Although we interrupted our series on this subject last time with a discussion of the so-called “Period Theory,” we can now return to it once again. We were busy in previous issues with describing the world and life view of those churches who hold to the doctrine of common grace. You probably recall that we made some rather lengthy quotations from several authors in order to show what was meant by this doctrine, and what implications it had for a view of the world and life. It might be well to summarize first of all the main points that were made in these articles to get them clearly before our minds.
These points are also definitely expressed in the Three Pints of 1924, but were emphasized specifically in these quotations which we made.
1. It was first of all observed that it is impossible to maintain that God is filled with wrath against the wicked. There is, on His part, a definite attitude of favor and grace and love which is also revealed in His dealings with men.
2. This attitude of favor and love is revealed especially in that God sends His Spirit into the hearts of wicked men, reprobate though they be in His counsel, so that sin is curbed to a considerable extent. The forces of evil continue to reveal themselves in the lives of unregenerate men, but they are curbed from within their hearts in such a way that all that comes forth is not evil.
3. The result of this is that there is a great deal of good which appears in the lives of men even though they are not regenerated. This good is evident in the cultures of ancient civilizations such as Greece and Rome, in the beautiful systems of philosophy and jurisprudence which are formulated by men devoid of saving grace, in the products of art, science, music, literature, and even in the field of religion where man comes on occasion very close to God when he discovers regard for virtue, love of the truth and shows a desire for the good and beautiful. These works are in fact often more beautiful than the works performed by the elect, and are in truth pleasing in the sight of God. God places His stamp of approval upon them, and retains them throughout history in order that they may have a place in the new creation which shall be established when Christ comes. The illustration of this is the ferry boat which is swept along by the current of the river to inevitable destruction except for the fact that it is fastened to a cable which guides it to the opposite shore. Yet it is the same current that would otherwise destroy it that now brings it to its goal and purpose. The boat is man, the current is sin, the cable is common grace, and the opposite shore is the good that wicked men do.
4. The result of all this good in the world is that there is much which meets with the approval of the people of God, much with which they can be satisfied, much that they can take for their own.
The World and Life View of Common Grace
The question which faces us now is, What sort of a view of the world and life is inherent in this theory of common grace?
This is not a difficult question to answer. Standing on the platform of common grace and gazing through the rosy spectacle of the three points, such a man shades his eyes with his hand and survey s the world about him. Much to his surprise, he finds in this world many things which are delightful. He spies men who do not love the truth and do not serve God busily engaged in doing many things which he himself would do. He sees the works of their hands as works in which he can very well participate. He sees the benign and loving disposition of God upon these men which gives him the courage to leave his position and go out among them. He may pause for a moment or two to read in his Bible once again, but he plainly finds that the objects of his observation refute the strong and careful language of Scripture that all that wicked men do is corrupt. And besides, he can easily quote some texts which he says support his observations.
The result of this survey of the world about him is that he begins to hate his isolation from this world and the narrow confines of his existence in the church of Jesus Christ. Since there is so much outside the church with which the church should agree, he immediately decides that the world is the place for him. Their works are his works, their goals are goals which he can embrace, their aims and purposes in life are aims and purposes which he can adopt. And so he sallies forth in the happiness that he need not live alone, but that after all, he can very well make friends with everyone about him.
And so we find this man in the midst of wicked man. He has joined their worldly organizations; he has taken up their aims in life; he has approved of their works and deeds; he has found fellowship with them. If there are certain things with which he cannot agree, he is after all in the strongest position possible to protest their actions and try to right what is wrong. And the longer he stays where he is, the quieter becomes his voice of protest , the less he disapproves of, the more becomes his area of agreement, the more he joins hands with them in their endeavors. And if you would tap him on the shoulder and ask him if perhaps he is not going rather far away from his position that he formerly held, from the truth which once he confessed, from the principles which once he maintained, then he will be quick to inform you that such is indeed not the case. He must make his gospel relevant for the times in which he lives, for he lives in the twentieth century and not in the first century of the year of our Lord. And besides, are not all these aims and endeavors worthy causes? Cannot you see all the good that he sees? If you do not, it is because you are bigoted and narrow minded, and have not the proper Calvinism in your soul.
And so we find such a man in all kinds of cooperative ventures with the world. He is a member of the union because the union seeks the good of the laboring man. He has joined many organizations which are trying to clean up the mess in the world economically, politically and socially, because these are after all worthy causes and causes which rightfully demand our attention and effort. We find him speaking also about his church of which he is a member – they should not be so strict in membership requirements, for by doing this they keep out many good people. They should relax their watch on worldliness, for much that was once considered worldly such as the movie, the dance, etc. are not worldly at all, but the fruits of common grace; and they ought to be recognized as such. They should be more willing to cooperate with all kinds of other denominations no matter what may be their confession because after all, these men also earnestly seek after the truth, and the mere fact that we do not always agree is not reason enough to point them to their error and insist on our own doctrinal standard. Maybe our confessions are too narrow and exclusive. We do not have a corner on the truth after all.
And so the doctrines of his church are toned down to meet his clamors, and more and more error is introduced as he persuades more and more people of the accuracy of his position.
His view of the world and of life is good and delightful! It is therefore his calling to participate with the world in all that it does which meets his perverted standards and seek their fellowship as much as possible. And while his own position crumbles more and more beneath his feet, the world grows stronger so that his protesting voice which once was heard yet a little is now silenced altogether, and he has entered the camp of the enemy to make common cause with them!
Such is the fruit of common grace. It can be no different.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 19 No. 5 June-July 1959