In the 25th chapter, Kuyper asks what sort of consciousness did Adam possess? What could it possibly mean to Adam to be told of death & life? How could Adam know what was presented him when he met Eve (or Eve, Adam)?
Kuyper argues that Adam and Eve were possessed of a moral clarity which would escape us at this point: The law of God was not merely an appendage to their knowledge, it was the framework of their understanding.
Moreover, the content of their knowledge would be bracketed with their conscious realization that I was not but now I am.
Having moral capacity and an understanding of existing or not Adam had the capacity to understand the prohibition to not eat from that Tree. It was an arbitrary command, in the sense that it was not immediately apparent from the natural ordering of the world. To not strike Eve when she came to him would be part of the natural moral order: it is good to not hurt this fellow human being.
But what motivation would then exist to refrain from the Tree. It is not a question of natural law, but a question of positive command: why obey this positive command? Or, as Kuyper puts it, will you obey because it is good, or will you obey because God has so commanded it. The goal was that Adam would obey because of fealty to God.
He provides an analogy: If you give one a command and the other demands an explanation, (what is the purpose of this command, what will be the benefit to me and so on), eventually obedience will not be obedience to command but rather is a decision that I think this is a good idea.
The moral development of Adam was thus to be two-fold: first, there was the development of the delight in good and doing good. Second, this development and delight in good was to be because it was given by God.
The apparent insignificance of the command, this tree and not some other, had in it the point of the commandment: there could be no motivation for the command beyond God’s authority.
The purpose of the command was to test Adam to see if he would obey because he had been so commanded by God.
What sort of effect did the tree of “conscience” as Kuyper calls, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Kuyper rules a primarily physical effect because the response of the pair to Adam’s eating was the realization of shame. They were not immediately poisoned by the fruit, but they did immediately have a different understanding of themselves.
He further notes that it was language which led to their trouble, in that the Serpent tempted them by speaking.
This raises an interesting question: “what meaning language had for Adam and Eve in paradise.” The way in which the original pair related to language could have been different than the way in which we understand language, because we have more social background and experience for the words we use.
We develop concepts through and with language over the course of time.
For instance, what did “die” mean to someone who had never seen another human being die? And yet, we must not overdo this consideration. The text indicates that God was speaking to Adam and that God understood that Adam would know the meaning of the words.
“In addition, however, the notion that Adam understood language still only imperfectly cannot be reconciled with the rest of the narrative. In the first part of the story, Adam listens more than he speaks, but it is entirely different in the continuation of the narrative. There, with astuteness and nuance Eve argues with Satan, and Satan with her. Then she reasons with Adam.”
Thus, Kuyper concludes, that this capacity to use language effectively must have been something known to Adam and Eve. If they were “wise, holy, and righteous” then they must have had linguistic ability: these aspect require capable thought and thought requires language.
Kuyper rejects a quasi-evolutionary understanding of language (he calls it a “patchwork”) whereby we point at the same object and make an arbitrary sound which “means” that object.
Instead, he sees the capacity and use of language as a necessary element in the creation of Adam. The original speech of human beings then later broke into families (particularly after the confusion of language (Gen. 11)). He references the evidence, which had shown remarkable coherence and development of languages. He makes no extended discussion of this point other than saying here is some evidence.
He makes an interesting comparison then to animals which operate by instinct – such as the bee making a honeycomb. But we come to our abilities through development and learning (which would necessitate language).
Now, if we have the capacity to develop the ability to form and use complex concepts there is no inherent reason that God could not grant to Adam the fully developed capacity at creation (much as Adam was not created an infant who then fared for himself for decades).
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
Although created good, with wisdom, holiness, righteousness given God, the human beings in the Garden were yet capable of further development. That development was possible in two different directions: development which takes place in accordance with the instruction given by God, or “development” in contravention of that ordinance. Kuyper explains this in terms of development consistent with the “position of image-bearer” or not.
To think this through, the instruction of God was to lay out the manner in which the humans would work-out their status and obligation to image God in the creation. This is a different matter than the capacity of the humans to act as image bearer. If we think of image bearer as a sort of mirror, the instruction would be as to how to keep the mirror directed toward God as the original (or conversely to turn away).
A separate issue would be the functionality of the mirror as a mirror (is the mirror cracked, dirty, cleansed, et cetera).
Kuyper speaks of this functionally as a mirror-original relationship (although he does not use the precise word “mirror”): “Anyone called to resemble another’s image should, in order to keep bearing that image, want to turn toward him. By turning away from him the image is lost.”
I do not think we have (or can) fully realize the profound effect which takes place to a human being when we – as mirrors (those who are to bear a particular image) – turn away from that which we are to re-present. The Paul, in particular, notes that is by gazing upon Christ that we are conformed to his image (2 Cor. 3:18; Col. 3:10) The change which is wrought in us by this work is the renewing of our mind. (Eph. 4:23; Rom. 12:2)
We were created to exhibit this image, but we can only do so in a dependency relationship. We do not have this image as a matter of sovereignty, but as a creature assigned a position. Kuyper notices something extremely interesting here: The image we are to project is one of sovereignty, but we have that image by derivation of another. We are not inherently sovereign, in the sense that we can exercise some sovereignty in an independent manner. We are certainly not autonomous, a law to ourselves.
And yet we have to misuse our capacity to dependently exhibit that sovereignty: “. In that contradictory notion of a dependent trait of sovereignty lies the whole mystery of our religious moral being: created in the image of God, consequently possessing the moral choice of our will. This moral choice of will as a trait of the image of God, and therefore dependent.”
In thinking through this moral capacity, Kuyper comes to a concept which was made much of by existential philosophers: the determining nature of our choice: “Sartre’s slogan—“existence precedes essence”—may serve to introduce what is most distinctive of existentialism, namely, the idea that no general, non-formal account of what it means to be human can be given, since that meaning is decided in and through existing itself. Existence is “self-making-in-a-situation” (Fackenheim 1961: 37). Webber (2018: 14) puts the point this way: “Classical existentialism is … the theory that existence precedes essence,” that is, “there is no such thing as human nature” in an Aristotelian sense. A “person does not have an inbuilt set of values that they are inherently structured to pursue. Rather, the values that shape a person’s behavior result from the choices they have made” (2018: 4). In contrast to other entities, whose essential properties are fixed by the kind of entities they are, what is essential to a human being—what makes her who she is—is not fixed by her type but by what she makes of herself, who she becomes.”
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Existentialism.
By now means do I see a straight equivalence between Kuyper and Sartre. Rather, I note that they both see an importance in the act of choice (albeit from quite different perspectives and for quite different ends) than is recognized by others: “Everything of God that is reflected in us is so incomparably glorious, but also so fearfully terrible. We make a choice without fully thinking it through and that choice determines our whole existence. And yet, we cannot do otherwise. It must be so.” Sartre would not grant God in the manner voiced by Kuyper, but both would agree that a choice has “terrible” effects.
Kuyper says that this power is “frightening”.
Adam created with this “terrible” power of choice could not a creature whose end point was reached at creation. Rather, the placement in the Garden, the receipt of counsel from God, were the bare starting place for his development. It could not have been otherwise when Adam was armed with such an extraordinary moral power: choice.
Kuyper then answers the objection: Why didn’t God just make human beings good – morally perfect without the ability to fall, and in so doing save us the terror of Hell?
This is the cost of being created in the image of God. Were we created without this power to choose, we have been something else.
Without this power of choice, we would not be those who preserved. He does not use this analogy, but perhaps it is apt. Imagine to men aged 25 and alive. One man went through a war and lived. The only merely lived. We could not say they were identical. There are aspects of the man who lived through the war which could not exist for the other. They are both alive at 25, but there lives are very different.
And so, God places in the Garden two trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (which Kuyper also calls the Tree of Conscience). The Tree of Life will be in Paradise. The Tree of Conscience will not be seen again; it has done its complete work.
How then does this Tree of Conscience produce an effect upon the soul of Adam? It is merely by eating as if the fruit eaten transversed the body and enter the soul directly. The power in the fruit came from the command of God prohibiting the eating coupled to the choice of eating. The Tree of Life need “merely” keep one alive. But the effect of conscience requires something greater than the bare fruit to achieve its end.
Chapter 21 continues with the consideration of Adam’s original state and the image of God. The first half of the chapter concerns the question of what is meant by Adam’s original righteousness, holiness, and wisdom. First, Adam was simply created in a right relationship with God: he was thus righteous. Adam did not need to acquire this right standing, he was created in this place.
Since Adam was in a right standing with God, Adam by nature of the arrangement must possess original holiness. If had any sense been unholy, that right relationship could not exist (“Strive for … holiness without which no one will see God.” Heb. 12:14.) Our current holiness is of a different nature in this life, for our holiness is in a mediator. We are counted righteous in Christ. In the case of Adam, he stood in holiness by nature of his having been created without sin.
This brings Kuyper to Adam’s wisdom. Here Kuyper looks to 1 Corinthians 1:30 where Christ is our righteousness, our holiness, and our wisdom (the final element in 1:30 is redemption, which would be unnecessary for Adam).
Although not developed, Kuyper’s implicit argument seems to be that if we must received righteousness, holiness, and wisdom from Christ, then the triad must have been present with Adam (and in some manner lost).
As to wisdom, he emphasizes that we know – we do not merely feel—the truth. When Satan comes to Eve, he comes to her with deceptive reasons. He compares these to pearls on a string which all must be present together: wisdom, righteousness, holiness.
This leads to the question of the image of God: If these three make up the image of God, then when Adam fell whence the image? But we if make these things the image, then there is man and the image is something added to him (because we are human beings after the fall, even if we lack the original righteousness, holiness, and wisdom).
The Roman theologian solve this problem by dividing between the image and likeness: Image is the essence of a man; likeness, an addition of righteousness, holiness, and wisdom. The likeness then acted like a bridal upon the image.
Kuyper does not find that argument persuasive. Rather, he speaks of the essence of Adam as the image of God in that by essence, Adam was able to reflect God. There is also the actual display of those qualities in Adam.
This capacity to reflect is inherent in all that we are as human beings, including in the fact being physical creatures. We are organically body and soul; death is the grotesque sundering of the two. Our body is the means by which the spiritual reality of reflecting God physically displays.
But our capacities for thought, memory, appreciation of joy and beauty go beyond being a bare animal, “and can be explained only on the basis of the reflection of the things of God in our human being.”
Human beings thus exist for God and God’s glory. From this, Kuyper argues to immorality: Since we exist for God and not ourselves: to display the glory of God, the individual (and not merely the race) must always exist, lest God lose that glory.
He does not argue the point further, but our continued existence after death in an eternal state fulfills that point. Even those who are lost display his glory in God’s patient endurance of their rebellion, in the display of his wrath. And a point made by Bray, God’s love continuing as such even toward the lost in that he refuses to utterly destroy even the Devil.
In this chapter, Kuyper considers the issue of original righteousness in Adam when created. To explain man as the image of God, Kuyper uses the language of a mirror (as Lints in Identity and Idolatry). When God created humanity, at the moment of creation, the reflection was there: “In creating man, God makes for himself a mirror in which he wants to see his own image as clearly as the nature of the creaturely makes this possible.” This was not an addition to Adam, but was inherent in Adam.
Here is a critical distinction between the Reformed and Roman positions. The original righteousness of Adam was not a gracious addition to nature. The importance of this doctrinal distinction was addressed in the previous chapters, here and here.
Kuyper next contends that the matters of creation can be in a state of maturity: particularly with respect to the formation of Adam. That is, God did not create a baby and then wait 20 years for the baby to be an adult.
Having considered the creation of the body, Kuyper turns to the soul, Adam’s spiritual existence. He makes mention here of the relatively new discipline of psychology as a “soul science” (this volume was originally published in 1902). He then asks the pointed question, What do we really know about the essence of the soul – beyond what is said in Scripture? We can look at effects, but what is happening there in the soul is a kind of mystery.
As an aside, it would be difficult to say that we know all that much more than Kuyper. Certainly there have been behavioral observations and untold thousands of college freshman have been duped into disclosing their willingness to lie or their preference for this or that in response to graduate students’ experiments. Yet, what is really happening, what is the essence is still a mystery.
Thus, as Kuyper says we should be thankful for anything God has told us of ourselves. We know there is a development of sorts. And here he begins to make observations.
There are elements of our maturation which begin “inside” if you will. There are native abilities, dispositions, and such which mature as the child interacts with his environment and matures. Now Adam’s body was matured, but what of his soul? Was he born with a fully matured soul? To make sense of what we are told of Adam, we must conclude that he a fully matured soul.
This then raises an issue. While I could understand a fully matured body – because the growth of a body comes from the body itself; a fully matured soul is more difficult to understand, because the maturity of the soul comes about through interaction with the environment. Again, Adam must have been fully matured in his intellectual and emotional capacity.
Then finally what of his religious capacity—and this brings us to the question of original righteousness from a different direction. And here we must contend he was in a state of maturity and holiness. But this is not to say that he was incapable of further growth or maturation. Just as an old scholar can still learn, despite having obtained to righteousness, even so Adam was able to further mature.
And so when we speak of original righteousness, we mean that he not defect of morality nor inclination away from the law of God. He was no double-minded but rather of full accord with his position as a creature before, created for God’s glory, to display God as in a mirror. This is what is meant by “original righteousness.”
“Thus in paradise there was spiritual perfection, though not yet the final consummation, in the three spheres of intellect, morality, and religious life.”
The previous post in this series may be found here.
Kuyper continues on with the issue of original righteousness in Adam: Was righteousness a supernatural addition to human nature? In this chapter Kuyper examines the issue from a different direction: Whence disordered or rebellious desire in human beings?
He presents the contrast between the Roman Catholic and the Reformed understanding of the question.
The Roman Catholic view (he cites to Bellarmine) explains it thus: The mater which makes up human nature is inherently subject to this defect. To create a human being is to create a being capable of defecting and such defection is an unavoidable consequence of making human beings from matter:
Bellarmine, the skillful Roman Catholic polemicist, who has argued the case for the Roman Catholic side of this doctrine most thoroughly, returns time and again to the point that the temptation to sin lies in the makeup of our nature. Thus he says among other things, “The desire of the flesh is at present a punishment for sin, but for man in his natural state this condition would undoubtedly have been natural, not as a given positive aspect of his nature, but as a deficiency, yes, even as a certain sickness of his nature, that flowed from the constitution of matter.”
If this is so, then there is something matter which is inherently contrary to God. If God could have created a human without this defect inherent in matter, then God could have/should have done so. That God did not create such a human being argues that God could not make such a being and still use matter. There thus must be something ultimately incorrigible in matter.
So, the “fountain of sin” lies in the very fact that we are human beings: which is a deduction Kuyper makes from Bellarmine’s understanding of human nature. Since this “fountain” bubbles up as its own accord, a sinful desire is not sinful. It only become sinful when the will consents to the desire. There must be a second move to turn a desire for sin into a sinful desire.
He makes the observation that the Reformed and Roman Catholic positions differ not on the doctrine of the Trinity but on the doctrine of humanity. Our anthropologies differ: this is the place where the two diverge. Sin does not have its origin in something inherent in the physical body and the soul, but rather has its source in the spiritual (not the physical). Satan a pure spirt without body introduced humanity to sin.
Human beings were created with original righteousness, not as a supernatural addition but as something inherent in humanity – but that this original righteousness exists in our dependence – not independence from God.
Kuyper then draws out an implication from this fact of dependence: Human beings were not created with humanity as the end, the purpose of humanity. Human beings were created for God and God’s purposes. Human beings were specifically created to glorify God; God creates us for His glory.
There is another corollary which Kuyper draws: If human beings have some purpose other than God’s glory, if there is some purpose, some end which we should/may achieve other than God’s glory, then God becomes an instrument to help us achieve that end. God becomes a tool in our effort to achieve our glory.
God created Adam in such a way, with excellency and glory, because such an Adam was needful for God’s aim. God did not need Adam, but it did please God to create Adam and to work through Adam and to so sustain Adam by grace.
In chapter 17, Kuyper considers the nature of the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
He considers at some length the question of the trees being a symbol and the extent to whether they were given to strengthen faith and the nature of faith.
But the point which occupies the majority of this chapter concerns the dichotomy of the two trees: one tree of life, one tree of wisdom. He parallels the two trees to the two aspects of human life, a physical life and an intellectual or spiritual life.
The tree of life – in Paradise – would have stood as a pointer to an eternal life, which we will obtain in the New Earth. But in Paradise, Adam still needed to eat and sustain life. But there is a promise of something more than the maintenance of life.
The tree of knowledge was to provide another sort of good.
He here makes some fascinating observations. The pair in the Garden were expected to desire to eat from the tree to sustain their physical life. But, when it came to knowledge, they were explicitly forbidden to seek such knowledge from natural means. They were to refrain from that tree.
The knowledge which God had for them came first from refraining to take and obeying the command. They were too seek that knowledge not from the tree but from God.
Then, having fallen by their reversal of God’s instruction for the trees, they were faced with the prospect of continual physical life – should they have taken from the Tree of Life. That would have been a catastrophe beyond measure.
Where then does this leave us. Alone in the world, remembering those trees:
Today the extravagant sinner still grasps for all that nature offers him to strengthen his body weakened by sin, so that he can all the more freely indulge his appetite for sin. The urge to do this springs up of its own accord. Sin gives a feeling of weakness, also in relation to the body. And the first thing the sinner does is to seek not the welfare of his wounded soul, but the renewal of strength for his weakened body. And what then was more natural than that fallen man, feeling God’s wrath upon him and threatened in his existence, was in the first place intent on taking from the tree of life and seeking in its fruit the strengthening of his life?
This quotation reminds of how Nietzsche spoke of the “last man,” pathetic and obsessed with health:
The earth is small, and on it hops the last man, who makes everything small. His race is as ineradicable as the flea-beetle; the last man lives longest….
One is clever and knows everything that has ever happened: so there is no end of derision. One still quarrels, but one is soon reconciled—else it might spoil the digestion.
One has one’s little pleasure for the day and one’s little pleasure for the night: but one has a regard for health.
And so the irony of our state: in seeking to be gods, we became small and weak — even the smallest strand of virus, a necklace of amino acids so small as to be incomprehensible may fell us. And we spend are small lives obsessed with health.
Kuyper’s 16th chapter concerns two related concepts: First, he considers the duration of human life and how that has changed since the Fall. Second, he considers the question, What would have happened if Adam had not sinned.
As to the first, he notes that human life has fallen off significantly in duration and vigor since the time of the Patriarchs. A matter unknown to Kuyper is that recent genetics research has demonstrated that human life has in fact degenerated.
The work of John Sanford on this point has been remarkable. He has coined the term “genetic entropy”. In short, as genetic material is duplicated (which is necessary for both our own continued existence and for the continuation of the species) it accumulates errors:
“What is Genetic Entropy? It is the genetic degeneration of living things. Genetic entropy is the systematic breakdown of the internal biological information systems that make life alive. Genetic entropy results from genetic mutations, which are typographical errors in the programming of life (life’s instruction manuals). Mutations systematically erode the information that encodes life’s many essential functions.”
And thus as we have continued on, rather than becoming stronger, we become weaker as individuals and as a species. That our life expectancy has decayed is simply a matter to be expected.
Yet this is one of the most predominant and frustrating misconceptions about evolution. Many successful branches of the tree of life have stayed simple, such as bacteria, or have reduced their complexity, such as parasites. And they are doing very well.
In a recent study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, we compared the complete genomes of over 100 organisms (mostly animals), to study how the animal kingdom has evolved at the genetic level.
Our results show that the origins of major groups of animals, such as the one comprising humans, are linked not to the addition of new genes but to massive gene losses.
This loss of information results in a degradation of human life. This degradation was not the original plan, but came in as the result of sin. Rom. 5:12.
What then would have happened had Adam not sinned? Perhaps he would not have died, but was the Garden simply the beginning and the end of the story of humans. Kuyper argues for a progress based upon a comparison of the Garden and what God has prepared for humanity in its culmination.
He notes the mutability of humanity and the possibility of sin which exists at the time of creation and Adam’s existence in the Garden. This is apparent from the fact of a test and a fall. This contrasted with the Kingdom to come, where “not only is there no sin, but any entering of sin is utterly inconceivable.“
Along this same axis of comparison, he notes that Paradise could be lost, but the eternal Kingdom will not fail; human nature could be corrupted in the Garden, but it will be established upon a sure foundation in the kingdom to come.
From this we can conclude that Garden, though very good was not the permanent condition.
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.
The previous post in this series may be found here.
In the fourteenth chapter of Common Grace, Kuyper emphasizes the historicity of the Genesis narrative. We must read this as both real and reliable history. It must have come to us in words real words of actual comprehensible meaning. It must mean what it says not merely in general but in specifics.
We must conclude thus on two grounds. Without a truly speaking God, we do not have Scripture: This speaking by God is the great fact that is placed in the foreground throughout Holy Scripture, ceaselessly and with stress and emphasis. It is that which makes Scripture [to be] Scripture. The crucial point in Scripture is not what man thought or contemplated, but precisely that which God spoke. (120)
The speaking is true speech; not that it is sound made by a mouth and airwaves. Rather speech is the conveyance of the content of one mind to another mind, “speaking takes place only when from the consciousness of the speaker consciousthoughts are transferred into the consciousness of the hearer.”
We need this text of the speaking God because we need a basis upon which to understand the world and place within it. These narratives provide the basis upon which we can understand ourselves and our place in this world. Calvin beings the Institutes with the observation that true knowledge of ourselves must begin with true knowledge of ourselves in relation to God. Without the Genesis narrative we have no way of putting ourselves into that context.
The distinction between the Christian and the non-Christian, the distinction between the Protestant the Roman Catholic lie in the way in which we understand these narratives: What is the image of God, what happened to that image with the Fall, what is the state of the human being past the Fall? The distinctions among human understanding begin here in the distinction of our understanding of Genesis.
On this point, Kuyper singles out the doctrine of common grace as critical to a Reformed understanding of human history, and thus our preaching of grace and salvation.