Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Herman Bavinck on Common Grace in Humanity

But of even greater significance is it that with Calvin reprobation does not mean the withholding of all grace. Although man through sin has been rendered blind to all the spiritual realities of the kingdom of God, so that a special revelation of God's fatherly love in Christ and a specialis illuminato (special illumination) by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the sinners become necessary, nevertheless there exists alongside of these a generalis gratia (general grace) which dispenses to all men various gifts. If God had not spared man, his fall would have involved the whole of nature in ruin. As it was, God immediately after the Fall interposed, in order by His common grace to curb sin and to uphold in being the universitas rerum (the universality of things). For after all sin is rather an adventitia qualitas (foreign quality) than a substanialis proprietas (substantial property), and for this reason God is operis sui corruptioni magis infensus quam operi suo (greatly offended by the corruption of His work?). Although for man's sake the whole of nature is subject to vanity, nevertheless nature is upheld by the hope which God implanted in its heart. There is no part of the world in which some spark of the divine glory does not glimmer. Though it be a metaphorical mode of expression, since God should not be confounded with nature, it may be affirmed in a truly religious sense that nature is God. Heaven and earth with their innumerable wonders are a magnificent display of the divine wisdom.

Especially the human race is still a clear mirror of the operation of God, an exhibition of His manifold gifts. In every man there is still a seed of religion, a consciousness of God, wholly ineradicable, convincing all of the heavenly grace on which their life depends, and leading even the heathen to name God the Father of  mankind. The supernatural gifts have been lost, and the natural gifts have become corrupted, so that man by nature no longer knows who and what God seeks to be to him. Still these latter gifts have not been withdrawn entirely from man. Reason and judgment and will, however corrupt, yet, in so far as they belong to man's nature, have not been wholly lost. The fact that men are found either wholly or in part deprived of reason proves that the title to these gifts is not self-evident and that they are not distributed to men on the basis of merit. None the less, the grace of God imparts them to us.

... It is true the Holy Spirit as a spirit of sanctification dwells in believers only, but as a spirit of life, of wisdom and of power He works also in those who do not believe.

Excerpted from Herman Bavinck's article, "Calvin and Common Grace"
SourceThe Princeton Theological Review, Vol. 7, No. 3 (1909), pp. 453-455, the parenthetical translations of Latin terms and bold emphasis are mine.
NOTE: I make no claim to a great understanding of Latin. If a reader can confirm or improve my translation of the phrase, operis sui corruptioni magis infensus quam operi suo, please feel free to share your insights.

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