Abraham Kuyper on Adam, Noah & the Church

Noah became in fact the second progenitor of the human race; not that he replaced Adam, since Noah himself was the fruit of human procreation, as God had not directly formed Noah by his own hand. Noah inherited his nature and character from his parents and grandparents, which had not been the case with Adam. Adam was purely the product of God’s creative imagination. Nor was Noah’s wife taken from Noah’s side, as Eve was taken from Adam’s, but in Noah’s wife we also find the outworking of the ancestral nature of her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. And what applies to Noah and his wife applies as well for the wives of his sons. They too were the descendants and spiritual heirs of previous generations, bringing the corruption of these previous generations into Noah’s family.

So it is absurd to want to put Noah on a par with Adam. As far as the source and the originality of their existence are concerned, they are simply not comparable. In Adam we find the source, the original fountain of all the generations of our human race. In Noah’s family we find the flowing together and intersection of the various streams that by now had become tributaries. From our human race the only person who can be compared to Adam is the second Adam, the Man from heaven, by whom and in whom we once again find an entirely renewed source. Noah is our second progenitor; he is not a second head of our race.

Although Noah occupies a more modest position, this much is certain, that the current of the different streams of humanity came to a standstill in him for one brief moment, and then came to divide from him again into diverse streams. You see such a phenomenon in higher elevations where the plateaus differentiate the higher mountain ranges from the lower bluffs, with all the little streams of those mountains flowing together into an azure lake that deepens into a basin, and from the other side of the lake water flowing out into two or three streams that seek their way to the plateau below.

With Noah there was just such an incision, one that was extremely severe, one that cut into the life of our human race. Nothing survived from what preceded it, except what was present in Noah and his wife and his daughters-in-law, and from this fivefold fruit of earlier human life there sprouted the entire subsequent development of our human life. Noah and those eight souls did not form a new humanity. Rather, they are merely the continuation of the original human race. But now, after this ancient race was radically pruned by the Lord and was cut down to the root, such that in fact nothing but these five shoots survived, represented by those eight souls, who would soon cause the life of our race to spread out in three main branches, through Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

So the ancient church of God was not cut off with the flood, in order to have begun as a newly formed entity with Noah’s family. But the church came forth out of paradise to Noah, borne by him in the ark, proceeding from the ark to dwell upon the earth once again, and in this way continued its original existence in Noah’s generation. The only difference is that after the flood the church appeared in a new condition. Shem would expand its tents; Japheth would be the first to depart from the church and later return; and Ham would forego its blessing.

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Adapted from Common Grace: God’s Gifts for a Fallen World: Volume 1 by Abraham Kuyper, translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman and Ed M. van der Maas, and edited by Jordan J. Ballor and Stephen J. Grabill. This volume is part of a major series of new translations of Abraham Kuyper’s key works in public theology, completed in partnership with the Kuyper translation society and the Acton Institute. Learn more.