Returning to Calvin’s acknowledgement of natural law, Helm is once again helpful. He argues that common grace, á la Bavinck et al. is wrongly polarized from natural law, in believing that Calvin eschewed natural law and embraced common grace. Ultimately, this derives from a misunderstanding of Aquinas on nature. Unfortunately, Bavinck is not the only thinker within Neo-Calvinism to interpret Aquinas this way. Neo-Calvinist, philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd is also highly critical of the configuration of nature and grace in Aquinas’ thought. What motivates Dooyeweerd’s criticism of Aquinas’ view of nature and grace is an aversion to dualism. Dooyeweerd holds that Aquinas’ assertion of a state of happiness attainable by humankind from within the realm of a self-contained, autonomous nature ultimately leads to the modern humanistic idea that happiness is an entirely earthly pursuit. Yet concerning such dualism, it is not the sum of realities figured in and of themselves that Dooyeweerd rejects, rather it is the implications for those who appropriate conceptions of a self-contained order. Aquinas’ division of nature and grace is to Dooyeweerd a disparagement of the constitutive integrity of human nature itself; comprising both natural and revealed orientations of the knowledge of God. Furthermore, Dooyeweerd states that according to Aquinas “this human ‘nature,’ which is guided by the natural light of reason, was not corrupted by sin and thus also does not need to be restored by Christ. Human nature is only ‘weakened’ by the fall.” Moreover, one can observe that such a reading of Aquinas does not take into account the nuance and particularity with which he articulated his natural theology. Thus, Neo-Calvinists such as Kuyper, Bavinck and Dooyeweerd step cautiously around, it seems, any mention of natural law in Calvin for fear of its signified proximity to Aquinas. But what they should realize is Calvin’s understanding of natural law is much the same as Aquinas. For instance, Aquinas states, “. . . nothing can satisfy man’s will except such goodness, which is found, not in anything created, but in God alone. Everything created is a derivative good. He alone, who fills with all good things thy desire, can satisfy our will, and therefore in him alone our happiness lies.”
Furthermore, an important distinction is made by Aquinas concerning the state of nature after the Fall, Aquinas says that though a person’s ultimate end does not change because of the fall into sin, his relation to that end does undergoes a fundamental change. Nevertheless, as Arvin Vos states, some Protestants will still be unsatisfied. “They will point out that Aquinas speaks of a happiness that is proportionate to nature, and they execrate the very distinction between that which is in accord with nature and which is beyond it. Even Aquinas’s insistence that nature is from God and therefore not autonomous in the sense of being self-sufficient is not enough for them.”
Certainly there are those within the neo-Calvinist fold that have reified Aquinas’ theological method by asserting the Theologian bifurcates nature and grace, supposing that grace is a mere addition to the natural realm that ‘sits atop’ nature not affecting it in any substantive manner. Naturally, this has rendered some Neo-Calvinists blind to Calvin’s frequent attention to natural law. However, this polarizing of nature and grace in Aquinas is not common to all Neo-Calvinists. One ought not exclude critically robust analysis from other key thinkers within Neo-Calvinism. It is such analysis that can act as a corrective when Neo-Calvinists depart to great a distance from Calvin’s theology. It is precisely this antithesis between nature and grace that Klaas Schilder, the most prominent theologian of Dutch Calvinism since Kuyper, repudiates. For instance, Schilder states that the existence of culture should not be attributed to common grace but rather proceeds as a natural process; “the result of an inherent power in man given by God with creation.” Schilder alternatively posits the antithesis in culture between faith and unbelief as opposed to between nature and grace. Schilder states:
There is indeed ‘common grace’ in culture (grace for more than one person). But there is no universal (or general) grace for all men. Therefore Abraham Kuyper’s construction was wrong . . . There is a common (not: universal) grace in culture, as far as the redeeming work of Christ is shared by all those who are His – which grace has an effect upon their cultural achievements.
Is it possible that critics of Neo-Calvinist’ common grace overplay the polarizing of nature and grace? As Helm said about Calvin, that there was no antithesis between nature and common grace, likewise Van Til states, there is no antithesis between nature and grace. Van Til identifies himself with the Neo-Calvinist fold and yet he does not polarize nature from grace at all. Similarly, it seems Bavinck would agree with Schilder, though differing on the scope of common grace. Bavinck states, “As the gathering of believers, the church is itself used by Christ as an instrument to bring others to his fold. By it Christ administers his mediatorial office in the midst of the world.” Bavinck’s mention of ‘the world’ is salient. One would be remiss to understand him as totalizing common grace to the redemptive consummation of the world. On the contrary, Bavinck is heard here giving a thoroughly Christological account of the Church’s role in redemption.
But the question remains, why do many Neo-Calvinists such as Kuyper and Bavinck emphasize common grace at the expense of natural law? One response would be that these theologians admit distrust in the noetic effect of sin on the mind’s ability to reason grace from the natural order. Therefore Kuyper and Bavinck appear timid in approaching reason as a catalyst for Christian engagement in culture. Although, what appears to be actively at work amongst Neo-Calvinists is a deep-seated need to locate unmediated relation of the natural order with the eternal Godhead; any created system, governed by self-contained laws cannot give glory in as direct fashion as if completely enveloped in God’s sustaining providence. Thus, the apprehension with natural order and law, existing independently of other causes impels such thinkers as Kuyper and Bavinck to sublimate natural law into the arena of divine action á la common grace. Neo-Calvinists fear that under Aquinas’ configuration of nature and grace, grace is rendered superfluous since the natural order has all it needs to exist. However, without a doubt, Calvin did not depart, at least not in common direction on this matter, with Aquinas. He utilized the distinction between the natural and supernatural and maintained ample capacity to attribute both domains to the sovereign glory of God.
 Calvin’s Ideas, 382.
 Herman Dooyeweerd, Roots of Western Culture: Pagan, Secular, and Christian Options (Toronto: Wedge Publishing Foundation, 1979), 116-17.
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Vol. 1a QQ. 1-119.trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (Westminster, Maryland: Christians Classics, 1981), 2ae. 2, 8.
 Aquinas, Calvin & Contemporary Protestant Thought: A Critique of Protestant Views on the Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1985), 149-50.
 Van Til, Calvinistic Concept, 140.
 Klaas Schilder, Christ and Culture, trans. G. van Rongen and Helder, W. (Winnipeg: Premier Printing LTD., 1977), 47.
 Calvinistic Concept, 58.
 Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 329-30.
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