Here is a Keynote slide that illustrates and explains Abraham Kuyper’s position regarding “sphere sovereignty.”
Much could be said about Kuyper’s view, and the wonderful Common Grace translation project will provide important clarity about the relationship between common grace and particular grace, and the correlative relationship between the institutional church (think: “means of grace” and “marks of the church”) and the church as organism. We offer some notes below the diagram.
Note the following:
1. The human heart is the “seat” of the Trinitarian activity of grace, the focal point and integration point of all Christian (i.e., fully human) personality and personal existence.But this is a heart-in-community.
2. It is the regenerate heart, the redeemed heart, that is occupied by King Jesus, who rules by his Word and Spirit.
3. The inner black dotted circle represents the activity and sphere of particular grace, namely, the institutional church. It is a dotted line because the influence and effects of the means of grace flow beyond the institutional church into all of life. Particular grace is the foundation and seasoning of common grace. Never, ever would Kuyper have separated, isolated, or disjoined particular grace from common grace. The proper functioning of the latter depends upon the effectual functioning of the former.
4. This “inter-penetrating” symbiotic functioning of particular grace and common grace (note the heavy bi-directional arrows) takes shape when God’s “gathered people” become God’s “dispersed people,” so that the activities of the church-as-organism begin to permeate the arena of common grace.
5. Notice that here, the institutional church is not just one sphere alongside all other spheres of human activity. The institutional church is sui generis (one of a kind), and as K. Schilder said, it is the hearth of all genuinely Christian cultural obedience. The other spheres of Christian (i.e., fully human) activity are arranged concentrically around the institutional church. Again, note the dotted line of the institutional church, indicating that the ministry of the institutional church has “something to say” about Christian (i.e., fully human) living in society.
6. Notice the solid green line at the outside of the illustration. This represents the world, encompassing all of human culture and activity.
7. The communal activity of Christians in various spheres of activity is connected by another (blue) dotted line, to indicate the missional character of Christian (i.e., fully human) cultural obedience. This must become in our generation the “new” feature of Calvinism, whereby Calvinist Christians realize that such communal activities and organizations are not pursued primarily, exclusively, and structurally “for us,” but really “for the world,” in the fullest proper biblical sense, as taught, for example, in Matthew 5:13-16.