Posts tagged with: Common grace

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, November 25, 2015

FLOW Lord's PrayerIn this week’s Acton Commentary, “Cheap Grace and Gratitude,” I extend the notion of “cheap grace” beyond the realm of special or saving grace to the more mundane, general gifts of common grace.

One of the long-standing criticisms of common grace is that it actually cheapens or devalues a proper understanding of special grace. That is, by describing the common gifts of God to all people as a form of “grace,” the distinctive work of salvation can be overshadowed or under-emphasized.

This criticism of the doctrine of common grace gets at something important: there is a recurring challenge to rightly order our loves and our appreciation for the diversity of God’s gifts. I take this concern about the relationship between common grace and special grace to be a version of the problem of relating nature and grace.

It is important, as I argue in the commentary, to appreciate the gracious foundation of all of creation. So it is a gift of God that we have the sun, rain, food, and shelter just as it is a gift of God that we have repentance, forgiveness of sins, and freedom in Christ.

But that isn’t to say that all gifts are the same. In the abstract I would much rather have forgiveness of sins than daily bread. As the Puritan John Flavel (c.1630–1691) put it, “God has mercies of all sorts to give, but Christ is the chief, the prime mercy of all mercies; O be not satisfied without that mercy.”

As it turns out, though, forgiveness of sins presupposes our existence, which requires (among other things) daily bread. Thus the Puritan Richard Baxter (1615-1691) observed that

if nature be not supported, men are not capable of other good. We pray for our daily bread before pardon and spiritual blessings; not as if it were better, but that nature is supposed before grace, and we cannot be Christians if we be not men: God hath so placed the soul in the body, that good or evil shall make its entrance by the bodily senses to the Soul.

In this way, special grace presupposes nature or the realities preserved through common grace. The Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck argued that grace restores nature. And Abraham Kuyper, in his writings on common grace in science and art, put it this way:

Scripture does not arrange both of those—the way of salvation and natural life—like two ticket windows next to each other, but continually weaves them together like threads, giving us a view of the world, its origin, its course within history, and its ultimate destiny, within which, as though within an invisible framework, the entire work of salvation occurs.

So today, this Thanksgiving, and every day, let us be thankful for all the good gifts that come from God. Being thankful for our daily bread, how much more thankful should we be for the forgiveness of sins!

AKSWPTYesterday was Abraham Kuyper’s birthday, and tomorrow is Reformation Day, so it seems appropriate to note once again in this space that we have launched a new 12 volume series of Kuyper’s works. The title of the series is Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology, and the goal is to bring more of the primary source materials from this virtuoso theologian and statesman into circulation in the Anglophone world.

Mel Flikkema and I are serving as general editors of the series, and I am also serving as a volume editor for the three volumes on Common Grace. You can read more details about the origins, contents, and goals of the series in the General Editors’ Introduction that I have posted here. As Mel and I write, “The church today—both locally and globally—needs the tools to construct a compelling and responsible public theology. The aim of this translation project is to provide those tools—we believe that Kuyper’s unique insights can catalyze the development of a winsome and constructive Christian social witness and cultural engagement the world over.”

The first volume to be made available in the series is Our Program: A Christian Political Manifesto, translated and edited by Harry Van Dyke. This remarkable text is a commentary and elaboration of the principles and convictions of the Anti-Revolutionary Party in the Netherlands, of which Kuyper was a key leader.

Kuyper has a powerful legacy that has most often been noted explicitly within the context of the Reformed tradition, and particularly Dutch Reformed churches. But it is my conviction that Kuyper has important lessons, many positive and some negative as well, perhaps, to teach us today and to communicate more broadly to the evangelical and even ecumenically Christian world.

As Tracy Kuperus reflects on just the political aspects of Kuyper’s diverse legacy,

Christian’s Library Press has released Volume 1 of its English translations of Abraham Kuyper’s most famous work, Common Grace, which is made up of 3 books (Noah-Adam, Temptation-Babel, Abraham-Parousia). The books are part of a larger translation project that you can read about here.

The work presents a public theology of cultural engagement rooted in the humanity Christians share with the rest of the world, making it an extremely valuable resource for Christians seeking to develop a winsome and constructive social witness. The books are part of a larger translation project that you can read about here.

Common Grace Volume 1

This week, CLP will be giving away two sets of the volume (3 books in each).

To enter, use the interface below. There are five ways to enter, and each will increase your odds. The contest will end Friday night at 11:59 p.m.

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JMM_18.1 front cropOur most recent issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality has now been published online and print issues are in the mail.

Volume 18, no. 1 is a special issue. Guest editor Shirley Roels details the origins of the contributions in her (open access) editorial:

To highlight the 2013–2014 English publication of the first volume of [Abraham] Kuyper’s theological commentary on common grace, the Calvin College Business Department organized an October 2014 symposium, which was co-sponsored by the Acton Institute. Faculty, business practitioners, and students gathered to think about the meaning of Kuyper’s common grace theology for twenty-first-century business. Over an exceptional day of discourse, presentations and panels were woven into a robust discussion about the light of faith for business when that life is shared together by Christians and those who follow other paths. Leaders from banking, manufacturing, natural resources, film, food, and floral industries, among others, joined with business educators to shape the current intertwining of common grace and business.

The symposium was framed around three themes that emerge from Kuyper’s writings about common grace. Its planners described these as the protective, constructive, and imaginative functions of common grace. Through such grace, God protects remnants and echoes of his good created order as gifts for all people despite continuing human perversity. God designs the expectation and possibility that together humans will construct institutions to respond to needs and support social order. God provides continuity between the values and virtues of all people so that Christians as well as those in other faith traditions can work together imaginatively.

The article contributions to this journal issue originated in that October 2014 symposium. Peter Heslam’s opening article provides some of Kuyper’s less-known commentary about business life. Then eight articles, all authored by Christian business educators, articulate the implications of Kuyper’s common grace theology for business ethics, strategic planning, global debt markets, entrepreneurship, market pricing, the accounting profession, operations management, and human resource frameworks. Richard Mouw’s closing article enjoins us to bring robust Christian faith to the business spaces where God’s light can readily flood. (A separate review essay unrelated to the symposium also appears as part of the journal’s regular publication schedule.) Finally, integrated into the journal’s book review section are four reviews of recent books about faith and business that highlight resources to deepen this intersection of faith and business.

In addition to Dr. Roels’ editorial, I have made my review of The Common Good: An Introduction to Personalism by Jonas Norgaard Mortensen open access as well. You can read it free here.

If you are interested in a subscription to the Journal of Markets & Morality, subscription directions and prices can be found here.

Once you’ve purchased a subscription, you can read our most recent issue, volume 18, no. 1, here.

R&L_25-1In the fall of 2014, business people, scholars, and theologians converged on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the Symposium on Common Grace in Business. The event was conceived and co-sponsored by the Calvin business department and the Acton Institute as a way of highlighting Abraham Kuyper’s theological work on common grace – the grace God extends to everyone that enables him or her to do good – to the business world. The gathering was also a celebration of Acton’s translation and publication in English of volume one of Kuyper’s seminal three-volume work on common grace (De Gemeene Gratie).

We’re leading this Winter 2015 issue of Religion & Liberty with a roundtable discussion by three prominent business people who discuss how common grace has a direct, and transformative, application in their workaday lives.

Also in this issue, Ray Nothstine reviews Thomas C. Oden’s autobiography A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir. The book chronicles how one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated liberals made a dramatic turn away from pacifism, ecumenism and psychotherapy toward the great minds of ancient Christianity.

Critics of the market economy often say it inevitably leads to Black Friday stampedes and gross materialism. We counter with an excerpt from Rev. Gregory Jensen’s forthcoming Acton monograph The Cure for Consumerism. (more…)

In his reflections on art and common grace, Abraham Kuyper affirmed that “the world of beauty that does in fact exist can have originated nowhere else than in the creation of God. The world of beauty was thus conceived by God, determined by his decree, called into being by him, and is maintained by him.” Beauty is, in this deep sense, a creational good, and even though beauty is often pressed into the service of evil, beauty, like all good things, is a creation of God.

During last week’s symposium at Calvin College on common grace and business, Dr. Vahagn Asatryan of Redeemer University College presented on marketing and common grace. To open his paper, Dr. Asatryan used this advertisement. Be sure to watch to the end and pay special attention to the message at the conclusion of the commercial:

Asatryan noted the deep beauty of the story told in this piece, and yet ultimately it depicts a situation that conflicts with God’s will for human social life. In the old days it was referred to as “living in sin.” What might a marketing piece that is more affirming of God’s common grace as reflected in his will for the human institution of marriage look like?

CG 1.3Christian’s Library Press has now released the third part in its series of English translations of Abraham Kuyper’s most famous work, Common Grace, a three-volume work of practical public theology. This release, Abraham-Parousia, is the third and final part of Volume 1: The Historical Section, following Part 1 (Noah-Adam) and Part 2 (Temptation-Babel).

Common Grace (De gemeene gratie) was originally published in 1901-1905 while Kuyper was prime minister. This new translation offers modern Christians a great resource for understanding the vastness of the gospel message, as well as their proper role in public life. The project is a collaboration between the Acton Institute and Kuyper College.

Whereas the first two parts of Volume 1 focus on “what was common to our entire race”—stretching from Adam and Eve to Babel—in the final part of the Historical Section, Kuyper now sets his sights on the story of Abraham, where “the channel suddenly narrows” and the “world stage shrinks to Palestine and the human race to Israel.”

But although the Bible begins to focus “almost exclusively on Abraham’s seed,” Kuyper is quick to caution against turning this “seeming disproportionality” into some kind of lopsided particularism. For Kuyper, reading the Bible in such a way has led to the false notion that “the fate of the nations and the importance of the world are of lesser concern to us,” and that missions (etc.) “do not rise to a higher vantage point than to save souls from the masses of the nations and to transfer them into the particularist sheep pen.” (more…)