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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Recovering the Witness of Common Grace

We can do it...if we will.

The Foundation of Culture (7)

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Luke 12.27

“…for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’” Acts 17.28

Two cheers for PBS
A primary source of diversion for Susie and me is to enjoy an evening program on PBS. For all their ideological craziness at times, they just can’t help themselves. A thing of beauty, an example of goodness, or even a witness to truth will come to light at times.

Some of my favorite PBS programming relates to the creation around us and the culture we humans make and use. Oh, of course, the people who produce and narrate those programs don’t consider that what they’re presenting has anything to do with God. They call the creation “nature” and credit gifted people for the culture we enjoy. And no one does it better than PBS in bringing the gospel of nature and human ingenuity to the American viewing public.

PBS is to naturalistic thinking as the pulpit is to the Gospel—well, in many churches anyway. Never do PBS “nature” programs or cultural presentations suggest the Presence or work of God, much less feel a need to give Him thanks. Evolution and the genius of humankind are the objects of ultimate wonder and adoration in the PBS sanctuary of wrong belief.

Creation and culture, for naturalistic thinkers, represent powerful tools for propagandizing their religion. And PBS is a most accommodating platform for wrong-believers to spread their false gospel.

But there’s something for us to learn from all this “under the sun” programming, and it’s this: Creation and culture, founded on the solid ground of common grace, offer powerful resources for bearing witness to God.

Why shy away?
Why should we shy away from this challenge? Those who believe in the religion of naturalism don’t. Why can’t we point to the creation or invite people to consider culture like PBS does? Why do we hesitate to wax eloquent about the beauty, goodness, wisdom, and truth of God to be discerned in creation and culture? We have plenty of Biblical teaching and authorization for using these to bear witness to God. Look at Jesus, pointing out the lilies of the field. They testify, He insisted, to the common grace and steadfast love of God. Hear Paul quoting pagan poets and philosophers to illustrate a fundamental truth of human existence.

Why can’t we do this?

Or perhaps the better question is, Why don’t we do this? I can think of two reasons.

First, because we agree, at least tacitly, with naturalistic thinking where the material world is concerned. Or at least we don’t consider it a matter worth protesting. We know what the Bible teaches about creation and God’s gifts of culture, but we have been so harangued by naturalistic wrong belief that many of us just go along. We yield the ground of creation and culture to the naturalistic worldview because we do not consider it worth fighting for.

And second, we don’t employ creation and culture in our witness to the Lord because we haven’t learned to read the common grace of God in creation and culture so that we could point it out to someone, give voice to the creation and culture around us, and draw out the glory of God for all to see. We haven’t followed the example of our forebears, like Gerard Manley Hopkins, or the counsel of our contemporaries, like Robert C. Bishop and Joshua Carr.

That is, we have chosen not to become equipped to serve as agents of grace by noting and celebrating the common grace of God all around us all day long. It’s just too much trouble.

We give ground to the lie of naturalistic thinking when we fail to note, remark on, and celebrate the true foundation of all culture and creation, namely, the common grace of God; and we forfeit an opportunity to fulfill our calling as witnesses to Jesus and ambassadors of His Kingdom.

There never was a better time for us to recover our witness to the grace of God by taking up our calling as docents of His glory in creation and culture.

All or nothing
Our witness to the Lord Jesus Christ offers a salvation which is all-encompassing. The Gospel is all truth or none at all. Jesus is the Source and Explanation of everything, or He explains nothing at all. All that we have comes from the grace of God or none of it does. What the doctrine of common grace reveals to us concerning our witness to the Lord Jesus is two very important matters.

First, there is no end or limit to the love God bears for us. He surrounds us with His love every day, invites us to consider His love at every turn, and supports and sustains us by a love we can never escape and only with great spiritual exertion—read: lying to ourselves—consistently deny. God Who loves us so much, and so constantly, as to surround us with such a glorious creation and provide us with such marvels of culture, is worth hearing when He reveals the extent to which He has gone in revealing the full measure of His love.

And second, common grace reminds us that we need God, in every detail and aspect of our lives. We need His Word to sustain the cosmos, and we need His gifts of culture to define, sustain, and enrich our lives. And if we need Him to exist and survive and to enjoy life to any extent, how much more do we need Him to overcome the finality of death and the horrors of hell? The common grace God reveals to us in the world around us and the culture we make and use calls us to receive the special and saving grace He offers in Jesus.

The doctrine of common grace deserves more attention from us. It is the foundation of all creation and culture, and it can help us in our calling and mission to glorify and enjoy and bear witness to God in every aspect of our lives. 

For reflection
1. What is the Gospel? Suppose you had an opportunity to share the Gospel with someone. What would you say?

2. How does the doctrine of common grace relate or point to the Good News of Jesus Christ, or help us in explaining the Gospel?

3. Do you think a more consistent awareness of common grace, and a more studied approach to observing and celebrating it, would enhance your witness for the Lord? Why or why not?

Next steps—Demonstration: What can you identify of the common grace of God that might serve as a conversation starter leading to the Gospel? Start such a conversation with someone today.

T. M. Moore

Two books on culture are available to accompany this series on “A Christian Approach to Culture.” Christians on the Front Lines of the Culture Wars shows how important it is that we consider culture as a way of bringing glory to God. Order your copy by clicking here. Redeeming Pop Culture examines the nature of pop culture and some ways we can make good use of it for God’s glory. Order your copy by clicking here.

Support for ReVision comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

And please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. You can contribute online, via PayPal or Anedot, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 103 Reynolds Lane, West Grove, PA 19390.

Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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