Although our topic presents a double subject, the reader will understand that it cannot be our purpose to write first about Modern War and then about Common Grace. The purpose is, rather, to view the one in the light of the other, that is, to view the theory of Common Grace in the light of Modern War. More specifically, we have been set to the task of showing the untenable position of those who hold to the theory of common grace, when we regard that theory in the light of the great conflict which is raging in the world today.
The reader will undoubtedly understand that by speaking of the theory of common grace, we have already formed a judgment of this concept which serves as a basis of procedure. By the use of the word theory we have already expressed that that which is called “common grace” is according to our conviction not a Scriptural truth but a theory of man’s wisdom and philosophy. It is not to be expected that, in this article, we should first prove the error of the theory of common grace in the light of the Word of God. It would be foolish to attempt to do that in this one article and still expect to be able to say something about the subject proper; nor is that necessary since so much has already been written to that effect, land, since our history as Protestant Reformed Churches is vitally connected with the rejection of this error. Hence, in this article we proceed from the assumption that “Common Grace” is a theory of man’s invention and not a Scriptural truth. And the purpose of our article will be to show that this theory is also untenable in the light of this present modern war in which the whole world is engaged.
Now, the theory of common grace holds that, through the gracious activity of God’s Spirit there is still some good left in the unregenerated man, so that he is not wholly cast away by God but, as long as he remains in this earth, is still the object of God’s love and mercy, and since through the gracious operation of God’s Spirit in his heart sin is restrained in him, he is able, through the operation of that same Spirit, to produce much that is still pleasing to God. The practical import of this teaching is:
1) That the unregenerated sinner is still the object of God’s love and therefore receives from ‘ God many blessings in this life;
2) That, on the part of God, there is a restraining activity upon the heart and mind of the unregenerated man, so that sin does not develop as fast as it otherwise would;
3) That, consequently, the reprobate sinner, in this life, is not always the object of God’s constant wrath and punishing judgments;
4) That, because of the operation of God’s Spirit, the sinner is able to live a virtuous life and can do much that is pleasing to God.
Of course, much could be added to the above paragraph, but we believe that this is sufficient to give a workable basis for the discussion of our subject. We should not forget that there are many who hold that the above is true, that it is based upon the Word of God and was confessed by our Reformed fathers. It was also because of our refusal to acknowledge that as the truth that we were cast out of their fellowship and exist today as a separate denomination. In this light it will be understood that our subject is of a controversial nature. If it were not for the fact that many people of God are being led astray today by that error, we, on our part would feel no need at all of writing on this subject. It stands to reason that, since we do not believe in common grace, this present war presents no problems to us in that respect. Actually, therefore, the burden of proof in this discussion lies with the opposition. We cannot escape the thought that it would be interesting to read some literature on his subject by those who hold to this theory.
Since we do not hold to the teachings of common grace we cannot very well approach our subject from the point of view of the question: does modern war lend any support to the theory of common grace? To that question we would answer an unequivocal NO. To the contrary, we are of the opinion that modern war plainly disproves that theory and also shows that in practical reality there is no basis for it.
The question before which we must place ourselves is, therefore, in which way does modern war disprove the teaching of common grace? Wherein does it become apparent that such a reality as our present conflict denies the possibility of holding this view? How does modern war contradict the teaching of common grace?
In answering this question we must first understand what war actually is according to the Word of God. Now, there can be no doubt but what everyone will agree that war is the result of sin and stands very closely related to the fact of sin. This appears both from the description of the first paradise, before sin entered the world, as well as from the description of the new heavens and earth where there will be perfect peace. James also ascribes war to sin in James 4:1-4. “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God,” In the light of this passage there can be no doubt but what war is the result of sin and that it is the judgment of God upon the sinner. The deepest cause of all war lies in the fact that man has turned away from the living God Who alone is God and has become the enemy of God. Sinful man cannot experience God’s friendship for God hates that which is opposed to Him and visits His wrath upon all them that hate Him. There surely is no need to prove this from the Scriptures, we all know that the Psalms are full of that. That war is a judgment of God is slain also from the fact that time and again God would punish Israel by bringing the armies of the heathen against them. Moreover, among the judgments which preened the coming of Christ, and also serve as signs of His coming, is mentioned “wars and rumors of wars”, of which Christ Himself said that this was only the beginning of sorrows.
There have always been wars, almost as long as the world has existed. And war has always been terrible. Still, there has never been a war like this present world-war which commands all continents, all races, all walks of life, all spheres of life, all man’s powers, talents and productivity. The weapons of destruction have been increased, their power has been multiplied, so that today man is able to kill more and destroy more in a given amount of time than ever before. Death reigns on the land, on the sea and in the air. Surely no one will deny that there has been a rapid ‘development in this respect in recent years. There is therefore every reason to believe that rather than restrain the awful power of sin, God is causing it to develop very rapidly. One must certainly look in vain Tor any evidence of the restraining activity of God’s Spirit in the world today. All the knowledge of science and invention, man employs in the service of death and destruction. He lusts and desires to have and he devises ways and means to rob and plunder. He kills, he loves to kill, he desires to kill as much as he can. He seeks to instill in all the spirit of hatred and revenge. We must hate our enemies, we must hate with all that is in us. We must not become weak and overlook the enemies’ crimes; we must not show him any mercy but we must hate and kill, we must take our revenge. Such is the philosophy of our military leaders today. Our boys must learn to hate and the more they hate the better soldiers they will be.
In the light of these things we have mentioned, and there are many more, it would seem impossible to maintain the truth of the theory of common grace. Surely, no one would maintain that this present war is the result of God’s blessings upon the ungodly; nor could it hardly be the manifestation of God’s favor for the wicked. And what will one do with the idea of God’s restraining Spirit? Is this war the result of that restraining activity of God’s Spirit? How must that be explained?
We are convinced that anyone will have a difficult task to maintain the teachings of common grace in the light of modern war. We believe that it disproves that theory altogether. This present war, as a means of judgment in the band of God, teaches us that God us wroth with the wicked and that He hates all the workers of iniquity and will requite them. Also we, as children of God, have deserved to perish in those judgments of God because of our sins and iniquities. And herein do we perceive the love of God, that for His Own Name’s sake, He has given us His only begotten Son that through Him we might escape His punishing wrath and ‘have eternal life. By His grace, God makes us His friends through Jesus Christ our Lord. And now in the midst of war and desolation, which is but the beginning of sorrows, He grants us the peace that passeth understanding in the knowledge of His love.
This present modern war teaches you and me that God’s grace is very particular, that it is bestowed upon those that fear Him and call upon His Name. And by that grace we are protected in the midst of, and ’saved through the very means of, the judgments of God, this present war.