Dr. Schilder on Common Grace

At the occasion of the transfer of rectorship of the Theological School of the Reformed Churches (Art. 31), Dr. K. Schilder delivered a speech on the subject:

“Is het gebruik van den term algemeene genade wetenschappelijk verantwoord?” (Is the use of the term common grace scientifically justified?).

From a clipping out of “De Rotterdammer” of Dec. 7, which a brother sent us we are able to give the following summary of the speech:


For those of our readers that cannot read the Holland, we briefly note the following:

Dr. Schilder answered the question proposed in the subject of his speech negatively. In the course of his discussion he remarked that the continuity of time and history cannot be called grace of God, and in this connection he treated the concepts “curse” and “blessing”. He opposed the views of Dr. H. Bavinck and Dr. A. Kuyper. He also denied that the so-called postponement and mollification of God’s judgment could be called grace: God’s fierce wrath was revealed from the beginning in the summons and expulsion from Paradise of Adam. He also criticized the “First Point” of Kalamazoo 1924 (not 1926; they still have the dates wrong in the old country), particularly the statement that there is “a favorable attitude (disposition) of God toward all creatures.” And he finally offered the following propositions: 1. God deals with every creature according to his nature; 2. There is neither indifferent grace nor indifferent wrath; 3. God’s grace with respect to every man is determined by predestination, by election as well as by reprobation; 4. We must free ourselves from Romish and Arminian terminology. 5. Relinquishing the attempt to bring under a common denominator what God has joined together, “wrath and grace”, we must condescend to things of low degree.

To this we add:

  1. That we would like to have an opportunity to read the speech in its entirety. The above is after all only an excerpt composed by a reporter of “De Rotterdammer”. If the speech is to be published we would like to receive a copy.
  2. That we are glad that the question of “common grace” is not entirely lost sight of, but also receives some attention. Hitherto the subject of the covenant absorbed virtually all the interest in the recent controversy in the Netherlands. We also rejoice that there is development in the right direction, and that, although in the above speech the problem as a whole was not treated, the truth that God’s grace cannot be common begins to receive recognition. It is interesting, in connection with this change for the better, to dig into the past, to consult the old Standard Bearers, and to compare what was written then with the present. In 1930 we expressed the hope that the time might come when, also in the old country, the theory of common grace would totter on its imaginary foundation, because it does not fit into the system of Reformed truth. At that time, however, Dr. Schilder, at that time minister in Delftshaven, could still write: (DUTCH REMOVED). That is: “If it be true that someone alleges that the doctrine of common grace is no longer recognized as a generally accepted truth in the Netherlands, I believe that a simple contradiction is sufficient.” Standard Bearer, Vol. VI, No. 9. Compare this statement with the present views of Dr. Schilder as expressed in his speech in the Theological School, and you will agree that there is a change for the better, development in the right direction. In this we rejoice.

That same year, Dr. Schilder wrote in De Reformatie, in reply to a question of undersigned concerning his, Dr. Schilder’s, conception of curse and blessing: (DUTCH REMOVED) That is: “The paper (The Standard Bearer, H.H.) must not forget that I made a distinction between ‘blessing’ in general and ‘blessing’ in the particular sense, even as, in fact, the essence of the church—I spoke of blessing in the church—differs from the sphere in which common grace operates.” In the same reply, he emphasizes that his own views are far different from those of The Standard Bearer, and he does not in any sense concur with them: “dat ik met de opvattingen van genoemd orgaan in geenen deele meega.” Idem, Vol. VI, No. 11.

     3. That our chief objection to the “First Point” of Kalamazoo, 1924, is not against the statement that there is a favorable disposition of God towards His creatures in general. This could be understood in a good sense, if taken with reference to creation organically. It is rather: 1. Against the implication that in “creatures in general” the reprobate are included; and 2. Against the application of this error to the preaching of the gospel, conceived as a “well-meaning offer of salvation on the part of God to all.”

     4.  That we wonder in how far the Reformed Churches (Art. 31) in general digest and accept the views now propounded by Dr. Schilder as in the above mentioned speech; and also how they will ultimately harmonize this with the Heynsian conception of the covenant so generally adopted by them. To me it seems that the two are diametrically opposed.

     5. Finally, that I missed, in Dr. Schilder’s speech, at least in the report of “De Rotterdammer”, mention of the Protestant Reformed Churches, and of what has been developed by them in respect to the theory of common grace. After all, it was not in the Netherlands but in America that the eyes were opened for the error and danger of the philosophy of common grace, that it received a very thorough thrashing, and that the organic-antithetical conception was developed over against it. For our denial of common grace and our attack upon the philosophy of Dr. Kuyper we were ridiculed and reviled as heretics, also in the Netherlands. It will seem quite understandable that, now opinions begin to change in our direction, we would, at least, like to be mentioned whenever the question of common grace is broached. After all, no one has ever offered a more thorough criticism of common grace than what is found in “Van Zonde en Genade.” And to date, no complete, synthetic conception of the matter involved in the philosophy of common grace has been offered outside of that which was developed by us. We care not much for personal honor when the truth is concerned; but, on the other hand, we will not be ignored.


Our readers, no doubt, remember that some time ago, in connection with the proposed coming of the Rev. D. Van Dijk, pastor of the Reformed Church (Art. 31) of Groningen, to this country, we wrote a little editorial entitled “Give Him A Hearing”.

That article was read by several ministers of the “Liberated Churches” in the old country. It was translated and published in “De Vrije Kerk,” one of the organs of the liberated group. No doubt, therefore, they know that their representative will be welcome to speak in our churches, if he comes.

Resides, several months ago, I wrote a letter to Dr. Schilder, assuring him that, whether the Rev. Van Dijk or he himself would come, we would take care that they should have opportunity to speak.

But I never received a reply, not on my article, nor to my personal letter,

Now, it is not our intention to impose our hospitality on anyone. Rut the question naturally arises: what is wrong? Why do the brethren of the Reformed Churches (Art. 31) not make use of the opportunity offered them? Would they rather receive an invitation from the Christian Reformed Churches, and are they still in hope that they will receive one? Or are they afraid to make use of the opportunity we offered them, because we stand opposed to their presentation of the covenant? The latter might, indeed, be the case. They all know our stand, by this time, in the Reformed Churches in The Netherlands. My brochure “De Geloovigen en Hun Zaad” has been rather generally distributed. Moreover, ministers of the Reformed Churches (Art. 31) write me that it has been and is being discussed, and favorably received by the “synodicals”. Dr. Rerkhouwer quoted from it. “De Strijdende Kerk” discusses it. (Will someone in the old country have the courtesy to send me a copy of those papers?). One pastor wrote me recently that my name makes headlines in the papers of the “synodicals”. Is this the reason why they hesitate to make use of the opportunity to speak in our churches? Let me, then, clearly state our position once more:

  1. We do not and never will agree with the covenant conception of the Reformed Churches (Art. 31). But we are not afraid of public discussion. Come and speak, and offer debate. You will have complete freedom of speech, provided you give opportunity for discussion.
  2. We stand radically opposed to the hierarchical church-polity of the synodicals, and believe that gross injustice has been committed by them.
  3. We like to have you come here to represent your cause. If the Christian Reformed Churches had opened their doors to you, we would not have interfered. But seeing that they definitely closed their doors, we will be glad to offer you the opportunity you seek. And Mr. Van Spronsen can assure you of a hearty welcome, even though we are at odds in dogmatics.

Now, will someone at least give me some kind of an answer?