Protestant Reformed Faith - Common Grace

ERROR OF COMMON GRACE

Click here for published materials on Common Grace

The doctrine of common grace is a doctrine that was developed in the lat 1800's and early 1900's by Abraham Kuyper and eventually adopted by the Christian Reformed Church. This erroneous doctrine can be explained in three points.

1. God as a favorable attitude toward all sinners, showing favor and grace to all his creatures in general.
2. God, by the Holy Spirit, without renewing the heart of man, restrains the impeding breaking out of sin so that human life in society remains possible.
3. Those sinners who are unbelievers are capable of doing civil good by the influence and grace of God, without God renewing the heart of those unbelieving sinners.

The RFPA refutes this erroneous doctrine, instead proclaiming the undisputable doctrine of sovereign particular grace. Grace is the attribute of God whereby first he loves himself and desires his own glory, which is then shown in his speech and actions toward his people. Grace is never general or common. Rather, God grants his sovereign, particular grace only to his elect according to his own sovereign will. God's grace is revealed as undeserved favor in the salvation of his people, so that they may become like him and find favor with him. Grace is never conditioned by faith, but is always sovereign, powerful, irresistible, and effective to the salvation of God's people in Christ. (Romans 8:28-29, Ephesians 1:3-14). Read more about sovereign particular grace here.

Read more about the distinctive Reformed view of the error of sovereign grace in this excerpt from the fourth chapter of For Thy Truth's Sake by Herman Hanko.

When Herman Hoeksema attempted to find one doctrine which, more than other, defined the beginning of the PRC (Protestant Reformed Churches), he found it in the truth of the particular grace of God. That issue stood out clearly in 1925 when the PRC began. It remains a distinguishing mark of the churches today. Those who teach that grace is not particular, but common, believe that God's grace is shown to all men. The PRC believe that Scripture and the Reformed Confessions teach that God's grace is for His people only and that the wicked never receive so much as an ounce of grace...

This very name "common grace" indicates that those who hold to this view believe that the grace of God is "common" or general, that is, that grace is for all men. God shows His grace to all men without exception. This is what the CRC approved as official doctrine when it adopted the three points of common grace.

Because of the grace of God in God's favor and blessing, God is favorable disposed to all men. He looks with kindness and good will upon all men without distinction. He is favorable disposed to every one. His face smiles with pleasure towards all men. But, because God's attributes are all one, the attribute of grace includes man other attributes, which the defenders of common grace used at random and as being synonymous with grace. They spoke of God's benevolence and kindness, of God's love and mercy, of God's goodness and loving kindness - all in the same breath, as it were. All these attributes of God are shown to all men without distinction (according to the doctrine of common grace)...

The blessings of God upon all men are of various kinds, according to those who held these views. They include the good things in the creation, rain, sunshine, plentiful harvests, prosperity, health, a good family, and all such things as are pleasant and to be desired in this world...

More explicitly, common grace was connected with God's work of salvation in the well-meant offer of the gospel, of which the first point made mention. In fact, the first point appealed to the well-meant offer of the gospel as an evidence of God's favor and grace toward all men.

The point is important enough to take special note of. The well-meant offer of the gospel means that God desires and intends to save all who hear the gospel. That desire of God is God's common grace, or general attitude of favor to all. But common grace itself cannot save. Nevertheless, though it cannot save, it is indicative of God's intent to save all who hear...

The position which the PRC took with respect to the gifts of God was sometimes misinterpreted by the defenders of common grace. No one among those who denied common grace ever so much as hinted that the gifts of God to men were bad gifts, as some defenders of common grace claimed. Everyone agreed that God gives men only good gifts. Not only does Scripture teach this, but various passages even emphasize this. Psalm 73, it was pointed out, clearly states, in the complaint of Asaph, that the wicked have more of these earthly things, which common grace called blessings, than God's people. God never gives bad gifts. When God gives the wicked the things of His creation, He gives good gifts because he is the overflowing fountain of all good and because "ever good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." (James 1:17)

 

 
For information on our Doctrines click on the following links