and the independence of theology from the scientific method. Here we see the centrality of the investigator, rather than the object of investigation. Here Christians and non-Christians must part ways, and within Christianity we split into a diversity of thoughts (and of course Kuyper thinks that the Calvinist view is the most Scriptural approach). Our unique history and perspective must be remembered, and must resist encroachments from both unbelievers and believers with whom we disagree. Obviously we can work together on the non-subjective sciences, we just cannot construct “the temple of science” together. (562-563)

Our view of science must be shaped by faith–the confession of the basic Gospel alone isn’t enough here. Otherwise we’ll just adopt the world’s view of nature. We must instead grasp science as a tool, or else be relegated to cultural obscurity. Universities are where this work primarily happens, followed by the press and media outlets, followed by the bureaucracy. We must have our hands in each of these, especially the university, and not cede them to unbelievers. We must shine the light of particular grace on common grace, or else we’re guilty of “dereliction of duty.” (564) Science in this sense is a tool to fight sin, but will not regenerate unbelievers. Hence science exists in the realm of common grace rather than particular grace.

Just look at [and here Kuyper makes yet another of his unfortunate cultural judgments] Africa to see a place where science has not yet flourished–or at Europe where it is often ignored. Science kills superstition when rightly applied, and we can see places where that has yet to happen.

The science of law builds order, just as that of medicine builds health. The humanities shape our lives broadly, and theology develops our knowledge of God. Here we see why theology must govern all else, because if it doesn’t the other sciences will run amok–as science has tried to do in our lifetimes. It now spreads sin, rather than restraining it. Examples of this happen in medicine, the natural sciences, the arts, ever area of life really. Science without Christians naturally tends in this direction–though even without us common grace still reigns and the blessings still flow. And then Kuyper says this:

“For us as Christian believers simply to be satisfied with the role of strolling through someone else’s garden with pruning shears in hand is simply to discard the purpose and the value of the Christian religion.” (569)

Kuyper wants us to redeem science by developing our own institutions–especially universities. This is how we’ll influence the culture. Simply being adversarial won’t accomplish anything. To which I would point out that we are pilgrims, and in that sense we are always walking through someone else’s garden. There is some discretion as to whether or not we use pruning shears along the way (a lot of discretion), but let’s not lose sight of the fact that this side of the eschaton we will never have our own garden. That’s not an argument in favor of being adversarial, just pointing out that Kuyper is calling us to something that 1) Scripture never calls us to and 2) is impossible anyway.

With this, we move from science into art, which we’ll pick up with next time.

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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