Pristine Grace

Is it common....
Part 6
by Eileen Beckett
Is it common....

There is a vast array of works written on both sides of this issue, I have only touched on a minute portion of it here and even in my own studies. There are many statements made in conjunction with ‘common grace’; note the following of A. Kuyper, the father of the theory, which sums up his ideas:

“You find them both (common grace and particular grace) in one and the same human heart.” Corresponding to Christ’s creation of all things as the eternal Son of God and His redemption of the elect as the Word become flesh, two graces are enjoyed by the Christian: “And thus now it is one and the same man, who enjoys God’s ‘common grace’ in the life of society and God’s particular grace in the holy sphere” (Common Grace Revisited)

The scripture tells us differently, I believe. It tells us: “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him” (Col 2:6), it tells us that we are to abide in Him (John 15:4) and that ‘to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph 4:7). I don’t believe our life as a believer is separated into different spheres, one part lived by a common grace and one lived by a particular grace but is one life lived in Christ Jesus by the power of His Grace.

Many say that it is an unimportant issue and I would have to disagree with that, as EVERY issue is worth our time and our study. This ‘common grace’ issue goes in many different directions, involves many other doctrines and is reflective of our beliefs in God’s purposes and His creation order.

Dr. Mouw brings up the Infra/Supra debate in his defense of common grace. The debate concerned the order of the decrees of God with regard to predestination. Supralapsarian holds that the decree of predestination precedes the decree of creation and the fall and Infralapsarian holds that predestination follows the decrees of creation and the fall. The reason Dr. Mouw brings this up is that he sees the necessity of grounding ‘common grace; in God’s eternal counsel. So it is in his infra position that he finds the basis that God has two distinct purposes with history. One purpose being the redemption of the elect church, and the second that God also purposes that the ungodly develop a good and God-glorifying culture.

It is this which is the basis of a need for ‘common grace’, the idea being that if God decreed election after creation and the fall, the fundamental creation ordinance for humans to achieve dominion over all of nature can still be realized in and through a ‘common grace’ to all of mankind.

In his critique of Dr. Mouw’s book, David J. Engelsma has objections to the use of the supra/infra debate as ‘historically having anything to do with an independent cultural purpose of God. Both infra’s and supra’s historically were agreed that the one purpose of God with history, to which all creatures are subordinate, is His own glory in the redemption of the elect church by Jesus Christ.’

The weightiest objection that Mr. Engelsma has to this independent purpose of God in culture is that it has nothing to do with Jesus Christ, it leaves Him out. However, the Scriptures leave Him out of nothing.

“For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him: And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist, And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence. (Col 1:16-18).

Jesus Christ is first in all things, there is no culture that is independent from Him, no one thing that is done apart from Him or has a purpose of its own. All things are subordinate to Christ.

Dr. Mouw sums up his vision of ‘common grace’ on one final sentence this way:

“For all I know---and for all any of us know—much of what we now think of as common grace may in the end time be revealed to be saving grace”

Two instances of this ‘idea’ show us where ‘common grace’ can lead to destructive practices and opinions. Calvin College sponsored a concert by notorious lesbians. They sang to the students of ‘love, romance and relationships’. According to Calvin’s director of student activities the concert was part of the college’s mission ‘by virtue of God’s ‘common grace’. Defending the college sponsored concert a professor argued publicly, “God is behind what is good and what it true and what is loving”

The other instance was found in a writing in the Westminster Theological Journal by Dennis E. Johnson who contends that the one speaking in Romans 7:7-25 is an unregenerate man. This unregenerate man possesses the spiritual ability and goodness that he claims in the passage by virtue of God’s ‘common grace’. He says that Romans 7 ‘attests the way in which God, in his ‘common grace’, grants ethical insight and sensitivity even to the unregenerate. The title of his article is “Spiritual Antithesis: Common Grace, and Practical Theology”.

It certainly gives us pause, pause to consider what is being labeled under the guise of ‘common grace’.