Common Grace -- By: Cornelius Van Til

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 08:1 (Nov 1945)
Article: Common Grace
Author: Cornelius Van Til


Common Gracea

Cornelius Van Til

THE question of where he may find a point of contact with the world for the message that he brings is a matter of grave concern to every Christian minister and teacher. The doctrine of common grace seeks, in some measure at least, to supply this answer. But to give the answer desired the concept of common grace must be set in its proper theological context. In discussing the problem, the present paper accordingly deals with (I) the Christian philosophy of history of which the common grace doctrine is a part, (II) the most comprehensive modern statement of this problem, (III) the salient features of the recent debate on the subject, and (IV) some suggestions for further study.

I. The Christian Philosophy of History

The common grace1 problem may quite properly be considered as being a part or aspect of the problem of the philosophy of history. Dr. K. Schilder speaks of Abraham Kuyper’s great three volume work on “Common Grace” as an epic. And an epic it truly is. In setting forth his views on common grace Kuyper envelops the whole course of human culture in his field of vision. Common grace is said to be in large measure responsible for making history as a whole what it

has been, is, and will be. On the other hand in rejecting the doctrine of common grace the Rev. Herman Hoeksema in his various writings also takes the whole of history for his field. He argues that history can best be explained if we reject common grace. It may be well then if even at the outset we question ourselves about the Christian philosophy of history. Doing so at this early stage of our paper will help us in understanding both those who affirm and those who deny common grace.

In any philosophy of history men seek to systematize the “facts” of history. The many “facts” of history are to be brought into one pattern. Or, if we wish, we may say that the many “facts” of history are to be regarded in the light of one pattern. The philosophy of history is, accordingly, an aspect of the perplexing One and Many problem.

Furthermore, in a philosophy of history the “facts” are regarded under the aspect of change. If there be other sciences that deal primarily with the “static”, the philosophy of history deals primarily with the “dynamic” behavior of “Reality”. It is natural, then, that in handling the problem of the philosophy of history the very existence of a single pattern of these many, and particularly of these changing many, should be called in question. That is to say, for one who d...

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