A firefighter risks his life to rescue a child from a burning building. We don't ask if the hero is a Christian or an unbeliever. We just cheer him.
A newspaper columnist describes in evocative detail the pain of growing up fatherless. A reporter opens our eyes to the plight of people who have no health insurance. An editorialist takes to task politicians who line their pockets at the people's expense. We don't normally ask whether these writers are Christians or unbelievers. We gratefully take their insights to heart.
Yet how we think about the good works and deep insights of nonbelievers makes a difference. It makes a difference in our evangelism. It makes a difference in our political involvement. It makes a difference in our local communities.
Fuller Seminary president Richard Mouw has written a book to help us think about the good things that happen through unsaved people. Mouw draws his book's title, He Shines in All That's Fair, from M. D. Babcock's old hymn "This Is My Father's World." That hymn welcomes all the good things in the world—regardless of their apparent origin. And it stands in contrast to an old gospel song that begins, "This world is not my home; I'm just a passin' through." The revival chorus rejects the world and longs for heaven. The classic hymn finds heaven shining through "all that's fair" in this world. This latter attitude is at the core of what some Calvinist theologians call common-grace thinking.
Flashes of Light
In 1924, the Christian Reformed Church, then a denomination of immigrant Dutch Calvinists, officially declared "that there is indeed a … non-salvific attitude of divine favor toward all human beings." While "saving grace" is imparted only to the elect, this "common grace" manifests itself ...1