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"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

All of Life Redeemed Newsletter Volume 3 (2013)

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 22

22 Conscience and the Covenant of Works

Kuyper sums up the argument so far:
“God created man in such a way that he saw his image reflected in man for the purpose of being able to use him as an instrument for his glory, and that he created him for that purpose: wise, holy, and righteous, i.e., not only without any defect, but also definitely at that normal point in the adult human life when that life just begins its richer unfolding.” (201)
He then poses the question of conscience. He starts by saying that it did not exist in the newly created Adam. Conscience is not a Urim and Thummin of the heart. The Reformers denied that conscience was something distinct in humans. Kuyper sees conscience not as a “capacity” or “an inner habit”, but as “an expression or activity of our consciousness.”  (202) 
This requires a certain moral awareness or knowledge of good and evil. 

Kuyper then looks at covenant. 

Monday, 30 December 2013

Recent Kuyperania (December 2013)

Scott Culpepper reviews Bratt's Abraham Kuyper in Themelios 38(3) (Nov 2013).

Review of Tjitze Kuiper's Abraham Kuyper: An Annotated Bibliography in European Journal of Theology 22(2) by James Eglington.

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 21

21 Original Righteousness

As the chapter heading suggests Kuyper is staying with the discussion on “original righteousness". According to Kuyper being righteous is "being in the right position with God” (191). The term “original” means that it “was not acquired nor later allotted to him, but was a fruit of creation itself” (191).
righteousness”. According to Kuyper being righteous is “

Kuyper then looks at “original holiness”.  In what sense is Adam holy? “Adam stood originally in holiness and fell away from that holiness by his yielding to Satan.” (195).

On the relationship of body and soul Kuyper writes:
“Our body belongs with our soul. It is not an envelope in which the soul has been inserted, but an artful instrument that is prepared by God to serve the soul, and that for each soul individually. Soul and body are organically one, and even though they are pulled asunder in death, they will nevertheless be reunited in the resurrection of the dead. The body also has abiding, enduring, eternal significance. One day the body will inherit immortality.” (197)

Kuyper acknowledges that our bodies are important: “Nevertheless, our body is only the form of our being through which we manifest ourselves in the visible [world] and through which we have fellowship with the world outside us; our actual human essence lies deeper within us and exists spiritually. ” (197)

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Kuyper's Comon Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 20

20 Perfect Integrity

Still remaining on the discussion of “original righteousness” Kuyper uses the metaphor of a mirror:
“In creating man, God makes for himself a mirror in which he wants to see his own image as clearly as the nature of the creaturely makes this possible. In this case it does not depend, as it does for the mirror maker, on glass and mercury that already exist, but he forms that glass and mercury himself as he needs it for this his creation. And this is why this creation would have been unworthy of God and a failure if, as soon as Adam was completed, God had not seen in Adam, as in a mirror, the clear reflection of his own image.” 
He then turns to the question of the creation of humanity. Is it an immediate creation or or an accelerated growth process. He suggests the former. Another issue is Adam’s spiritual existence at the moment of creation.
Kuyper concludes that Adam was created in  the adult state of mental existence as the fruit of immediate, direct creation of God.
“So in Paradise he stood under God, before the face of God, existing only for God, and thus he had dominion over all of creation. Dominion is the Lord’s, and therefore this trait of dominion could not be absent in his image. But dominion in Adam was nothing but a reflection, a shadow, and it served to let God see his image in man.” (190). 
In Paradise was spiritual perfection but not final consummation.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 19

19 The Crown of Creation

Kuyper returns to the question of whether original righteousness belonged to Adam’s nature or was added to it. He briefly discusses the views of the Roman Catholic Robert Bellarmine. According to Kuyper, for Ballarmine God created humans in need of a bandage!
Those who think that humans “climbed up from animal wildness to a degree of human consciousness” don’t believe in a Paradise, or in the creation of the first human.

To be created in the image of God means that “it is not our excellence but our suitability for God” and that “in the state of righteousness Adam lived by grace, ” a “sustaining grace” not a merciful grace. Kuyper sees a key role for humanity as being the image of God:
“Apart from man the world stands at a distance from God; in man it comes close to him. Now for the first time something of God’s own life beats and sparkles in this world. Mute before God as long as man was still absent, the whole creation now speaks to God through man. ” (181)
 “We can understand Adam’s unique position in Paradise only in this way. That creation and that Paradise do not exist for his sake. Every-thing exists for God’s sake, and also Adam himself exists only for God’s sake. Without Adam creation was not finished. He is its crown, not that he might take creation for himself but in order that he might bring it to God. No altar stands in Paradise, but all of Paradise is an altar on which Adam as priest of God offers God the glory of his handiwork. ” (181)

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 18

18 Natural or Supernatural?

Kuyper now looks at Adam’s “inner existence”. He maintains that: “The doctrine of ‘common grace’ cannot be known nor understood without having a clear perception of the scriptural truth, especially with regard to the state of righteousness.” 

In the Roman Catholic view original righteousness was  added as a “supernatural gift”, it was not part of Adam’s original creation. Grace is an addition to nature. So, in the fall what was affected was what was added, not was created. Hence, we can still be free to choose and this then leads us to (semi-)Pelagianism. 

Kuyper uses a number of interesting images including bridles on horse, spiders and bees, the pressure valve on a boiler. For example:
“for a bee, merely its ability to gather honey, to make a honeycomb, and to fill that honeycomb belongs to the bee’s nature, but that the fact that instead of spilling the honey, as many species of wasps do, the bee delivers the honey to the comb is a mysterious function that is added to the nature of this insect, then we have a depiction of the view of Rome concerning original righteousness. On the other hand, if our answer is, no, God created the bee not only with the ability to do it but also with the impulse and the instinct to actually do it, so that both the ability to do it and the doing itself belong to the nature of the bee, then we have the Reformed system.” (169)
In contrast, then to the Roman Catholic system the Reformed have argues that our nature became so corrupt after the fall, we did not lose something that was added but rather something that was part of our nature: “What has changed is not his essence but the functioning of his nature. Undamaged in his essence, he has become depraved in his nature.” (171)

To think that something has to be added is an affront to God as Creator:

“When he creates, he is not dependent on anything. He speaks and it is. And it is as he has willed it. And if we say that in creating human nature, God ordained that nature to be so in- sufficient, so imperfect, so inadequate that at an incalculable moment after creation, something had to be added, affixed to it, coupled to it, dripped in, or whatever you want to call it, but nevertheless always in such a way that this human nature as created constituted a danger, and that in order to avert this danger a safety valve had to be installed—does not such a view detract from God’s honor? ” (173)

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 17

17. The Tree of Life

The dominant view of the tree of life in the early twentieth century was that it was a sacramental sign. Kuyper feels that this view is weak.  To understand the significance of the tree we need to move from what is known to what is unknown. And nothing is mentioned about it being a sacrament. 

There were two trees: a duality; an is also according to Kuyper a duality: soul and body. The two trees correspond to intellectual consciousness and moral knowledge. The tree of life has to do with our physical not our spiritual existence. It is the tree of knowledge that has spiritual significance. All the other trees in the garden Adam was permitted to eat, they were for the physical nourishment of his body. 

The tree of life will be common on the new earth - “spiritual salvation will be fully accomplished” (164)

Monday, 23 December 2013

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 16

16 The Original Life Span

The early patriarchs lived to a much older age that we do today. Kuyper looks at some explanations that have been put forward for this. These include different ways that have been used to calculate years or the idea that the supposed number of years were actually months. That would, however, mean that Mahalalel was five years old when he became a father! 

Kuyper wants to take scripture seriously and writes: "We are told that they lived ten times as long as we, and we must accept this report". He maintains that the decline in longevity is a consequence of the fall. Humans were intended to live for eternity. "Death is not part of God's creation. Death entered God's creation through, and as a result of sin. And if sin had not entered the human race, humanity would never have experienced death." (149)

When Jesus returns those who are still alive will not die but be changed. 

“Adam was susceptible to sin, death, and curse, such that he had to make a transition to a state that was sin-proof, death-proof, and curse-proof.” (153)

In Paradise there was no sin, but sin could have occurred. In contrast in the kingdom of glory there is no sin and there is no danger of sin entering it. The tree of life played an important role in Paradise, it is a tree that maintains life and whose leaves bring healing. Kuyper mentions two views regard the red, the first is that it has a divine power, the second was that it was a sign, comparable to the bread and wine.  This theme is take up in the next chapter. 

Kate Rusby Diadem

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 15

15. The State of Righteousness

Kuyper sees humans as created, fallen and restored (137).  Humanity in a state of righteousness befits paradise; as fallen a cursed earth; as redeemed “a glory as that of heaven” (137)

The name “paradise” does not occur in the Old Testament. Paradise is an old name for pleasure garden and a sushi was used in the Septuagint. Adam and Eve after the fall were explode from Paradise to elsewhere. The whole earth was good, but it was not Paradise.
Adam had to work and keep the garden, this implies it had certain boundaries. It is important to understand the state that Adam was in as it helps us to understand what we have lost and it is also the ideal towards which we can reach in Christ.

The only “lacunae and void” was loneliness. The animals were created in pairs, but not Adam. This was felt more keenly as humans are created as male and female in God's image. Woman is taken from the side of man; not from the outside.

Regarding Darwinian evolution Kuyper comments: "that man evolved from the animals lacks all compelling power." (143)

Friday, 20 December 2013

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 14

14 The Paradise Story as Historical Narrative

Kuyper restates that that “first chapters of Genesis must be understood as history” (127) It is important that “we have in these first chapters a narrative of events that have really taken place in this way” (127). He insists that God speaks. 
Genesis is a book of origins:
“The origin of the universe;
The origin of the angels;
The origin of all creatures;
The origin of humanity;
The origin of marriage;
The origin of sin; The origin of grace;
The origin of suffering;
The origin of the present state of the earth;
The disruption of the order of human society;
The origin of all justice and all dominion;
The origins of all that still stirs your interest, of all that surrounds you in your own personal life, and of all that goes on within your heart, are unfolded before us in this book of Genesis” (132).
Christians must stand firm on the Scriptures as their point of departure. However, it is differences in interoperation of Genesis 1-5 that keeps Christians divided. Kuyper places a high emphasis on common grace:
“It is not going too far to assert that the future of the Reformed churches and the renewed flourishing of Calvinism hangs on the question as to whether this doctrine of “common grace” will revive again with the force it once had. If this doctrine remains neglected as it has been thus far, then the Reformed churches are doomed to locking themselves into a preaching of salvation without background and without foundation” (134)
He goes on:

“And we cannot perceive clearly the relationship between those two, namely, between church and world, as long as we have not been grounded in the doctrine of ‘common grace.’” (135).

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 13

13 From Noah Back to Paradise

Kuyper starts by again justifying why he started with the Noahic covenant. It has been alluded to by others but the full appreciation of it has been neglected. 

Common grace began after the fall, but underwent a change after the flood. 

In Paradise we read of a threat (“you shall surely die”) that did not occur - at least not in the way Adam and Eve understood it. Adam had a “stay of execution”: it was “a very powerful act of common grace”(121). If Adam had died there would be no human race:
“The total and direct outworking of sin, had it not been arrested, would have destroyed the entire human race with a sin- gle death sentence.” (121)

Kuyper then justifies staying close to the Scriptures. He briefly discusses the Ethicals, Schliermacher and the mechanical use of the Bible as all being flawed approaches. They separated form and content.

Kuyper maintains that :
“we must maintain and prove our right to take the words as literally as they stand in Genesis 1–5, to depend on the facts told us in those words, to draw our inferences from those facts and words, and thus to come to the conclusion that not simply for our imagination and not merely in appearance, but in reality and in truth, the origin of things transpired precisely in the way we are told in these opening chapters of Holy Scripture.” (126)

How to deal with annoying mobile phone users

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 12

12 A New Dispensation

In this chapter Kuyper takes stock and considers the preceding chapters. 
  • The flood altered the state of affairs on the earth and it now displays a different character.
  • The change comes from the Lord’s decree.
  • The flood manifested God’s wrath but pointed to his grace.
  • This grace was not special grace but common grace.
  • It was not a restrictive grace - it included all those that had breath.
  • The post-flood situation continues to his day.

He then summarises the main points:

1. The human race not just a few people are reused from the flood.
2. The earth is still the same though it has been changed by the catastrophe of the flood.
3. The atmosphere of the earth was changed.
4. The blessings are not jet for the church but for all humanity and the animals.
5. The relationship between humans and animals and the earth is now regulated. 
6. A change tok place in the life of humanity itself. Humans didn’t live for as long.
7. God instituted government for an orderly human life and was designed to thwart the outbreak of violence.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 11

11 The Institution of Government Authority

The authority of government is grounded in the grace of God. If it is not then it is unstable. 

In three ways humans have attempted to ground government in “voluntary human action”. (99)

The first was in the right of the conqueror to subject to himself those conquered: might is right. 

The second in the free will of man. We have a right to determine our own fate. If we wish we can of our own free will call a government into being. This, Kuyper notes, was the foundation of the system of the French Revolution’s notion of social contract. (100) It leads to an unstable situation.

The third is by spontaneous development. There is a “natural impulse” where: “a certain power of the one group arises over the other group, which ultimately is consolidated in the supremacy of an individual person.” (101)

God’s common grace is at work, a “ gracious arrangement whereby he created order amid the chaos of a sinful world and arrested the disruptive destruction of sin.” (101) He organises government and ordains his “providential administration”.

Government authority is different to a father’s authority over his children:
“In a sinless situation there would have been no government authority proceeding from people, even as in the kingdom of glory there will be no more government from people over people. “ (103)
Kuyper then poses the question “Where is the authority of God instituted and validated? (104) To answer that he goes back to Genesis 9:6. He stresses that humans have no authority of their own, all authority belongs to God. In Genesis 1 we are given dominion and authority. Power and control only exists if God grants it.

He concludes:

“that in Genesis 9:6 both government authority is validated and capital punishment is instituted, not only for that time but for all times, for all of Noah’s descendants, and thus also for us and for our descendants, until the coming of the Lord on the clouds.” (107)

Monday, 16 December 2013

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 10

10 Further Objections to Capital Punishment

Many do not agree that Genesis 9:6 instigates a “juridicial institution” for the “putting to death of a murderer”. (89) Some because they do not think this because they do not believe the words were to be taken in a literal sense.

Others object that it was what God ordained but it no longer applies today. Kuyper respond to this by asking “where does it say that this divine ordinance is abolished?“ (90); by noting that it was a command given to Noah and his children - we are all children of Noah. “It is not a national but a universal-human ordinance…” (90); and that it belongs to the Noahic covenant that is still binding today. He then adds that Romans 13:4 adds more justification to it continuing, government is to wield the sword.

There are some "anaemic" arguments agains capital punishment:
  • It eliminates the possibility of the murderer converting
  • An innocent person my be executed
  • Execution debases people
For a Reformed person the first objection is absurd: salvation is the work of God alone. For the second reason, should we then abolish every action of government that may injure someone? “ [M]istakes are simply the disastrous consequence of the limitation and sinfulness of civil servants, and also of judges in cases of judicial mistakes.” (94) Regarding the third objection he writes:
“People sensed that it was God’s justice that was being executed, and there was no trace of de- basement or excess to be found. We need say no more about this.” (95)
On capital punishment as a deterrent he asserts:
“It is impossible to show by means of numbers whether capital punishment is a deterrent against murder and whether abolishing capital punishment causes the number of murder cases to increase.” (95) 

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Martyn Lloyd Jones interviewed by Aneirin Taflan Jones in 1970

Particularly interesting is the brief discussion, about 6 minutes in, on fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism; DMLJ preferred the later to the former label.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 9

9. Government and capital punishment

Kuyper begins by expressing agreement with the Reformed position expressed in the notes of the Dutch Bible on the institution of government being established in these verses (Gen 9). He notes too that Rivet of Leiden has shown the untenability of Nieuwenhuis’s position expressed in the previous chapter.

Nevertheless, Kuyper sees the need to examine these verses to see if the Reformed position is the correct position.

Capital punishment is not primarily about the protection of human life, it arises from the sovereignty of God:
“People are his people. They belong to him. He has jurisdiction over them. Since in those people he has deposited something of his divine honor, for that reason the honor of God is always attacked with murder. That may not happen. His ordinance opposes that. Precisely on that basis alone can capital punishment be ordained for the murderer.” (86)
This is why if someone kills a murderer without a mandate form God then their blood too has to be shed: “the exercise of capital punishment never entails a second violating of God’s honor and justice, because it is performed by virtue of God’s ordinance and upon his authority.” (86)

These words in Genesis 9, than cannot be a prophecy but a command and an ordinance. Who then has this duty? It cannot mean anyone. Kuyper quotes Luther and the Dutch Bible approvingly:

“Luther was entirely correct to say that here lays the official institution of government, as were the Dutch Bible commentators in observing that here the legitimacy of government is being established.” (88)

Friday, 13 December 2013

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 8

8. The Institution of Capital Punishment

After a few teasers on capital punishment Kuyper now turns to it in Genesis 9:6. 
He starts by examining the “untenable” argument of Nieuwenhuis, a professor of Law at Groningen, who maintains that the legislation was placed in Israel and that it was a private vendetta and nothing to do with government. Kuyper dismisses the first by distinguishing between moral, ceremonial and political laws; the form has passed away but not the principle. As for the second point:
“The requirement of “an eye for an eye” was a stipulation of a judicial nature in the Mosaic legislation. It was hardly intended that the individual citizen would act according to this rule, but only that the government would function in terms of recompense when it came to judicial punishment.” (73)
Kuyper then goes on to challenge the position that it is only personal vengeance intended here.

He maintains that what we have here is not a prescription but an institution; the institution of government is sanctioned and “capital punishment is prescribed to be exercised by the neared blood relative” (79)

Mike Goheen on the role of story

The story we live by from CPX on Vimeo.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 7

7. The Protection of Human Life

After the flood the future of the human race depended on one family. Life is precarious. God’s ordinance to avenge murder come then as a “shield to cover the life of people”. Three things had cause death: “predatory animals, murder, and the flood” (62). God, thus, protects them against all three:
“Against the flood by means of his promise, against the predatory animal by means of his ordinance, and against murder by means of his commandment.” (62)
As an aside Kuyper looks at the extent of the flood: “it could well be that in the narrative of the flood, such general expressions are referring only to that part of the world that counted for Noah or where people lived”(63).

Genesis 9:5 is not a command for capital punishment. Mention is only made here as to what God will do. Capital punishment is the subject of the next few chapters.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Best books of 2013

In no particular order:

  • Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen Christian Philosophy Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013.
  • Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1. Grand Rapids: Christian's Library Press, 2013.
  • Abraham Kuyper Guidance for Christian Engagement for Government. Grand Rapids: Christian's Library Press, 2013.
  • James Bratt Abraham Kuyper Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013.
  • John Halsey Wood Jr Going Dutch in the Modern Age Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Pierre Marcel The Christian Philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd Part 1 Wordbridge
  • Pierre Marcel The Christian Philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd Part 2 Wordbridge
  • Derek Schuurman Shaping a Digital World
  • Michael C. Bird Evangelical Theology
  • James K. A. Smith Imagining the Kingdom Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013
  • Bruce C. Wearne Conducting Gospel Harmony: Volume 1
  • David Bebbington and David Ceri Jones (ed.) Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 6

6. The ordinances of the Noahic Covenant

Jewish scholars identify seven so-called “Noahic commandments”:
“These consist of prohibitions against (1) idolatry, (2) whoredom, (3) blasphemy, (4) murder, (5) theft, (6) eating blood, and (7) anarchy, ..” (53)
But, Kuyper, argues these are mistaken in that there are only two ordinances: 
“(1) the prohibition given to the humanity that sprouted from Noah against “eating flesh with its life,” and (2) the commandment given to this renewed human race to punish a murderer with death”. (54)

He then considers these two in more detail. For the first some have asserted, wrongly according to Kuyper, that it means not eating the blood of the animals. Rather it is an 
“order in which man kills the animal in the name of his God, respecting the supremacy of his Creator over that animal, and therefore takes it for food only when its life has completely departed and the flesh that initially contained the soul became flesh without the soul.” (58)
Regarding the second ordinance he notes that it opposes cannibalism. There is a distinction between human and animal. 
“The tiger devours the ox with its life; the man takes him for food only when the life has departed. The tiger steals its prey and does not know God; the man uses a right given him by God, but simultaneously honors the Creator and the Giver of life by waiting until life has departed.” (59)
He goes on:
“No animal may devour a man, and no man may take a fellow man as food. Despite this having occurred, however, God will require an accounting for all this shed blood.” (60)

This question of capital punishment is then explored in several subsequent chapters.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 5

5. The Blessings of the Noahic Covenant

Kuyper reiterates the points made previously: the world after the flood is different to that before it. Everything was included in the covenant. The tendency has been to negect the Noahic covenant because it is not about "saving the soul". He then spends some time discussing the nature of the covenant - it was established by God (Gen 9:8-9 )and does not depend upon our agreement; it is not a contract.

"In this covenant, God binds only himself, and the ordinances with which he accompanies his covenant are not stipulations or conditions, but commands and statutes that God in his omnipotence institutes and imposes on man as his creation and as his subject." (46)
He then makes a distinction between the ordinances and the covenant: the ordinances are not included in the covenant.(46) The ordinances precede the covenant, they exist outside of the covenant. Three subjects are distinguished: God's intention (Gen 8:21-22) ; God's address to rescued humanity (Gen 9:1-8); and the establishment of the covenant (Gen 9:9-17).

God's address begins and ends with "pronouncing a blessing" (vv 1 and 7): be fruitful and multiply. Humanity is given:
  supremacy over the animals,
  permission to eat animals with a
  prohibition from eating the blood of animals, and
  the institution of the death penalty.
"These four items are to be understood as expressions of grace, and only in that way can they be correctly understood." (48)
Kuyper takes this prohibition to eat the blood as indicating that this practice took place before the flood and thus rejects the supposition that "before the flood all people would have been vegetarians." (51)

Monday, 9 December 2013

Kuyper: "If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life ..."

Abraham Kuyper:

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit. The non-Christian world has not been handed over to Satan, nor surrendered to fallen humanity, nor consigned to fate. God’s sovereignty is great and all-dominating in the life of that unbaptized world as well. Therefore Christ’s church on earth and God’s child cannot simply retreat from this life. If the believer’s God is at work in this world, then in this world the believer’s hand must take hold of the plow, and the name of the Lord must be glorified in that activity as well." 
Foreword to Common Grace

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 4

 4. The Spiritual and Practical Significance of the Noahic Coveant

Continuing the theme of the Noahic covenant Kuyper turns his attention to the distinction between its content  and purpose

Its content is the natural life and not the eternal and applies to all including animals. He summarises its content thus:
that until the end of the world, the surface of our globe will not again be in a position to be disturbed, but will remain as it is now. (33 - emphasis Kuyper’s)
The spiritual significance is expressed in its purpose. Its purpose “lies with the elect” (34):
this purpose is to be sought in Christ, in his people and their future, and through Christ in the glorification of the Lord’s decree and name. (34)
Sadly the Noahic covenant has been neglected in theological discourse. Kuyper notes that Calvin grasped it in his commentary on Genesis, but after him it has become neglected. 

The rainbow is a sign of God’s covenant. Kuyper briefly discuss if this was the first time a rainbow appeared. Nothing that for Lutherans it was but for the Reformed not. Though he admits:
“We cannot resolve the question as to whether the rainbow appeared for the first time then, or whether the already familiar rainbow was simply made into a sign at that time.” (37)
He makes a good point regarding our attitude to the rainbow:
“Every Christian shortchanges the honor of God when, as the rainbow appears in the clouds, he does not remember the faithfulness of his God, and does not recognize in that rainbow the sign of the covenant. He is acting like the pagans and unbelievers who observe nothing but a necessary phenomenon of nature, and a beautiful spectacle. Our God has emphatically testified that, as often as he displays the rainbow in the clouds, he is our God, and that he would ‘see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth’ [Gen. 9:16].” (38)

 A clear understanding of the pre- and post-flood situation is important for Kuyper. Before the flood humanity were allowed to indulge in sin without restraint, with disastrous consequences; after the flood “another order of things … emerged” (40). There were changes in the earth and in the animals, such a change now meant that there would never be another flood. God’s mercy extended to nature and to humans. This is picked up in the next chapter.  

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 3

 Chapter 3. The Noahic Covenant was not Particular

Previously Kuyper has shown that the Noahic covenant reveals that there will be no further violent ruptures until the Lord returns. Though the same flood waters still exist God in his common grace covenant prevents another flood. The Noahic covenant means that there is rest, security and confidence for humanity. 

There is, however, a serious objection regarding this covenant and whether it concerns the world in general. Kuyper points out that Calvin shows that it is for all posterity and for all people: “A covenant of grace to all people and nations in common.” In Genesis 9 God speaks to Noah, his three sons and their descendants as well as every living creature.

Again, Kuyper stresses that it is not a covenant of particular grace bit of common grace. This is only denied by those who have a false view of spirituality. 

The flood came because of human sinfulness and depravity. Only Noah and his family were saved and only because they had the fear of the Lord. God will never flood the earth again, he will deal with sin in another way. It is through common grace that sin will be restrained. 

Enya "O come, O come, Emmanuel"

Friday, 6 December 2013

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 2

Chapter 2. The Starting point of the doctrine of common grace

Surprisingly Kuyper begins his look at common grace not with Adam but with Noah and the Noahic covenant: "By means of that starting point with Noah, common grace, which began in Paradise acquired its more definite form".

He feels that the Noahic covenant, despite being the most detailed of the covenant in the scriptures, has been neglected and that too often we move too quickly to Abraham. The Noahic covenant has no hint of saving grace - there is no forgiveness or promise of eternal life.

Kuyper contrasts Noah with Adam. Noah, was the second progenitor of the human race, but was not the second head of our race, Noah, unlike Adam, was the fruit of himan procreation..

There are three upheavals mentioned in the Bible effected by the wrath of God: the fall, the flood and the Maranatha (the return of Jesus). The fall resulted on a curse, thorns, wild animals and Paradise vanished; in the flood water played a key role but there is now new conditions, which will remain until the Maranatha. The third catastrophe will be different in that the first two caused disaster but the third will bring restoration.

We are not given many details of the pre-flood condition of the earth other than that there was an increase in violence and people were living for long lives; only Noah's family were God fearing. The implication is that without God's intervention there would eventually be no church. God's intervention was common garce aquiring a definite form.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Chapter 1

Chapter 1 Introduction

Kuyper had recently completed a series of articles in De Heraut, on particular grace. Here he compares particular and common grace. Particular grace deals with the individual person being saved, it is saving grace. Common grace is neither individual nor saving. 

Individuals are also “part of a community, member[s] of a body, … enclosed within an organism” (8) and thus particular grace must be understood within the context of the covenant. There are three aspects to be considered: 
first, our personal life; second, our incorporation into the body of Christ; and third, our existence as human beings (i.e., our origin by human birth, our membership in the human race) (9)
There is then a trinitarian aspect: the Spirit is concerned with our sanctification; the Son with our redemption; and the Father with our creation. There is also a threefold aspect to grace: covenant grace expands into particular grace and common grace which expands into covenant grace.

Common grace is not then saving grace. It is “the touchstone of a general human grace, coming to you because you are among the children of humanity, yours together with not only all God’s children but in common with all the children of humanity” (p 11).
Kuyper chose common rather than general to modify grace in order to prevent misunderstanding that he was undermining particular grace, and hence his efforts here to stress that common grace is not saving grace.

“In itself general grace carries no saving seed within itself and is therefore of an entirely different nature from particular grace or covenant grace. Since this is often lost from view when speaking about “general grace,” to prevent misunderstanding and confusion it seemed more judicious to revive in our title the otherwise somewhat antiquated expression, and to render the phrase communis gratia, used formerly by Latin-speaking theologians, as common grace” (12).

Bavinck’s address “Common grace” (translated in Calvin Theological Journal 24(1): 35-65) is mentioned as well as the hints in Calvin, yet Kuyper maintains that common grace has not received the attention it deserves and he hopes this volume will go some way to provide a  "degree of coherence and completeness" (13).

He concludes with a summary of common grace:
outside the church grace operates among pagans in the midst of the world, this grace is neither an everlasting grace nor a saving grace, but a temporal grace unto the restraint of ruin that lurks within sin

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Christmas together

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Kuyper's Foreword


Kuyper begins his foreword with this provocative statement: “The Reformed paradigm has suffered no damage greater than its deficient development of the doctrine of common grace” (3). He then goes on to lament the lack of doctrinal development that occurred in Calvinism after 1650. What happened was a “repristinating their well-worn polemic against Arminianism” (5). 

For Kuyper common grace is “deduced directly from the sovereignty of God” and is the “root and conviction for all Reformed people” (p 5). Resuscitating the doctrine of common grace, which Kuyper plans to do here, will help the believer “take hold of the plow” rather than retreat from this life. It provides the foundation for engagement with the world and so avoid spiritual and ecclesiastical isolation and so help believers exercise dominion (5).

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Interview with Harry Van Dyke editor and translator of Kuyper's Ons Program

Harry Van Dyke, Professor Emeritus in History at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario, and Director of the Dooyeweerd Centre for Christian Philosophy, has recently completed the translation of Abraham Kuyper's Ons program. It is now available from Christian's Library Press as Guidance for Christian Engagement in Government. I caught up with Harry and he was kind enough to answer some of my questions.

Harry, could you please tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Rotterdam and moved with my parent to Canada at the age of 12. Translating has been my hobby ever since.

Your translation of Kuyper's Ons program has recently been published. What prompted the translation and publication of the book?
While attending the annual Kuyper Conference at Princeton Theological Seminary I heard that a translator was being sought for the book Ons program. I volunteered and was accepted on condition that I submit a time schedule. I estimated it would take me 18 months and after 20 months the job was done. I could not have done without the Internet.

What is the background to Ons program?
The Dutch historian and statesman G. Groen van Prinsterer battled his whole life against the repercussions of the French Revolution in his country and the ramifications of secular humanism in Dutch politics. Pastor Abraham Kuyper inherited his position of leadership and looked for ways of making the "anti-revolutionary" movement a more effective fighting machine. He and others gave formal organization to it by means of a national political party for which Kuyper single-handedly composed a "Program of Principles." He wrote a systematic commentary on it in weekly instalments in his daily newspaper. These articles were published in a popular edition in 1880. They helped galvanize his followers and for years was an oft consulted manual for determining what political line to follow.

In what ways is a nineteenth-century political programme relevant for today?
The book Our Program is less a political platform and more a commentary on fundamental principles for engaging in politics from a biblical standpoint. These do not change, although their formulation varies of course with the concrete situation in which one finds oneself. Meanwhile it is fascinating to see how Our Program in places immediately tries to apply those principles to concrete issues of the day. Kuyper's ideas about politics are best mirrored, I think, in the careers of Gladstone in the UK and Woodrow Wilson in the USA. It opens one's mind to a rich heritage that remains inspiring.

As is to be expected after a century and a half, quite a few, if not many, of Kuyper’s notions, suggestions and concrete proposals, even if attractive, would be unworkable today. Despite his originality and his courage to row against the current of his time, he too was very much a child of his time. Ideas that were common coin in his day—such as a romantic view of national genius, an appreciation of the wholesome effects of war, a father’s exclusive headship of the family, an approach to colonial policy as the White Man’s Burden—have long since been moderated or abandoned. Equally open to question may be the apparent ease with which Kuyper detects divine ordinances in specific empirical patterns and historical growths. I would say, therefore, that the enduring value of his musings, dreams and alternatives lies, rather, in the backdrop against which he approaches the whole area of practical politics: his biblically honed common sense, fair-mindedness, indignation at patent injustices, zeal for genuine liberty, and freshness of ideas.

You have mentioned before that North Americans sometimes confuse pluralism with sphere sovereignty. Could you expand on what you mean by this? Why is it important to distinguish the two?
There is sociological pluralism and worldview pluralism. The first distinguishes the plurality of unique structures and relationships (spheres) that compose human society and that are each subject to distinct laws and norms which must be respected (their sovereignty honored) if society is not to become unhinged. The second recognizes that humanity is divided over a plurality of religiously defined worldviews that cannot be treated with coercion but only persuasion, hence demand parity treatment or a level playing field so that each can speak up for its convictions and try to shape society in accordance with them without disadvantage or penalty. To confuse these two pluralisms is to commit a category mistake, which in this case can lead to misconstruing Kuyper's career and goals at several points.

What started your interest in Kuyper?
 It's all providential, really. I attended a Reformed day school in Holland, followed by a public high school in Ontario where I experienced the "antithesis" in outlook and learning. I then enrolled in Calvin College in Michigan where Evan Runner became my mentor. My graduate work was done in the Free University of Amsterdam, where I ended up as an instructor in the theory and philosophy of history under the guidance of Meyer Smit. Returning to Canada, our family settled in Hamilton, Ontario, and I taught history for a quarter century at Redeemer University College, an undergraduate school based on Reformed Christianity. Since my retirement I have been involved as a co-editor of the Collected Works of Herman Dooyeweerd. Translating Kuyper texts is more or less a sideline. You should know that my published dissertation was dedicated to the memory of my grandfathers "in whose home I first saw the portraits of some of the leading anti-revolutionaries who appear on the following pages." That book, my only one, dealt with Groen van Prinsterer's lectures in 1845/46 on Unbelief and Revolution, a work that marks the birth-cry of the anti-revolutionary movement in the Netherlands. I guess you could say about me that neo-Calvinism was bred in the bone.

What would you say is the essence of neo-Calvinism?
That Christ came to redeem the world, of which humanity is a crucial part, but only a part.

There seems to be a resurgence in Kuyper studies - several major books have been published this year on or by  Kuyper. What do you think has sparked off this resurgence?
Ever since the Chicago Declaration of 1993, American evangelicals have been searching for a full-bodied "public theology," a system of thought that helps analyse the challenges posed by a secularizing public arena. One source that has now been (re)discovered is the work of Abraham Kuyper, especially his elaboration of the doctrines of common grace and the antithesis - common grace creating the possibility and the obligation to engage in the world's affairs, and the antithesis defining the manner in which to do so as a Christian alternative or "third way." As well, when Princeton celebrated the centennial of Kuyper's famous Stone Lectures on Calvinism, it expected 40 people to attend, but 400 came! Soon after, a retired banker endowed a Kuyper Chair at Princeton Seminary, where for the past ten years a student can choose an ethics course, besides Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth, in Abraham Kuyper. A Kuyper Study Center there is now equipped with many materials to which researchers are drawn for months on end.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to study more about Kuyper? 
Learn Dutch! Hah, fond hope. No, start with Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader that came out with Eerdmans and the Paternoster Press in 1998. Then read some recent publications by Richard Mouw and the well-researched biography of Kuyper by James D. Bratt. Other good books about Kuyper are by Vincent Bacote and James E. McGoldrick. Get your library to subscribe to the Kuyper Center Review that comes out of Princeton.

Are there any other projects in the pipeline that you are working on?
Four of us are doing pieces for an anthology of Kuyper's writings on education.

What do you do for fun?
Translate, play the harmonium, read historical novels, do crossword puzzles.

What music are you listening to at the moment?
Bach's trio sonatas played by blind organist Helmut Walcha.

What books are you reading now?
The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan and a novel about the War of 1812 by David Nevin.

If you were on a desert island and were allowed two luxuries what would you take?
Oh sure, a pipe organ and a New King James Version of the Bible in gilded leather.

Thanks Harry for taking the time to respond to my questions.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Kuyper's Common Grace #CG1.1 Preliminaries

In 1895 Abraham Kuyper began a series of newspaper articles on common grace. They were completed in 1901 and were then published in book form as De Gemeene Gratie in 1902.13, 1903.13 and 1905.08. Now in 2013 we have the first part of volume 1 translated into English as Common Grace. In the following weeks I'll be posting a summary/ review of this excellent book.

Kuyper began these at the peak of his career, the books were published when he was prime minister. The first volume of the English translation covers the first third of the first Dutch volume (from Noah to Abraham). The first Dutch volume covers the historical sections. The complete English translation will be in ten volumes - it is proposed that the tenth will be a comprehensive index.

This volume of dedicated to Dr Rimmer De Vries. It is translated by Nelson Kloosterman and Ed M. van der Maas on behalf of the Abraham Kuyper Translation Project and the Acton Institute. There is a foreword by Jordan Ballor and Stephen Graybill the editors, and an introduction by Richard Mouw. The books has 29 chapters in 249 pages.

The editors note that “There is often a temptation, particularly among evangelicals, to engage in social reform without first developing a coherent social philosophy to guide the agenda” (xi) They hope that Kuyper’s idea of common grace will help to provide that social philosophy. They see common grace as the “capstone of of Kuyper’s constructive public theology” (xi).

In his introduction Mouw describes Kuyper as an activist (xxix) as well as churchman (xxiv) and  “multi-tasker” (xxiv) who did “theology on the run”(xxiv). Mouw stresses that Kuyper with his emphasis on common grace does not reject the notion of the antithesis. Kuyper was a good Calvinist and held to the doctrine of “total depravity”. Kuyper saw his common grace project as a development of Calvin, though Calvin never used the term common to preface grace, he seems to prefer the term “peculiar”. Mouw is keen to stress this continuity between Calvin and Kuyper. Indeed this is something that Kuyper acknowledged. Mouw sees Kuyper’s common grace as “a divine strategy for bringing the cultural designs of God to completion” (xxv).

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Kuyperania Stop Press: Guidance for Christian Engagement in Government ed and translated by Harry van Dyke

Available here.

Abraham Kuyper’s Our Program was originally written to inform people participating in the Dutch general elections of 1879. The French Revolution was long over, but not its ideas. The influence of modern life and its secularizing influence was growing and reshaping the minds and hearts of Europeans and the rest of the Western world. What should the Dutch people believe and understand on the basis of Scripture, sound reason, and common sense?

Kuyper reminded them of their Dutch Calvinist heritage and the legacy left to them by the freedom fighters against Spanish tyranny in the sixteenth century. But Kuyper wisely concluded that they should not strive for a “Calvinist utopia” but rather for a pluralist state, one in which all groups enjoy a level playing field as they try to enlist support for their vision of a just society. So he laid out the intellectual architecture of what we now call “sphere sovereignty,” an ordering principle that takes on new and contemporary relevance as globalization reorganizes governmental and nongovernmental jurisdictions.

Kuyper’s antirevolutionary (or Christian-historical) vision attempts to remedy the failure of modernity to satisfy the human spirit and its propensity to establish monstrous tyranny. As the emancipator of the then still disenfranchised middle and lower classes in his country, Kuyper in this English translation of his seminal foray into political theory and practice takes his place beside Locke and Tocqueville as a titanic European intellect whose thought can help us understand the American experiment in religious liberty and constitutional democracy.