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natural law and common grace

September 25th, 2018 | 2 min read

By Matthew Loftus

I really appreciated this piece from Jordan Ballor and J. Daryl Charles on natural law and common grace. In particular, I liked the fact that they don’t take “natural law” further than it can go — it’s a “recognition of moral reality” and a “manifestation of God’s common grace” available to all, but it doesn’t do what only special grace can do and it certainly doesn’t get too specific or ironclad. I have never been particularly fond of the term “natural law” because what we understand as natural law is far more consistent with human orientation toward the good rather than specific, clear ethical demands. So I can get behind what they write here:

The fissure that sin creates affects every aspect of existence, but it does not erase the moral demands that are placed on humans by their nature and by God. That anything continues to exist of humanity after the fall is an act of grace, and that the moral obligations that govern human nature are not completely lost or eradicated is likewise evidence of God’s ongoing gracious activity. Kuyper writes that “thanks to common grace, the spiritual light has not totally departed from the soul’s eye of the sinner. And also, notwithstanding the curse that spread throughout creation, a speaking of God has survived within that creation, thanks to common grace.” Here Kuyper stands in line with Calvin, who, notwithstanding a strong accent on human depravity, can nevertheless insist that recognition of moral reality is “implanted in the breasts of all.”

We may therefore understand the existence and acknowledgment of natural law after the fall as an aspect of God’s broader sustaining and preserving grace. This is a significant, and often controversial, teaching. And although Kuyper and the later neo-Calvinist tradition have often been described, and understood by that tradition’s own devotees, as in opposition to natural law, Kuyper himself is quite clear: natural law is a manifestation of God’s common grace.


Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at