Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Chief End of Man is NOT to Glorify God!

Sorry to rain on your parade, but with all due respect to the well-meaning Puritans and Reformed brethren who espoused the Westminster Catechism (Long or Short Form), but where in Scripture do you find that this is man's purpose on earth?

It is ironic that this tenet of classical theology is often said to be founded on Old Testament verses (especially the enjoyment of God) which the Classicists normally have nothing to do with? Classicists are more fixated on New Testament verses like the first chapter of Ephesians, Romans 8 and 9. Of course, there are also New Testament verses they intentionally ignore because to them either it is a mystery or they cannot comprehend the meaning because of the Classical lenses that they normally wear before they go to Scripture, but that is another issue which we will deal with in this site.

Here is an introduction to the Shorter Catechism that I found by browsing through the web.



with the Scripture Proofs
The Westminster Shorter Catechism was completed in 1647 by the Westminster Assembly and continues to serve as part of the doctrinal standards of many Presbyterian churches. The biblical proof texts included in this edition are those prepared by a special committee of the General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1978.


Imagine that! The Scriptural references came more than 300 years after the philosophy was formulated. Sounds more like isogesis to me than exegesis, and we abhor the cults for doing the very same thing that we are completely guilty of.

The "chief end of man" is man's goal in this life. The unfortunate oversight of the Westminster Catechism (which is understandable due to their extreme bias for classical theology), is that I do not see the word "glorify" in ALL versions of the Great Commandment either stated or affirmed by Jesus Christ in 3 passages in the gospels and one passage in Deuteronomy 6 (Matt 22:37-40; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:27: Deuteronomy 6:5)!

Let me quote one of them from Mark 12:29-31:

29Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

Christ Himself has stated the purpose of man on, to LOVE God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength and to LOVE his neighbor! Maybe I am blind but I did not see the word glorify in all those four passages, either in English, Hebrew or Greek!

Some of you may say that I am splitting hairs, but I will tell you why I am passionate about this. I was once sucked into this theology. However, unlike so many Calvinists who live their lives like Arminians or so many classicists who end up more anti-social and monastery-bound than having passion for a lost world without Christ, or being so heavenly-minded they were of no earthly good; compared to them, I was at least intellectually honest. That is, I made a serious, sincere, deliberate attempt to live out my theology which was primarily Calvinistic. Oh yeah, I espoused the TULIP, the 5 points of Calvinism which I now categorically reject and deny. I was taught that these 5 points not only applied to the concept of salvation but it applied even to the Christian life and walk!

To their credit, I ended up with a thankful heart to God because I just accepted what He would dispense my way (even if many times was simply going through the consequences of my own sin or negligence). I ended up very mechanical in my prayers which were mostly prayers of thanksgiving anyway since classical theology taught me that no amount of my prayers will ever change God's mind about what He already has predetermined. Furthermore, since there was nothing I could do to change God's mind, and the only reason I pray is to obey His command, I could not get myself to play-act my prayers.

It seems from the parable of the obedient and dis-obedient sons, the son that pleased the father was the one who obeyed even if he resented it.
I began to dislike praying (I did love thanking God but I stopped doing supplications because I was taught that I could not change God's will anyway) because classical theology taught me that was really all ceremonial and not substantive because God's will is fixed and predetermined.

I also stopped witnessing aggressively because classical Calvinism taught me that God had already predetermined who will be saved (the elect) and who will be doomed. That the only reason I witness is because I had to obey God's command and I couldn't get myself to play-act the witnessing experience because it was clearly a ceremonial activity based on that theology. In other words, there was no meaningful reason for evangelism from the Calvinist theological viewpoint.

Of course, they would claim that the reason we evangelize is simply in obedience to the Word of God. In other words, God's gets some kind of glory or self-satisfaction when we play-act evangelism, because from their theological standpoint, nothing I can do would change the pre-ordained number of the elect, anyway, but I still have to do it in obedience (Duh)!

I stopped seeking God's will because I was taught that because God was Sovereign, His will for me is predetermined and there was nothing I could do to change it. Logically, with this view, the best way to be happy is to learn to accept what happens (yes, like a fatalist) because that was God's will!!??!!

But God was faithful to me. He has fulfilled His promise in Jeremiah 29:13, " And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart."

I have been unshackled from the chains of Classicism and have discovered that the ONLY Systematic Theology of the Bible is Biblical Theology but more specifically, I now call Relational Theology.

Relational Theology is founded on the Greatest Commandment as declared by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Like the Cross of Christ there is a distinct vertical component and a subsequent horizontal component. However, both components are founded on LOVE and NOT glory.

Why would the chief end of man be something that God can get for Himself without man's help? God can get glory without man! Hence, that is NOT the purpose He created man and glorifying God is NOT the chief end of man in this life.

HOWEVER, (and this comes as a surprise to the classicist although really obvious if they take off their colored lenses when reading the Bible), God cannot (ah yes, there are some important things that The Sovereign God cannot actually manufacture) get the LOVE of man without man's willingness to love God back! God cannot force love! True love involves free will and risk. There is a risk that you will not or never be loved in return. Hence the chief end of man is to love God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength and to love his neighbor as himself. And precisely so because God cannot generate this love by force. Otherwise, what he has called and demonstrated to be love, will have to be redefined!!!

Love, by it's very definition is beyond the control of anyone except the giver of love. When God attempts to control how man loves, then it is no longer love that man exercises, but a form of bondage and slavery to someone else's will.

Hence, as far as man's love for God is concerned, the Bible demonstrates a God who resiliently and continuously courts (because He cannot and will not force this) His creation to love Him. In loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, God gets the glory after all because His purpose for creating man is fulfilled and this makes God extremely joyful.

I do not intend for this particular blog to be lengthy. So I conclude by inviting everyone to witness that there is a Systematic Theology of the middle ground that can be articulated with almost perfect logic but based on experience with the Loving God and knowing His heart through His Word.

Glorifying God is a boring relational static. Loving God is an exciting relational dynamic.
If man's chief end is to glorify God, that is such an impersonal and unrelational pursuit that makes life devoid of meaning and joy even if one is already a Christian. However, if man's chief end is to love God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength because God is personal and relational and He responds to our prayers by changing His mind or events (like in the experiences and prayers of Hezekiah, Hannah, Gideon,David, Ninevah during the time of Jonah, etc), ahh then there is completeness of joy and purpose in man's relationship with God! If we love God because He first loved us and He relates to us like a loving father to his children by giving in to our legitimate requests when we exercise importunity, showering us with blessings because we please him and disciplining us with consequences because we displease Him, then there is meaningful experience involved in our relationship with Him. Life actually has REAL meaning and REAL purpose and this is not simply cathechistic or ceremonial.

Allow me to advance a corrollary to the chief end of man from the viewpoint of Relational Theology. This is found in Jeremiah 9:23,24,

"23 Thus says the LORD:

“ Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
24 But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,” says the LORD. "

Now, note in the above verses that the word, "glory" was used but it had NOTHING to do with the Glory of God! However, it seems that the main thrust of understanding God is understanding the LOVE of God.

So, boys and girls, let us recite, "What is the chief end of man"?

The chief end of man is to love God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength and his neighbor as himself so that he experiences fullness of joy IN THIS LIFE AND THE NEXT.

By the way did you also notice? If the chief end of man were just to glorify God, that doesn't seem to necessitate salvation. That also doesn't sound like we are going to enjoy God at all.

However, to love God, we need to have a personal relationship with Him first and hence, necessitates salvation. And according to Christ, when we abide in Him, our joy is full.

'Nuff said.

1 comment:

  1. Well put I hope that those that read this realize this for love is the center of who God is.