Common Grace and Common Good for China: An Exposition of Abraham Kuyper and Leo XIII on Labor Struggles in Twenty-First Century China


Agnes S. Chiu

Publication Date



“What should we, as confessors of Christ, do about the social needs of our time?” This was the social question Abraham Kuyper presented in his “Christianity and the Class Struggle” address to Christians in 1891. In the same year, Pope Leo XIII, a pioneer in calling Catholics to engage in social issues, published the famous Rerum novarum. Both Kuyper’s address and Leo’s encyclical paid attention to the workers’ needs in a time when Enlightenment and individualism perverted people’s focus to self-interests. In this globalized world of the twenty-first century, the urgency of labor class struggles remain pressing, especially with the rise of multi-national enterprises that not only dominate the world’s economy, but also countries’ cultures and world politics. A decline in morality and a twisted culture of individualism leave a space for a rampant rise of exploitation. Class division and conflicts intensify. The world’s attempt to address class conflicts includes forming a human rights framework, purposely leaving out religion, renders the framework incomplete and lacks concreteness. Human relations are spiritual. In mending a broken relationship, religion is a vital component. In framing a public theology, Kuyper’s common grace concept and Leo’s revitalization of Thomas Aquinas’s common good concept together present a paradigm that calls Christians not only to participate in public discourse, but also creates a platform that allows Christians to constructively engage the world. Kuyper and Leo both point to the restoration of human relationships with each other and with God. China exemplifies labor class struggles in this globalization age. China faces the tough challenges of a moral vacuum and rising labor struggles. Christianity’s religious mandates answer to the labor market’s needs. This dissertation presents the remarkable similarities between Christianity and Confucianism in the key ideas of ren and yi. This dissertation is also honest about the hurdles imposed by the unique political and cultural situation in China in applying these “Western” concepts of Kuyper and Leo in its labor struggle, in addition to the controversy involving the two concepts themselves. Yet, the common grace concept and the common good proposal provide a corrected view of class struggles in terms of human relationships. This proposed solution to class struggles lies in the rebuilding of a community, with the right perspective on relationship with God.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Theology (PhD in Theology)

First Advisor

Mouw, Richard

Document Type





Abraham Kuyper, Leo XIII, Pope, Labor, China


Missions and World Christianity


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