Christian’s Library Press has released the second 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, Temptation-Babel, is the second of three parts in Volume 1: The Historical Section, following the previous release, Noah-Adam.
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.
Picking up where he left off in Noah-Adam, Kuyper reminds us that in the Garden of Eden, man’s body was “unimpaired and whole,” and “in terms of his spiritual existence, he was perfectly wise in mind, perfectly holy in moral nature, and perfectly righteous in his standing before God.” Such a state would have progressed if not for the Fall, but alas, Adam would indeed fall, and do so by violating an “apparently arbitrary command” — doing “good” because it seems good, rather than “because God wills it.”
Yet, even when sinking into the depths of death, Adam and Eve did not die. Why?
Here’s a small sample, from a middle chapter on “doom and grace”:
In the day when Adam and his wife ate of the forbidden tree, they did not die, which would have happened if no grace had been granted them. But that grace came, and through that grace, death in its all-destroying effect, both in the physical and in the spiritual realm, was preempted and arrested. We do not assert that death did not set in, nor that death did not seize man who had become a sinner, and in him, all creation. We are claiming only that on the day of the first sin, death, instead of unfolding to its consummate effect, had a bridle put upon it. At the moment of sin itself Adam died in his soul and Eve died in her soul, and death crept into their inner existence…But while we concede this, it does not weaken in any way the fact that the full effect of death, in body and soul, did not take place in that day but that to the contrary, (1) the full effect of death was suspended and restrained, and (2) a way was opened for the escape from death.
Viewed in this light, the so-called judgment that came over Adam and Eve after the fall acquires something other than a purely condemning and avenging character. It is a lacuna in preaching and education that in the discussion of these sentences [Gen. 3:14–19] the focus is only on the judgment they contain, and the grace shining through them has not been given equal emphasis at the same time. Had it involved only judgment without grace, then the sentence, both for Adam and for Eve, should simply have been, “You have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat, therefore you must now die the death you have willfully brought upon yourself, namely, eternal death.” Immediately after this sentence had been pronounced they both would have fallen down dead, descended into hell, and by perishing in eternal doom would have brought an end to the human race…
…We therefore acknowledge that the judgment that came over them involves a punishment as well, but we also want to extol the love of God in this context and show that at the same time grace revealed itself in this judgment upon Adam and Eve.
The concluding part of Volume 1, Abraham–Parousia will be available in late Fall 2014. The first part, Noah-Adam, is available to purchase here.