Thomas Sowell, common grace, and sphere sovereignty


A few weeks ago during a Sunday night church history lesson, I referenced some information I learned from Dr. Thomas Sowell, and I named him as an exemplar of critical thinking.  If you are not familiar with Dr. Sowell, he is an author, economist, lecturer, and commentator who has taught at multiple universities.  According to online sources, he is the most quoted living black economist.  He was born in abject poverty in North Carolina, was raised in Harlem by relatives after both of his parents died when he was young, and is a former Marxist.  He has turned down offers by several U.S. presidents to serve as their economic policy advisor.  I have read him and listened to him for years and consider him one of the greatest economic minds and critical thinkers in American history.

The reason I refer to Dr. Sowell also relates to our church history course this past Sunday night.  Our lesson was on Abraham Kuyper and the topic was God's common grace and Kuyper's teachings on "sphere sovereignty."  The doctrine of common grace explains how fallen unbelievers can accomplish great works, make amazing discoveries, and contribute to scientific achievements and understanding.  Common grace explains that God has given individual men and women the ability to contribute good, helpful things as a measure of His grace and kindness to all mankind.  God has graciously allowed unbelievers and believers alike to invent machines, medicines, tools, and a host of other things from which all other humans can benefit.  The same principle applies to beautiful works of art, music, and delicious recipes!  Life is made more pleasant and bearable because God has given all of us such beneficial and enjoyable things as a measure of His grace (receiving what we don't deserve).  Sphere sovereignty is the idea that God has delegated "spheres" of responsibility to certain institutions He ordained, such as: church, family, government.  Kuyper argued that each sphere should operate within the bounds of what God assigned to it and that the institution that stays in its sphere can, and should, do what it does with excellence.  "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve." (Col. 3:23-24)

To my knowledge, Dr. Sowell is not a professing Christian, or at least he rarely mentions God, especially not on a personal level.  Yet, because of common grace, we can benefit from the wisdom and understanding of someone who stays within his "sphere" and does it well.  Dr. Sowell's insights into the true causes of economic inequality are the result of his desire to do research to the best of his ability, even when others were pressuring him to submit to the bias of the status quo.  In the video link, you'll be amazed by the simplicity and depth of questions he asks as the basis of his research and conclusions.  As Christians, we can be challenged and strengthened through God's common grace as we learn from someone who humbly works with excellence in his sphere.  I pray that God will use this to help you learn how to think critically.
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