“Common Grace” and God’s Attitude Towards the Ungodly. . . .
This heading appeared on an article in a recent issue of De Refofmatie. As is known, the subject of “common grace” was among those which was being discussed in the Netherlands before the war, and that the Synod of Sneek-Utrecht also declared itself in respect to this theory. Since the Liberated Churches have separated themselves, this subject is still open for discussion amongst them. We are, of course, especially interested in this particular subject. The article referred to is signed C. V. and written, undoubtedly, by Prof. C. Veenhof of Kampen. We will attempt to translate and transcribe the article as literally as possible.
“Whoever has followed the discussion of the so-called “common grace” of “general grace” with any degree of interest, knows that in connection therewith the question has often arisen whether, relative to “common grace”, we have to do with a certain “attitude” of God, and naturally, favorable, in respect to all men, and more particularly towards the ungodly in this world and this dispensation.
“All those who are fundamentally reformed agree that there is in God an attitude of “grace”, and more particularly of “forgiving grace”, towards all the elect, and an attitude of “wrath”, and more particularly of absolute condemnatory wrath, towards all the reprobate. But now the question also arises: must we assume that there is, next to, or better, between these two, still a third attitude in God toward mankind. An attitude which, because it extends to all men and embraces all of mankind as such, can be called “general grace” or “general goodness” or “common grace”.
“If one accepts the position of such an “in-between-attitude” in God, then it must be maintained that a two-fold disposition of God is expressed to all men.” The elect partake of that grace—the special or forgiving grace—which is extended to them only. But besides this they also are partakers of the “general grace”, which extends to all men. And the reprobate, first of all stand under God’s eternal wrath, but they
likewise, also experience beside this the “general grace”.
“Concerning the question whether this “general grace” can be spoken of as such a “middle-attitude” in God, we wish to make a few remarks.
“If we desire to consider these questions in the light of Scripture, we must maintain, first of all, that God looks upon all His creatures as (qua) creatures with divine good-pleasure. God has eternal pleasure in the great and variegated work of His hands. He saw all that He had made and behold, it was very good.
“But it also true that men are never merely creatures and nothing more. Whoever speaks of men as creatures speaks of an abstraction, therefore. Men are always creatures who think, act, and live in a definite manner, and who, in that activity, assume a definite attitude toward God. They know and serve Him with a perfect heart and thereby embrace the covenant in which God will live with them, or—they reject and break it once and consequently, permanently.
“After the fall of Adam, all men are covenant-breakers, sinners, by nature, and as such all are turned into the way of destruction.
“But it has pleased God to elect unto salvation a certain number of men, not because they were better or more worthy than the others, for they lay with the others in a common misery, but out of pure grace and according to his own free and eternal good-pleasure.
“The result of this election is that there are now living in this world two specific groups of individuals. There are the elect, to whom God in Christ reveals His grace. These are the vessels of mercy that partake of God’s disposition of grace. And overagainst them are the reprobate, the vessels of wrath, towards whom God’s disposition of wrath is poured out unto eternal destruction.
“If we examine the dealing of God with these two groups of men, as it is revealed in the Holy Scripture, we find among the many other references also this, that on the one hand it is stated that God is kind (friendly, easy, good) towards the unthankful and evil.
“If, therefore, in the first instance we desire to speak of “general grace” or something of that nature, we should also speak of “general judgment” or “general wrath” in the second instance.
“The examination of these two pertinent expressions, which apparently belong on the same level, will make it easier for us to acquire the correct view of God’s goodness to the ungodly.
“We begin with the quotation from Peter concerning God’s judgment over believers.
“Analyzing what Prof. Greijdanus writes about this text in his commentary, we give the following summary of its meaning:
- Taken by itself and considered from the viewpoint of its origin all suffering of the creature is the operation of God’s wrath and judgment over sin.
- In the suffering of believers God executes His judgment over the sin which still is present with them.
- When “judgment” is spoken of here, reference is not thereby made to God’s motive in that which is called judgment, but it is called judgment because of its essential nature by itself.
- So understood, this judgment has for its purpose the sanctifying and purifying of believers, hence, it is subservient to the revelation and exaltation of God’s grace.
- This suffering—this judgment, therefore,—is but temporal; believers are only touched by “the beginning” of it.
- Considered from the viewpoint of God’s deepest motive therewith, and with an eye to its effect in the believers, this “beginning of judgment” is not judgment, not the imposition of punishment, but the revelation of God’s love, which purposes their salvation; seeking it and working it also through that which distresses ( ). Also this suffering is, therefore, grace for the believers. ‘The Lord Christ atoned for all their guilt and carried all their punishment, and therefore, took away all judgment for them’.”
(To be continued)