This past Saturday the Grand Rapids Press carried this news item about the new work of translating Abraham Kuyper’s three (3) volume work on common grace (De Gemeene Gratie). This is an important and significant development, since Kuyper’s work on “common” grace has never been translated into English before (though parts of it have) and because most modern advocates of common grace appeal to Kuyper as their spiritual father.
For those in the Protestant Reformed Churches this translation work is also significant, for we owe our ecclesiastical origin to the denial of common grace as set forth by the Christian Reformed Church back in 1924. And we too appeal to Kuyper for a defense of particular grace and a rejection of common grace (bear with me here!). That’s because Kuyper himself made a sharp distinction between the two “graces”, unlike the CRC in 1924. The CRC dragged God’s saving grace into the mire of “common” grace, making God’s favor in Christ a saving favor not only to the elect but also to the reprobate (evidenced especially in the “free offer” of gospel preaching, they said).
But A.Kuyper strongly and sharply distinguished God’s saving grace to His elect people in Christ (“particular” grace) from what he called God’s “general favor” to the ungodly. He even used two different Dutch words for these in his writings. For his idea of “general” grace he used the word gratie (as in the title mentioned above). But for God’s particular, saving grace he used the word genade. And in the opening pages of his major work on “general grace” he also made this distinction and warned his readers not to be confused about this “double” grace he was advancing. We know this because Kuyper also authored an important book on God’s sovereign, particular saving grace prior to his other work on “general grace”. That book is titled Dat De Genade Particulier Is, which has been translated by Marvin Kamps and published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association under the title Particular Grace: A Defense of God’s Sovereignty in Salvation (2001 – see http://www.rfpa.org). In his introduction to this publication and in a special appendix Kamps also takes pains to show Kuyper’s true position on grace. I urge you to get this book and read it carefully. Rare is the Reformed churchman today who will with honesty (or maybe it’s simply ignorance) point to this important distinction in Kuyper’s works.
In any case, we welcome this news and look forward to the final English product on Kuyper’s “general grace”, in hopes that it will bring clarification to his true position on what today is called “common” grace. While we wait for this work, you have plenty of time to read his work on particular grace. If you wish to pursue this matter further, do a search for Kuyper’s common grace at the RFPA website under the magazine The Standard Bearer.
To read the story as the Press reported it, click on the link above. Here’s just a few lines from it:
Abraham Kuyper likely would have found the political discord of his time similar to the modern-day rancor that reduces some evangelicals to finger-pointing polarization, said Stephen Grabill, director of a local Christian think tank.
The ecumenically minded Dutch politician, journalist and theologian who wrote his persuasive three-volume treatise, “Common Grace” before his death in 1920, dedicated much of his life to fanning a theology that warned Reformed-minded Christians not to develop a “siege mentality” as they sought to weave their influence in business, education and government.
The lessons in “Grace” remain relevant today and are the reason why the free market think tank, the Acton Institute, and Kuyper College, both of Grand Rapids, are collaborating to translate Kuyper’s work from Dutch to English, said Grabill, director of programs at the Acton Institute, who is overseeing the two-year translation project.
“In terms of the way Christians have brought their faith into the public sphere in the last 30 years, Kuyper represents a much more thoughtful and reflective way of building a constructive public theology,” Grabill said.