The Antithesis and “Common Cooperation” Theology

There is a lot of talk today of Abraham Kuyper’s “common grace theology” in the evangelical world today – even men like Rick Warren and many of the Emergents have gotten on the “Kuyperian” bandwagon lately.

As I have listened to these folks, I have noticed a subtle difference between their view of “common grace” and Kuyper’s.

For a while I have been trying to put my finger on exacly what the differnce is and I have come to the conclusion that what they lack is the doctrine of “the Antithesis”.

Without Kuyper’s theology of “the antithesis” his “common grace” theology has metastasized into a doctrine of “common cooperation”. This metastasized doctrine preaches cooperation with the unbelieving world for the “common good” of mankind… and this being done in the name of advancing the kingdom of God.

I believe this metastasized “common grace cooperation” theology is largely contributing to a dialectical assimilation of the contemporary Church into the modern pagan culture and an adoption of its ethical values, values like radical egalitarianism, socialism, and environmentalism. This hybridization of biblical ethics and modern pagan ethics will eventually lead the Contemporary Church to abandon or minimalize true biblical ethics in favor of pagan ones…

A few weeks ago I listened to a couple of very good messages from the Kuyper Foundation. These messages I believe have helped me clear up a lot of the differences between the two theologies and I higly recommend them to you.

You can find them here


11 Responses

  1. Lar,

    While I don’t know for sure what to think of it yet, I was introduced to a book written that explained a bit about the doctrine that rejects the notion of Kuyper’s “common grace.” It says that grace is ONLY for the elect and God puts His enemies on slippery slopes.

    I don’t quite buy that, but at the same time it is interesting. You might look into that as you’re studying “common grace/cooperation.”


  2. Larry,

    Good post. You might want to check out the introduction to volume 1 of Bavinck’s Refromed Dogmatics. They bring up the very point you are that in Kuyper and Bavinck one must not miss the antithesis. For while they may use common grace as a bludgeon against lazy pietistic/anabaptistic in order to motivate them to think of God’s reign in the various realms of life, it must not be divorced from the antithesis.


  3. Kaz,

    Hopefully I am not misunderstood here – I myself do not reject the theology of common grace at all – nor Kuypers understanding of it… I am Kuperian to the core…

    I just reject the way contemporary evanjellyfish use this common so called grace/cooperation doctrine as a means to try to biblically justify their cowardliness to stand up and confront the culture and call it to repentance!

    I think this is why “two kingdomers” attack Kuyper so much ( I was at a conference where DG Hart practically called Kuyperinism heretical ! ) I believe the two kingdomers attack the metastasized version of common grace (the modern version lacking the antithesis) and in the process throw Kuperian the baby out with the bathwater.

    BTW – what book?


    Dave what do you think?

  4. Dave,

    Thanks for the tip…

    Sounds interesting, I will check it out – Rolfing has a copy


  5. Found it:

    Again, I read this and found it ‘interesting’ but not sold on the idea and certainly not educated in this whole area enough at all. It was lent to me by a fellow theonomist friend.


  6. Larry,

    I do find the vitriol that 2K’ers have for common grace with the right understanding of the antithesis puzzling. My acquaintance with D.G. Hart is too slim to be able to comment.

    I personally find the idea of sphere sovereignty that I find in Bavinck and Rushdooney (the little I have read of him, i.e. Sovereignty) quite helpful. It is not that these are autonomous realms, rather in each sphere God as the sovereign has appointed the proper governance by man as creature. The Fall does not absolve those who are descended from Adam from subduing and ruling the creation. So that in government a person can be a good ruler who is not regenerate, if by God’s grace he is wise and rules in a godly fashion. However, “when the godly rule, then the people rejoice.” The same can be said for the family as well, which is the more primary creation institution. Now among the redeemed God has entrusted the right governance of the church to the elders of the various assemblies that God constitutes. This is special grace and not common grace as in the cases of the magistrate and the family.

    I do find that some of the 2kers end up with an apathetic view of things outside of the church. In regards to the church if one is not as firmly confessional as they are then one might as well be anathema (well almost), but hey if the magistrate is a wicked tyrant then they throw up their hands and say “que sera sera.” I am sure that is not all 2kers just many of the ones I have run across.


  7. Lar, you’ve been reading too much anti-thesis. Can’t misguided be a category separate from heretical. I really do resist using the h-word. I don’t think I’ve even applied to liberals.

  8. Darryl – Thanks for dropping by…

    I was referring to the first message that you gave in Monroe at the 2006 AAPC Pastors Conference – within the first few minutes of your talk (I went back and listened) you spoke of the “theological errors” of Kuyperianism. Above I said above you “practically” called Kuyperinism heretical.

    The “theological errors” of Kuyperianism is about as close as you get to the h-word without actually using the word -it is much stronger than using a word like “misguided”.

    As for reading too much antithesis – isn’t this what he bible teaches?

    The Righteous and the Wicked
    The Sheep and the Goats
    The Wheat and the Tares
    The Righteousness and the Lawlessness
    Those who are Holy and those who are Profane
    The Children of the Devil and The Children of God

    Is there a difference in your understanding of the biblical antithesis (as mentioned in the above references) and what Kuyper, Van Til or others taught more recently?

    Id like your thoughts on this…


  9. Lar,

    Where does meat offered to idols fit in the antithesis? How does your understanding of antithesis account for Christian liberty?

  10. Darryl,

    I don’t exactly understand what your getting at…

    “Christian” liberty is liberty of conscience (from defilement) for the believer toward God so that he may approach God in faith without a defiled conscience (Heb 10:22) – Meat offered to idols is similar and because of brotherly love the more mature believer is to love his brother by not causing his brother to stumble (1 Cor 8:1-13) – this is done so that the young believers conscience may be clean before God.

    Now this “christian liberty” does not extend so far as to permit believers to assimilate into the pagan culture around them (this is the lesson we learn from Israel (1 Cor 10:11). We are to live in contradistinction (the antithesis) to the pagan culture around us. We are to be about living and offering an incarnational example (without compromise even if that means persecution) of our faith in whatever sphere we are called into (including civil to those who are called there). This is how the influence of the kingdom of God spreads – it works its way like leaven into every area of life and thought (culture) – (Luke 13:12).

    We live before the world as a “city on a hill” for the world to see – we live and pray so that God’s will will be done “on earth” as it is in heaven.

    We are to be in the world but not of it = antithesis

    I can be a little feisty if I believe I am right – but I am teachable – correct or qualify please…


  11. […] August 13, 2008 Posted by heldveld in Antithesis, Blog Spotting. trackback Larry Temple posts an insightful article ‘The Antithesis and “Common Cooperation” … […]

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