Acton Institute Powerblog

Means of common grace

In this week’s Acton Commentary, we take a short excerpt from the latest volume in the Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology, the second volume of the trilogy on common grace.

In this section, excerpted from chapter 68, “Finding the Means,” Kuyper is exploring the question of how the fruit of common grace comes to expression in the world. In the standard Reformed understanding, baptism and communion are confessed to be the “means” of special grace. But what are the “means” of common grace? Here Kuyper points particularly to the role that human action has been given in God’s ordination of the means of common grace. Human reason, will, intelligence, creativity, curiosity, and desire all are part of how God has deigned to discover and dispense the fruits of common grace.

As Kuyper puts it,

Far from passively sitting on one’s hands, godliness would seem to consist in the fact that God has placed upon us the obligation of unremitting activity in the use of means. Common grace is God’s gracious arrangement to temper sin and misery in their deadly effect, and every human being—whether young or old, weak or strong, rich or poor—is called upon to make his or her personal contribution to that tempering of sin and misery.

This responsibility, moreover, is a common calling for everyone, regardless of station or occupation. “Everyone has to participate in this,” writes Kuyper. “All persons, without distinction, must put forth effort in this. In fact, every bit of life’s energy must be applied to this.”

For more on how human discovery and invention relate to common grace, read the Acton Commentary. And for more on volume 2 of Common Grace, you can read an excerpt from the new editors’ introduction at Public Discourse, “Common Grace, Natural Law, and the Social Order.”

Volumes 1 and 2 of Common Grace are now available and on sale from the Acton Book Shop. Later this year volume 3 of Pro Rege will appear along with On Education.

Volume 3 of the common grace trilogy will be out next year, and the 12 volume series will conclude in 2020 as well. Next year marks the centennial of Kuyper’s death and the series will conclude with Common Grace, volume 3, On Business and Economics, and On Charity and Justice.


Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.