Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Philosophy Sacred Doctrine

Kuyper contra Donum Superadditum

In Wisdom and Wonder (1905), the missing sections on science and art from the first edition of De gemeene gratie (Common Grace), Abraham Kuyper argues against an idea of a superadded gift, a donum superadditum, in man as created, this way:1

God created the world. Before he did so, He thought about it. He thought about it via the Logos, the divine reason, or, better, the divine Word. He then created by that Word, and embedded and embodied his divine thinking in that creation in order to be known by its nature.

Who was to know him? Man. Indeed, man was created specifically for this purpose. No other creatures have this ability in the way that man does. What distinguishes him from these others? The image of God. Man was created according to the image of God in correspondence to God’s embedding  knowledge of himself in the created order: so, in correspondence to the natural condition of the created order, man was to know this God by nature, rather than by supernature, via the image that answers to the Logos in creation. And man as created was not fragmented, but unitary, and so we can infer that he was both to know in holiness and be holy in his knowledge.

We can actually observe this by contrast after the Fall: in Romans, Paul asserts that all men are darkened in their understanding. If one looks at his argument, it is clear that this has not only an intellectual aspect, but a moral one as well. Lineaments of the image remain after the Fall in the realm of the understanding, but that understanding is corrupted by sin (that it can still grasp the truth of things in particular details and achieve great results in the sciences Kuyper attributes to what he calls “common grace”). After the Fall, man in his unity is corrupted in both will and intellect; before the Fall, will and intellect stood together as well, but in uprightness.

In any case, I’m getting a bit far from what Kuyper says in the passage I wanted to quote. The main point is that Kuyper sees the scientific drive as a natural, pre-Fall aspect of man’s mental life (though changed after the Fall by sin); that aspect comes through the image, which Kuyper seems to see as a unitary whole; therefore, the image as a whole is natural to man as part of the created order; it thus constitutes the being of man as such and not by addition (whether temporal or logical).

By contrast, concerning a human being this great truth is revealed, namely, that every human being is created according to the image of God. On this basis the Reformed churches confess that the original man in his nature, that is, by virtue of his creation, not through supernatural grace but according to the creation order, had received holiness, righteousness, and wisdom. Here, then, attention is drawn to a capacity bestowed upon human beings enabling them to pry loose from its shell, as it were, the thought of God that lies embedded and embodied in the creation, and to grasp it in such a way that from the creation they could reflect the thought which God had embodied in that creation when he created it.

This capacity of human nature was not added as something extra, but belongs to the foundation of human nature itself. (Wisdom and Wonder, p. 41 [emph. his]; tr. Nelson D. Kloosterman)


  1. I’ve written a couple of other posts having to do with the donum superadditum: here and here; posts by others relevant to the topic: here, here, and here.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.