Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Admirability of the Manifestations of Common Grace

"Whenever we come upon these matters in secular writers, let that admirable light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God's excellent gifts. If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God. For by holding the gifts of the Spirit in slight esteem, we condemn and reproach the Spirit Himself. What then? Shall we deny that the truth shone upon the ancient jurists who established civic order and discipline with such great equity? Shall we say that the philosophers were blind in their fine observation and artful description of nature? Shall we say that those men were devoid of understanding who conceived the art of disputation and taught us to speak reasonably? Shall we say that they are insane who developed medicine, devoting their labor to our benefit? No, we cannot read the writings of the ancients on these subjects without great admiration. We marvel at them because we are compelled to recognize how eminent they are.

But shall we count anything praiseworthy or noble without recognizing at the same time that it comes from God? Let us be ashamed of such ingratitude, into which not even the pagan poets fell, for they confessed that the gods had invented philosophy, laws, and all useful arts. Those men whom Scripture calls 'natural men' were, indeed, sharp and penetrating in their investigation of inferior things. Let us, accordingly, learn by their example how many gifts the Lord left to human nature even after it was despoiled of its true good.

John Calvin, Institutes, 2.2.15.

It is the duty of the Christian to recognize, to appreciate, and to give God glory for the many manifestations of His common grace, even though these come through the efforts of the unregenerate. In any field of endeavor, excellence and achievement evince the favor of God, though that not necessarily being of the redemptive kind.

But while this is true, Scripture admonishes us towards the exercise of discernment. It is one thing to recognize the hand of the Spirit of God in cultural and worldly conquests, and another to be taken captive by the "hollow and deceptive" philosophies of this passing age. The redemptive revelation of God can never be found in the formulations of darkened minds, though modern Evangelicalism has seemingly gone out of its way to employ precisely these formulations in the way it presents its understanding of God and reality.

The truth which describes the bridging of the gap between God and man can be found in no other place than the special revelation of God in Scripture through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is this truth that the Holy Spirit utilizes to effect that radical transformation involving the refashioning of the human heart into the likeness of Christ. This is foolishness to the man steeped in the world's "wisdom", and yet it pleased the Lord to save His elect through the utter incomprehensibility of the proposition.

So let us, as Christians, become masters of the arts and sciences. Let us be the pundits of history, philosophy, and the languages, knowing full well that He is the same God we serve and worship who is the bestower of these good gifts to both the beloved and the damned.

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