This is a short series on Common Grace in respect to Critical Race Theory. Part 1, Saving Grace Before Common Grace is HERE.
The term “common grace” as a formal designation is often believed to be a Reformed doctrine. Many attribute Abraham Kuyper (1837-1902) and Herman Bavinck (1854-1921), both Reformed theologians, to have been the most influential in its formal doctrinal development, with Bavinck stating that it is “based on Scripture and its main principle was discovered in the Reformation, notably with John Calvin“.1 However, it’s important to know that Calvin never actually used the term gratia communis (common grace) in his written work. There are four instances where Calvin connected the adjective communis with the noun gratia, two of those times when speaking specifically of saving grace.2 For the most part, Calvin’s overall contribution to the concept of common grace is evident in the way he expounded very basic general principles of God’s neutral favor towards unsaved people, neutral in the sense that it does not provide salvation, but not insignificantly neutral. The question that common grace conjures up is defining what exactly that favor entails.
Many Christians are declaring that “all truth is God’s truth” in an attempt to affirm or embrace certain aspects of Critical Race Theory (CRT) or other sociological solutions and arguments that have no Scriptural basis. When Christians attempt to refute these “solutions” or question any viable validity in using them to analyze society, they are quickly reminded that “common grace” allows us to accept them. One example that has been used to declare “all truth is God’s truth” under the umbrella of common grace is validating a medical doctor’s prognosis and treatment, even though the attending doctor is not a professing Christian. Since the Bible does not give answers to cure a particular disease or illness, the argument states that we can receive guidance on scientific non-Scripture related issues, like medical advice, as an extension of God’s common grace, given to both believers and unbelievers alike, which is a fair analysis.
It’s a popular mantra for many social justice advocates to say “speech is violent”. However, a more accurate rendering of that sentiment is “ideas have consequences”, as in the case of the ideology that paved the way for Critical Theory, Critical Legal Theory, and eventually, Critical Race Theory.
When the word “critical” is in front of the word theory, it is used to explain a critique, an assessment, while at the same time, offer some kind of reflective direction. It’s akin to the idea of literary criticism, which has been around since man has put pen to paper. The basic concept of literary criticism is to formally debate and critique literature from various views based on time period, morality, structure/form, or what the writer could be saying about humanity, society, politics, religion, gender, or sexuality, to name just a few directions a critique can take.
With current technology and the explosion of social media, not to mention the popularity of reality tv, we are being bombarded by all kinds of video coverage and relentless commentary on sin and the depravity of man. From politics, relationship drama to police interactions with the public, we have become a people fixated on our screens via “wanting to know” what is happening in the world around us at all times. We have become a people who struggle with interacting in real time with real people, but we have endless opinions about everything we read or see on our screens.
Years ago, when I worked at a crisis center for children, a five-year-old girl was brought in after being removed from her home due to allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of her caregivers, specifically, her mother’s boyfriend. Within days of her arrival, the counselors placed her on “watch” due to her habit of rubbing her genitals on table legs, chair legs and would attempt to rub her genitals on the legs of adult male care-workers after she demanded to sit on their laps. It became apparent that her abuser groomed her to the point of making her believe that love and affection were only evident through manipulation of her genitals through constant friction. Sexual abuse not only changed the way she interacted with the world around her, but also changed how she viewed herself in relation to her environment, the people close to her, and created sexual pathology that would take years of treatment to undo. Damage was done. It was not initially obvious, but like cancer, it was hidden, deep in the crevices of her brain, and emerged as she interacted with others.