Herman Hoeksema's View of Common Grace

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by chatwithstumac, Mar 19, 2015.

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  1. chatwithstumac

    chatwithstumac Puritan Board Freshman

    Does anyone have a cliff note version on Herman Hoeksema's view of Common Grace? I've heard he is anti-common grace. It that true and why?

    By His Grace,
  2. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    For starters, he was reacting with the 3 points on common grace of the CRC. I think he had some valid points, because the common grace views in the CRC certainly took them down a bad path. You can find lots of articles from various PR sites. Here are the 3 points:

  3. mgkortus

    mgkortus Puritan Board Freshman

    This is an important point. Hoeksema's strong criticism against common grace stems from the CRC's teaching that common grace was saving in nature. However, Abraham Kuyper, who developed the doctrine of common grace, used two different dutch words to distinguish between saving grace and common grace. The the three points of common grace fail to maintain this distinction.

    All that said, from my reading, I believe Hoeksema rejects common grace, even if defined as not containing salvation. Common grace teaches a favorable disposition of God to all men. Hoeksema asserts that God is not and cannot be favorable to the reprobate. All the "good things" he gives to them by his providence are meant only to further condemn them.

    That said, I believe some use the terms common grace and providence interchangeably. From a human perspective, God's providence to all men may appear as though he is blessing them. However, Hoeksema would argue that this not because of grace or favor from God.

    So, yes - Hoeksema is anti-common grace. But especially, when implied in one's flavor of common grace is the idea of salvation.
  4. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    After think about this for a long while I have come to the conclusion that grace not only affects [edit] the amount of reward in heaven but also lessens the degree of punishment in hell. This is taught in the WCF.

    VII. Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others:[23] yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith;[24] nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word;[25] nor to a right end, the glory of God,[26] they are therefore sinful and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God:[27] and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God.[28]

    The abouve is "common" to all men who are unregenerate.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2015
  5. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    Isn't he part of the Protestant Reformed Church? They lean high Calvinist and I believe reject the free offer so it only makes sense they would deny that God has any 'common grace' for all other people outside of the elect.
  6. mgkortus

    mgkortus Puritan Board Freshman

    Yes - he was a member of the PRC and a professor at the seminary.
    Yes - His rejection of common grace and his rejection of the well-meant offer go hand in hand. In both instances, there is a favorable disposition from God to the reprobate. Hoeksema denies this as a possibility.
  7. Nate

    Nate Puritan Board Junior

    Here is a pamphlet by Hoeksema summarizing his objections to common grace: A Triple Breach in the Foundation of the Reformed Truth
  8. Ryan J. Ross

    Ryan J. Ross Puritan Board Freshman


    Where in the WCF is the teaching on "lesser degrees of punishment in hell" in reference to grace? Also, should "effects" be "affects"? I do not want to misunderstand the meaning of your post.
  9. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    In the below we see the WCF is speaking of "unregenerate men". Now to draw the conclusion that some of these men will end up in hell (unelect) the confession states what is "more sinful". So when the unregenerate unelect man ends up in hell they will find the punishment worse because they neglected what God commanded (that is common grace) which is "more sinful" vs. those who did performe the works God commanded (once again common grace) will be punished less severly.

    VII. Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others:[23] yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith;[24] nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word;[25] nor to a right end, the glory of God,[26] they are therefore sinful and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God:[27] and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God.[28]

    Also you are correct it is affects not effects. :)
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2015
  10. mgkortus

    mgkortus Puritan Board Freshman

    What do you mean that common grace is what God commands? Wouldn't common grace be the power by which an unregenerate man does what God commands. I don't understand the idea of God commanding common grace…

    Doesn't this portion of WCF state that even by doing works that God commanded, that the unregenerate does not make himself meet to receive grace from God?
  11. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Man either knows what he ought to do, which includes both what God revealed in scripture and or by the conscience. The commands in scriprture are gracious, as is the conscience that every man has by His grace.
    The confession says that if man does not do what is commanded it is more sinful, implying that if they do what is commanded it is less sinful. Also God is not obligated by any man to give any grace. :)
  12. Nate

    Nate Puritan Board Junior

    I am not nearly as familiar with the WCF as most members of this board. Is this the common interpretation of this portion of the WCF? Especially with respect to your statement that the commands are gracious?
  13. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I would say it is more common among the reformed to assert the view that God is gracious to all men which includes the reprobate. There is a fair sized of the reformed, what percentage I do not know, who deny this fact, and a particular reformed denomination (CRC) that officially denies common grace. I have not looked too deeply into why so, but this I do know in that if God gives any good blessing, be it temporal or eternal, it is by His will which is loving and never from a will that is other than loving towards His creatures. Now in stating this I do know that God is allowed to discriminate between His children (elect) and satan's children (unelect) and God's children receive what the reformed call efficacious grace which God only gives to His children. To put this as blunt as I can....When God gives grace it always leads to the desired end that God has in sight. Some get common grace others get special or efficacious grace unto salvation.

    So far as as the law or commands of God being gracious I believe the reformed are the only branch that officially recognizes that after the fall all men who trusted in God by His grace were regenerate even before Jesus came and these men who were under law (theoretically) were still being treated by God graciously by knowing the law as found in scripture which pointed to The Messiah.
  14. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    As a Presbyterian, one sworn to uphold the Ref. Faith as defined in the Westminster Stds., I don't have a "dog in the fight" over the language of "common grace." I don't believe the disputes over the term can be properly separated from the history of the Dutch churches wherein lay the controversy. I think that some efforts to interpret the experience of other church bodies and their controversies through the lens of the C-G crisis in the early 20C CRC obscures key issues more than it reveals.

    The language "common grace" doesn't stir up either positive or negative impressions in me, mainly because it immediately requires some kind of explanatory definition; and the definition most often given makes reference only to men-as-creatures, and has no salvific interest. The description as we receive it doesn't seek to find any implications (none!) for particular results within the creation; or to speculate on the nature of the connection between this disposition and the disposition of God toward his elect.

    The PRC seems most jealous for the language of "grace." More than a debate merely over semantics, they point to the Canons of Dort, 3rd & 4th Heads, Rejection of Errors, para.5, where the term "common grace" alone is ever found, here placed in the mouths of adversaries:
    Is this a "proper use" of such language? Or, as the PRCs have continued to argue along with their predecessors for about a century, is it absurd to try to "rehabilitate" such an abuse of the term "grace?"

    My opinion is that jettisoning the language of "grace" from discussions about how God relates to creation qua creation would be a good thing. I don't think such use is required; let's save talk of "grace" for the subject of salvation. I favor the use of "providence," with appropriate adjectives. I wish that desire to eliminate unnecessary offense would bring different factions (of godly men) to a place of peace and reconciliation.

    I think that debate would still ensue as to whether it is right to speak about a generally benevolent relationship between God and all creation, including mankind as a whole undifferentiated. Meaning, I don't think that if non-PRCs stopped using the term "common grace," all the arguments would cease. A strongly supralapsarian position such as that defended by Hoeksema worked its way out in multiple positions, which solidified have come to characterize the PRC (and similar) perspective.

    Positions include (feel free to correct me) rejection of the Covenant of Works. If grace IS divine benevolence, and does apply only to the elect, and election is the fundamental reason for creation; then grace is pushed back behind the fall; and renovation of human nature in the image of Christ is a prelapsarian expectation. This (if I read truly) is the basic position to which Hoeksema arrived. He rejected the idea of "merit" and "probation" re. Adam's duty. "Covenant" as a basic idea is fused with the idea of "grace" so that to speak of one invokes the other necessarily and immediately.

    This takes us back to the reality that different histories impact our relative treatments of issues, even when they have similarities. To my mind it makes perfect sense to cut a fine divide, to distinguish between "covenant" and "grace," between "benevolence" and "grace," between purposes for creation as an end and creation as a means. I can try to understand--even if not fully appreciate--why PRC distinctives have developed, and how they fit into the Reformed constellation. All of us should work together to find common, believing ground that unites; and love one another across the fences that mark divides we cannot yet remove. :2cents:
  15. Rev. Todd Ruddell

    Rev. Todd Ruddell Puritan Board Junior

    Good analysis, Pastor Buchanan.
  16. Nate

    Nate Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks Pastor Buchanan - you've accurately summarized some of the ways that the PRC view has worked itself out. For those like the OP and Earl who indicated they do not understand some aspects of the PRC view, I've always thought this short pamphlet, Grace Uncommon, is a good, levelheaded primer on the PRC position.

    Pastor Buchanan, as a Presbyterian, can you speak as to whether Earl's quote of the WCF in post #4 is regularly used as a proof for common grace?
  17. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    That seems to me more of a private conclusion or inference made within the Confession's bounds, rather than a confessional position per se. It's not something found directly in the language of that portion. It's true that some will be beaten with many stripes, others with fewer; and God allows or prevents greater sins occurring in his wise providence. The result is manifest in the various punishments people must endure.

    I don't want to seem like I'm pillorying Earl for his connection; I just don't think any such idea stands behind those codified statements. The idea of grace belongs to saints. To my view, grace isn't privative, but positive. So, grace as an gift that might soften the pains of hell to those who end up there--personally I'm not comfortable with that language, and I wouldn't say its popular among anyone I'm familiar with.
  18. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I thought we knew each other. :)

    It is not that big of a logical inference from the WCF to assume that God determines the amount of punishment in hell, or the amount of reward in heaven, which are based on works or lack thereof. I seriously doubt I came up with this inference by myself and I strongly suspect it came from Augustine or Ananias.
  19. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I think this may be where I made my initial inference where God "withdraws the gifts" He gave to "wicked and ungodly men" to which God uses to "blind and harden". Also some of my inference came from the the civil use of the law, which restrains all men (including the reprobate) from sin by the threat of punishment, which leads to less punishment in hell if they do what is commanded which is less sinful in the eyes of God. That is good "providence" that flows from God's grace to all mankind including the reprobate.

    VI. As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous Judge, for former sins, does blind and harden,[21] from them He not only withholds His grace whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon in their hearts;[22] but sometimes also withdraws the gifts which they had,[23] and exposes them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin;[24] and, withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan,[25] whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God uses for the softening of others.[26]
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