I’ve just arrived back from 3 days on the slopes with Andy Jr skiing. We stayed in a beautiful little village in the Chablais region of the Northern French Alps called Les Gets – really ‘chocolate box’ scenery. It was kind of some friends to let us have the use of his chalet for a few days.
Anyway, now, aged 51, the ‘thigh-burn’ is starting to get ridiculous – I was chasing a trail of ‘snow-dust’ for almost all of the time. I’m glad to say, however, that there is still a little life in the old legs of the old dog yet. I was happy to quote Aesop’s Fable of the Tortoise and the Hare to Andy Jr as I left him for dead on the big bumps on the final run of the final day. His only reply was that his shin was beginning to hurt – a classical case of Invisible-alpine-shin-microblister-dad-just-beat-you Syndrome, no doubt!
After a few hours shut-eye, we rose at 5.30 am, did a quick final clean of the chalet, and headed down the road to Geneva Airport, only to have to pull in when the dash flashed that ‘you have lost pressure in your front left tyre’! Frustrated, I pulled in, got out, dodged some traffic and gave the offending wheel a kick – thankfully no flat – so we got back on our route.
After an hour in two queues for security and passport control, we got on the plane, and I took out my book (didn’t get the reading done I had planned – the story of my life!) entitled “Common Grace and the Gospel” by Cornelius Van Til (this was an unexpected gift from a kind donor from the States!).
Arriving at Amsterdam!
It was the early part of Chapter Two on “Abraham Kuyper’s Doctrine of Common Grace” that I found really refreshing and stimulating. Noting a certain development that occurred in Kuyper’s own thinking, in the course of his three-volume work on Common Grace, the writer sets out the ‘Double-Dutch View’ as I’ll call it from now on:
First the Negative View of Common Grace (Vol. I)
The essence of common grace, for Kuyper, is “a certain restraint of God upon the process of the sinful development of history.”
Second the Positive View of Common Grace (Vol. II)
The essence of common grace now becomes “a certain positive accomplishment in history that the sinner is enabled to make by God’s gifts to him.”
A Common Assumption
Both aspects of this doctrine assume the doctrine of the total depravity of the sinner. Every person is born dead in trespasses and sins but, explaining this doctrine a little further, is doomed, at death, to a process of physical disintegration of the corpse.
“And it is the spiritual disintegration of the corpse that could be and was restrained, not wholly but in part. Not wholly, in order that the fearful results of sin might be apparent to all, but in part, in order that also in this manner the wealth of God’s creation and of His recreating power in our sinful race might be glorified.”
Contrasting Gracious Effects
Common Grace, according to Kuyper, differs from Special Grace, in the effect that divine grace has upon the sinner: in the former sin is restrained, whereas, in the latter, sin is pulled up by its roots. The following quote unpacks the contrast:
“Common grace does nothing of the sort. It keeps down but does not quench. It tames but does not change the nature. It keeps back and holds in leash, but thus, as soon as the restraint is removed, the evil races forth anew of itself. It trims the wild shoots, but does not heal the root. It leaves the inner impulse of the ego of man to its wickedness, but prevents the full fruition of wickedness. It is a limiting, a restraining, a hindering power which breaks and brings to a standstill…
…Yet common grace could not stop at this first and constant operation. Mere maintenance and control affords no answer to the question as to what end the world is to be preserved and why it has passed throughout a history of ages …Accordingly, there is added to this first constant operation of common grace …another wholly different operation …calculated to make human life and the life of the whole world pass through a process and develop itself more fully and richly.”
As sleep is beginning to overcome me, now, let me just close this rather random piece with two quick applications.
First the Restraint of Hatred.
I’m so glad that, in His mercy, God’s Common Grace ensured that the long airport queues in Geneva were orderly, polite and not aggressive and chaotic. I also rejoice that Common Grace now reigns in peace-time France and has put the brakes on two world wars that would have stopped a ski-trip 70 years ago.
Second the Achievements of History.
Throughout the week I was fascinated by the sophistication, precision and convenience of the constantly-being-updated, rapid, uphill, modes of transport. Some of these are the products of massive feats of engineering that have produced high-speed cabled systems. Without such Common Graces, for which I thank the Lord, my very relaxing trip would not have been not nearly so enjoyable.