The previous post on Kuyper’s Common Grace made found here.
In chapter 15, Kuyper considers the how the environment of humanity has corresponded to our spiritual state. In a state of innocence, we lived in the Garden. Under sin, we live in a fallen world in a body subject to illness and death. Under damnation, we live in hell. But redeemed and restored, we are fitted for heaven. These correspondences of our body and our circumstance could be considered from the point of view of our desires and thoughts et cetera.
The original state of humanity, the Garden, is no more and can only be imagined – since it could not be found. When we think of the Garden must realize a few things: First, the Garden of Eden was a place; it was not the entire world. Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden. Second, the Garden was not what we might consider a Garden, not the least because four great rivers ran through it. Third, the Garden was no a place of quite, but rather a place of superabundant life.
The only trouble of the Garden, for Adam, was that he was alone. The animals were with other animals; but Adam had no other like himself. But human beings were created for society – not for endless solitude. And thus, God made Adam, but he took Eve from Adam’s body. The connection there was so profound that a marriage can no only approximate and recall that original bonding, as he writes, “it is a weak effort to restore and redress what was lost through sin.”
There are two additional points of some interest in this chapter. First, he contends that animals were made in the image of human beings (thus reversing the Darwinian contention, that we came from animals). His argument at this point cannot be put more succinctly than has already put it:
When God created the animals, he already knew within himself the human being he would create, and he knew that human being in soul and body. And in order that that animal world would be suited to man and would not be too alien to man, but as it were, a part of his own life, God created the animal world in such a way that, in increasing measure, the bodies of the animals contained a clear foreshadowing of the body he had intended and ordained for man. We can also express this succinctly: God created the animals in the image and likeness of humankind.
His contention is clear and the argument makes some sense. But I am not sure that I would phrase it as Kuyper has done. That there is a sort of correspondence between human beings and animals is abundantly clear. There is a likeness between the two – and a likeness which is quite different than the similarities between human and spiritual beings mentioned in the Scripture. But I am not certain that “image of” is the correct way to capture that similarity. But anyway, there it is.
Second, a far more helpful point concerns the nature of human desire and aspiration. In Andrea del Sarto, Browning’s artist muses:
Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?
Kuyper picks up the matter of aspiration as follows:
The heart virtually never strives after a higher ideal. But the heart should do that. We must not put the condition of our highest desire lower than God has ordained it for us. When we do that, we demean our life and surrender that which God has destined for us and has by grace ordained for us once again. It dulls us when we settle for less. We then miss less because we desire less. We make ourselves less sensitive, and therefore have less pain. But that impassivity then also brings us into a false situation, falsifies the standard whereby we measure things, and distorts our view of the past and of the future. And what we also must not forget is that our sense of guilt suffers from this, because when we do not clearly recognize from how high a state of bliss and heavenly overabundance we have fallen, we cannot gauge the depth into which sin has thrown us. It is therefore not an indifferent, incidental matter to clearly perceive in what state of bliss God had originally placed humankind. Only when we form the correct conception of this state of bliss do we understand what has been thrown away through sin and has been lost, and also what the ideal is toward which we reach in Christ.
In The Parable of the Ten Virgins, Thomas Shepherd contends a holy life in this world derives from just such a state of desire:
Let the reproach of earthly mindedness, cast upon the face of Christians, be wiped off by your carriage being heavenly, holy, loosened from things below. Art thou in heaven with an earthly heart Is not heaven good enough for thee? Cannot that content thee which many have desired to see, and could not see, even the Lord Jesus, the King of Glory in his beauty, in the assembly of the saints.
Thus, that desire for what is lost and what is to come orient us correctly in this world. To be too comfortable is to be lost; it is like being pleased with being in the airport lobby and not the destination.