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NGGM, the Nature-Grace Ground-Motive

(More to be written. For now, see NGGM section in gm.html.)

The Nature-Grace ground-motive (NGGM) arose from a synthesis of the Form-Matter and Creation-Fall-Redemption ground-motives (FMGM, CFR) around 500 AD when European Christian thinkers recognised the glories of ancient Greece. Grace refers to the realm of the sacred and Nature to the secular or profane. To some extent one might see Nature and Grace as 'Christened' versions of Matter and Form, but reason, which used to be in form, became part of the Nature realm; the type of knowing that we find in the Grace realm is faith.

Theology became the 'queen of the sciences'. Revelation trumped reason as a way to good quality knowledge. Praying trumped planning as a way to achieving things. Praying trumped playing as a pasttime. At least supposedly. The Nature-Grace ground-motive deeply shaped and determined the theology of the Roman Catholic church, but it also shapes that of many non-Roman-Catholic churches today.

Just like FMGM, originally a duality, it became a dualism in which nature was seen to be a hindrance to grace and even inimical to it. This led to those types of oppression and injustice which characterised the pre-Reformation period in Europe. Many harms came and come from the NGGM, such as:

As a philosopher, Dooyeweerd saw such problems as an inevitable result of the dualistic divorcing of secular from sacred. Religion was elevated into a separate sphere with no relevance to ordinary life. Ordinary life became seen as of lower value, a necessary evil and not worthy of respect or study. Another was that it separated natural humankind (as bearing the Divine stamp) from the rest of reality, and made God the ultimate cause and end of it, independent of humankind [NC,II:52-3]. This opened the way to the humanistic notion, under the Nature-Freedom ground-motive which followed it, that humankind could do with Nature whatever it wished. Today this has led to destruction of the planet.

However, our concern here is to understand NGGM. As Nature became dualisticaly divorced from Grace, the Church became ever more powerful and religious oppression became rife, and reactions occurred in the Renaissance and Reformation. The Reformation believed that the root of the problem was the synthesis that gave rise to NGGM in the first place, and sought to return to Sola Scriptura, while the Renaissance saw the root of the problem more in religion itself. (The Reformation, arguably, failed and merely returned to NGGM under the onslaught of militant atheism and anti-clericalism.)

From this emerged the Nature-Freedom ground-motive. The European Enlightenment took this flight from religion further, when it was discovered how good quality knowledge (or what seemed so) could come from reason without revelation. The idea of evolution of species made it no longer necessary to see the hand of God in the diversity of Nature. Atheism began to be respectable, the belief in no-God, and its kinsman, Humanism, the belief in the supremacy of humanity. Though these development may be seen as under the influence of the Nature-Freedom ground-motive, what motivated them deep down was antipathy towards religion, which was fuelled by the Nature-Grace ground-motive.

The Nature-Grace ground-motive persists today in many Christian circles, in the shape of the Sacred-Secular Divide. Especially in Charismatic and Pentecostal sections. In these, revelation trumps reason, praying trumps planning, and so on. In many the state of affairs is seen more as a war between God and Satan, than as a drama of Salvation for the World. And such Christians hardly ever make an explicitly Christian input into mainstream academic thought - after all, is not mainstream thought the province of Satan and atheism? According to this Saced-Secular Divide, Christians can do charity work and can be nice people in their communities, but they are not supposed to get involved in politics or academic life as followers of Christ.

It was partly to remedy this sad state of affairs, Dooyeweerd rejected the Nature-Grace ground-motive and instead presupposed the Creation, Fall, Redemption ground-motive.


White L. 1967. The historical roots of our ecological crisis. Science, 155, 1203-7.

This page, "", is part of The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Questions or comments are very welcome.

Compiled by Andrew Basden. You may use this material subject to conditions.

Written on the Amiga with Protext, in the style of classic HTML.

Created: 3 May 2007. Last updated: 1 November 2010 link to gm.html. 24 December 2013 atheism etc as NGGM, new paras added at end. 8 March 2015 wrong link ssd corrected to sacred.secular, thanks Silas Dahl. 25 September 2020 list of harms of NGGM; new .end, .nav.