Common Grace is the idea that there is a measure of grace extended to everyone--common to all. Wikipedia defines it this way: "It is “common” because its benefits are experienced by, or intended for, the whole human race without distinction between one person and another. It is "grace" because it is undeserved and sovereignly bestowed by God. In this sense, it is distinguished from the Calvinistic understanding of "special" or "saving" grace, which extends only to those whom God has chosen to redeem." Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_grace
Last fall, a friend of my husband's recommended that he read Abraham Kuyper's book on Common Grace. So, I was excited to come across a new translation from Christian's Library Press titled Wisdom and Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art. Kuyper's book De Gemene Gratie was actually a large three volume work. There aren't any full translations of Kuyper's book into English, but the Acton Institute (which published this book) has embarked upon a project to fully translate this book. Wisdom and Wonder is the first selection from this project--it is two sections that were mistakenly omitted from the first edition of De Gemene Gratie and were added to a later edition.
Abraham Kuyper lived from 1837-1920. He founded a university and political party in the Netherlands. He also served as prime minister of that country for four years from 1901-1905. He believed strongly in the role and responsibility of Christians to be involved in the culture they live in.
Kuyper saw common Grace ..."(as) God's preserving work in the created order." Pg. 25 Interestingly, "Common grace is God's restraint of the full effects of sin after the Fall, preservation and maintenance of the created order, and distribution of talents to human beings." pg. 26 in the Introduction.
I believe it is very important to engage with the culture we live in--to not run away from science and art. Kuyper operated from a view of science that is different than our culture holds today. "Kuyper understood science in a broad sense to refer to something belonging to creation, something God made, to which the Creator assigned a unique calling." Pg. 20 Science came into being because of God, in Kuyper's view. How different that is than how we view it today! It is very easy to become cynical today and feel that what we do makes no difference in this world. But, we have to guard against cynicism. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves and for many that means being called to public service, the study of science, or the arts. We can glorify God in these occupations and in all our involvement in political and cultural domains. The goal of the translator and editors of this book is that it would whet people's appetites to care and engage with our culture.
So, I have to stop here and make a confession. I understood the Introduction and am so glad that I read it. I began reading Part One on Science, but stopped. It is too dense for me. My husband, though, read most of the book. My husband would say it isn't to dense for me--that I just need to work harder to understand it. I know he sincerely believes that I could process the writing in this book. But, God gives each of us different gifts and capabilities. I am thankful that when he reads a book like this one it makes a lot of sense to him and he retains the information. The problem for me is that in the midst of juggling all of my responsibilities to my family I don't have enough space, peace, and quiet to focus long enough to process this book and the deep theological and philosophical underpinnings and outworkings of the concept of common grace. This book is very dense, because Kuyper was a deep thinker who had a lot of valuable thoughts to share.
If you are interested in Kuyper's ideas and want to learn more, I'd suggest you read a preview of the book on Amazon. I do think this book is more readable than a lot of theology books I've tried.
I am glad the Acton Institute cares about our culture and is actively seeking to promote the ideas that will give people ammunition to fight the growing cynicism of our culture towards helping others and engaging with the political and cultural realms of where they live. If you would like to learn more about the Acton Institute, please go HERE.
Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Christian's Library Press.