Religion & Liberty Online

‘Wisdom Begins in Wonder’

“Wisdom begins in wonder.” This is a popular paraphrase of Socrates from Plato’s Theatetus, which focuses on the relationship between philosophy and knowledge. Dr. Mel Flikkema, provost at Kuyper College, reminded us of this justly famous quotation as he introduced the launch event for Wisdom & Wonder: Common Grace in Science & Art by Abraham Kuyper this past Saturday morning.

Vincent Bacote describes "Another Amazing Grace."
This was a splendidly appropriate introduction to the morning’s event, as the talk by Dr. Vincent Bacote, “Another Amazing Grace,” focused on the relevance of the doctrine of common grace for today’s church and Christian social engagement. Part of what common grace does, said Bacote, is allow us to explain why good things remain in the world after the Fall into sin. The world is not as bad as it could be, and it is because of this common, preserving grace that God prevents everything from falling into complete and utter chaos.

In Wisdom & Wonder Kuyper discusses the insights of the ancient Greeks as a bit of evidence for the existence of common grace. This is especially relevant for the pursuit of truth in philosophy and science. As Kuyper writes, “Anyone who ignores common grace can come to no other conclusion than that all science done outside the arena of the holy lives off appearance and delusion, and necessarily results in misleading anyone listening to its voice. Yet the outcome shows that this is not the case.”

He continues:

Among the Greeks, who were completely deprived of the light of Scripture, a science arose that continues to amaze us with the many beautiful and true things it offers us. The names of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle have always been esteemed among Christian thinkers. It is no exaggeration to insist that the thinking of Aristotle has been one of the most powerful instruments leading Christians themselves to still deeper reflection.

Kuyper’s point here is that there are many true and accurate things that non-Christians know and learn about the world, and that this truth is a common point of contact between Christians and non-Christians. This isn’t all there is to say, of course, and Kuyper goes on at length to develop the specific ways in which scientific endeavors pursued by Christians differ from and are similar to those undertaken by those who are “completely deprived of the light of Scripture.”

The morning’s event concluded with a panel Q&A with Dr. Bacote, Dr. Michael Wittmer of Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and Dr. Nelson Kloosterman, who translated Wisdom & Wonder. It’s clear from the lively questions and instructive answers from the panel that the wonderful pursuit of wisdom in Kuyper’s doctrine of common grace is just beginning. Join us as we work toward, as Kuyper put it, “resuscitating the rich foundational idea embodied in the doctrine of common grace.”

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is director of research at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, an initiative of the First Liberty Institute. He has previously held research positions at the Acton Institute and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and has authored multiple books, including a forthcoming introduction to the public theology of Abraham Kuyper. Working with Lexham Press, he served as a general editor for the 12 volume Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology series, and his research can be found in publications including Journal of Markets & Morality, Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Faith & Economics, and Calvin Theological Journal. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary and the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity & Politics at Calvin University.