Thursday, April 16, 2009

Three Comments on Common Grace


  1. "Common grace" confuses Law and Gospel --> the kingdom here and now (earthly - "left-hand") with the kingdom to come (heavenly - "right-hand"). It is no surprise "common grace" is appealed to justify the politicisation of the Kingdom of God. That is, either the use of "natural law" or "theonomic law" in ushering in or advancing the Kingdom of God.

    The Reformation understanding of "grace" is that God is the subject and the sinner is the object. Grace always render the sinner passive. "Common grace" is, therefore, a theological impossibility.

    The Gospel ends and simultaneously establishes the proper use of the Law in this world. The Kingdom of God, is as Prof. Hanko has repeatedly declared, the "in-breaking from on-high." It is eschatological, not ontological. The Kingdom of God which consists of righteousness, holiness, perfection is *alien* to this world. Thus, it can only come by the proclamation of the Gospel alone.

    As such, any progress made by Christians in the *old* creation is strictly ethical, not metaphysical. The Christian remains throughout his a saint and sinner - simul iustus et peccator. It is the Kingdom of God advancing upon him, not the other way round.

    Common grace marks a reversal of the eschatological vision of the Reformation, and more closely aligned with the theological principles of Rome, thinking ad modum Aristole.

    Kuala Lumpur

  2. Dear Jason, if I understand you well, I agree with what you write above.

    I don't think I am wrong, though, if I say that in some sense the elect church also undergoes an ontological, metaphysical transformation, in that it partakes, as firstfruits in the whole creation destined to it, of the re-creation of which Christ is the first and the source.

    The church is said to be "a new creation" in Scripture, and we know, that this "new" creation is now only a beginning, it is such only in principle very nearly co-existing with the old, it is as you say a "breaking through" of the Spirit of the glorified ("re-created") Christ in this "old" perishing creation Who takes the old "clay" and infuses in it a new life which comes from elsewhere, from above (and that "elsewhere" an "above" are such ontologically, do you agree?).

    Through Him (Christ) having undergone the incarnation (the partaking of the first creation), and death, resurrection and glorification (the beginning of and the partaking of the first man to the new creation), He can send, as God united to this new man, to those in behalf of whom He did this work, the Spirit of (the Son of) God as the Spirit of (the Son of ) God through the new man (the glorified Christ), that is the Divine Breath of recreation, so that they may become new creatures.

    I think the ultimate explanation for this that I see as an ontological change begun now, is that they partake of the divine nature. This union was begun in Christ, and will be realized with the whole creation considered organically (that is, all parts created in the six days of Genesis will be represented in this new creation), when the firstfruits of it (Christ and then all His body-the church) will have been gathered and made ready for the final harvest in the last day.

    All this takes process in the so-called history of redemption, the culmination of which is the culmination of the application of this redemption Christ purchased and made possible for the whole creation.

    Grace in Scripture is then "cosmic," not common. Its objects are Christ and the elect church plus every other part created by God in the six days of Genesis. And that is also what God told us with the episode and covenant with Noah ... where so many go wrong!

    PRC authors, among which our esteemed Prof. Hanko, have written so much on these things and there are tons of material for anyone seriously interested, even just online for free. I think the Prof. will be speaking about these things, anyway, in his future instalments.

    In the light of this material mentioned above it is appalling to me how many, especially those with "academic credentials", fail to see these things, and instead keep pushing and advancing theories which are false and misleading, how you above for some part show.

    But we can happily say thanks God that we hear and see!

    Francesco De Lucia

  3. Dear Bro. Francesco,

    Thank you for your comments. Yes, Reformed Orthodoxy does speak of infusion of grace. Luther, however, always spoke of the Christian in terms of totus, totus: Totally righteous, totally sinful. My perspective on the Christian life is more Lutheran than Reformed. Having said this, I'm still a 5-point Calvinist.

    Though it has to be said, that my exposure to the PRC paved the way for my exposure to Lutheranism. Lutheranism and the Reformed Faith have much in common, despite significant disagreements. That justification is the whole of the Christian life is held in common overagainst Revivalism, Pietism, etc.

    For Luther, justification is the Christian life so that sanctification is included in justification as a total gift. The Christian 'oscillates' or 'zig-zags' between the New Adam and the Old Adam. The Christian in his dual-citizenship is 'caught up' between the world here and now and the world to come.

    And yes, you are right, grace is cosmic. In my previous post, I ventured to affirm that natural law (natural light) is not to be equated with grace, as held bv much of the Reformed world today. Common grace inevitably leads us back to Rome, where grace is operated by God *and* us - synergism. Grace is seen as something natural, i.e. ADDED to man. So, man remains *intact*. Instead, the Reformation teaches that grace RE-CLAIMS man, and not the other way round. It is a total state of being RE-created by the same *Word* which created the world ex-nihilo. In other words, grace is not MIXED with sin, but CO-exist according to the Old Adam/ New Adam framework. In other words, grace *destroys* the old being and re-creates the new being. For the present, grace is hidden from sight. It is only revealed in the proclamation of the Word in its oral and sacramental forms. If there is earthly elements which God uses to hide his grace, it is the voice of the preacher, water, bread and wine. Even that, we live by faith alone. We have the call and promise of the Gospel to live by, which contains the full reality yet to be revealed.

    So, yes, as Reformation, Reformed Christians we affirm that grace *comes* to us by faith alone. And faith is *created* by preaching alone - faith cometh by *hearing* the Word of God (alone).

  4. I think one should be careful to distinguish the redemption of creation from the redemption of sinners. Creation was corrupted because of the fall of Adam, not the other way around. Also, I have seen these same arguments for the cosmic aspect of redemption used by the Anglo-Catholics to ignore individual election, regeneration, justification and redemption.

    The only specific place in Scripture I can remember that redemption is mentioned in connection with creation is in Romans 8. When Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is 'among' you (plural you)," I don't think He meant that in the cosmic sense but in the sense that God is redeeming His people from out of the masses of non-elect. The kingdom of God breaks in through the preaching of Jesus Christ and the apostles.

    Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God... While we do not preach that God loves the reprobate and freely offers salvation to them, we do preach the Gospel to them and present the Gospel to them so that they are without excuse when they refuse to obey the command to repent and believe. And not all of the non-elect or reprobate even hear the Gospel in the first place. Even the English Reformers had sense enough to know that natural religion and natural reason cannot lead to saving faith. Article XVIII of the 39 Articles says:

    XVIII. Of obtaining eternal salvation only by the name of Christ.
    THEY also are to be had accursed that presume to say that every man shall be saved by the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law and the light of nature. For Holy Scripture doth set out to us only the name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.

    I'm not saying that's what you meant but that some of the pelagians out there use the cosmic argument to plead the case for universal atonement, universal election, universal salvation, and other such nonsense.

    In Christ,