Bullinger On “Common Grace”

For God in his mercy has permitted the powers of the intellect to remain, though differing greatly from what was in man before the fall. God commands us to cultivate our natural talents, and meanwhile adds both gifts and success. And it is obvious that we make no progress in all the arts without God’s blessing. In any case, Scripture refers all the arts to God; and, indeed, the heathen trace the origin of the arts to the gods who invented them.

—Heinrich Bullinger, Second Helvetic Confession (1566), ch. 9.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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4 comments

  1. I continue to hope that someone will write a book differentiating Common Grace from Providence. What are common grace, covenantal grace (and how election and reprobation fit in), and particular saving grace and how they relate to each other?

    • Richard,

      That’s why I put “common grace” in quotation marks. What Bullinger treats under the heading of providence is what came to be known as Gemeene Gratie. What Bullinger and the Swiss Churches confessed on this was not controversial among the Reformed but it would be today, in certain Reformed circles.

      I don’t think I accept the premise that providence and common grace are sharply distinct. I think the substance of the 3 points of 1924 (Synod Kalamazoo) are fairly traditionally Reformed.

  2. I have mentioned this before now that the Canons of Dordt makes mention of common grace in a particular historic setting. Admittedly this is meant in a totally different way than what is said in 1924. I personally don’t care for the word “grace” in any reference to unbelievers, perhaps due to the residual PR screaming bloody murder within me. I think that some of the conversation has taken on a nonsensical speculative maybe note in saying that man isn’t as bad as he could be, e.g. not everyone is Adolf Hitler, as if Adolf was some sort of archtype fiend of hell, representing all that is bad and wrong with the world.

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