The theory that God has grace to all men is a heresy that is vigorously opposed by the Reformation’s doctrines, most thoroughly. To be a friend of the Reformation is to be an enemy of ‘Common Grace.’ It lies at the root of the present and growing apostasy in the Western churches today. It is as a dangerous virus that threatens the health of the church. The Dutchman, Abraham Kuyper, is the well-known propagator of the ‘Common Grace.’ His three-volume work on the subject has been translated into English by the Roman Catholic Acton Institute. Abraham Kuyper was a gifted, brilliantly minded man. He started out as a Modernist, he was far from being orthodox. In his first charge as a Minister, many of the members of his church refused to attend church because of his modernism. In being perplexed as to why he was being rejected he discovered Calvinism and the great confessions of the Reformed faith. He returned from a visit to England where he attended revivalist meetings with a degree of mysticism. But he embraced and loved Calvinism. He ministered for a time in Amsterdam, during which time he wrote the book, “Particular Grace.” The book is biblical, pervasively so. It is a controversial book, it was controversial when it was written and it is still controversial in Reformed churches today. But it is without a doubt his very best. It is a lively, warm explanation and development of the glorious gospel of salvation by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, it is fresh, fervent and storms the heart of the believer. It was originally published in Dutch at the end of the nineteenth century.
However, he left the church in Amsterdam and the ministry to do politics. The reforms he sought to develop were seriously flawed. A brief appraisal of the Free University of Amsterdam and the state of affairs in Holland today, a blind man could see that. All the good that was done by him after leaving the church was flawed, including his work in the schools, in fact, they were even worse. If the truth be told he never really left his modernism. Whether regeneration had ever really taken place, God alone knows. The major problem with Kuyper was that the Bible, and the Bible alone, was not the starting and the finishing point. Even his departure from the ministry betrayed a failure to grasp and embrace the power of preaching. A truly Reformed, thoroughly Calvinistic Minister wields more power than any Prime Minister of any country. Kuyper never saw this. After his leaving the ministry he very seldomly attended church. The schools that he founded were a huge mistake, they were state-funded, and so soon became state-dominated. It wasn’t long before the Bible and the Reformed creeds were removed from the schools. Of course, we here in the United Kingdom have seen the same decline in our education system. We gave up our church schools to the state, and in like fashion, any vestige of Christianity soon disappeared. Now the whole system is utterly godless. The worldly basis for Kuyper’s “Common Grace” theory lay at the root of the beginnings of the apostasy that would spread far and wide. The crisis in culture was beyond a pastor factory to mend, gives you an indication of his view of the Christian ministry at this juncture. “Common Grace,” God has true favour for all men. Because it is a favour, it is powerful. So it restrains sin. It preserves the image of God in man. Alas, this he did not get from the Bible, a mere philosophy of man. In reading his work “Particular Grace” it teams with scriptural references. A reviewer of his newly translated work “Common Grace” after his appraisal of the work said with a note of disappointment, “but there are no scripture references.” Kuyper finished where he started, a modernist.
Common Grace is a heresy. Scripture alone was the war-cry of the Reformers. It was then and still is for the truly Reformed the final and only authority over all matters. 1) Because it is the word of God. 2) Because it is sufficient. 3) Because it is perspicuous. Common Grace sets aside the doctrine of scripture alone, placing general revelation in front, trumping Holy Scripture. On the basis of common grace, even the world’s false religions contain elements of truth, and by this self-same grace fallen man is able to do good in society. With the arrival of common grace, man and science became the interpreters of general revelation. Enter evolution. Thus the scientists and the common grace theologians bear responsibility for taking the Bible out of the hands of the people. Common grace set them at liberty to embrace theistic evolution. Now they are questioning just about every cardinal doctrine of scripture, from creation to the fall, to the very atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. The fruit of common grace.
The other war-cry of the Reformers was faith alone. That, 1) That whatever man does he is an unprofitable servant. 2) Man does not have the power to redeem himself (the critical issue that separates the Reformed from Rome, free will). 3) The very best works of a child of God are corrupted and can not gain any merit with God. 4) Our good works are not ours, but God’s. 5) Common grace is ever attended with the free offer of the gospel, a love of God that extends to all men (an offer that supposes an ability in fallen man to respond). Presupposing free will. If all men are not saved how do we account for this? Well, according to common grace, not the will of God, but the will of man. Therefore, salvation comes down to man’s choice. But what an utterly cruel portrayal of God is this? He has the power and the desire to save all men, he is the almighty, but he doesn’t, he is denuded of his power and desire by the will of one of his fallen creatures. So common grace is a denial of the Reformation’s doctrine of the total depravity of man. God restrains sin, so man is able to do good that is pleasing to God. In spite of scripture saying: “as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10-18).
Common grace is also a destruction of the antithesis. God placed enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, way back (Genesis 3:15). He requires his people in all ages to live antithetically, separated from the ungodly world. In it, yes, but not of it. The call is ever: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2Corinthians 6:17-18). Common grace is the destruction of this biblical doctrine of the antithesis. And has led and is leading to a church seeking to Christianise the culture of the world. “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). “Ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9). “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22). “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you“ (John 15:18-19). The world yet hates Christ and his people and will do so more and more until the end. Sin is not restrained, cannot be, but is organically developing, filling up the cup, ripening for the final judgment and vindication of God’s righteous justice.
Theologically, Kuyper’s movement used the flawed theory of common grace as his basis for cooperation between believers and unbelievers in the public arena. A concept still bearing bad fruit in the West today. Because it has been used to blur the lines of the antithesis between believers and unbelievers, between revelation and human efforts that grope for the truth. Now, the church’s calling, according to common grace, is no longer to preach the gospel but Christianise the culture of the world. But the problem is, the church never succeeds in influencing the culture, the culture always influences the church. It was for this that Jehoshaphat was sharply rebuked. “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD” (2Chronicles 19:2). “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). So what future does common grace offer the church? Cooperation with the false church and the world, which has already begun. And that is the culture of the Antichrist, that is the realistic future. The great commission has been substituted for the great cultural commission. The opening paragraphs of the first volume of the English translation describe the programme behind the translation project as “social reform” and “cultural engagement.” The project is a sortie into the cultural wars. Is that, I ask you, the calling of the church? But Abraham Kuyper, the father of common grace, that was indeed his thinking, that the development of common grace would bring forth the Antichrist.
It is foolishness, wickedness, it is heresy, compromise of everything fought and won for us at the Reformation. Are we to sell the truth for a mess of common grace, yield our God-given Reformation heritage for a philosophy of man? We must strive to preserve the truth, for ourselves and our posterity, whatever the cost to ourselves. The enemies of the gospel must be fought will our entire beings, but now the enemy, common grace, is in the gate. So which will you serve? You cannot serve both, our Reformation heritage or the heresy of common grace? You cannot serve both, for they are antithetical. The Reformed calling or ecclesiastical suicide? “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2Corinthians 6:17-18).
My thanks and appreciation to Prof Cammenga of the Protestant Reformed Church, USA for his excellent lecture on this subject, “The Tipping Point,” the basis of this posting.
For further reading: “Christianizing the World” by Prof David Engelsma.
Christianizing the World