common grace

Linked Glossary of Terms
(references to De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, unless indicated. See concordance for correlation with pages in the New Critique. The concordance is in pdf format.)

common grace NC III, 523

Vernieuwing en Bezinning, 36, 39

Roots, 39

“Het dilemma voor het christelijk wijsgeerig denken en het critisch karakter van de Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee,” Philosophia Reformata 1 (1936), 1-16, at 16 fn1. God in Christ maintains the structure of his creation by temporal conserving grace, or what has been referred to as “commmon grace.” The hidden transcendent root of this conserving grace is the renewing or regenerating (wederbarende) grace in Christ; it is revealed in the temporal manifestation of the body of Christ in all structures of society.

In Vernieuwing en Bezinning (p. 36), Dooyeweerd speaks of God’s common grace that holds back the complete demonization of the world. As a result, we can still see everywhere “sparks of God’s glory, goodness, truth, justice and beauty” [lichtvonken van Gods macht, goedheid, waarheid, gerechtigheid en schoonheid]. This can be seen even in idolatrous [afgodisch gerichte] cultures. He continues:

Shown to his fallen creation as a still undivided totality, the revelation of God’s common grace guards scriptural Christianity against sectarian pride which leads a Christian to flee from the world and reject without further ado whatever arises in western culture outside of the immediate influence of religion. Sparks of the original glory of God’s creation shine in every phase of culture, to a greater or lesser degree, even it its development has occurred under the guidance of apostate spiritual powers (as translated in Roots 39).

Although Dooyeweerd uses the term ‘common grace,’ his use of this term must not be understood in a dualistic opposition between nature and grace. And nor is it to be understood as a dualism between creation and redemption of the world. He expressly opposes any idea of creation law that is separate from salvation. Thus, the very idea of cosmic law contains within it a saving aspect for the world. Jesus Christ is the King of common grace; common grace is not to be understood apart from Christ, nor can we derive common grace only from God as Creator. Common grace is “common” because rooted in the Saviour. It is not given for the particular fallen man, but for humanity in Christ. The cosmic law is related to our sinfulness. Dooyeweerd says that without the law there is no sin; but the same law makes the existence of creation possible (Vernieuwing en Bezinning 36-38).

Thus, common grace is “common” because it (1) is rooted in the Saviour and (2) it is given to a common humanity rooted in Christ, “as a still undivided whole.”

That God lets the sun rise over the just and the unjust, that he grants gifts and talents to believers and unbelievers alike–all this is not grace for the apostate individual, but for all of mankind in Christ. It is gratia communis, common grace rooted in the Redeemer of the world. (Roots 38).

This seems to be a very different notion of common grace than is usually given in Calvinistic theology, which does restrict it to creation. In the New Critique, Dooyeweerd seems on first reading to give a somewhat different view:

…particular grace directly concerns the supra-temporal root of mankind, whereas common grace remains restricted to temporal life. But we stressed the Christo-centric standpoint that common grace has its root and centre only in Christ as the incarnate Word (NC III, 523).

But this quotation, too, says that the basis for common grace is in Christ [the new Root]. Furthermore, particular grace is related not to individual human beings, but to “the supra-temporal root of mankind.” Thus, what Dooyeweerd says here corresponds to what he says in Roots.

I believe that this opposition to any distinction between cosmic law and redemption is the reason that Dooyeweerd restricts law to the cosmos. I believe that Vollenhoven’s disagreement as to the place of the law will also result in a difference as to the the nature of redemption in its relation to cosmic law.

Although Dooyeweerd says that the creation order is not affected by the fall, but rather our heart direction, he also says that this change in heart direction was radical, and that the whole of creation therewith fell with Man. All the creation that was “gevoegd” in the world coherence was cursed in Adam (WdW I, 65). The working of this curse is held back by common grace.

Baader speaks of the “resistance” [Widerstand] that we encounter in theoretical thought as a gift of common grace.

Revised Sept 26/07