Herman Hoeksema – The Influence of Uncommon Grace

51QMyhPvFGLBack in September I picked up Herman Hoeksema: A Theological Biography.  When I first started reading it I quickly realized I wasn’t really in the mood for anything so heavy.  Doug Douma warmed me it was pretty weighty.  So instead I read biographies on Peter Gabriel, John Martyn (which, as it turned out, was heavy), Jack Bruce, Mahavishnu Orchestra II, one on Frank Zappa’s last final tour in 1988, and I’m currently reading one on the life of my favorite bluesman Howlin’ Wolf, and I have another waiting in the wings on the life of my favorite jazz pianists, Thelonious Monk.

In any case, yesterday I decided to take a break from my music bio feeding frenzy and picked up the Hoeksema again and so far it is excellent.  The author, Patrick Baskwell, does a nice job portraying the man with warts and all, and, so far, paints a fair picture of an imperfect man of unwavering conviction and who was doggedly committed to some very basic theological principles.  One of those principles that would inform his entire life was his rejection of Kuyper’s theory of common grace.  It has always been interesting to me that so many of Kuyper’s admirers seem to discount the political import that drove his theory rather than the other way around. Concerning an early piece of Hoeksema’s that appeared in “The Banner” Baskwell writes; “With one stroke of the pen Kuyper’s concept of common grace, one that entered the world after the fall to save humanity and thus make room for the preservation of the ‘cultural mandate,’ is summarily swept away.”  Here is a little of what Hoeksema wrote and is an argument I find particularly compelling and one that completely destroys the prevenient and even Arminian nature of grace that has informed so much of the Reformed theology since Kuyper:

Never must we stretch the doctrine of common grace till we speak of two kinds of grace. There is only one kind of grace, and that one kind of grace is special grace, and thru that special grace all the world, with man as king, is to be saved.  It saves humanity, but it also saves the world as kingdom. But there are two kinds of people in Adam, separated  thru the injections of special grace into the human organism.  They are the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, the elect and the reprobate, the children of obedience and the children of disobedience. Outwardly, all the children of the serpent share in the blessings of grace.  Also they develop, also they have a history, also they develop their kingdom under Satan. But inwardly, even these outward blessings of grace are a curse to them, for they are totally depraved, and there is no receptivity for the grace of God in their hearts. But the seed of the woman is saved in Jesus Christ. He is their Redeemer and their King, and through His grace they become His willing subjects. – pg 119

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9 Comments on “Herman Hoeksema – The Influence of Uncommon Grace”

  1. LJ Says:

    The first systematic theology I purchased and read as a new Christian was H. Hoeksema’s “Reformed Dogmatics.” The PRC, for obvious reasons, has done the best work refuting the false teaching of so-called “common grace” and its ugly sister the well-meant offer.

    I for one am glad to see you post this. Maybe it’ll spur some debate? 🙈🙊🙉


  2. gospelhour Says:

    Listening/watching a rather long lecture from D.Englesma on Kuyper via Youtube yesterday. About an hour into it he hits the same marker especially concerning “saving the world as kingdom”. He expands and illustrates it to the point where you see clearly the Covenant context of the LORD”S redemptive work as the outcome of John.3:16. From that perspective, the conception of a common grace is obviously just a puerile anti-theological construction attempting to justify friendship with the world. See.

    Good lecture, somehwat long but worth the time.
    warm regards in Christ

  3. brandonadams Says:

    Thanks Sean. I wasn’t aware of the book. Looks very worthwhile

  4. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hey Brandon. It is interesting particularly the politics of the whole thing. Hoeksema was blindsided and the way he was ousted from the CRC was utterly sinful as he was never tried or even given a chance to defend his views. No due process at all. Basically he was told to accept the three points of common grace adopted by the CRC in 1924 or hit the road. The author makes a compelling case that it was payback for his involvement in the earlier Janssen case. Dirtier politics are hard to find in the secular world.

  5. Jon Volkoff Says:

    I was at that Engelsma lecture a few months ago. One of the highlights of the lecture was when he said he was exercising “heroic restraint” to avoid going into the implications of common grace to the well-meant offer. At which time I exercised “heroic restraint” to keep a straight face…

  6. Sean Gerety Says:

    I should add there is some discussion of the “Clark case” and it’s interesting that Hoeksema was charged with “rationalism” as well for maintaining a high view of Scripture and the belief that the teachings of Scripture logically cohere (I know, terrible right).

    Where I don’t agree with Hoeksema is his denial that even fallen man is the image of God and his denial of the Covenant of Works with Adam. I also agree with the author that he is on much stronger ground in his arguments against of points 2 and 3 of the thee points of common grace.

  7. Sean Gerety Says:

    Interesting also, Baskwell doesn’t have a lot of good things to say about the current state of the PRC.

  8. Jon Volkoff Says:

    Though to Baskwell’s credit he does reject the common characterization of the PRC as hyper-Calvinistic.

    BTW, I was able to find this book on Google Books, so I didn’t have to “pick it up.” 🙂

  9. Sean Gerety Says:

    … except there are quite a few sections that are not available on google books.

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