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His Dualistic-Synthetic Conception of History

To attempt a comprehensive criticism of Kuyper’s Stone-Lectures, with some regard to details in an article of five typewritten pages would be preposterous. These lectures cover every subject in the encyclopedia, of human knowledge. And what is more the author’s conception of Christian Encyclopedia is presupposed throughout. To understand these lectures one must bear in mind that they were written in maturer years of Kuyper’s life and that they give in abbreviated form his entire Life-and-World-View.

Should we voice our objections against the various elements with which we take issue in these lectures, without attempting to point out what to our mind is the basis error of the author, we would run a twofold risk. The first is of a formal nature. Because of the limitation of space allotted us. We could at best offer mere catalogization of our criticisms. The second is more serious. We would fail to see the real issue because we had lost ourself in the variety of issues. This is our criticism of a great many of the criticisms that have been given of these lectures.

In consideration of the foregoing we will limit our criticism to what we consider the underlying, unbiblical error in Kuyper’s conception; which in this case is tantamount to the basic error of the “common grace” hypothesis.

This basic error of the author in the interpretation of the history, the world and of mankind is, that it is: dualistic-synthetic.

Indeed this is a serious accusation, which places a twofold duty upon our shoulders in this writing. 1. To carefully define our terms, lest we perhaps misrepresent the late Dr. Kuyper’s views, or that we be not mistakenly understood as doing such. 2. To show, in as far as this is possible within the allotted space that this is indeed the error of the author.

We said that Kuyper’s view of history was dualistic. What do we imply with this? We do not refer in thus judging of Kuyper’s conception to the Mythological dualism held by the Persian philosophers, who maintained the existence of a good principle and an evil principle, and who thus explained the mixed state of the things of this present world, such things as, sickness and health, poverty and riches, want and abundance, evil and virtue. This was the philosophy revived by Gnosticism in the early church and was also the error of Manicheanism against which Augustine militated. To represent Kuyper as having advocated this dualism would be unfactual.

There is another dualistic conception to which Kuyper’s view approaches. This is the dualistic conception which holds that the world came into being and is preserved by the concurrence of two principles equally necessary, independent and eternal. We said that Kuyper’s view approaches this. Yet there are some very important modifications to notice. His dualistic view does not postulate two philosophic and abstractly conceived concurrent principles which are eternal. This is evident from the fact that according to eternal principles there is no Creation in the Scriptural sense neither is there a possibility of providence. The only thing there can possibly be is Pantheism. Even though as we shall presently point out, Kuyper’s view is dualistic and has the appearance of this dualism it differs in these following respects:

1.  The author of the Stone-lectures holds to the confession that the origin of the world is out of the one creative will of God.

2.  It is his conviction that the world’s preservation (providence) is also by the one will of Almighty God. All Pantheistic dualism denies these two fundamental points of confession.

3.  Kuyper further believes that all things were created good, both creaturely and ethically.

4.  Sin according to Kuyper entered into the world by the disobedience of one man.

We believe that these four factors distinguish the view of Kuyper from heathenistic and modernistic Pantheism.

Kuyper’s dualism begins historically after the good world has fallen through the sin and disobedience of Adam in Paradise. He postulates two concurrent principles in the history of a fallen world: the history of fallen mankind. The two concurrent principles are “common grace” and “saving grace”. And the fruit of these two kinds of grace, thus Kuyper, is a twofold positive development in the history of the world. The one proceeding from saving grace is the one in the church which ends in the final glory of the sons of adoption. The other proceeding from common grace guarantees a positive good development of mankind as such. Thus there is a dualism of principle in the world—both working positive good. The one is stronger and more enduring than the other, to be sure, being regenerative, but the other is positively good being restraintive of the same evil which in regeneration is completely overcome.

It is also well to take notice of the fact that common grace, according to Kuyper is strictly speaking, not the same as providence, the preservation of what God has once creatively called into existence. According to him common grace is the restraintive influence in the element of “government” in providence. And this government of providence does not touch the whole of created things, but only the rational beings. Thus he teaches in his Dictaten Dogmatiek, Locus De Providentia, p. 94. The same presentation may be found in his “Gemeene Gratie”, pp. 380, 596, 600, 601. Instructive on this score is also what one reads in “Van Zonde En Genade” pp. 106, 107, by H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema.

In the Stone-lectures it is especially the element of the positively good development of mankind as such that is placed on the foreground. This the reader can assure himself of once more by reading our first article in the Nov. 1 issue of the Standard Bearer. In fact Kuyper tells us: “The chief purpose of my lecturing in this country was, to eradicate the wrong idea, that Calvinism represented an exclusively dogmatical and ecclesiastical movement.” p. 231. Calvinism is also ecclesiastical, it also follows the line of saving grace, but that is not the whole story. There is besides this also another aspect of Calvinism and that is the positively good development in the world as world of mankind.

This dualism is reflected in all of Kuyper’s later works. It is the ever-recurring theme in his Dictaten Dogmatiek. One finds it in the following Loci: De Providentia, De Peccato (concerning sin) De Feedere (concerning the Covenant) De Magistratu (concerning the magistrates). In a word in all the subjects treated both in “Calvinism” and in his “Dictaten Dogmatiek”. And this dualism is reflected finally in his Locus De Consummatione Saeculi. Also here Kuyper speaks of the two lines in history. The one is “Creatio, de Anthropologic and de Harmartollogie (doctrine of sin) met haar gevolgen in de “miseria et mors” (misery and death) cm op de lijn der gratie ligt de locus de Christo, De Salute (applied salvation) de Ecclesia.” We said this dualism is reflected here, although it should be obvious: that it is not directly taught.

What is most obvious is that Kuyper fails to bring this dualism to a unity of Conception. This is as clear as the day when one asks the question: Is there really a Consummation of this high development of mankind as mankind! Where is the ripened fruit? What happens to all the high development of mankind? For according to Kuyper it is positive development of the human race.

As for the “Future” of Common Grace Calvinism, Kuyper is pessimistic. It has stopped at the western banks of this American continent. “The one world- stream, broad and fresh” Where does it empty its final content? Kuyper does not tell us. Why not? He cannot. Mankind as such has not Consummation! The purely “secularized world” God will destroy.

But we are anticipating. Let us return to our subject.

Kuyper isnot afraid to draw this dualistic line all the way. This means that in the fundamental and primordial threefold relationship of God, fellowman and creation there is in both lines a positive good. Not merely in the realm of God’s special grace of the regenerated man; the renewed man who stands in the proper relationship to God, his neighbor and his possessions. Not at all! In the world of unregenerated man, there is a positive good in all these fundamental relationships!

1.  In the restrained sinner’s relationship to God. Hence as a religious being there is something good. There is in fallen man still the “semen religionis” (seed of religion) and the sensus divinus (the sense of God). For there is the light of the Logos in every man! To quote Kuyper: “To be sure there is a concentration of religious light and life in the church, but then in the walls of this church, there are wide open windows, and the light of the eternal has to radiate over the whole world. Here is a city (common grace, G.L.) which every man can see from afar. Here is the holy salt that penetrates in every direction (common grace, G.L.) checking all corruption.” p. 63, “Calvinism”.

2.  Also in man’s relationship to his fellowman. Not merely the reborn child of God. But the man who is under the operation of the restraint of sin. Of him it can be said as put by Bancroft: “The fanatic for Calvinism was a fanatic for liberty, for in the moral warfare for freedom, his creed was a part of his army, and his most faithful ally in the battle.” Hence it follows that here also mankind is in a stage of positive development.

3.  Finally in the unregenerate man’s relationship to the world, that is, in Science and art. This is the stand of Kuyper in Lectures! IV and V.

What must we say of this? The language here is most confusing, but when read in the broad context of all the lectures it is clear that we here have a basis of common activity for believers and non-believers alike. In politics, religion, science and art! And thus this dualism of two concurrent graces we have a perfect synthesis between the world and the church, between “Jerusalem” and “Athens”!

What our reaction toward this is land our evaluation in the light of the Scriptural and Calvinistically Confessional doctrine of the total depravity of man? If this language must of the twofold graces with its resultant conception must be taken seriously all it can mean is that the writer has taken the stand of Pelagianism! This World of mankind as such is then not wholly evil! And as far as the dualistic conception is concerned it is nothing else but the conclusion of Roman Catholicism in its doctrine of the Superadditum and that of fallen man “in puris naturalibus”. Certainly, the way in which Kuyper and Rome arrive at this conclusion differs. But the final result is the same.

And this also we cannot but observe. The positive good world of Kuyper in its development of religion, politics, science and art and that of the humanistic cannot possibly differ. Both speak of the upward development of mankind. No humanist has any objection to this Calvinism of Kuyper. One may object and say Kuyper wanted it all to God’s glory, and that the humanist objects to. I answer that this latter remains but an empty phrase somewhat lamely appended, for it does not follow from his conception!

The following from Lecture IV: “Calvinism and Science” is from Kuyper’s pen: “It was perceived, on the contrary, that for God’s sake, our attention may not be withdrawn from the life of nature and creation; the study of the body regained its place of honor beside the study of the soul; and the social organization of mankind on earth was again looked upon as being as well (worthy an object of human science as the congregation of the perfect saints in heaven. This also explains the close relationship existing between Calvinism (the Common Grace brand, G. L.) and Humanism. In as far as humanism endeavored to substitute life in this world for the eternal, every Calvinist opposed the Humanist. But in as, much as the Humanist con tented himself with a plea for a proper acknowledgement of secular life, the Calvinist was his proper ally.”

Now Kuyper separated life in the world from the principle of regeneration. He did not substitute it. In actual fact both Humanism and Common Grace Calvinism are the same. Only this Calvinism is, far more dangerous than the outright humanism for it carries a misleading title!

Instead of this dualistic-Synthetic conception we would advocate the organic unity of the human race. Take the position that every creature of God is good. And that in this good world (Creation-creature hood) both the unbeliever and the believer live from two antithetically different principles-. Thus the battle of all ages is in this (world. And the regenerated new man looks in hope for the time when what he now claims in faith, may be shown to be his in very deed. This is the difficult way of faith, but it is the way of God.

This is not the position of Anabaptistic Manichean dualism (see above) neither the Kuyperian concurrency of two good principles, but all things indeed for the King. Whether we eat or drink, do it unto the Lord. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected when taken with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer!