In a recent post, I argued that Klaas Schilder was wrong in rejecting the notion of common grace. Schilder writes in chapter 18 of his book Christ and Culture:
Certainly, it is true that sin is being “restrained” and that the curse has not been fully poured out upon the world. However, the same thing can be said about the obedience which in Christ Jesus was again permitted to become a gift of God’s free grace and which by the power of Christ’s Spirit also was able to become a gift of this favour. Whoever calls the restraining of the curse “grace” should at least call the “restraining” of the blessing “judgment.”
He goes on to argue that God’s plan both to judge and to save a certain number of men requires as its very precondition the prolonging of time. Thus he says, this patience of God in the case of unbelievers cannot be exercised for the purpose of showing grace, since it is solely for the purpose of showing judgment:
This prolongation and development are no grace. Nor are they curse or condemnation. That is to say, if one wants to use these terms in a serious way. They are the conditio sine qua non of both, the substratum of both.
As I argued earlier, and as D. A. Carson develops in his book, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, the fallacy here is Schilder’s insisting that God cannot be doing two things at once. Intermediately, God is showing genuine love, kindness and patience toward unbelievers. Ultimately, God intends to judge them. The two of these are not inconsistent.
Returning to Schilder’s charge that we should have to speak of a kind of “common judgment,” I think there is actually a sense in which he is right, except we should adopt the term “common injustice” or “common disgrace.” By this I mean that there is a kind of injustice or disgrace when salvation, vindication and deliverance are delayed. With Job, the Psalmist and others, we have a real basis on which to ask God “how long?” However, like Job, we must be willing to accept the answer that God is doing something greater, beyond our understanding, that the vindication we are waiting for is delayed for some greater purpose.
So, then, we have a kind of “common grace” which is the present patience and longsuffering of God toward unbelievers who will one day suffer his wrath; and a kind of “common disgrace,” which is the present suffering of believers for Jesus’s sake, who will one day be completely vindicated in him.