Christian’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.”
Such warnings don’t diminish the power of particular grace. On the contrary, by ignoring its foundation in “common grace,” we will only dilute and disempower it:
This should not be understood to mean that we argue for catechism classes and preaching that would not make the introduction to particular grace its main task. Rather, the comment intends to say that particular grace is treated too much in isolation while neglecting its foundation in “common grace” and its ultimate goal: the salvation of the world that was created, maintained, and never abandoned by God. The sad consequence of this error is: that “particular grace” floats in the air; the salvation of our soul is dissociated from our position and our life in the world; the floodgates open for the influx of Jewish particularism; and our Christian people are hindered from arriving at a thoroughly sound, truly Christian world- and lifeview that impassions their faith and steels their resilience…
…God therefore does not withdraw from the world when he calls Abraham, in order to consider henceforth the rest of the world as superfluous and only the Jewish people as humanity proper. From the beginning God is focused on the salvation of the world, and Abraham’s call stands in the service of that salvation. The setting apart of Abraham and the emergence of the Jewish people take place only as an instrument toward the realization of that high goal. This cannot be understood in any other way than that during the centuries of preparation for our salvation that lay between Abraham and Bethlehem, God the Lord was definitely involved with the nations in order to put them in the position in which they had to be in order to be able to receive the Christ.
Proceeding from here, Kuyper explores the implications from the story of Abraham on through the Day of the Lord. “What will arrive at the parousia is not the beginning but the completion of this restoration,” Kuyper writes. “All of this together is aimed at saving the honor of what God created, and one day making his entire creation excel again in organic unity.”