Louis Berkhof and Reformed theology’s befuddlement over the religious aspirations and zeal of God-haters (cf. Romans 10:1-4). Berkhof gives his understanding of the origin and occasion of the demonic doctrine of common grace:
“DOCTRINE OF COMMON GRACE. 1. THE PROBLEM WITH WHICH IT DEALS. The origin of the doctrine of common grace was occasioned by the fact that there is in the world, alongside of the course of the Christian life with all its blessings, a natural course of life, which is not redemptive and yet exhibits many traces of the true, the good, and the beautiful. The question arose, How can we explain the comparatively orderly life in the world, seeing that the whole world lies under the curse of sin? How is it that the earth yields precious fruit in rich abundance and does not simply bring forth thorns and thistles?” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology)
There are brutish minds who assume, a priori, that apart from some imagined intervention of so-called “common grace” the curse due to sin in Genesis 3 would have necessitated absolute chaos and an exclusive production of thorns and thistles. The unfounded and unbiblical assumption is that God’s punishing justice demands there be no order and no lush fruit and no thornless flowers.
“How can we account for it that sinful man still ‘retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the difference between good and evil, and shows some regard for virtue and for good outward behavior’? What explanation can be given of the special gifts and talents with which the natural man is endowed, and of the development of science and art by those who are entirely devoid of the new life that is in Christ Jesus? How can we explain the religious aspirations of men everywhere, even of those who did not come in touch with the Christian religion? How can the unregenerate still speak the truth, do good to others, and lead outwardly virtuous lives? These are some of the questions to which the doctrine of common grace seeks to supply the answer” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology; underlining mine).
The fiction of “common grace” reveals an abysmal understanding of the Biblical doctrine of total depravity and the justice and righteousness of God. The Biblical version (as opposed to the Reformed “common grace” version) of total depravity teaches two primary things:
(1) Every natural (unregenerate) descendant of Adam hates the true and living God, is spiritually dead, has no spiritual understanding, is a lover of darkness rather than light, a slave of sin, unable and unwilling to obey God and come to Jesus Christ for salvation.
(2) Every natural (unregenerate) descendant of Adam is without a righteousness that answers the twofold penal and preceptive demands of God’s law and justice (see Romans 10:1-5 and Galatians 3:10-14); and that when God’s law and justice have not been satisfied, there is no grace or favor, but only a curse and wrath. The propitiating blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone is the sole condition for salvation and satisfied these demands on behalf of His people.
To repeat Berkhof’s befuddle:
How can we explain the religious aspirations of men everywhere, even of those who did not come in touch with the Christian religion? How can the unregenerate still speak the truth, do good to others, and lead outwardly virtuous lives? These are some of the questions to which the doctrine of common grace seeks to supply the answer” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology; underlining mine).
Romans 1:18-23 and Romans 2:1-29 explains “the religious aspirations of men everywhere” and the remainder of Berkhof’s questions. Many Christ-haters have a “form of knowledge and of the truth in the law” (Romans 2:20) and it does not require the fiction of “common grace” to explain that which is a clear revelation of God’s wrath (Romans 1:18; cf. Romans 10:1-4).
What Berkhof and the Reformed discover in a ridiculous reverie, the apostle Paul reveals in a revelation of the wrath and righteous judgment of God. The “religious aspirations of [unregenerate] men everywhere” is an indication that
“the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).
Not all unregenerate persons suppress or hold the truth in unrighteousness in precisely the same way; nor are they all given up to the exact same sexual uncleanness, heart-lust, and dishonoring of the marriage bed (Romans 1:24; cf. Hebrews 13:4). For some are given up to sexual sins that are against or contrary to nature (Romans 1:26), while others are given over to the “more natural” forms of sexual degradation by marrying the one put away while the former spouse is still living.
“whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matthew 5:32).
“Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to [her] husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of [her] husband. So then if, while [her] husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man” (Romans 7:1-3).
There are also those whose religious aspirations led them to encourage and enshrine such sexual degradation in a theological confession of faith:
“In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 24.5).
There is such a thing as a Biblical pastoral concern, sympathy, and sensitivity. Obviously, to sympathize is not to strengthen adulterous hands or speak “peace, peace” upon former times of wickedness.
“I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah” (Jeremiah 23:14).