This post is part of a series walking through the second volume of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace
Before he began speaking about vaccinations and insurance, Kuyper had once spoken of the “connection between common grace and God’s providence”. (683) Concluding this discussion, Kuyper notes that the two are related
“primarily in constant development this “common grace” opened up to the fulfillment of God’s providence. Without common grace there would be preservation and dominion, but no divine government in providence to govern ends, to attain a chosen end.” (683)
In this union of providence and universal grace, suffering occupies such a large part of our lives that it deserves special attention. That is the point of this chapter.
We must avoid the tendency toward theological liberalism that reinforces dependency and ignores the covenant. This influence tends us to be passive in the face of suffering. Since this is a belief often held by professing Christians, we must tread carefully here. It’s one of the reasons Kuyper has spent so much time suffering as an enemy to be fought (through vaccinations and insurance, among other things).
A final point here: we need to correct an Old Testament interpretation that connects “the suffering and the guilt of the people” (685). There are numerous examples of this (such as when Israel suffers for its disobedience). This Old Testament pattern is applied to the church by modern interpreters without considering the distinction between ancient Israel and the New Testament church.
There is no longer a theocratic nation, and as a result we no longer have a 1:1 connection between suffering and sin (except in certain cases).
“Anyone who gets drunk and has an accident while drunk knows that this particular accident is causally related to the particular sin of his drunkenness. But for the rest we lack a special clue from God. Consequently, none of us has the right to make such a direct connection, either for ourselves or for others, in any particular case. Such attempts are directly refuted and judged by Jesus’ plain statement that God causes His sun to rise on the unjust and on the just, and that those who were crushed under the tower of Siloam perished not because of their greater sins.” (686)
We see some of this even in the Old Testament, where we see godly people suffer and the wicked prosper. On the other side of the New Testament, we are not allowed to make connections between sin and suffering except in very limited circumstances. Also, without any particular revelation, we must assume that “the fault of Everyone brings the suffering that should be affected Everyone from us, but common grace now confines that to a few.” (687)
Returning to the subject of the Lordship of God: Since the fall of man, general grace has evolved and expanded: first curbing nature; second, to restrain sin in the human heart. This enables “preservation and management”. (687-688) Moreover, there is an advance in common grace toward a goal by which we can discern the purpose of human existence and history. we constant Move Forward. (688-689)
Likewise, universal grace works both externally and internally in man. Restraint and creation are both part of the common grace. And here Kuyper makes another of his unfortunate racial comparisons that clearly haven’t aged well (but aren’t to be ignored either). However, Kuyper’s broader point is that man is God’s instrument for progress. Our forward movement is of God, albeit marred by the lingering effects of sin.
And so, finally, in the next chapter, we come to the question of history itself.
dr Coyle Neal is Co-Host of the City of Man Podcast, Amazon Associate (which is linked on this blog) and Associate Professor Political Science from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO