I have been reading a book of essays by Abraham Kuyper ” Wisdom and Wonder” ** Common Grace & Art.
When I attended HCS as a student way back in the 50s, we (and teachers) were cautioned not to enter into a discussion on ‘Common Grace’. It had been a ‘church’ confessional problem.
Some of you may ask: What is common grace? Common grace is the term used to describe how human motivations of good caring things can happen in people’s lives; for not all is evil or maleficent, but grace (good) abounds across time eternal because God the creator, rules in the hearts and minds of his creatures, even though some people do not acknowledge his presence or even use their gifts of life and the reality of his creation all around us wisely. Nevertheless, as we have experienced, evil does not always triumph in the lives of people. Just think about the many fairy tales and real-life stories that celebrate good over evil. Grace is built in. God hardwired it into his creation.
Wisdom tells us that life without grace would be disastrous. We would all be prone to selfishness, looking out for number one! giving in to strife, mischief, evil and corruption and so the world would probably not have lasted as long as it has. Dystopia and a frightening world it would be. The opposite of utopia.
Now in this book, (“Wisdom & Wonder”) Kuyper takes us on a journey into a discussion of the world as we know it, with its many fascinating areas of human endeavour and discoveries since the ‘beginning’. Science, Art, Nature, Sin and Redemption. A discussion set in a creation philosophy; that includes God who prepared it for human discoveries of all kinds in every good way, so that His glory may be revealed!
Already in God’s mind (He spoke a Word and it is) was laid out the ability for humans to discover the riches of creation; our bodies, the animals and plants; the environment and all that is real around us and even the unseen things we now enjoy such as electricity; radio, ex-rays and other enhanced technological discoveries and mechanics.
So the ‘Sciences’ have been spoken by God into ‘creation’ for us to be busy with in as many life spheres as there are questions for the What? Why? How? When? of the things we experience. There is a God given pent-up drive by humans to uncover all this, Kuyper called it Knowledge or Science (Wonder). It is the striving for answers for the betterment of society and to the many as yet uncovered glories in the world around us.
This, Kuyper says, was not instantly known to us at the beginning but slowly developed as ‘human discovery history’ formed by the creation through the word God spoke to the first humans: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.” (the Message)
This was an awesome invitation to play with in the deep mysteries of our world (universe) A beneficent gesture to be God’s partner and pupil. This showed God’s goodness, his GRACE.
Now Kuyper says since we are all human, we all have this ability to make discoveries and contribute knowledge towards good results as we uncover these mysteries how to help and benefit the world and its creatures. There are no humans who were not granted some capacity to help in this discover. We have been hardwired to prosper; to fill the earth; inquire and to take charge.
Then why do we still see misery? because we are selfish creatures. Why? the answer is given to us by God. From almost the beginning of time, the rules God had set we broke, we said: ‘we can do it alone, we do not need you God!’ Christians call this the FALL! But even so, we were still humans made after Gods image with all smarts and cleverness intact, except we said: we had no need for the Spirit of God; the teacher who knows the blueprints to guide us. We can do it ourselves, thank you!
So letting the Creator, the minder of all things go, has led us into new waters where our striving now has become OUR triumph and OUR self Glory! But yet, God has not abandoned his work, he is still there and yes, that Common Grace element still pushes us onward and upward.
Now the argument at HCS was that since we as people, have rejected God’s Wisdom we also do not have a ‘right idea’ about creation’s Wonder and so the Glory of that (Common) Grace has been obscured and will not edify us as a human before holy God. Therefore, this Grace is now a curse for us as we have thrown off (pushed away) the hand that guides us with Wisdom to use God’s Mysterious gifts honestly and rightly. So some said this ‘Commonness’ grace notion now does God a disservice for his Grace is only always pure and true, reserved for those who honour him. You know the verse “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound in a believer’s ear……’tWas grace that brought my heart to fear and Grace my fears relieved. How precious did that Grace appear the hour I first believed!
We are now living some 70 years later and have realized that but for the Grace of God, go I; and in our time the world has seen some amazing things and discoveries that have helped us live better and help others better than ever before we dreamt was possible, and for that we praise God’s Grace. So always remember, it is that Grace that allows us to work and play in this world of ours.
As stated in the Confession “Our World Belongs to God”
“Made in God’s image to live in loving communion with our Maker,
we are appointed earthkeepers and caretakers to tend the earth, enjoy it,
and love our neighbors.
God uses our skills for the unfolding and well-being of his world so that creation and all who live in it may flourish.
Together, male and female, single and married, young and old—
every hue and variety of humanity— we are called to represent God,
for the Lord God made us all.
Life is God’s gift to us, and we are called to foster the well-being of all the living,
protecting from harm the unborn and the weak, the poor and the vulnerable.
Even now, as history unfolds in ways we know only in part, we are assured
that God is with us in our world, holding all things in tender embrace and bending them to his purpose.
The confidence that the Lord is faithful gives meaning to our days and hope to our years.
The future is secure, for our world belongs to God”.
To get back to the Book “Wisdom & Wonder”; there are some pages where Kuyper lost me and I was not able to follow through on his arguments, however, I would recommend it to those who are interested in learning more about the Reformational study look into the validity of the Gospel message for today’s culture. The ‘sciences’ have been lifted high in their own right as being all above all. Just look at the media floods we experience everyday on our magical gadgets. There is a struggle where in a lot of Art, Science, Nature, culture and other educational & professional areas the Gospel is only the (personal) dressing on the matter, rather than a deep struggling with delight to see the miracles and riches in the creator’s mind of all that God has given us as stewards of the universe.
Come back………and see the mind of God in all things! In Jesus, all boasting now has ended! For if not “the stones will cry out………….” Gospel of Luke, chapter 19
JS Oct 17, 2022
** translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman, published by Christian Library Press in Grand Rapids, MI USA
A. Kuyper was very much concerned that ‘Secular’ higher (university) education would become the ‘primary’ and only ‘for real’ study focus for professionals and that the mix with ‘religious’ education was not professional and be kept down at the ‘Bible School’ level only. Throughout his life, He made the case that putting God in the picture was as relevant and study worthy, as the ‘Secular’. Herman Bavinck, a compatriot and fellow professor and pastor, was another who also argued that religious learning, putting God in the mix was equally worthy as the ‘Secular’ notion of what higher education is.