Open Question: Accidental?

How odd to find the word “accident” in a book on presuppositional apologetics. Cornelius VanTil says,

“For Kuyper the natural, as it came from the hand of God, was perfect. To be sure, there was to be development. And historically, this development has come by way of grace. But for all that it is an ‘accident,’ something incidental to the fulfillment of the natural. Christ came into the world to save, and in saving developed to its full fruition the powers of the natural. Thus grace is not reduced to something that is to be naturally expected as a development of the natural.” [pp. 266-267, The Defense of the Faith, third edition, Prebyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, 1967]

The main thrust of this is to deny that grace is part of a wholesome (original, not broken) system for the spiritual development of mankind–that rather than an unexpected gift, grace is a pleasant expectation. But I think the argument is lost as soon as begun on these terms.

We have no record of sin until after there is both Adam and Eve. But Paul writes,

“For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”

If you read this as I do, Paul is teaching that the union of a man and woman was meant to testify to Christ from the very beginning–from before the fall of man into sin. This is of course consistent with the various other passages that speak of God’s purpose in Christ being set before all creation, but I think this example in particular, involving the whole theater of animals parading before Adam, and a wife being made for him from his own side, helps cement this plan of God as embodied in the physical creation from the start–not simply “known” by God in advance, but built in.

So, granting that VanTil a la Kuyper is only trying to get away from the idea that grace is the “natural” progression in the spiritual development of man, I still think ground has been lost in tacitly admitting that there is anything we can call “natural” as distinct from the sovereign, precise plan of God. The man Adam, before his fall, should not be viewed as in need of redemptive grace to perfect him, but that mankind represented in Adam would need redemptive grace is indeed the purpose and design of creation from the very first.

The question is open: do you think we should describe grace as accidental or incidental, even by way of contrast?

One Comment on "Open Question: Accidental?"

  • This comes down to a matter of carefully defining terms, which is not my expertise. A lot of very smart men get themselves tied into knots trying to get God to nicely follow their definition of words and ideas, the constraints of their logic. You are quite right in your critique that “Ground has been lost in tacitly admitting that there is anything we can call “natural” as distinct from the sovereign, precise plan of God.

    I would say Grace is something expressed by God. Going beyond that we are in the danger of trying to put God in boxes. Grace is commonly though of in contrast to judgment. But if we (limited mortals that we are) define grace as receiving good which we have no right to demand (not of works, but grace) then grace would be seen in the very existence of creation. We (all creation) had no right to demand to be created–God graciously created us.

    If so, doesn’t this lead to the conclusion that grace is neither accidental or incidental but rather foundational?

    But I will point out this is dangerously close to objectifying God wherein we weigh different “parts” of Him to see which parts have what relation to which events.

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