Video of Questions & Answers

Written Questions & Answers

1.  How does your view of common grace relate to the sending out of missionaries by the church?  Should we   spread the gospel by distributing tracts, Bibles, and Christian literature at venues such as county fairs?  In such instances, many are not likely to come to our churches, so should we not go to people there?

Kuyper’s doctrine of common grace, which I criticized in my lecture, has nothing whatever to do with sending out missionaries or distributing literature.  The grace of God that has to do with sending out missionaries and with distribution of Christian literature is a saving grace of God.  Kuyper sharply distinguished his common grace from God’s saving grace.  Kuyper’s common grace had only to do with culture and with improving human society.  Kuyper warned against confusing his common grace with the saving grace of God, to the extent that he proposed two different names in Dutch for the two graces, as I pointed out in the lecture.

My condemnation of Kuyper’s common grace does not at all imply a rejection of any and all lawful means to spread the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, including the church’s sending out missionaries and an evangelism committee’s distribution of tracts and pamphlets.  But evangelism and missions are not activities on behalf of a common grace of God.  They are means of the workings of God’s (one) particular, saving grace.

2.  Is common grace enough to save a person (so that he goes to heaven)?

According to Abraham Kuyper himself, common grace is not enough to save a person.  Common grace is not intended by God to save anyone.  Common grace is not able to save anyone.  Common grace merely makes a person outwardly decent and moral, enabling him or her to live usefully and culturally productively in society and the nation. 

However, as I noted in the lecture, Kuyper himself significantly weakened his own stand on this point by ascribing to common grace the power of creating in every human a “point of contact” for the gospel.  Thus, Kuyper himself, contrary to his own explicit warning, associated common grace with salvation.  Even on this view, common grace by itself alone is not sufficient for salvation.  For Kuyper, only particular, saving grace—the second kind of grace—saves humans.

3.  How do Kuyper and Bavinck respond to the many times that Christ says that He prays not for the world but [only] for His people?

This question too, like some of the others, makes plain the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of sharply distinguishing between a non-saving, common grace of God and a saving, particular grace of God.  When Reformed believers hear of a grace of God for humans, they conclude that that grace must be saving in nature and in purpose.  Thus, despite Kuyper’s warnings, that his common grace is fundamentally different from God’s particular, saving grace, and despite Kuyper’s intention sharply to distinguish common grace from particular grace, the Kuyperian doctrine of a common grace of God inevitably results in the belief of a saving grace of God that is universal, that is, the heresy of Arminianism that is condemned by the Canons of Dordt.  Learned theologians may be able to differentiate two distinct graces of God, although history casts doubt even on this.  At its synod of 1924, the Christian Reformed Church, intending to make Kuyper’s doctrine of common grace official church dogma and, therefore, binding upon one of its ministers, Rev. Herman Hoeksema, in fact adopted the gross false doctrine of a universal, ineffectual, saving grace of God—its “well meant offer of salvation.”  The lay members of the churches certainly cannot distinguish two graces, one that is saving and the other that is non-saving.  To the typical Reformed church member, grace is grace, and grace is saving.  And the typical Reformed church member is right. 

Kuyper and Bavinck would respond to this question by describing Christ’s prayer on behalf of His elect people, for instance, in John 17, as the expression of particular, saving grace.  Common grace, they would say, and, in fact, did say, is only cultural, not saving.  Common grace, which is cultural, is for all humans, reprobate as well as elect.  Particular grace, which alone is saving, is for the elect only.

4.  Would it be accurate to understand the real meaning of the charge, “Anabaptist,” against the Protestant Reformed Churches [PRC] to mean that “they really don't go into the world” because they won’t preach to the world that God loves all men?

The charge against the PRC that they are “Anabaptist” accuses them of fleeing the world physically, of separating themselves from the wicked society of unbelieving men and women in a physical manner.  This was characteristic of certain Baptists at the time of the Reformation (“Anabaptists” are those religious people who practiced the re-baptism of those who were baptized in infancy).  Their religious descendants and disciples today would be the Amish and the Hutterites, who try to live by themselves in their own colonies, thus separating themselves as much as possible from a wicked world in a physical way. 

 Kuyper called the opponents of his theory of common grace “Anabaptists,” and Kuyper’s common grace disciples today thus slander the PRC, because the PRC reject Kuyper’s teaching that by virtue of common grace Reformed Christians should cooperate with the ungodly in the cultural work of “Christianizing” the Netherlands, the United States, and the entire world. 

The accusation of “Anabaptism” is false because the rejection of common grace, and its project of “Christianizing the world,” does not consist of, nor lead to, a physical withdrawal from society or a physical separation from the wicked world. 

The separation from the ungodly world that the PRC advocate, and practice, more or less faithfully, is spiritual, not physical.  The theological, Reformed name for this (spiritual) separation is “antithesis.”  Christians are in the world physically, while resisting being of the world spiritually (John 17:14-16).  Christians not only may, but are also called by God to, live and work in the creation of God, in all its ordinances, for example, marriage and labor, using and enjoying all its elements, for example, education and science, right in the midst of the ungodly, for example, at the symphony at Orchestra Hall in Chicago, or in the financial world of Wall Street, or at some factory or other.  But he or she does all and enjoys all in obedience to the law of God, out of love for God in the heart, and to God’s glory.  Thus, the Christian separates himself from the ungodly in a spiritual manner.  The result of this spiritual separation, sometimes, is that he brings down on himself the scorn and hatred of the ungodly and is even driven out of society.  As Jesus “suffered without the gate,” so may it also happen to us that we are driven “without the camp, bearing his reproach” (Heb. 13:12, 13).  But this is not because we voluntarily flee the “camp” after the manner of the old “Anabaptists.”  It is due rather to the persecuting efforts of those who hate and despise the Christian life of holiness.

The charge by the PRC against the Kuyperian and Christian Reformed doctrine of common grace is that it unites Christian and non-Christian by a purported grace of God, thus uniting them very closely—in the grace of God! and illicitly.  The theory of common grace also unites believers and unbelievers in a supposedly great work of God’s grace in history, namely, making the world “Christian.”  This is transgression of the antithesis.  The result, as history has abundantly shown, is not that the ungodly culture of the Netherlands or of Grand Rapids has become “Christian,” but that the Reformed churches and people engaged in Kuyper’s common grace project have become thoroughly worldly—worldly in their thinking, worldly in their behavior.  Transgression of the antithesis is visited by God with the appropriate punishment of worldliness.  And worldliness is spiritually fatal.

 The charge against the PRC that their rejection of common grace is “Anabaptist” and that they are guilty of “world-flight” is ridiculous.  It is worse:  it is mere name calling.  No Reformed person should take the charge seriously.  The lives of the members of the PRC give the lie to the charge.  For myself, I regard the charge as proof positive that the opponents of the PRC are reduced to desperation in their controversy with us over common grace. 

Recently, I read that in 1924, when the controversy over common grace was raging in the Christian Reformed Church, Louis Berkhof himself, the main author of the Christian Reformed Church’s three points of common grace, warned some of his Christian Reformed colleagues not to accuse Hoeksema of “Anabaptism,” because the charge was simply false.

I have two questions for those who perpetuate the calumny.  First, is world-flight the fundamental sin of, and danger for, Reformed churches and people today?  Or, is the real sin and danger that they are being swallowed up by the ungodly world?  How much warning against conformity to the world is given in the common grace churches by the enthusiastic proponents of common grace?

And, second, does a reading of the history of Israel in the Old Testament and a perusal of the admonitions of the New Testament indicate that the main threat to the church is world-flight, or worldliness?

Regarding my questioner’s suggestion that the foes of the PRC charge against them that they are “Anabaptist” because the PRC refuse to preach to the world that God loves all men, this may very well be partly the real cause of the false charge.  After all, in its dogma of the three points of common grace, the Christian Reformed Church itself connected its doctrine of a common grace of God that enables godless humans to perform good works of making their culture and society Christian with the doctrine of a saving love and grace of God for all humans without exception (their “well-meant offer”).  It stands to reason then that objection to any aspect of the three points of common grace, including the denial of a saving love of God for all humans, will be branded as “Anabaptist.”

5.  If all have common grace, why do many have no problem killing those who don’t believe like them?  Why do many live a depraved life until death?  Do they have ability to reject common grace, according to Kuyper?

These related questions make the valid point that many humans, who are all supposed to possess the common grace of God that makes one moral, decent, and concerned for the welfare of human society, plainly show themselves desperately, indeed totally, depraved.  Their thinking and behavior contradict Kuyper’s theory of common grace.  False religionists, for example, Muslims, and multitudes of humans over all the world, all of whom are supposed to be the beneficiaries of God’s common grace, either murder Christians or live grossly ungodly and immoral lives. 

Experience, thus, refutes the theory of common grace. 

Add to this that Kuyper himself astoundingly acknowledged that the final result of common grace would be antichrist and his kingdom.  Common grace will produce the beast of Revelation 13 (see A. Kuyper, “Common Grace,” in James D. Bratt, ed., Abraham Kuyper:  A Centennial Reader, Eerdmans, 1998, 179-182).  This explanation of common grace reduces the theory to absurdity, if not blasphemy.  Grace—the grace of God—produces antichrist!

The PRC may be excused for declining to participate in a project that produces the antichrist. 

This godlessness is not due to the rejection of common grace by wicked humans, but to the working of common grace itself. 

The murderous hatred of humans for other humans throughout history and the depravity that all humans share and that many display openly simply contradict Kuyper’s theory of common grace. The theory of common grace is not only condemned by Scripture but is also refuted by history and experience.   

6.  To what do we attribute an orderly society, alleviation of poverty, judicial fairness, efforts to be sure we have clean air and clean water?

The answer given to these questions by the defenders of a common grace of God is that such desirable qualities of human life in society are the product of a common grace of God towards and in all humans without exception, ungodly as well as godly.

To this answer, before I give an answer, I have this question:  “To what do we attribute all the disorder in society, the grinding poverty, not only in some quarters of the United States and Canada, but also in other nations where people are starving to death daily, rampant judicial corruption, not only in third world countries but also in the United States (I lived for fourteen years in Cook County in Illinois), and pollution of air and water in many parts of the world?”  In addition, how does my questioner account for the devastating wars in history with their unspeakable miseries?  The common grace implicit in the question to me has not been abundantly evident in history, is not abundantly evident in many countries and among many peoples today, and even in the United States and Canada is contradicted by the widespread miseries of poverty, sickness, suffering of all kinds, and painful death.

Staring every sentient human squarely in the face is the terrible wrath of God upon the entire human race outside of Jesus Christ, cursing the race, inflicting innumerable griefs and miseries, and finally ravaging the race with death, including the sorrow of bereavement.  Then for many there is eternal hell.  For this, common grace has no explanation.  To this, common grace apparently is blind.  This, common grace denies, or attempts to mitigate. 

“The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).  “The curse of the LORD is in the house of the wicked”—the house of the healthy family of ungodly people, as well as the house of the ungodly family stricken by cancer, but obviously the house of the sick and dying (Prov. 3:33).

Rather than minimize or explain away the common curse, the advocates of common grace ought to press the truth of the common curse, in the outpouring of the wrath of God upon a guilty human race, upon the ungodly, so that they take refuge where alone refuge is to be found, namely, the particular, saving grace of God in the cross of Jesus Christ. 

We have this against the theory of common grace that it weakens the urgent call of the gospel that sinners flee the wrath and curse of God by believing the gospel. 

With regard to the earthly prosperity that some ungodly persons enjoy all their earthly life, Psalm 73 is the clear, awful explanation.  The explanation is not that of a common grace of God.  The explanation rather is that God is setting these prosperous wicked in slippery places and thus casting them down into destruction.  Their earthly prosperity is worse for them than are the miserable circumstances of other ungodly persons.  Their prosperity blinds and hardens them regarding their end in hell when their brief life is ended, whereas the misery of other ungodly persons may be used by God to awaken them to their plight outside of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.  There is no fool so foolish, and so certainly doomed, as a rich, fat, healthy fool. 

And then comes along the preacher of a common grace of God to assure the prosperous ungodly and the rich fool that God in His grace towards him is blessing him with his prosperity and riches!

Advocates of common grace debate these issues as though they were merely academic matters.  For myself, I reject the teaching of common grace in no small part because I fear to make myself responsible for the perishing of the prosperous wicked.  I do not want such a man or woman to turn toward me on the great day of judgment and cry out, “Why did you not warn me?  Why did you contribute to my spiritual folly and ignorance, which bring me to hell, by assuring me of God’s grace toward me, and of His blessing of me?  Why did you not testify to me the message of Psalm 73?”

Because of the great, if not decisive, importance of the teaching of Psalm 73 with regard to the controversy over an alleged common grace of God to the ungodly in their material prosperity, I may refer this questioner, and others who share his conception of the prosperity of the wicked, to my thorough exposition of the psalm in book form (Prosperous Wicked and Plagued Saints:  An Exposition of Psalm 73, RFPA, 2007). 

It belongs to a complete answer to the question posed here that I remind the questioner of God’s providence.  God’s providence is His power upholding and governing the creation He made in the beginning.  In His providence, God maintains even the ungodly in their humanity, so that they can develop the creation, uncovering and using its bounties; order their society, especially by government; and, in general, direct their life together in such a way as to benefit themselves and avoid many evils.  But providence is not inherently grace and blessing.  Not even in the instances in which providence provides the ungodly with many good gifts, for example, order in society, or health, or nourishing food.  The things themselves are good, but if God gives them to a man or woman in His wrath and if the man or woman uses and enjoys them without acknowledgment of God the Giver, without gratitude to God, and without a use of them that serves God, the things are a curse to the one who so misuses them.  The Heidelberg Catechism sharply distinguishes God’s (good) gifts and His blessing, that is, providence and grace:  “…nor even Thy gifts [providence] can profit us without Thy blessing [grace]” (Question 125). 

The good things of providence mentioned in the question, namely, “an orderly society, alleviation of poverty,” and the rest, are blessings to the elect believer in the grace of God to him or her in Jesus Christ, as to the believer are also disorder in society, poverty, sickness, and death.  To the reprobate unbeliever, all the good things of providence are a curse in divine wrath, exposing his inexcusable wickedness and increasing his guilt. 

7.  Could not common grace be a cultural expression of what is taught in Article 36 of the Belgic Confession as it teaches on the role of a civic government to restrain evil and aid the church in the church doing her work? That if God uses government in this way, why not other civic and cultural expressions also? Or do you take issue with the Belgic Confession?

As a matter of fact, I do take issue with the Belgic Confession in Article 36 concerning civil government.  I have stated and explained my disagreement publicly in writing.  But my issue with the Belgic Confession in Article 36 is not the teaching that you assume is the teaching of the article.  My issue is the teaching of Article 36 that the civil government has the calling from God to use its sword power to promote the kingdom of Christ and to “remove and prevent all idolatry and false worship.”  This, I deny.  And the church gives me the right to take issue with this aspect of Article 36 by the footnote that is appended to Article 36.

 This phrase, touching the office of the magistracy in its relation to the church, proceeds on the principle of the established church…History, however, does not support the principle of state domination over the church, but rather the separation of church and state.  Moreover, it is contrary to the new dispensation that authority be vested in the state arbitrarily to reform the church, and to deny the church the right of independently conducting its own affairs as a distinct territory alongside the state.  The New Testament does not subject the Christian church to the authority of the state, that it should be governed and extended by political measures, but to our Lord and King only, as an independent territory alongside and altogether independent of the state, that it may be governed and edified by its officebearers, and with spiritual weapons only… (The Confessions and the Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches, Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 2005, 74).

 Your contention is entirely different.  Your contention is that Article 36 of the Belgic Confession teaches a common grace of God to all the citizens of a nation in the institution of civil government.  I call attention to the fact that the article says nothing about civil government’s being an agency of common grace, that is, a grace bestowed upon all humans without exception.  The article speaks of “our gracious God,” that is, the God of grace towards those whom the preceding articles of the creed have described as God’s elect church (see Art.  16).  The article itself refers the grace of God that is operative through civil government to the citizens of the kingdom of Christ, that is, the members of the church.  In His grace to the church, God has established civil government with the office, according to the article, of protecting the sacred ministry and of promoting the kingdom of Christ.  This is grace to the church.  According to the article, government must destroy the kingdom of antichrist by punishing the ungodly, perhaps even killing them.  This is certainly not grace to the citizens of the antichristian kingdom.

The article teaches a particular, discriminating grace of God operative in and by means of civil government. 

With regard to government’s restraint of sin in civil society and with regard to its promotion of good order and decency, government does this by means, states the article, of “the sword,” that is, earthly punishments of fines, imprisonment, and execution.  This is not the same as the inner, spiritual restraint of sin in the ungodly that is the teaching of the theory of common grace.  The theory of common grace, also as taught by Abraham Kuyper, teaches that God restrains sin in the unbeliever by common grace so that the unregenerated sinner is not totally depraved.  Common grace enables him to do good works in the realm of civil society.  This is a denial of the doctrine of total depravity, as confessed in Question 8 of the Heidelberg Catechism:  “Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?  Indeed we are, except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God” (emphasis added).

This is a denial also of Article 4 of the third and fourth heads of doctrine of the Canons of Dordt.  With regard to the “glimmerings of natural light” that enable unbelieving humans to discover “some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an orderly external deportment,” the Canons state that the unsaved, unbelieving human is “incapable of using it [this light of nature] aright even in things natural and civil.”

Restraint of the deeds of violence and disorder in society by threat of punishment is essentially different from the restraining of sin in a human’s heart and life by a working of (common) grace within him. 

The Christian Reformed Church (CRC) appealed to Article 36 of the Belgic Confession in support of its doctrine of common grace, just as does this questioner.  Somewhere, Hoeksema responded to this appeal to Article 36 with the remark that the synod of the Christian Reformed Church evidently did not know the difference between an earthly sword and the spiritual grace of God.

8.  How is Kuyper’s common grace related to the 2 kingdom idea?

This question indicates a praiseworthy awareness of recent developments in the Reformed community of churches and seminaries with regard to the debate over common grace.

Of late, certain Reformed theologians, who present themselves as conservative, react against the development of the doctrine of common grace in their churches by its enthusiastic proponents.  This development of the doctrine of common grace consists of calling Reformed Christians to unite with the godless in a crusade of “transforming” society, “redeeming” the culture, and “Christianizing” the world.  The tell-tale words are “transforming,”  “redeeming,” and “Christianizing.”  This crusade parades itself as the realizing of the kingdom of God in history and over all the world.  Especially the Reformed high schools and colleges associated with the churches committed to the doctrine of common grace promote this grandiose scenario.

“Christianizing” the world is the stated purpose of the recent cooperation of Reformed theologians and the strongly Roman Catholic influenced Acton Institute in the translation into English for the first time of Abraham Kuyper’s three volumes on common grace (see the first translated volume, Common Grace:  Noah – Adam, Christian’s Library Press, 2013, especially the “editors’ introduction” [xi – xiv] and the “introduction” by Richard J. Mouw [xix – xxx]).   

Realizing that this supposedly divine calling of high school and college students is erroneous, and also that it has resulted in the gross worldliness of the educational institutions and of the young people who have espoused the project, to say nothing of the obvious failure of the mission both in the Netherlands and in the United States over the past one hundred years, some Reformed theologians in the very churches that preach transformation, redemption, and Christianization of society and of the world by a common grace of God are challenging this notion and mission. 

Instead, these critics of the notion of a Christianizing of society propose the idea of “two kingdoms.”  What is meant is that the Reformed Christian lives in two, distinct kingdoms.  He is, on the one hand, a citizen of the spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ.  As a citizen of this kingdom, he lives a life of love for God, obeying the commandments of the law of God.  Especially on the Lord’s Day, he worships God in and with the church.  But, on the other hand, he is also a citizen of some earthly nation.  As a citizen of this earthly nation, he simply lives the earthly life of this nation, obeying its laws and conducting himself pretty much as do the unbelieving citizens of the nation.  In contrast to his life as a citizen of the kingdom of Christ, which is “other-worldly,” his life as a citizen of the United States or Canada is “this-worldly.”  For a defense of this conception of the Reformed, Christian life, see David VanDrunen, Living in God’s Two Kingdoms:  A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture (Crossway, 2010).  For a fuller critique of the book and its doctrine of the Christian life in two kingdoms, see my review of VanDrunen’s book in the forthcoming (Fall, 2014) issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal.

One can rejoice that Reformed theologians finally take note of the devastating effects of the doctrine of common grace in their churches, especially on the high school and college students, although one would have to be blind not to see them. 

But these Reformed theologians refuse to recognize and acknowledge that the source of the evils is the doctrine of a common grace of God that is supposed to have these Christianizing effects and this divine, world-transforming purpose.  Indeed, these theologians themselves vigorously defend the doctrine of common grace that is the cause of the evils to which they are opposed.  They are as bitter enemies of the Protestant Reformed rejection of common grace as are the traditional, Christian Reformed proponents of common grace.  As long as they defend Kuyper’s theory of cultural common grace, their opposition to the implications and effects of the theory of common grace is an exercise in futility.  The only way to destroy an evil in the church, as in nature, is to uproot it. 

In addition, the two kingdoms conception of the Christian life is seriously in error.  Although the Christian lives his life in two, distinct spheres, or kingdoms—the earthly and the heavenly—it is not true that he lives in these two kingdoms in two, distinct, and different ways.  Much less is it true that the Christian lives life in the heavenly kingdom by particular grace, but life in the earthly kingdom by common grace, which he shares with the ungodly.  To propose this is the repudiation of the very essence of the Reformed, Christian life.  The Christian lives his one life in one manner and by one grace of God:  as a citizen of the kingdom of Jesus Christ by particular, saving grace.  As such a citizen, he lives on the Lord’s Day in worship in a true church and on the other days in his spiritual devotions of prayer and reading and study of the Bible by the particular, sanctifying grace of God in Jesus Christ. 

Also as such a citizen, by particular, sanctifying grace he lives all his life, throughout the week, in marriage and the family, on the job, either ruling or submitting in the sphere of government, in his relationships with the neighbor, at play, and in every other aspect of his earthly life in this world.

He lives a full earthly life, in all the ordinances and spheres of creation, and he lives this earthly life by the power of the one, saving, particular grace of God and in accordance with the law of God. 

By living so, he very evidently shows himself to be spiritually separated from the ungodly and from the ungodly nature of their use (misuse, really) of God’s creation and  its ordinances.  This is the “antithesis”—a fundamental description of the Christian life in the world by the Reformed faith on the basis of the Bible, and the description that the doctrine of common grace obliterates.

Inasmuch as the two kingdoms theology refuses to repudiate common grace and fails to proclaim the antithesis established by the one, particular, saving grace of God in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, the two kingdoms theology is, and must be, a failure.  

9.  To what extent (if at all) did Abraham Kuyper make the Reformed Confessions the basis of the Free University?

Undoubtedly, there is more to this question than meets the eye. 

The simple answer to the question is that Kuyper refused to make the Reformed confessions the basis of the Free University that he founded.  Since the Free University included the theological, seminary training of prospective pastors in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, the Reformed confessions were not, and are not, the basis even of the theological instruction.

Kuyper saw to it that the official basis of the Free University was rather “Reformed Principles.”  Kuyper’s own justification of this ground of his university was to avoid bringing the instruction under the authority of the church.  It was an expression of his idea of “sphere sovereignty.”  This phrase was, in fact, the title of Kuyper’s inaugural address on the opening of the university on October 20, 1880:  Souvereiniteit in Eigen Kring (English translation:  Sphere Sovereignty; for the English translation of the bulk of Kuyper’s address, see Abraham Kuyper:  A Centennial Reader, ed. James D. Bratt, Eerdmans, 1998, 461 – 490; regarding the founding of the university explicitly “on the basis of Reformed Principles,” see Peter S. Heslam, Creating a Christian Worldview:  Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism, Eerdmans, 1998, 46 - 48). 

As the first and chief of these Reformed principles, Kuyper himself in his inaugural address mentioned the sovereignty of God.  Kuyper’s intention was that the sovereignty of God be honored in all departments of the university. 

Regardless of Kuyper’s intentions, it should have been obvious to everyone, including Kuyper, that it is grievous error to fail to make the Reformed confessions, explicitly, the basis of the theological instruction of men for the Reformed ministry. 

In addition, it is a mistake to regard the Reformed creeds as an ecclesiastical intrusion upon and illicit narrowing of the studies in the other faculties of a Reformed university.  As the true summary of the content of Holy Scripture, the Reformed creeds are the foundation of all the life of Reformed Christians, including their educational life and labor.  They are not narrowly ecclesiastical.  They do not illicitly restrict and hamper the scientific study at a university, or, for that matter, at a grade school.  The creeds, like the Bible of which they are the accurate summary, rather ground Christian study and learning, circumscribe the lawful, truthful endeavor of education, and guard against false and pernicious theories.       

One might as well object to having the Bible as the basis of the school as to object to the Reformed creeds.  In fact, objection to the creeds is objection to the teaching of the Bible.

One may justifiably suspect that Kuyper’s rejection of the Reformed confessions as the basis of his university in favor of the general “Reformed Principles” was motivated by his attraction to common grace and its influence upon the studies at the university.  For Kuyper, common grace and its supposed influence upon Christian cultural, particularly academic, pursuits moved him in the direction of “Christian Principles,” common grace being an important such principle, rather than in the direction of the Reformed confessions, from which common grace is notably missing.

No doubt, Kuyper argued that basing a Reformed university upon the creeds would have been a serious narrowing of the educational enterprise.

Regardless of Kuyper’s thinking, history has made abundantly plain that the exclusion of the creeds from the basis of the university and the general reference instead to “principles” have contributed to the gross apostasy of that once Reformed school.  Today, the theological department of the Free University is a school of false prophets.  The instruction in the other departments differs little from the antichristian instruction in the state universities.  The Free University did not oppose Kuyper’s denomination of churches, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands’, recent union with the apostate state church and a liberal Lutheran church in forming the un-Reformed and apostate Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN).  It supported and went along with this ecumenicity, an ecumenicity in which not only were the Reformed confessions not determinative, but also were abandoned.   

The Reformed confessions determine and safeguard genuinely “Reformed Principles,” including the determination that common grace is an un- and anti-Reformed principle.

10.  Your charge in the speech that the URC is now busy in the development of Common Grace. Where do you see this being written and happening?

The reference to the United Reformed Churches (URC) in the speech—the only mention of the URC in the lecture—to which this question alludes was the following:  “[In view of the destructive influence of common grace on Kuyper’s churches and university and on the CRC and its college—Calvin College], why do the URC, which split from the CRC exactly over the disastrous world-conforming effects of common grace, particularly the world’s thinking on the relation of men and woman, specifically in regard to church office—why do the URC refuse to acknowledge the root of the evil, but instead contend for common grace as vigorously as the CRC and now cooperate in spreading the destructive doctrine of common grace?”  The next sentence in the lecture was:  “The common grace project is ecclesiastical suicide!”

Proof of the implied charge in this question about the URC is, first, simply, that the URC have not explicitly and vehemently repudiated the false doctrine of common grace, even though, in fact, that doctrine was the cause of the evil in the CRC against which the URC objected and largely because of which the URC split the CRC, namely, the evil of women in ecclesiastical office.  This silence is telling.  The URC rejected the fruit of the doctrine of common grace, but deliberately and persistently preserve the root.

James D. Bratt, himself certainly no critic of the theory of common grace, observes that already in Kuyper’s day “conservative critics…saw in common grace a license for world conformity” (“Common Grace,” in Abraham Kuyper:  A Centennial Reader, Eerdmans, 1998, 166).

All the more culpable are the URC in refusing to repudiate the theory of common grace in view of the analysis of Kuyper’s doctrine of (cultural) common grace by some of the most liberal Dutch Reformed theologians.  Hendrikus Berkhof is representative.  Berkhof explains the doctrine of common grace of Kuyper and Bavinck as their answer to the main issue that has mesmerized Christian theology in Europe for the past two hundred years, namely, how to relate Christian theology positively to the thinking of the non-Christian world, that is, how to relate the church and the world, how to relate the church and the world positively.  According to Berkhof, the fundamental issue in contemporary theology is the “relationship between the gospel and the secularized culture of [the] day” (Two Hundred Years of Theology, Eerdmans, 1989, 65).  In the past two hundred years, a leading concern, if not the main concern, of European theologians has been the “attempt to bring about a reconciliation between the gospel and the spirit of modernity” (Berkhof, 131).  In other words, theologians “tried more or less deliberately to build a bridge between the gospel and their secularized cultural environment” (Berkhof, xiii).

Kuyper and Bavinck shared this concern and exerted themselves in this effort, Bavinck, if anything, more vigorously than Kuyper.  The doctrine by which Kuyper and Bavinck attempted to bridge the divide between gospel and church, on the one hand, and the “spirit of modernity,” that is, the world, on the other hand, was common grace (Berkhof, 108 – 114).  In the context of his analysis of Kuyper’s attempt to bridge the divide between the gospel and ungodly culture, between the church and the world, by his doctrine of common grace, Berkhof judges Kuyper’s doctrine of common grace to be un-Reformed:  “In theology—apart from his broad development of the doctrine of common grace—Kuyper closely followed the Calvinistic tradition” (Berkhof, 109; emphasis added).

I observe that prominent theologians and ministers in the CRC in North America in the early 20th century, including Ralph Janssen, Johannes Groen, and many others, enthusiastically shared this conviction that the calling of Reformed theology was to bridge the gospel and the culture, and zealously pursued this goal.  This explains the antipathy in the CRC to Danhof and Hoeksema, the distaste for the truth and practice of the antithesis, the readiness ecclesiastically to destroy ministers recognized by all, including the synod that condemned them, as orthodox Reformed men, and the determination to adopt the three points of common grace.  Common grace was to be the bridge from the church to the world!  And proved to be the bridge from the world into the church!

What this means is that in opposing the theory of common grace in the early 1920s, Hoeksema was up against far more than a few theologians, a synod of Reformed churches, or even the entire denomination of the CRC.  He was opposing the gigantic, massive “spirit of the age,” which was, and is, the spirit of antichrist, which is, in reality, Satan.  That spirit had as its purpose the destruction in the CRC of the antithesis—the spiritual separation and uncompromising warfare between the church and the world of the ungodly (“enmity,” in the language of Genesis 3:15)—and the adoption and practice by the CRC of conformity to this world.  Having come to know Herman Hoeksema, as I have, I have no doubt that he was fully aware that this, and nothing less, was the nature of his controversy in the CRC over Kuyperian, and then, in addition, Arminian, common grace (“Arminian” in that the common grace decisions of the 1924 synod of the CRC adopted the heresy of the “well-meant offer of the gospel”—a universal, saving love of God for all humans that is ineffectual to save many). 

The “spirit of the age” crushed and killed Hoeksema, ecclesiastically, in the early 1920s, as he must have known it would.  But it did not, and could not, snuff out his witness to particular grace and the antithesis.  This is the witness of the risen, almighty Jesus Christ Himself.  Nothing and no one can snuff out this witness—not antichrist, not Satan himself.  This witness continues in the PRC.  And if the PRC silence this witness, or even weaken it, probably because of misguided zeal for ecumenicity, God will raise up another church to bear witness to the truth.  If need be, He will cause the stones to cry out, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord…and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (II Cor. 6:14 – 18).    

What the most liberal scholars clearly see and frankly acknowledge concerning Kuyper’s cultural common grace, the confessionally conservative URC are unable to recognize, even though this common grace has ruined the church from which they have separated themselves, or, if they do recognize the ruinous effects of common grace upon the antithesis and upon the church, lack the grace and courage to condemn the false doctrine and eradicate it from their theology and denomination of churches.

Second, the leading theologians in the URC and in the seminaries that train the ministers of the URC freely and repeatedly throughout their writings, whether in Christian Renewal or in books, commend the doctrine of common grace as their own theological conviction and defend the doctrine against the attack on it by the PRC (although they usually are careful not to mention the PRC, or explicitly indicate that the questioning of common grace against which they are defending the doctrine rises from the PRC).  If there is one minister in the URC who rejects the three points of common grace, as adopted by the CRC in 1924, or who rejects Kuyper’s doctrine of cultural common grace, I would be surprised, indeed astounded.  If there is one, he has not made his opposition to common grace known. 

I do know that many of the men who plotted and then executed the schism in the CRC that resulted in the URC saw the CRC’s doctrine of common grace as contributing significantly to the apostasy of the CRC, on account of which they felt themselves called to split the church.  In the words of one of them at an informal meeting of several of them, to which I had been invited and at which I was present, in South Holland, Illinois, “The doctrine of common grace has done nothing but damage to the CRC since its adoption.”

So entrenched in the theology of the seminary professors presently training many of the seminarians of the URC is the doctrine of a common grace of God that they do not argue on behalf of it, but assume it.  This is evident in the writings of most, if not all, the professors at Mid-America Seminary in the Chicago area and at Westminster West Seminary in southern California.  Typical is the line of David VanDrunen, professor of theology at Westminster West, one of the main seminaries used by the men of the URC.  In a book that expressly treats of the relation of the Reformed Christian and worldly culture, VanDrunen asserts that “unbelievers…live in this world…under God’s providential common grace.”  This in passing, as one might observe that the sun rose this morning in the East.  Nevertheless, it is this common grace that “obligates” believers “to cooperate as much as possible with unbelieving practitioners of their discipline.” 

From this common grace blessing by God of the scholarly work of unbelievers, VanDrunen draws the weighty implication that Christian schools are not necessary.  Whether to establish and use Christian schools, or to use the state schools, where from the instruction is banned the Bible, prayer, and the confession of the one, triune God, the Creator and Governor of the universe and all its aspects—ultimate and foundational Reality—to say nothing of the banning of the truth that Jesus Christ is the “firstborn of every creature” (Col. 1:15), is merely “a matter of Christian liberty” (Living in God’s Two Kingdoms:  A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture (Crossway, 2010, 180 – 187).

Common grace is the death of the good Christian school.  Common grace consigns the lambs of Jesus Christ to the tender mercies of the wolves ravening at the antichristian state schools.  So much for the covenant of God in Jesus Christ with the children of believers!

This ought to be of some concern to Reformed parents in the URC, as in the CRC, who treasure the covenant of God with their baptized childen, and who love their children and grandchildren for God’s sake. 

Third, when I mentioned the URC in the lecture, I had very much in mind the acknowledgment in the first volume of the translation of Kuyper’s three volumes on common grace that among the institutions providing “financial support and leadership” for the project of making Kuyper’s work on common grace available in English, and thus promoting the project of Christianizing America is “Mid-America Reformed Seminary” (Common Grace:  Noah – Adam, Christian’s Library Press, 2013, opposite p. xiv).  Mid-America Seminary is perhaps the main seminary supported and used by the URC for the training of their ministers.  Thus, the URC are publicly, vigorously promoting the theory of common grace, and its implementation in North America in 2014. 

11.  How do Reformed theologians that adhere to common grace attempt to maintain orthodox eschatology when the goals of common grace theology appear to lead toward Reconstructionist and millenialist theology instead of amillenialism?

Kuyper’s theory of common grace lends itself to, and is used today on behalf of, the doctrine of the last things that is known as postmillennialism.  Very simply, this is the theory of the last things that holds that Christians will, and are called by God to, influence culture, first in their own nation and then in all the world, so that the world becomes Christian, if not by the conversion of all humans, then by the dominating influence of Christianity upon all aspects of culture—government, media, education, the arts, and more.  This will last for a thousand years (“millennium’), or, according to some postmillennial enthusiasts, especially the postmillennial Christian Reconstructionists, hundreds of thousands of years.  Jesus, unfortunately excluded from this earthly triumph of His kingdom, being out of sight, tucked away in heaven, while His postmillennial agents rule the world, will then come back to earth to inaugurate the everlasting kingdom of God in the new creation, at which time His kingdom ends.  (In one of the oddest twists in all the history of kingdoms, Jesus the King will be absent from His kingdom during all the time of its supremacy on earth.  This is not a problem for the postmillennialists, particularly the Reconstructionists, whom you mention, because they have designs on the throne themselves.)   

Postmillennialism preaches an earthly worldwide victory of the kingdom of Christ within history, prior to the end.  Necessarily, therefore, they preach a carnal kingdom.

The theory of common grace promotes this postmillennial hope of the church.  The very language of the theory of common grace indicates the postmillennial implication of the theory.  Christians cooperating with unbelievers “transform,” “redeem,” and “Christianize” society and the world.  Since this world-transforming, redeeming, and Christianizing movement takes place by common grace, common grace is the power that will achieve the postmillennial dream.  Even though some of the enthusiastic proponents of common grace tend to underplay, if not ignore altogether, the postmillennial nature of their theory (well aware that their church and creeds are amillennial), the theology and language of common grace are definitely postmillennial.

This is still one more proof of the unreformed nature of common grace, for Reformed theology is confessionally amillennial.   

One thing is undeniably evident in the enthusiastic advocacy of common grace and its prospects in history by its most fervent promoters, for example, Richard J. Mouw, in his introduction to the first volume of the translation of Kuyper’s Common Grace into English, Common Grace:  Noah – Adam (Christian’s Library Press, 2013, xix – xxx).  Evident is that not much is made of the antithesis, the separation and warfare between the children of the devil and the children of God.  The emphasis, if not the whole of the view of history especially in these last days, is “God’s marvelous designs for human cultural life” (Mouw, Common Grace, xxx), although to give credit where credit is due, Mouw does note, indeed warn, along the way of his promotion of the postmillennial implications of common grace, that the antithesis is a “dreadful reality” (Common Grace, xxx).  How the antithesis comports with common grace, Mouw does not inform us. 

Disconcerting for the advocates of a lovely, postmillennial, earthly kingdom of Christ in history as the outcome of the common grace program of God is Kuyper’s own doctrine that the force and outcome of the common grace adventure of Christians and unbelievers united will be the kingdom, not of Christ, but of antichrist.  Common grace will produce the beast of Revelation 13!:  “The closing scene in the drama of common grace can be enacted only through the appearance on stage of the man of sin” (see the full, frank statement of this eschatology in English translation in James D. Bratt, ed., “Common Grace,” in Abraham Kuyper:  A Centennial Reader, 179 – 182).  More emphatically still:  “The appearing of the ‘man of sin’ will be brought about exactly by the operation of common grace” (Kuyper, De Gemeene Gratie, vol. 1, Hoveker & Wormser, 1902, 443; the translation of the Dutch is mine; this part of volume 1 has not yet appeared in English translation).               

Let the disciples of the Abraham Kuyper of common grace take heed!  According to their master himself, they unite closely with the wicked world in a great work of a grace of God within and upon mankind.  Thus, they open up themselves, their children, and their institutions to the deleterious effects of the influence on them of the ungodly world.  In addition, they cooperate, in this common grace venture, in bringing forth the antichrist and his beastly kingdom.  For doing so, they will be held responsible by God.  Knowing that they are doing so makes them fully responsible for their common grace activity.

Let the Reformed world take note also of this:  The Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC) are determined neither to bridge the chasm between the world and the church, so that the world can influence their members, nor to pave the way for the coming of antichrist.  If these determinations are reprehensible, let someone say so, and demonstrate it. 

Even though Kuyper was amillennial in his doctrine of the last things, despite the postmillennial implications of his theory of common grace, his theory of common grace did influence him to propose an erroneous, even odd, aspect of eschatology.  Kuyper thought that the products of common grace would gain entrance into the new world, so as to enhance the beauty and splendor of the new heavens and the new earth. Such was his commitment to common grace that at least in its effects common grace would continue into and adorn eternity.  Eternity will everlastingly expose, and distress, Herman Hoeksema and the PRC! 

With appeal to Revelation 21:26, “They shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it [the holy city in the new creation],” Kuyper wrote that the “fruit of common grace,” in the cultural accomplishments of the nations (Kuyper mentions England and Germany), will not “simply perish and be annihilated in the universal destruction of the world by fire [at the end], but this fruit will have significance for the new Jerusalem, that is, for the new earth.”  In new manifestations, “all the forms in which now the fruit of common grace flourishes…do not perish, but remain, then to be brought into the new kingdom of glory” (Kuyper, Gemeene Gratie, vol. 1, 460, 461; the translation of the Dutch is mine).

In some new form, Beethoven’s symphonies, Rembrandt’s paintings, and Dickens’ novels, as well, very likely, as Balanchine’s dances and Spielberg’s movies,  will have a place in and embellish the new creation, according to Kuyper’ theory of common grace. 

Kuyper is mistaken in every respect.  The cultural achievements of the great, ungodly musicians, artists, and writers are not the expression of common grace, but of the great abilities of humans who were originally made in the image of God and who still, by God’s preserving providence, display their abilities as humans, who, though fallen, remain humans and retain some of their natural gifts. 

Second, the glory and honor of the nations that will be brought into the new world, according to Revelation 21:26, are not the artistic works of the ungodly.  All of those works will perish in the “fervent heat” that will destroy the present creation and its works at the end (II Peter 3:10, 11).  With reference to the prophecy of Isaiah 60, that the Gentiles [“nations,” in Rev. 21:26] shall come to the light of Zion, Revelation 21 foretells that in the elect among them the Gentile nations will share in the salvation of the “new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven” at the very end of history (Rev. 21:2).

The glory and the honor of the nations of Revelation 21:26 are not the cultural achievements of political England and Germany, or even of the Netherlands in its golden age.  They are the splendor of “the nations of them which are saved” (Rev. 21:24).  The nations consist of the elect, believing, “saved” citizens in every nation.  Their glory and honor are not cultural and carnal, but holiness and spirituality—the effects in them, not of a common grace of God, but of His one, particular, saving grace in Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost.  Their glory is not that they wrote salacious novels, secular plays, and symphonies devoted to the glory of man, or that they arranged seductive dances.  None of these is glory.  All is shame.  Whatever is not done to the glory of God, whatever leaves God out, whatever has as its purpose the glory of man, is shameful, despicably shameful.  The only works that are good, and thus honorable, are those done “to His [God’s] glory” (Heid. Cat., Q. 91).   

The glory of the nations, their true glory, is their worship of the one, true God; their confession of Jesus as Lord; and their life of holiness.

Common grace will no more have a place in the new world than it has in this.

The new world will everlastingly validate the rejection of common grace by the PRC.

(By this answer, I have responded also to another, related question:  “How is common grace connected to postmillennial theology?)  

12.  Will Prof Engelsma post his list of references from the lecture to the website for this event?

Here follows the list of references, mainly to Kuyper’s writings, in the lecture.

            Kuyper’s explanation of what he meant by “Christianizing” is found in James D. Bratt, ed., Abraham Kuyper:  A Centennial Reader (Eerdmans, 1998), 199.

            The quotation of Pres. Le Roy of Calvin College about transforming this broken world is found in his August 2014 brochure to graduates of the college, “This Square Inch.”

            Kuyper distinguishes two kinds of grace with different names in Dutch in the first part of the first volume of the translation into English of his Common GraceCommon Grace:  Noah – Adam, 7 – 14.  See also the “appendix” in this volume, pp. 239 – 241.

            Kuyper’s statement as to what common grace does in culture is from his Lectures on Calvinism in the chapter on “Calvinism and Science” (Eerdmans, 1931, 125).

            The quotation of Richard Mouw is from his introduction to the first volume of the translation of Kuyper’s work on common grace, the title and other data of which are given above.

Kuyper’s significant description of common grace as a “point of contact” for the gospel is in volume 1 of his three-volume work on common grace.  This part of the work has not yet been translated.  The translation is mine.  The Dutch word used by Kuyper is “aanrakingspunt.”  See Kuyper, De Gemeene Gratie, vol. 1, 426).  The entire section in which occurs the assertion that common grace is a “point of contact” for the gospel is fatal compromise of salvation by sovereign grace.  Here Kuyper forgot, or compromised, what he had written earlier in defense of salvation by particular, sovereign grace, in his book, Dat De Genade Particulier Is [English:  That Grace is Particular].  

The Reformed confession is that there remains no “point of contact” for the gospel in the unregenerated sinner.  A “point of contact” is some receptivity to the gospel in the sinner.  The Reformed doctrine of total depravity rejects and condemns as heretical the teaching of a “point of contact” (see the Canons of Dordt, 3&4).  The fallen sinner is spiritually dead.  Just as there is no “point of contact” in a physically dead person for a word and work of physical resurrection, so also is there no “point of contact” in the spiritually dead sinner for Christ’s work of spiritual resurrection.  The Reformed rejection of the Pelagian and Arminian doctrine of “free will,” that is, a will in the unsaved sinner that is able to respond positively to the call of the gospel, is the rejection of a “point of contact.”  The Reformed doctrine of total depravity, in Canons, 3&4, is the rejection of the false doctrine of a “point of contact” for the gospel in natural, sinful humans. 

The doctrine of a common grace of God, in whatever form it appears in Reformed circles, always proves to be the corruption of the Reformed faith, especially its teaching of salvation by sovereign grace alone, by the introduction of a “point of contact” for the gospel.  

That Kuyper began his treatment of common grace with the covenant with Noah, and what Kuyper’s explanation of the Noahic covenant is, are found in the first translated volume of his work on common grace, the title and publishing data of which are given above. 

            For Kuyper’s teaching that common grace will produce the antichrist, see Bratt, Kuyper:  A Centennial Reader, 179 – 182.

            Kuyper charged “Anabaptism” against his opponents already in the “Foreword” to his first volume on common grace.  See the translation, Common Grace, 3 – 6, and often throughout the book.

            Kuyper’s famed statement about “not one square inch” can be found in Bratt, Centennial Reader, 461.

13.  How would Kuyper and his disciples explain Genesis 6:8 “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” and the contrast in the previous verses to judgments on the ungodly?

If Kuyper commented on Genesis 6:8, I have not come across his explanation.  The text is not listed in the “text-register” at the end of volume three of Kuyper’s three volumes on common grace.

In light of his extended explanation of the history of God’s gracious dealings with humankind between Adam and the flood, I suggest the following as Kuyper’s explanation, attributing to him the most favorable explanation possible.  From Adam’s fall to the flood, two kinds of grace of God were bestowed on members of the human race:  a common grace giving earthly life and benefits, as well as restraining sin to some extent, which was enjoyed by all humans without exception, and a particular, saving grace that was given only to God’s elect, including Noah.  The grace that Noah found in the eyes of the Lord, according to Genesis 6:8, was the particular, saving grace of God in Jesus Christ, delivering him from the punishment and ruling power of sin and bestowing upon him eternal life, which was typified by the deliverance in the ark.

This gracious attitude of the Lord towards Noah, preserving him from the wickedness of the rest of the human race, as described in verse 5, and delivering Noah by the flood was particular; it did not rest on those who perished in the flood.

This is the most favorable understanding of Kuyper’s explanation of the text.

One could not be faulted, however, for concluding from Kuyper’s treatment of Noah and the flood that Genesis 6:8 teaches that in the case of Noah the common grace he shared with all humans worked effectively in him so that sin was more restrained in him than in the others and that, accordingly, this common grace of God spared him from the physical destruction of drowning in the flood.  According to this understanding of Kuyper, the grace of Genesis 6:8 had nothing to do with Noah’s spiritual salvation, but only accomplished his physical preservation. 

This understanding of Kuyper is justified by the fact, which Kuyper asserted repeatedly and emphasized strongly, that Kuyper regarded the salvation of Noah and his family in the ark as merely a physical deliverance, or preservation, from the waters of the flood.  There was nothing spiritual about Noah’s deliverance in the ark.  The grace of God for Noah in the flood was strictly and exclusively “common grace” (Kuyper, De Gemeene Gratie, vol. 1, 284; emphasis is Kuyper’s; see also pp. 285, 286). 

This total misunderstanding of the salvation of Noah and his family in the ark, in the interests of Kuyper’s theory of common grace, forced the Dutch theologian to corrupt all the New Testament references to Noah’s salvation in the ark, including Hebrews 11:7; I Peter 3:20, 21; II Peter 2:5.  All of these passages speak of the salvation of Noah and his house in the ark.  Viewing the salvation of Noah as merely God’s physical preservation of Noah, and in him the race, by a common grace, Kuyper was compelled to explain all these New Testament passages as referring merely to physical preservation, since common grace is able to “save” only in this physical manner.  Typical, and indicative at the same time of the gross twisting of the passages in the interests of his novel theory of common grace, is Kuyper’s explanation of I Peter 3. 

I Peter 3:20, 21 is an especially difficult challenge to Kuyper’s common grace conception of the salvation of Noah in the ark since the passage expressly makes the waters of the flood an Old Testament type (“figure”) of baptism.  Every Christian knows that baptism is a sign and seal, not of some physical preservation, but of spiritual salvation in Jesus Christ.  In addition, the passage in I Peter expressly states that baptism, of which the flood was a type, “saves us [as]…the answer of a good conscience toward God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  This is spiritual salvation!  Of this, the salvation of the eight souls of Noah’s family by water was a type.  Corresponding to New Testament baptism, the Old Testament salvation of Noah in the ark was, as to its main idea, a spiritual salvation.  It was accomplished by the particular, saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. 

Undeterred by the clear language of the apostle, Kuyper explained that, just as the salvation of New Testament baptism preserves elect believers from spiritual evils, so the salvation of Noah and his family was (merely) the preservation of them from the destruction of the flood.  The salvation of Noah was merely God’s preservation of him physically from the destroying waters of the flood.  And the grace that thus preserved Noah was God’s common grace.  “The ‘grace’ displayed in the flood was not special grace but common grace.  The ark did not save unto eternal life but for temporal life on earth” (Abraham Kuyper, Common Grace:  Noah – Adam, 110; cf. also Kuyper, De Gemeene Gratie, vol. 1, 284ff.). 

This explanation of the saving of Noah and his family in the ark enables Kuyper to extend the grace of this salvation to every human without exception to the end of history.  All humans are the beneficiaries of a grace that spares them from another flood and grants them physical life with its good things. 

But Kuyper’s explanation of the salvation of Noah and of the grace that accomplished this salvation is exposed as erroneous by the apostle’s comparison of this salvation with that signified and accomplished by baptism, in I Peter 3.  The salvation of baptism is spiritual and is accomplished by particular, saving grace.  All humans do not share in the grace and salvation of baptism, but only the elect.

Fatal also to Kuyper’s explanation of the salvation of Noah and his family is Kuyper’s view that the salvation of Noah was God’s saving of him from the waters of the flood.  According to Kuyper, just as God saved Noah from the watery destruction of the flood, so He saves all humans from another worldwide flood, or from some other physical destruction of the race.  But the Bible does not teach that God saved Noah from the water of the flood.  On the contrary, God saved Noah by means of the waters of the flood.  Such is the plain teaching of I Peter 3:20:  “eight souls were saved by water.”  The water of the flood was not the threat from which Noah was saved.  The water of the flood was the means of the salvation of Noah.  The evil from which the water saved Noah and his family was the world of wicked men and women and the abounding wickedness of that world.  So also baptism, as a means of grace to elect believers and their children, saves us by separating us from the world of the ungodly, washing away our own sins and sinfulness, and bringing us spiritually into the new world of covenant communion with God.  The water of baptism is not the element from which the baptized is saved, but the God ordained means of salvation from sin, including the corrupt world of fallen mankind among whom we live. 

Baptism does not establish a common salvation/preservation of holy believers and unholy unbelievers.  Baptism establishes the antithesis between the two groups.  The same water that saves the elect destroys the reprobate unbeliever.  The grace of God in Jesus Christ that justifies and sanctifies the elect believer is the judgment of the reprobate unbeliever.  The cross that redeems the elect is also the judgment of the world of the ungodly (John 12:31, 32). 

Kuyper’s common grace view of the “preservation” (Kuyper’s preferred term for the salvation of Noah in the ark) of Noah fails to reckon with the biblical teaching that Noah was saved by the flood.  This truth, in fact, exposes Kuyper’s entire interpretation of Noah and the flood as utterly false.  And on Kuyper’s own admission, his entire theory of common grace rested on his theology of Noah. 

Long as this answer to the question has become (and the length is both necessary and useful in the debate over common grace, inasmuch as, according to the father of cultural common grace himself, the history of Noah and the flood is fundamental to the theory of common grace), this question at least allows for, if it does not demand, an additional, brief account of Kuyper’s explanation of the covenant with Noah found in Genesis 9.  If Kuyper’s explanation of the history of Noah and of his salvation in the ark is the foundation of Kuyper’s theory of cultural common grace, Kuyper’s explanation of the covenant with Noah in Genesis 9 is the cornerstone of the foundation. 

According to Abraham Kuyper, God’s covenant with Noah after the flood, as recorded in Genesis 9, was a new and different covenant from that established with the elect human race in Genesis 3:15.  It was essentially different from the covenant that would be established with Abraham in Genesis 12 and following chapters.  It was essentially different from the covenant confirmed in the cross of Christ.  The covenant with Noah was strictly and exclusively a “covenant of common grace.”  God established this covenant with every human without exception who would be born from Noah’s three sons.  This covenant had nothing to do whatever with spiritual salvation.  It was purely earthly and material.  It consisted only of the gift of physical life; of material benefits, for example, health, food, riches, and, especially, of the guarantee that there would not again be a worldwide flood or similar physical destruction of the race; of a restraint of sin by an inner working of common grace in the hearts of unregenerate men and women; of a capability of these unbelievers to do much good in the sphere of natural, earthly life; and of the ability to produce gloriously good works of culture.

“In this Noahic covenant there is after all nothing that intentionally or primarily pertains to saving grace” (Common Grace:  Noah – Adam, 18; the emphasis in this and the following quotations is Kuyper’s).  “That content of the Noahic covenant lies entirely within the sphere of natural life, envisions temporal and not eternal goods, and applies to unbelievers just as much as it does to those who fear God…The content of this covenant is simply and plainly this:  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” (Common Grace:  Noah – Adam, 33).  “The ‘grace’ displayed in the flood was not special grace but common grace.  The ark did not save unto eternal life but for temporal life on earth…The grace shown here is not particular, restricted to the elect and leading to eternal life, but common…” (Common Grace:  Noah – Adam, 110).  “The blessing of the new situation [brought about by the flood] was intended not only for God’s church, but for everything that is human…The grace shown here extends to the entirety of human life…Its purpose was also so that in a proper sense God the Lord would continue his work in that broad sphere of human life [culture]” (Common Grace:  Noah – Adam, 113, 114).  “[The covenant with Noah] revealed an act of general grace or of common grace that is all encompassing, governing all of history, decisive for our situation and extending into the farthest future.  This common grace must be gratefully accepted.  Our confession must take account of common grace, and our perspective of life and of the entire situation of the world must be formed on the basis of common grace.  Whoever ignores or underestimates this powerful act of God’s grace, and thereby also his common grace, distorts his view on life, ends up with a false dualism, and easily runs the risk of allowing his Christian religion to deviate from the Reformed  track, that is, from the correct track” (Common Grace:  Noah – Adam, 116, 117).

Evident in these representative quotations of Abraham Kuyper is not only his conception of the covenant with Noah, but also the great importance to him of this theory of common grace and its supposed embodiment in the covenant with Noah of Genesis 9.  Common grace forms his worldview and determines the Reformed, Christian faith and life.  Rejection of the theory of common grace is not a minor, tolerable matter to Kuyper, as it is not today to his disciples.  Dissent from the theory of common grace must be punished, as the PRC can testify from painful experience.

On the other hand, if Kuyper’s interpretation of the covenant with Noah as a covenant of common grace is mistaken, the damage done to churches and people that have wrongly espoused and practiced it will be considerable.     

The cultural aspect of the covenant of common grace was especially dear to Kuyper’s heart, as it continues to be precious to Kuyper’s modern disciples.  They cannot let go of Kuyper’s theory of common grace because of the love of their hearts for Socrates and his philosophy; for Mozart and his music; for Michelangelo and his statuary; for Raphael and his paintings; for Shakespeare and his plays.  It is not enough for them that these great artists and their grand works of art be attributed to the glimmerings still in fallen man of natural light, in view of God’s creation of man in His own image.  They must be honored as possessing and displaying a grace of God. 

How this common grace has the hearts of these Reformed men and women is evident from the fact that, whereas they sit loose to the undermining of the confession of God’s particular, saving grace, any attack on God’s common grace is met with scorn, ostracism, rage, and ecclesiastical censure.  You may demolish the holy synod of Dordt with impunity, but do not touch the pagan, pederast Socrates!

Since I have refuted this explanation of the covenant with Noah in the speech itself, I can be brief here.  As John 3:16 and Romans 8:19 – 22 demonstrate, the covenant with Noah of Genesis 9 was a manifestation of the full extent of the salvation of the covenant of grace in Jesus Christ.  The covenant in Jesus, established and realized by particular, saving grace, extends, not only to the elect out of all nations and peoples (which is the salvation of those nations and peoples), but also to the animals and to the earth itself.  It is the covenant with creation, as eternally conceived by God in Jesus Christ (Col. 1:12 – 20:  Jesus, the “firstborn of every creature,” and “all things” in Him, by Him, and for Him).  It is the covenant, not simply of God as Creator, but of God as Jehovah, the covenant God in Jesus Christ.  It is the covenant established on the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. 

The establishment of the covenant as recorded in Genesis 9 is the continuation of the history of Genesis 8:20 – 22.  It is the LORD (Jehovah) who establishes this covenant (Gen. 8:20, 21).  The basis in righteousness of the covenant is the sacrifice of Noah, which typified the sacrifice of the cross (Gen. 8:20 – 22).

14.  Kuyper wrote many other books besides his work on common grace. Are there any works of Kuyper that you would recommend to the Reformed community to study and be excited about?

I gave the answer to this question in the April 2014 issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal as part of my review of the fine biography of Kuyper by James D. Bratt (47, no. 2 [111 – 129]).  There I recommended several of his works in the Dutch language, including his book on the covenants (De Leer der Verbonden); his four-volume commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (E Voto Dordraceno); and his five, thick volumes of dogmatics (Dictaten Dogmatiek).  Works of Kuyper that are available in English translation that I recommended included Particular Grace (RFPA, 2001); When Thou Sittest in Thine House (Eerdmans, 1929); In the Shadow of Death (Eerdmans, 1929; repr. Old Paths, 1994); and To Be Near Unto God (Eerdmans, 1918; published anew as “adapted for contemporary Christians” by Eerdmans, 1997).

15.  Please compare and contrast – if there is a contrast – common grace and general grace.

Kuyper himself took note of the difference between “common grace” and “general grace” in the thinking of Reformed people and often in theology.  “General” grace is often understood as a universalizing of God’s saving grace.  Therefore, Kuyper deliberately refrained from calling the common grace he was advocating “general grace.”  “We have purposely avoided the expression general grace, and for our title we have chosen instead common grace…to prevent misunderstanding.  The assumption could so easily have slipped in that once again we meant [to suggest] that grace…belonged to everyone and were thereby attempting again to dislodge the established foundation of particular grace.  The notion of “general” grace…is so easily misused, as if by it were meant saving grace, and that is absolutely not the case” (Common Grace:  Noah – Adam, 11; emphasis is Kuyper’s). 

In order to avoid the supposition that his doctrine of common grace was the Pelagian and Arminian universalizing of saving grace, Kuyper also deliberately employed a distinctive word in Dutch for the grace that he was setting forth as common.  Deliberately, he described his common grace as “gratie,” rather than as “genade.”  The latter is the usual Dutch word for the saving grace of God.

The point both of the word, “gemeene” (“common”), and of the word, “gratie” (non-saving “grace”), was sharply to distinguish cultural common grace, which is common to all humans, from saving grace (Dutch:  “genade”), which for Kuyper is particular, to the elect only.

It was inexcusable, therefore, that the leading theologians of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), including Louis Berkhof, developed Kuyper’s common grace (“gemeene gratie”) into Arminian, general, saving grace (Dutch:  “algemeene genade”), as they did in the first point of common grace.  When they made Kuyper’s common grace the basis of their “well-meant offer of salvation,” they were doing exactly what Kuyper himself warned against doing.  It is even less excusable that, ninety years after the synod of the Christian Reformed synod of 1924, the CRC refuses to acknowledge this grievous, un-Kuyperian error of the first point of common grace of 1924, that it made “general grace” out of Kuyper’s “common grace.” 

The entire Reformed community of theologians shares in the fault of winking at this serious theological error, to say nothing of the doctrinal implication of the error.  Where is the public recognition that the “well-meant offer,” apart from all other considerations, is a wholly, and obviously, illicit development of the common grace of Abraham Kuyper—the very error against which he explicitly warned in his books on common grace?  Kuyper taught a common non-saving, cultural grace.  He confessed that God’s saving grace, both with regard to the divine favor and with regard to the divine power, is particular, condemning any extension of saving grace outside the sphere of election. 

Yet the CRC and the rest of the Reformed and Presbyterian community of churches holding the “well-meant offer” are the genuine disciples of Kuyper, we are told, whereas the PRC, who confess particular, saving grace, are dismissed as outside the fold of the heirs of the Dutch Reformed theologian. 

But the graver issue in the matter is the reality, which history has proved, that any and all extension of the grace of God beyond Jesus Christ and the church of election inevitably results in a doctrine of a universal, saving, but ineffectual grace of God—the heresy of Arminianism, which the Reformed churches condemn in the Canons of Dordt as “altogether Pelagian and contrary to the whole Scripture” (Canons, 3&4.  Rejection of Errors, 7).

No word games can prevent it.    

16.  Since marriage is the most intimate union of all human relationships, does common grace then imply that believers may, should, or even ought to marry unbelievers to accomplish its goal of Christianizing society?

I doubt that even the most enthusiastic advocate of the Christianizing of the world by common grace would explicitly exhort his children or his parishioners to marry ungodly persons in order to transform and redeem society and the world. 

But I have no doubt that the effect of the doctrine and practice of common grace in churches that proclaim the false doctrine is that the young people more freely date and marry ungodly and unbelieving young people of the world.  If the young people of the church and the young people of the world share a grace of God, they have good, spiritual reason for the friendship of courting and for the union of marriage.  When a young man who is a member of a Reformed church is strongly attracted to the beautiful face, shapely figure, and lively personality of an ungodly young woman, knowledge that she shares a grace of God with him is enough to bridge the gap of faith and unbelief.

In addition, the theory of common grace is the breakdown of the antithesis, which constitutes the spiritual separation of godly young people from ungodly young people and which is the ground of the prohibition against covenant young people’s dating worldly young people.  Invariably, one of the first and most serious evidences of the breakdown of the antithesis in a church is mixed marriage, that is, the marriage of believer and unbeliever.  Where common grace flourishes, one may expect the evil described in Genesis 6:2:  “The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.”

I am also sure that the consequences of these mixed marriages in the churches that enthusiastically preach common grace are not at all the Christianizing of society, or even its improvement naturally.  Rather, the consequences are the falling away from the Reformed churches of their young people; marital discord; divorce and remarriage; and the emotional and spiritual injuries that such a state of marital affairs effects upon the children. 

Although this is not the worst of the consequences of common grace and the mixed marriages that common grace encourages, mixed marriages, with their effects in divorces and broken homes, are detrimental to civil society.

In contrast, the solid marriages and homes of those who marry in the Lord, because church and parents exhort marrying only in the Lord on the basis of the doctrine of particular grace, are good for civil society. 

Particular grace is advantageous, not only with regard to the kingdom of Christ, but also with regard to the earthly kingdom of nation and civil society.  In the words of the apostle, “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (I Tim. 4:8).  {C}{C}

17.  To your knowledge, what was the relation of church & state in Kuyper’s thinking? Though he led a separation from the state church, is it possible that he believed church reformation could not be truly complete without also reforming (or “Christianizing”) the institutions of civil government?

The question of the relation of church and state is a vexed one for all theologians.

The issue of the relation of church and state, Kuyper resolved, or thought to resolve, finally, by his doctrine of “sphere sovereignty.”  Although his view of the relation of church and state changed and developed over the years, Kuyper’s mature thought on the matter was that the state is sovereign in its sphere, without encroachment by the church, and that the church is sovereign in its sphere, without encroachment by the state.

Kuyper fought for the freedom of the church from state control or influence.  This was an important aspect of his struggle for church reformation of the then state church in the second half of the 19th century.  The church is an institution of God, answerable only to God, not to the state.  As Kuyper said in his lecture on “Calvinism and Politics” at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1898, “Calvinism protests against State-omnipotence; against the horrible conception that no right exits above and beyond existing laws; and against the pride of absolutism, which recognizes no constitutional rights, except as the result of princely favor” (Lectures on Calvinism, Eerdmans, 1931, 98). 

Reformed churches in the United States in 2014 do well to take Kuyper’s warning against “State-omnipotence” to heart.  In its assertion of its god-like omnipotence, the state decrees that unnatural, perverse sodomy and lesbianism are a form of holy marriage and then coerces submission to its lawless decree by the threat of punishment.

Kuyper saw the state as “an instrument of ‘common grace,’ to thwart all license and outrage and to shield the good against the evil” and also to “preserve the glorious work of God, in the creation of humanity, from total destruction” (Lectures on Calvinism, 82, 83). 

The state is not authorized by God, who is Sovereign over all, to determine or interfere with the mission of the church.

Neither is the church called or authorized by God to control the state, to interfere in the affairs of state, or to enlist the sword power of the state on behalf of the establishment of one church as the church of the nation.  The state is sovereign, under God, only in its own sphere.  In fact, it was Kuyper and his allies who took issue with the claim of the original version of Article 36 of the Belgic Confession, that the office of the magistrates includes removing and preventing all idolatry and false worship; “that the kingdom of antichrist may be thus destroyed and the kingdom of Christ promoted.” 

The footnote to Article 36, qualifying the article for Reformed churches to this day, which denies “the principle of state domination over the church,” affirms “the separation of church and state,” repudiates “the idea of the established church,” and advocates “the autonomy of the churches and personal liberty of conscience in matters pertaining to the service of God” has its origin in the thinking of Abraham Kuyper and his colleagues.  A synod of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands adopted this qualifying footnote in 1905. 

The Christian Reformed Church made Kuyper’s viewpoint and the qualifying footnote to Article 36 their own in 1910, rejecting the notion of a “State Church.”  The synodical decision of the Christian Reformed Church warns against the church’s or the state’s encroachment “upon each other’s territory,” adding that “The Church has rights of sovereignty in its own sphere as well as the State.”

Kuyper did testify to the state and to all of the society of the Netherlands that the state must recognize that it owes its authority to the sovereign God and that it must serve Him.  Kuyper, always very much aware of the spirit of the age, vigorously entered the lists against two powerful theories of his day concerning the state.  One was that the state is absolutely sovereign as the organ of the combination of sovereign individuals.  This was the theory at the heart of the French Revolution.  The other theory was that the state is a mystical entity in its own right, possessing and exercising absolute power over the citizens of a nation, answerable to nothing and no one, least of all a Christian God.  This theory of government, or the state, had its origin in the philosophy of the German,  G. F. W. Hegel.  This view of the state virtually identifies the state as god. 

Developments in the United States at the beginning of the 21st century demand that Reformed churches themselves know, and proclaim publicly, as they have opportunity, that the state owes its sovereignty to the triune God revealed in the Bible and that the state does not possess absolute sovereignty over its citizens.  Then, in a non-revolutionary manner, as the situation demands, the churches and their members must witness to their confession by refusing the decrees and laws of the state that contravene the laws of God both in nature and in the Bible.  There soon comes again for Reformed Christians the conditions forced upon them by an antichristian state, which usurps the prerogatives of Deity, that require Christians to declare, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).  And then to suffer the consequences, as suffering persecution for God’s sake.

Regardless that the qualifying footnote to Article 36 of the Belgic Confession speaks of the separation of church and state, Kuyper would not have given blanket approval to this language.  He thought the church should influence the state.  This influence is not the calling of the church institute but of the church organism.  The church organism in Kuyper’s theology is the lives and witness of the members of the church, as members of the one, spiritual, universal, invisible body of Christ.  Christians living a holy, God-centered life in the nation and in the society of the nation bring their Christian influence to bear also on the state, “indirectly.”  This influence tends to Christianize the state by the power of the common grace of God.  “By its influence on the state and civil society the church of Christ aims only at a moral triumph, not at the imposition of confessional bonds nor at the exercise of authoritarian control” (Kuyper, “Common Grace,” in Abraham Kuyper:  A Centennial Reader, James D. Bratt, ed., Eerdmans, 1998, 197).  It is generally acknowledged that Kuyper is the source of the distinction between the church institute and the church organism and that he came up with the distinction in the interests of the church’s influencing state and society, while keeping the instituted church out of these worldly  matters.


18. How did Kuyper explain the curse on Canaan in light of the theory of common grace?

Kuyper was seriously mistaken regarding the curse of Canaan, as recorded in Genesis 9:25-27, and in more than one respect.  First, he explained the curse as Noah’s curse upon his son, Ham.  This led Kuyper to judge Ham a reprobate.  Judging Ham a reprobate enabled Kuyper to deny that the salvation of Noah and his family in the ark was a spiritual salvation by the particular grace of God in Jesus Christ.  For one of those saved was Ham, who was a reprobate, in Kuyper’s judgment.  Reprobates are not the object of the particular, saving grace of God.  The salvation in the ark, therefore, had to be a merely physical preservation of Noah and his family from the merely physical destruction of an earthly calamity. 

Kuyper’s reasoning was sound, if indeed Ham was a reprobate.

But his premise was mistaken.  Ham was not a reprobate.  Ham was an elect child of God, who sinned grievously after leaving the ark, as did Noah himself.  “Eight souls were saved by water” in the ark (I Peter 3:20).  Noah did not curse Ham.  Noah cursed Canaan. 

The second mistake of Kuyper with regard to the cursing of Canaan was to explain it as merely the withholding from Canaan (Ham himself, in the thinking of Kuyper) of the benefits of common grace to some extent.  Canaan’s descendents, who were, according to Kuyper, the black race, suffered a diminution of cultural abilities, so that they languished culturally and socially, whereas the other sons of Noah produced the world’s culture and themselves enjoyed the rich benefits of the culture of common grace:  “the disappointing experience with the Negro” (Kuyper, Common Grace:  Noah-Adam, Christian’s Library Press, 2013, 116).  This racial bias, as it is viewed, of Kuyper taxes his common grace disciples sorely, much more sorely than does his doctrinal error.

But Kuyper was mistaken regarding this aspect of the curse of Ham (as Kuyper insisted on viewing the curse of Canaan) also.  The curse was not cultural—the cultural ineptness of the black race.  The curse (of Canaan) was spiritual.  The descendents of Canaan, the Canaanites, were excluded from the covenant and its salvation.  In the Old Testament they were the idolatrous inhabitants of the land of Canaan before the arrival of the children of Shem.  God destroyed them from before the children of Shem—the nation of Israel.  The few who remained in the land of Canaan were slaves of the Israelites.

Concerning the nature and severity of the curse of Canaan, Calvin correctly speaks of separation “from the Church of God.”  He regards Canaan as a “reprobate” child.  The effect of the curse was to deprive Canaan “of his [God’s] Spirit” and to devote “the Canaanites to destruction” (John Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses called Genesis, vol. 1, tr. John King, Eerdmans, 1948, 304-307).

One thing is indisputably clear from the biblical account of the curse of Canaan and its fulfillment.  There was no common grace mitigation of the curse of Canaan.  Canaan and the Canaanites were fully under the curse of God. Upon them rested the divine word of malediction, bringing upon them evil in the wrath of God, and evil only.  The historical realization of that word of wrath and damnation was the utter destruction of the Canaanites in the days of Joshua.  Such was the determination of the Lord to destroy Canaan in fulfillment of His reprobation of Canaan, extending to his descendents, that He hardened the hearts of the Canaanites in the time of Joshua, “that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favor, but that he might destroy them, as the Lord commanded Moses” (Joshua 11:20).

19. How would you advise parents of students considering a Christian liberal arts college education?

This question is personal, not doctrinal.  The question allows for, indeed requests, an answer that is subjective.   

The question asks about my advice, my advice. 

Others may advise differently.

I answer for myself.

The time was when I would have, and did, advise members of churches of which I was pastor that they should send their college students to Reformed, Christian colleges.  Since Protestant Reformed parents and church members did not have, and still do not have, a college founded on and faithful to Protestant Reformed, that is, soundly Reformed, creedal principles, such a college would have been a college associated with the Christian Reformed Church or the Reformed Church in America.  My advice, I supposed, was in harmony with Article 21 of the Church Order of Dordt:  “The consistories shall see to it that there are good Christian schools in which the parents have their children instructed according to the demands of the covenant.”  The covenant of God with the children of believers demands that Reformed parents exert themselves to have their children instructed in good Christian schools.  Since there is no Protestant Reformed college, Protestant Reformed parents and young people should use the best Christian college available. 

This advice was given, of course, in the face—the imposing face—of  the high tuition bill at a Christian college in contrast to the much cheaper cost of attending a local state college. 

My family practiced what I preached.  Two of our children graduated from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI.  Another graduated from the basically Christian Reformed Trinity College in Palos Heights, IL.  A fourth graduated from Reformed Hope College in Holland, MI. 

I no longer urge Protestant Reformed young people to attend the Christian Reformed and Reformed colleges.  If we had a child of college age, I very much doubt that my wife and I would send the child to one of these colleges, or encourage him or her to attend. 

The reason is not at all some characteristic Protestant Reformed animus against a Christian Reformed institution.  I am deeply indebted to the education I received at Calvin College from 1956-1960.  I openly acknowledge this indebtedness whenever doing so is appropriate, sometimes in circles where this acknowledgment does not find favor.  When I was nearing graduation, I made a point of expressing my appreciation to my professors and to the administration of Calvin College for Calvin College’s opening up to me the riches of learning and guiding me in becoming whatever I am of a student.  I remember William Harry Jellema, John Timmerman, William Radius, Charles Miller, Walter Lagerwey, John De Vries, Robert Otten, Henry Van Til, Clifton Orlebeke, and others too many to mention.  

But when a Christian college has spiritually apostatized to the degree that the biblical doctrine of creation is compromised by an evolutionary theory of origins and that there is advocacy, and even open celebration, annually, of sodomy and lesbianism, when a nominally Christian college cannot condemn such heresy and perversity in uncompromising fashion, and expel them unceremoniously from the sacred precincts of Reformed higher education, then I think myself permitted by God Himself to turn my covenantal back on, and close my covenantal wallet to, such an institution.  Not as though this particular unbelief and this specific depravity are the only reasons for the rejection.  These are appalling symptoms of a general, widespread, deeply rooted, fatal apostasy from the word of God, as summarized in the Reformed confessions, that is, and must be, the foundation and the light of all education that is Reformed and Christian. 

Why spend $25,000 a year for the same instruction that can be obtained much more cheaply in a state college?

Indeed, there is likely less spiritual danger for the covenant young man or woman in a state school.  In a state college, the lie of evolution and the perversity of homosexuality come bold-faced, undisguised, and openly anti-Christian.  Against this, the Protestant Reformed young person is, or should be, on his or her guard, already at 18.  In a nominally Reformed college, the same falsehood and evil come cloaked in the guise of a tolerant, loving Christianity, “loving Christianity” being the popular, effective euphemism for the craven, compromising, compromised, and corrupted “Christianity” of our day.  The latter is far more dangerous to the impressionable college student.  Does God call Reformed parents to help pay $25,000 a year for the spiritual and moral seduction of their children?  Not in my judgment.   

This question about the college education of our young people is very much an integral part of the subject of the lecture on Kuyper’s theory of cultural common grace.  Kuyper’s cultural common grace breaks down the antithesis—the spiritual, intellectual, and moral separation—between the church and the world.  The result is that the world’s thinking and the world’s behavior flow into the church and her schools, as the ocean flows into the Netherlands when the dikes are breached. 

Common grace has not empowered the Christian Reformed Church’s Calvin College to Christianize the world.  The opposite is true.  Common grace has enfeebled Calvin College to the degree that it is now open to the very worst of the world’s attacks on the Christian faith and scandalous corruptions of the Christian life:  evolution and sexual perversity. 

By 2014, it is evident to everyone that the heralding of common grace as the Christianizing of the world is empty rhetoric, laughable, if it were not so tragic in its consequences.  Common grace is not the Christianizing of the world, or even of Grand Rapids, MI. On the contrary, common grace is the “world-izing” of Christianity in the lives, schools, and churches where this grace is taught and practiced.  This is the very nature of the theory, as Hoeksema contended in 1924.  History has put the exclamation point behind his assertion. 

What the Reformed community of churches and parents needs today is a soundly Reformed college, a college free from Kuyper’s and the Christian Reformed Church’s theory of common grace, a college truly and unashamedly based on the Reformed confessions, a college that is in reality, if not in name, Protestant Reformed.


20.  How is it explained that common grace (favor) is shown to the wicked of Noah’s day?

Kuyper’s explanation was that in Noah and his sons was represented the entire human race, elect and reprobate, saved and unsaved, idolatrous Babylon as well as godly Judah, Emperor Nero as well as the Christians whom he would burn as torches in his gardens, Adolf Hitler as well as the Christian pastors who defied Hitler’s deification of himself and suffered for it. 

Salvation for Noah and his family in the ark was merely God’s sparing them from physical death in the waters of the flood by His common grace.  Sparing them, God spared all the members of the human race from the destruction of the flood.  After the flood, by His covenant of common grace, as recorded in Genesis 9, God promised to spare all humans from a similar worldwide calamity by His common grace.  Included in this promise, according to Kuyper, was God’s work of restraining sin in humans and of enabling the race to develop culturally.

Thus, the flood, which was the awful agent of the dreadful wrath of God against the world of ungodly men and women, as ought to be evident even to the meanest intelligence on the most superficial reading of the text, becomes instead an event of common grace to the wicked. 

I have already explained the covenant of Genesis 9 as a form of the covenant of particular grace in Jesus Christ.

The flood itself was divine wrath upon the workers of iniquity who had filled the cup of their rebellion and depravity.  It was not only physical death to the multitudes outside the ark.  It was also damnation.  Such is the description of the flood in the Genesis account.  Because of man’s wickedness, God destroyed man in His righteous anger (Gen. 6:5-7).  Such is the analysis of the flood in II Peter 2.  The “damnation” of the wicked in the present was prefigured in the Old Testament by God’s “bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly” (v. 5).

There was no grace in the flood for those outside the ark.  There was only divine wrath, and it was terrible.  There was no hint of grace in the flood for those who are outside the church of Jesus Christ.  There is only the forecasting of damning wrath in the coming destruction of the world by fire (see II Peter 3). 

Only Noah “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8).  God’s particular grace always being covenantal, this grace extended to Noah’s family.  Eight souls, only a “few,” were graciously saved by the water of the flood (I Pet. 3:20).

To take from the account of the flood the consoling message that God is gracious to all humans, regardless that they are outside of Jesus Christ by faith in Him and regardless that they live wicked lives, is to turn the biblical message of the flood on its head.

Nor do we read, or have any reason to believe, that splendid cultural artifacts survived the flood.  All the cultural works of the ungodly world perished with the ungodly in the raging waters of the universal flood. 

“The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (II Pet. 3:6).

The gospel truth of the flood, which the faithful church must proclaim both to her own members and to all those who come within hearing, is, “The heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (II Pet. 3:7). 

Only in the church is there grace and salvation. 


21.  If the calling of the church is not to Christianize the world, what in a nutshell is the calling of the church given to her by Jesus Christ?

In a (biblical) nutshell, the following:

            “Hold the traditions” (II Thess. 2:15.

            “Take heed…unto the doctrine” (I Tim. 4:16).

            “Earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3).

            “Preach the word…[of] sound doctrine” (to the congregation) (II Tim. 4:1-3).

            Stop the mouths of the heretics (Titus 1:9-16).

            “Teach all nations” (Matt. 28:19, 20).

            Keep yourself “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).


22.  How is common grace connected to Postmillennial theology?

I answered this question in my answer to “Question 11,” which see.

23.  Herman Hoeksema in early articles in the Banners of 1918-1922 in the rubric “Our Doctrine” wrote frequently about amalgamation. Amalgamation he said was wrong. What did he mean, do you think, about his opposition to amalgamation? Is amalgamation totally the result of the theory of common grace? Can it also be man’s worldly mindedness be the cause for this amalgamation? What about amalgamation before the development of common grace?

Hoeksema’s articles in the Christian Reformed magazine, the Banner, in the early 1920s were part of the controversy in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) over the relation of church and the world, whether conformity or antithesis, leading up to the CRC’s resolution of the controversy by the three points of common grace of 1924.  Especially Prot. Ralph Janssen and his supporters appealed to the theory of common grace in support of Janssen’s higher critical views of the Bible (which views were conformity of Christian scholarly and doctrinal teachings to the thinking of the unbelieving world) and against the condemnation of these views by Hoeksema and others. 

By “amalgamation” of the church with the world, against which he warned, Hoeksema meant the very same evil that he later described as the conformity of the church to the world.  Amalgamation is the breaching or bridging of the antithesis—the spiritual separation of the church and the world.

Although the Christian Reformed theory of common grace justifies and increases amalgamation, it is not the only cause of amalgamation.  Indeed, in the history of the CRC common grace was not the cause of amalgamation at all.  On the contrary, amalgamation was the cause of the theory of common grace.  There was in the CRC, at her highest theological levels, as well as among many of the members, the burning desire to be one with the world of the ungodly—one in her thinking and one in her behavior.  There was love of the world and the desire for friendship with the world.  The world was attractive.  Separation from that lovely world, much more enmity with that lovely world, seemed embarrassing, provincial, isolationist, Anabaptistic.  The world beckoned with all the seductive power of the heathen nations upon Israel in the Old Testament, of Delilah upon Samson, of the world of the epistles of John upon the New Testament church. Antithetical separation seemed to deprive the church of standing and reputation in the world; of delightful pleasures, intellectual as well as moral, that the world offered; and, yes, of the possibility of influencing the world.

The CRC seized upon the theology of common grace as the doctrinal basis of the amalgamation she so eagerly desired.  And since no less a Reformed figure than Abraham Kuyper had recently spun out of his political, cultural, world-influencing soul the theory of common grace, common grace could function, powerfully, as the Reformed theological basis of amalgamation.   Opponents of amalgamation, especially Herman Hoeksema, could be defeated, not only as those standing in the way of the amalgamation for which the CRC lusted, but also as unreformed.  The theory of common grace served the fundamental error of world conformity.

Man’s worldly mindedness is indeed the explanation of amalgamation. 

And man’s worldly mindedness is love of the ungodly world, rather than love of God, which love of God is hatred of the ungodly world with all its works and ways.  “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?  whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). 

Implied is that although rejection of common grace hinders the evil of world conformity in churches that condemn the false doctrine and although rejection of common grace is testimony to the antithesis and its essential importance, a church can become worldly even though she denies common grace.  Certainly, the lives of members of churches that deny common grace can succumb to the temptation of worldliness.  Certainly, the powerful temptation of worldliness of thinking and behavior is a threat to us all, including the most vigorous theological opponent of common grace.

The seven churches of Asia Minor, addressed in Revelation 2 and 3, had not been corrupted by a theory of common grace.  But many of them were yielding in various ways to the temptation of conforming to the wicked world around them.   


24.  Herman Hoeksema spoke enthusiastically that people need to be more concerned and enthusiastic in the cosmological salvation rather than merely a personal salvation. Did he not in a sense receive support for this from Abraham Kuyper?

I wish that this questioner had referenced the enthusiasm of Hoeksema for cosmological salvation, so that I could check out the context of this enthusiasm. 

That Hoeksema taught God’s salvation of the created world, and not only of humans, is beyond question.  His correction of the common explanation of John 3:16, as though the text teaches a love of God for all humans without exception, rightly called attention to the truth that the text teaches God’s love for the created universe (Greek:  kosmos) with its various creatures, non-human as well as human. 

Hoeksema taught also that the human objects of the particular, saving grace of God in Jesus Christ are all nations and peoples in the elect among them

Hoeksema also taught that God’s salvation of humans is such a power as to extend to all aspects of the lives of these humans—family; education; work; personal relationships; and more. 

Are these the enthusiasm for cosmological salvation to which the questioner refers?

Hoeksema may very well have been influenced in these respects, as he certainly was influenced in other theological respects, by Abraham Kuyper.  Hoeksema did not reject Kuyper.  He rejected Kuyper’s theory of common grace. 

Much as I share this enthusiasm for cosmological salvation as outlined above, I hesitate to describe zeal for personal salvation as “merely.”  There is nothing “mere” about personal salvation.  Only with great effort, if at all, can I be enthusiastic about the salvation of the “kosmos” apart from my gratitude and joy over the salvation of myself personally and of the church of fellow believers and their children.


25. The Christian Reformed Church during their controversy in the 1920s did not see it necessary to translate Abraham Kuyper's "Common Grace". What purpose does the recent translation of this work serve? Why now? Is there a relationship between its current translation and federal vision?

In 1924 many in the CRC, including a majority of ministers, could read Dutch.  There was no need, therefore, to translate the work into English.

Today, the vast majority of ministers and professors committed to Kuyper’s theory of common grace, not only in the CRC, but also in the United Reformed Churches (URC), as well as in other Reformed and Presbyterian churches, are unable to read Dutch.  For them, it is necessary that the fountainhead of their theory of common grace be translated into English. 

The purpose of the present translation of Kuyper’s work on common grace into English is, in general, the revival and spread of the theory of cultural common grace, as well as stimulation of the zeal of Reformed people on behalf of the implementation of the theory, namely, the effort to Christianize North America and then the whole world. 

The purpose of the project, in particular, is that Kuyper’s work on common grace may serve today as the basis of the cooperation of Reformed people and Roman Catholics in the great work of Christianizing the world.  Supporters of the project and its practical purpose would say that there is great need today for the cooperation of Rome and the Reformed in fighting the culture wars because of the aggression of the ungodly today in making the culture antichristian, for example, in the promotion of sodomy and lesbianism. 

In addition to the fact that the Bible nowhere calls the church or Christians to Christianize the world and in addition to the fact that the theory of common grace is a weak weapon with which to withstand the assaults of the world and to defeat this enemy (take note of the real and mighty weapons of the Christian in his warfare with the world in Ephesians 6!), cooperation of Reformed people with Rome in any spiritual endeavor whatsoever reminds me of the fable of the spider and the fly.  “Come into my parlor, said the (Roman Catholic) spider to the (Reformed) fly!”  Rome has no love for the Reformed faith, as her decrees of the Council of Trent make plain.  Rome is as much an enemy of the Reformed faith and church as is the world.  The result of foolish cooperation on the part of Reformed theologians and churches with Rome in this, or any other, spiritual enterprise will be that Rome will devour the Reformed.  This has already begun to happen in that the CRC has reduced Question 80, the anti-Roman Catholic article in the Catechism and, therefore, the defense of Reformed Christianity against Rome, of the Heidelberg Catechism to an insignificant footnote. 

The book of Revelation prophesies that the warfare of the true church of Jesus Christ at the end—the time in which we live—will be against the beast from the sea (the world of ungodly nations and governments united under one head) in league with the beast from the earth (the false church, of which Rome is the main protagonist).  See Revelation 13.

The reference to the heresy of the federal vision in this question has merit.  The conditional theology of the federal vision is essentially the Roman Catholic doctrine of salvation:  justification by faith and by good works.  That reunion with Rome is in the mind of the advocates of the federal vision is evident in Norman Shepherd’s declaration that his doctrine of justification by faith and works offers “hope for a common understanding between Roman Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism regarding the way of salvation” (The Call of Grace:  How the Covenant Illuminates Salvation and Evangelism, P&R, 2000, 59).  Shepherd, of course, is a leading proponent, if not the father, of the theology of the federal vision. 

In addition, the main proponents of the theology of the federal vision, Norman Shepherd and the Christian Reconstructionists, are postmillennialists.  They look for an earthly kingdom of Christ in history.  The enthusiastic advocates of common grace, now busy in cooperating in the translation of Kuyper’s work on common grace, entertain the postmillennial dream of Christianizing North America and then the world with the help of Rome.  The men of the federal vision share the postmillennial dream. 

26.  Would Professor Engelsma be so kind as to provide the references to his quotation from Abraham Kuyper's works here?

I have provided the references of all the quotations I made of Kuyper earlier, in response to “Question 12,” and refer this questioner to that response.  

27.  What incentive did and do Roman Catholics have to adopt this theory of common grace as their motive to cooperation, since it refuses to recognize them as the objects of particular grace?

By their cooperation with Reformed theologians in translating and promoting Kuyper’s work on common grace, the Roman Catholic theologians of the Acton Institute do not necessarily “adopt” the theory of common grace. 

But these astute Roman Catholic thinkers do recognize Kuyper’s theory of common grace as essentially Roman Catholic doctrine.  Rome has always taught that God has a love, or favor, for all humans without exception.  Rome has always taught that the fall of the human race in Adam left fallen humans with a residue of good, with the ability to please God in everyday, natural life, and that this preservation of the race from a condition of total depravity is due to a love, or favor, or grace of God towards all without exception.  Whether one calls this grace common or special is of no importance to Rome.  Rome’s thinking is that grace is grace, so that even if Reformed thinkers, like Kuyper, hesitate at first to describe this grace as special and saving, eventually they will come around to viewing it as also a saving grace. 

Rome is right.  The CRC proved Rome right in 1924 when it described the common grace that it was approving as including a well-meant offer of salvation to all humans.  A well-meant offer is the expression, not merely of a cultural common grace, but of a universal (ineffectual) saving grace of God.  This is quintessential Roman Catholic doctrine.  

Kuyper’s theory of common grace, as developed and explained by the CRC, does indeed recognize Roman Catholics as objects of what this questioner describes as “particular” grace, that is, a grace that is saving in design and nature. 

Rome has always had the determination to bring the whole world under the rule and influence of the Roman Catholic Church and its pope.  Whatever means serve to realize this determination are acceptable to Rome, from physical weapons, to the blatant lying of the Jesuits, to a theory of common grace.  All that matters is that the world is subject to Rome.  Revelation 17 foretells that Rome will be successful.  For a while, in the future, the great whore, who is drunken with the blood of the martyrs, will ride the scarlet beast.  All who cooperate with Rome in her campaign to dominate the world, though Reformed in name, will ride the beast with Rome.  This is not a good, honorable, or promising position.  

The reputedly conservative Reformed men and institutions now cooperating with the Roman Catholics of the Acton Institute to Christianize North America and then the world by a common grace of God are pawns on Rome’s chessboard—willing pawns, but pawns.  These prominent pawns very likely will bring their churches into Rome’s fatal embrace. 

28.  Please give evidence of the United Reformed Churches defending common grace as rigorously as the Christian Reformed Churches, There are certainly United Reformed men and ministers who do not subscribe to common grace. Many who say they do, if asking them further, will not define common grace as the CRC did at the Synod of Kalamazoo so many years ago.

I have proved the commitment of the URC to the theory of common grace, not only the cultural common grace of Kuyper, but also the theory of common grace adopted by the Christian Reformed Church in 1924, in my answer to “Question 10.”  I refer this questioner to my response to this question. 

But this question provides me the opportunity to reflect further on the calling of the URC regarding the doctrine of common grace.  If the URC repudiate the doctrine of common grace that the CRC adopted in 1924, let them say so, openly, publicly, and by synodical decision.  At the very least, let their leading spokesmen, the theologians of Mid-America and Westminster West, say so.  There is no such repudiation of the doctrine of common grace either by the denomination or by its leading theologians.  Much less is there any public acknowledgment of the righteous cause of the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC) in proclaiming particular, sovereign grace.  The leading theologians of the URC are as dismissive of the PRC, and contemptuous of their theology, as any of the fiercest enemies of the PRC in the CRC.    

If theologians in the URC reject common grace, they do so privately, safely whispering their disagreement to a close circle of friends.  After all the long and well-known history of the controversy over common grace between the PRC and the CRC and in view of the abuse of the PRC by the CRC over the issue of common grace, for those who for years were part of the CRC and, therefore, fully responsible for the common grace decisions of the CRC, as well as for the abuse of the PRC for rejecting common grace—I say, for those men merely privately to whisper their rejection of common grace among themselves, is dishonorable.  Mere ecclesiastical honorableness requires that they speak out openly, before the Reformed church world.

In striking contrast to the URC, leading Christian Reformed theologians today are open in charging injustice by the CRC in its treatment of Herman Hoeksema and in questioning at least the creedally Reformed character of the CRC’s three points of common grace of 1924, if not the doctrine itself.  One has brought an overture on these matters to the synod of the CRC.  This is honorable behavior. 

Where are such public statements on these issues by the men of the URC?

The URC as a denomination of churches represent objection to one of the fruits and consequences of the CRC’s doctrine of common grace, for which it, as essentially nothing more than the CRC without women in office, is fully responsible before God and the churches.  They are not, and have never claimed to be, a genuine, principled, radical (that is, getting at the root of heresies) reformation of the CRC as a church that embraced both Kuyperian, world-conforming common grace and Arminian, universal, ineffectual saving grace (the well-meant offer) in that church’s adoption of the three points of common grace of 1924.

What the leading men of the URC ought to have done at the very beginning of their movement, and what the URC are called to do still today, is confess the sin of the CRC, of which they were still a part at the beginning of their movement, in adopting the false doctrine of the three points of common grace of 1924 and the grievous sin of deposing from office sound, Reformed ministers of the word and soundly Reformed consistories of elders and deacons on the ground, in reality, of their refusing to corrupt the doctrines of the Canons of Dordt.  Sensitive consciences would have added the sin of blackening and slandering the PRC before the entire Reformed church world for many years for no other reason, in reality, than that these churches do whole-heartedly preach, confess, and defend the doctrines of the Canons of Dordt.

The synod of the CRC that adopted the three points of common grace in 1924 itself acknowledged that Hoeksema and his colleagues were soundly Reformed according to the Reformed confessions.  

Then the leading men of the URC ought to have asked themselves, in the presence of God, whether there is any reason for the existence of yet another Reformed denomination alongside the PRC; whether the true unity of the church, about which the URC make a lot of noise, does not require them to seek admission to, or union with, the PRC; whether establishing yet another Reformed denomination does not, in fact, constitute sin against the unity of the church; and whether, in addition, their adding their voice to the criticism of the PRC for confessing particular grace does not betray the URC for what they are in reality:  the CRC without women in office.

About this issue of women in office, I wrote before, and despite the criticism I drew, write once again, that I could easier live with a female preacher who proclaimed sovereign, particular grace than with a male preacher who preached and taught the three points of common grace of 1924 of the CRC and of the URC.  I could shut my eyes to the female preacher; I could not close my ears to the message of the male Arminian masquerading as a Reformed preacher.

The issue of women in ecclesiastical office pales in comparison with the issue of common grace, especially the common grace of a well-meant offer of salvation to all humans.  Indeed, the former sin of practice is the fruit of the latter sin of doctrine. 

29.  Do you believe that the doctrine of common grace has bearing on the doctrine of the covenant?  Is there a connection between common grace and the federal vision heresy?  Can one hold to the covenant position of Klaas Schilder without believing in common grace?

This cluster of questions concerns the relation of a theory of common grace to the biblical, Reformed doctrine of the covenant.  The questions raise the hot topic in the Reformed community of churches in North America of the covenant doctrine that calls itself the federal vision.  They suggest, correctly, an intimate relationship between the federal vision and the theology of the Dutch theologian, Klaas Schilder. 

In part, to keep my response brief and, in part, because I have explained the covenant doctrine of the federal vision and demonstrated its essential oneness with the theology of Klaas Schilder and of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (“liberated”), as well as of their daughter churches in North America (the Canadian Reformed Churches) and elsewhere, in two books, Covenant and Election in the Reformed Tradition (RFPA, 2011) and Federal Vision:  Heresy at the Root (RFPA, 2012), I will not here go into detail in grounding my response to the cluster of questions. 

With regard to the question of the bearing that common grace might have on the doctrine of the covenant, in fact the synodical decision of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in 1924 adopting three points of common grace rather is evidence of the bearing of a certain doctrine of the covenant on the doctrine of common grace.  The doctrine of the covenant that prevailed in the CRC in the early 1920s was that of Prof. Heyns, a professor at Calvin Theological Seminary—the seminary of the CRC.  Heyns taught that all the baptized children of believing parents are alike included in the covenant of grace, in the sense that God loves them all, desires to save them all, and even begins a work of saving grace in them all.  However, the continuation of this grace and its fulfillment in the salvation of a child are conditioned on the child’s own activity of faith and obedience. 

Because this covenant doctrine of universal, conditional grace obtained in the CRC, the synod of 1924 could readily adopt both Abraham Kuyper’s theory of a universal common (non-saving) grace and the Arminian theory of a universal saving grace (the “well-meant offer”).  A heretical covenant doctrine produced, or, at least, paved the way for, the false doctrine of common grace in the CRC. 

In the thinking of the theologians and ministers of the CRC, grace does not originate in, or depend upon, election.  For them, election is not the fountain and cause of grace, regardless of the teaching of their creed, the Canons of Dordt. 

Regarding the theology of the federal vision, the men of the federal vision, who are developing and promoting the covenant doctrine of Schilder and the liberated Reformed churches by whatever denominational name they go, are not especially advocates of Kuyper’s non-saving, cultural, common grace.  Rather, the federal vision teaches a saving grace of God for all the children of believing parents, if not for all humans without exception.  I add the phrase, “if not for all humans without exception,” for good reason.  Defenders of the covenant theology of the federal vision, including the enormously influential Norman Shepherd, explain John 3:16 of a love of God for all humans without exception.  The love of God of John 3:16 is obviously not a non-saving, cultural love or grace, but the love that gave Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners. 

The heresy of the federal vision is its doctrine of a universal, saving, but conditional (and, therefore, ineffectual) love, or grace, of God especially for all the children of believers, Esau as well as Jacob.  It is a new form of the Arminian heresy exposed and condemned by the Canons of Dordt.   

The federal vision, by its own open declaration, is the contemporary development and bold proclamation of the covenant theology of Schilder and the liberated Reformed. 

As the federal vision makes unmistakably plain, and forthrightly states, to the entire Reformed church world, the doctrine of the covenant of Schilder, his disciples and their churches is a doctrine of universal, special, saving, but conditional grace.  It is Arminianism with particular application to the covenant.  One cannot hold the covenant doctrine of Schilder and the liberated Reformed without embracing the false doctrine of a saving grace of God that is common to elect believers and reprobate unbelievers, common to those who are saved and to those who perish.

The doctrine of the covenant of Heyns, of the CRC, of Schilder and the liberated Reformed, and of the federal vision is not merely a form of Kuyperian, cultural, common grace.  It is far worse.  It is a form of the doctrine of universal, but conditional, saving grace that Abraham Kuyper condemned in his book, Dat de Genade Particulier is [That (Saving) Grace is Particular].  This book has been translated into English by Marvin Kamps as Particular Grace and is available from the RFPA.         

Although, as the answer to this question shows, there is an important distinction between Kuyper’s common grace and the universal (saving, conditional) grace of the Arminian heresy, the truth simplifies matters.  The truth is that there is one, and one only, grace of God.  This grace is His particular favor in Jesus Christ, originating in God’s eternal decree of election, that saves elect sinners from sin and death and empowers them to live godly lives in all areas of human, earthly life (culture).

Once this truth of particular grace in Jesus Christ, rooted in election, is compromised, the churches guilty of the compromise go wrong in all kinds of ways, invariably also by making the saving grace of God universal, conditional, and ineffectual.

30.   Is there a connection between common grace and the two kingdoms theology?  How does common grace shape a person’s thinking about two kingdoms?

I answered this very question as question number 8 in the list of questions and answers that have already been posted on the Internet.  The question was this:  “How is Kuyper’s common grace related to the ‘two kingdoms’ idea?”

I refer this questioner to the answer I have already given, at some length.

If this questioner has further questions about the issue, or concerning the answer I have already given, he or she is welcome to raise these questions. 


Have a question?

(We intend to answer as many questions as possible during the speech, if time does not allow they will be answered on this page of the website.)