Why God Enjoys Baseball
Mouw draws even more deeply from the Calvinist well when he reopens a centuries-old debate about the relationship between God's decision to create the world and his decision to redeem fallen people. One viewpoint (called supralapsarianism) held that God's decision to elect some individuals to salvation and to reprobate others is in some way "first," and that his decision "to make all of this happen by creating the world and permitting the fall into sin" is secondary. The other opinion (infralapsarianism) held that God's decision to create the world stands "first" and that only after he decided to permit the Fall did he decide to elect some and reprobate others.
(Words like first and after in this context do not refer to time but to God's priorities. It is a way of asking, What is more fundamental to God?)
Mouw opts for the creation-first position (infralapsarianism), in part because it allows for a multiplicity in God's purposes. If you ask why Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs in one season, the ultimate election-first answer is "to promote the realization of God's decision regarding elect and reprobate human beings." If you ask why President Kennedy approved the Bay of Pigs invasion, the election-first theologian, if consistent, will repeat the same answer.
But theologians like Mouw allow for God to desire things (and to delight in things) that have no direct connection to salvation. Mouw believes that God can take just as much delight in what he makes as in what he saves. Could God not enjoy a baseball game for reasons that "stand alongside of, rather than being subservient to, the goal of bringing about election and reprobation"?
That is not trivial or sacrilegious. It is a way of affirming the Bible's first picture of God: the Maker of Heaven and Earth. And it recognizes that God's act of creating people contained the flowering of human culture that was to come, including baseball.
Common-grace theology brings with it several benefits. None of these is the exclusive property of common-grace thinking, but taken together they commend it.
First, common-grace theology lays a foundation for Christian participation in civil society. As Mouw writes, every theology has a corresponding sociology. The social implications of common grace are summed up in two imperatives: First, "that Christians must actively work for the well-being of the larger societies in which we have been providentially placed," and second, "that sanctified living should manifest … those virtues … that will motivate us in our efforts to promote societal health." In his writing about common grace, Mouw exposes the basis for his earlier emphasis on civility in the social order (see Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World [InterVarsity, 1992]).
Second, common-grace thinking promotes a theologically responsible approach to both our commonness and our differentness as we relate to those who reject the biblical message. We must avoid two opposite errors: First, the error of liberalism, which devalues the significance of differences by means of theological reductionism ("the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man"). Second, the error of contemporary identity politics, which falsely elevates the significance of difference by deconstructing metanarratives. (If you don't know what that's about, count yourself fortunate.)